Sarasota woman recalls learning her parents died in concentration camp

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Friday is a day of remembrance in Poland, as survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp gathered to remember the Holocaust.

Elderly survivors at Auschwitz, which is now a memorial site and museum, paid homage to those killed by wearing striped scarves reminiscent of the garb prisoners once wore there.

This is the day the Soviet army liberated the camp in German-occupied Poland in 1945.

And 72 years later, the number of those with firsthand knowledge of the camps is dwindling.

But one Sarasota woman who lost both her parents in a concentration camp says her mother's smart thinking saved both her and her sister.

At 92-years-old, Else Dreels has lived through some of the worst of history.

"I"m one of the last ones alive and if we don't talk about it, the world won't know what happened," she said.

At 14, her father was taken from their home in Germany and sent to the Dachau concentration camp.

"I kicked the storm trooper. I think back; the nerve that I had, but they took my father away. When your parents hurt, you support your parents," she said.

It happened during Kristallnacht, "The Night of Broken Glass," when Nazi's destroyed Jewish owned businesses and synagogues, and began rounding up thousands of Jews.

"We had to leave our house. We went across the street where the non-Jewish people lived, to help us save us," said Else.

Four weeks later, her father, barely recognizable, returned.

"He was over 65, a broken man, and he and my mother were fighting," she said.

Her parents fought because her mother made plans for Else and her sister to escape to England. Their dad wanted to keep the family together, but one day Else and her sister boarded a train and never came home.

"Leaving our parents was very hard. When you are 14-years-old, you don't know if you'll see them again or not. You don't know that," she said.

They would never see them again. Else and her sister eventually made it to America. They later learned their parents were among the 32,000 people killed at Dachau.

"It's a tragedy. It's a terrible thing. The sacrifice that parents made for their children," said Else.

Else has only one memento of her parents - a  black and white family portrait, where they are surrounded by family. It's a photo of a happier time, before their world was torn apart.

"The world has to know," she said.