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Holocaust survivor talks experience in Auschwitz concentration camp

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CRESCO, Iowa (KTTC) -

He lost his family and nearly his own life. A Holocaust survivor shared his experience inside a Nazi concentration camp with students in Cresco Tuesday morning.

Max Garcia, 92, spoke to Crestwood secondary students about what he went through at the hands of the Nazi regime. Born to a Jewish family in Amsterdam, Garcia recalled the Nazis taking his sister first.

"We never heard from my sister again," said Garcia. "My mom tried to throw herself out of the window from the apartment. My father came over in time, grabbed her, kept her in."

Then in 1943, the Nazis came for Garcia, taking him to the Auschwitz concentration camp complex. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, at least 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz. Of those, 1.1 million were killed.

Garcia showed the students a tattoo on his arm that displayed his six-digit prisoner number.

"Here's the prisoner number of Auschwitz that I was given at the age of 19. I have never removed it from my body because to me, it is a sign of a medal of honor," Garcia told the students. "I have survived it. I am a witness here to all those who were murdered by the Nazis, including my parents, my whole family, and all who I don't know."

Garcia then described what life was like inside the death camp.

"You went to work at 6 o'clock in the morning," said Garica. "I must have weighed about 80 pounds. You could see every bone in my body... I was crying like a river." 

Garcia also talked about how the Nazis force-marched the prisoners toward the German interior when the Soviets advanced, including transporting them in train cars with no roofs and no food.

"All you had to drink was snow coming down. That was your food. People were dying left and right," said Garcia.

But through exhaustion, hunger and  illness, Garcia had a strong will to live.

"Living is an exercise of wanting to," Garcia emphasized to the students.

In May 1945, the U.S. Army liberated Garcia and other prisoners at the Ebensee labor camp in Austria, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. In 1948, he came to the U.S. and worked as an architect. 

Garcia hopes today's generation appreciates what life has to offer.

"Life, when you live it, is the most precious thing that you have your hands on. Take care of it, use it well, and make the right judgments under the worst conditions that you possibly can have," Garcia said.

Garcia's goes into more detail about his experience in his book called, "Auschwitz, Auschwitz I Cannot Forget You... As Long As I Remain Alive."

A special thanks to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for providing the historic photos used in the video.

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