Henry Greenbaum tells his story for Holocaust Memorial Museum
WASHINGTON (WJLA) - When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Henry Greenbaum's father had just died unexpectedly and his family was moved to a Jewish ghetto. He was just 11 years old.
In 1942, his mother and two of his sisters were deported and killed at a Nazi death camp called Treblinka. A year later, Henry and another sister, having been sent to a labor camp, tried to escape. But when they were just feet from a hole in the barbed wire fence, the Nazis opened fire.
"They started shooting, bullet hooked me in the back of my head and let my sister's hand go and I dropped," explained Henry Greenbaum.
Henry survived, but his sister Faige was killed. He says it was the worst time of his life. Alone, and only 15 years old, Henry was packed into a rail car with other jews and sent to Auschwitz.
When American forces neared, Henry was sent to Flossenburg concentration camp, and then taken on a two-month death march.
"Didn't get any food," said Greenbaum. "We were eating leaves that dropped from the bushes."
Finally, on April 25th, 1945, American soldiers liberated the prisoners.
"An angel tells you you're free - I could not believe it," said Greenbaum. "So I did say 'thank God' for helping save us all of us, but why did it take you so long?"
Seven decades later, Henry volunteers every week at the Holocaust Memorial Museum to educate, honor and spread his message.
"Those born now are last that will ever be able to encounter a living eyewitness and there is no substitute," explained Diane Saltzman, Director of the Survivor Affairs Program.
Henry says survivors don't have cemeteries to visit, so he feels the Museum is like a memorial to his family.
"Remember the survivors because we're not going to be around too long," said Greenbaum.
Greenbaum's story for the Holocaust Memorial Museum's "First Person" program runs every Wednesday and Thursday, now through mid-August.