KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sonia Warshawski was just a teenager when German soldiers forced her family into slave labor in 1942. While she survived, her family did not.
“There is not a day that I'm not thinking, 'What else can I do to help the people in this world to put away the hate and love, and respect each other?'” Warshawski, now 95, said.
She was one of several Auschwitz survivors who walked through the Union Station exhibit, “Auschwitz: Not long ago. Not far away,” on Sunday ahead of its Monday grand opening.
“It is impossible for any normal human being to grasp really what took place -- seeing babies and children go in the gas chambers," Warshawski said. "I was right there. My barrack was very close. It's unbelievable."
Warshawski also is among the Holocaust survivors who said their stories need to continue being told. And through the exhibit, it will -- with more than 700 artifacts and 400 photographs from more than 20 museums and institutions.
One display features map, showing the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz, with the railway systems used to transport them. It also includes the number of deportees from various countries.
But one of the first items people visiting the exhibit will see are original, concrete posts from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp -- Each standing 13 feet tall and weighing 551 pounds.
Luis Ferreiro, exhibition director, said that by placing the posts at the beginning, guests will encounter something terrible that they might not fully understand, much like when Soviet soldiers first arrived to Auschwitz.
“I remember walking with a survivor through the exhibit, and when they came to this point and saw the post, he told me it was actually kind of a paradox,” Ferreiro said. “In one way, it meant the camp, the limit of their freedom. It meant the limit of the hell they were in."
Elizabeth Nussbaum, who lives in Overland Park, told 41 Action News she was 15 years old when her family was taken to Auschwitz. She was one of several survivors on hand in May when a German-made freight train was installed outside Union Station as the exhibit first started to arrive in Kansas City.
“As we arrived at Auschwitz, we were separated,” Nussbaum, now 93, said. “Men on one side and ladies on the other side. So I seen my mother; she gave me a kerchief and that was it. And they told us you’d see them.
“Three days later, that never happened. We arrived Sunday. I was supposed to see the family on Tuesday. Of course, half an hour later, they were all gone.”
All of her family members died at Auschwitz.
Warshawski, who first came to Kansas City in 1948, is one of roughly 100 Auschwitz survivors currently live in Kansas City, according to the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education.
“If you take away the history, then we are doomed,” she said. “What is history? History is the truth. You see what's wrong and what's good. This is history. Without it, we are doomed.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Union Station website.