By Anna Young
Holocaust survivor Peter Somogyi shared his harrowing story of survival to a standing-room-only crowd last Tuesday night during Yorktown’s second annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony.
Somogyi’s life rapidly changed when he was 11-years-old as his family was herded into a Jewish ghetto in 1944 and eventually deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Upon their arrival in Auschwitz, Somogyi and his twin brother were surrendered to Nazi physical Josef Mengele and his mother and sister immediately perished in the gas chambers.
“They (the guards) grabbed us and I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye,” Somogyi said.
Somogyi questioned where his mother was after they were separated and was told by the guards to look at the flames erupting from the gas chambers. He said the smell of death and burnt hair was unbearable.
The brothers were transported to a barracks intended for twins and dwarfs where they were stripped of their belongings and forever marked with their identification number. Somogyi quickly lost his identity and became A17454.
Every twin and dwarf soon became an experimental object for Mengele to use, he said.
Mengele, also known as the “Angle of Death” subjected his victims to painful injections, surgeries and countless other grueling experiments. While the brothers didn’t endure many operations, Somogyi explained how Mengele’s tests left hundreds dead, describing the “pyramid of dead bodies” outside the barracks every morning.
“We were guinea pigs. We didn’t have to do anything but be a guinea pig to his experiments,” Somogyi said. “We had seen so much death that it was really unbelievable. We just existed”
Somogyi was sent to the gas chambers one night, but Mengele insisted on keeping him alive to continue his experiments, he said. During his time at Auschwitz, Somogyi was assigned to the gas chambers once more and ordered to be shot dead.
Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz in 1945 and Somogyi and his brother eventually journeyed to their hometown in Pecs, Hungary. Their father also returned home months later following his liberation from the Dachau concentration camp.
Only four people from his large family survived, he said.
“They all went to the gas chambers. All of them,” Somogyi said. “Why did they have to die?”
While Somogyi refused to speak of his experience for several decades, he said he felt compelled to come forward with his story to shut down those who claim the Holocaust never happened. He said there won’t be any survivors left in years to come and expressed the importance of sharing his eyewitness account to the horror behind his survival.
Following his testimony, several elected officials commended Somogyi for his courage and presented him with various proclamations on behalf of the state, county and town.
“We really owe you something. What we owe you is history. What we owe you is generational,” Westchester County Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) said. “And what we owe you is that each and every one of us needs to never forget what we hear and teach our next generation and the generation after.”
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/