Anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation

Posted at 7:32 PM, Jan 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-27 19:42:52-05

Today marks 71 years since the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. Often considered the deadliest camp during the Holocaust.

Now, the day is recognized as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"In the concentration camp, they used to call us not by name, but by our number," remembers Sam Askanazi.

He still has his number tattooed on his forearm. The Greek-born Jewish man got the tattoo when he arrived at Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland as a 22-year-old in April of 1941.

From the day he arrived, Askanazi says he told himself he wouldn't cry.

Nazis put him to work removing the ashes of fellow Jews from a crematorium. Work he says no one should have to do. His hunger provided a distraction.

"You don't pay attention to nothing because your stomach don't let you," he says.

Askanazi speaks several languages and says he befriended French, Italian, and English prisoners to get extra food.

He says he was marching to another camp when he saw Allied planes flying overhead. He knew the misery would end soon.

He keeps the history alive by frequently participating in events for Holocaust survivors held by Ruth and Norman Rales Jewish Family Services in suburban Delray Beach. The organization estimates it serves more than 300 survivors.

Askanazi's grandson lives in Israel. He says it's gratifying to see the Jewish population strive.

"I want my people to be alive and be happy," he says.