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N.Y. Polish Catholics Join Jews
to Mark International Holocaust Day

Kew Garens, N.Y. Jan. 30, 2010 Michael Preisler (left), a Polish Catholic who spent more than three years as a prisoner in Auschwitz, joined with the congregation of the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills in Queens, N.Y. to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Auschwitz death camp's liberation on January 27, 1945.

The United Nations chose the anniversary to be known each year as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Simultaneous observances of this event took place throughout the world, with the main observance held at the actual site of the former camp in Oswiecim, Poland.  Auschwitz survivors and official government representatives from Israel and Poland were the main participants there.

Rabbi Moses A. Birnbaum, Spiritual Leader of the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills invited the Polish American Congress and Mr. Preisler to join his congregation in remembering the tragedy both peoples shared.

Jews were the largest group murdered in Auschwitz.  Poles were the second largest.

Mr. Preisler was a member of the Polish Underground Resistance when the Gestapo arrested him and sent him to Auschwitz in 1941. He was able to stay alive there to the very end until the Russian Army began closing in.

He is also a survivor of the infamous "Death March" out of Auschwitz when the Germans began to evacuate the prisoners a week before the Russians got there.  It took place in the middle of a brutally cold European winter in sub-zero temperatures.

Preisler recalls that cruel event as the "Days of the Red Snow." The snow the prisoners marched through began changing to red from the blood of any prisoner who faltered or fell from pain or exhaustion and was shot dead on the spot by the German guards.

Preisler said he was grateful to Rabbi Birnbaum for reaching out to New York's Polish American community to have Jews and Poles remember together.

Rabbi Birnbaum has been a driving force behind the efforts to promote a better understanding between the two groups.

Rabbi Moses A. Birnbaum welcomed his Polish American guests at the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills.  Shown here are: (from left) John Gmerek, Chairman of the Holocaust Studies Committee of the Kosciuszko Foundation; Rabbi Birnbaum; Michael Preisler; Frank Milewski, President of the Downstate N.Y. Division of the Polish American Congress and Chet Szarejko, who heads the Political Activities Committee of the Congress.

Photos: Polish American Congress

Contact:  Frank Milewski  - (718) 263-2700      

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