KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For years, Sonia Warshawski has spent her days at her Overland Park tailoring shop.
It's good to be around people, she said. She’s surrounded by clothes, too, but one precious piece has had a special place for years: her mother’s scarf.
"This little scarf, I had it under my pillow, always in plastic and a little you know, tissue,” she said.
This week, surrounded by her family, Sonia lent her mother’s scarf and her family’s story of tragic loss and survival to the exhibit "Auschwitz: Not Long Ago, Not Far Away" at Union Station.
“That was my momma’s,” she said, kissing her hand and gently pressing her hand to the case preserving the orange woven scarf her mother Rivka once wore.
Thursday marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, to remember the estimated six million Jews and many others murdered in the Holocaust.
This day 77 years ago marks the liberation of Auschwitz – Birkenau, the deadliest Nazi camp where estimates show more than a million people were killed.
On the anniversary, many pieces of history and artifacts from Auschwitz and the Holocaust are in Kansas City. They are part of the exhibit including hundreds of personal items like shoes, eye glasses and now Rivka’s scarf.
Sonia said she was sent to Auschwitz from another camp right after the Nazi doctor known as the “Angel of Death,” Josef Mengele, sent her mother Rivka to the gas chamber.
“When my momma and me faced Mengele, he put my mom out to the left and me to the right. In that second, I want you to know I wanted to go with my mom,” Warshawski said.
Many members of Sonia's family, including her father and older brother, were killed. Her younger sister Mania escaped and survived in the woods, with their mother’s scarf.
“She carried this with her and this is the way it survived,” Warshawski said.
Sonia has carried with her haunting memories.
“Watching hangings, watching children going to the gas chambers,” she said.
For years, she didn’t talk about the horrors she endured and saw.
“You can imagine my children were small and they would say to me, ‘mama what is this?’” Sonia said, pointing to the number tattooed on her arm. “They’re waiting for answer and I would say, ‘well this is if mama get lost, they would find me.' I couldn’t think of anything else.”
Now, she said she continues to tell the horrific truth for the murdered millions who cannot.
“If you talk about hell, it is beyond beyond hell,” she said. “I’m talking from my heart and I’m talking because this is the reason I’m still existing. The world has to know!”
Sonia’s mother’s scarf is on loan as part of the exhibit until it ends in March and returns to Europe.