It’s hard not to love Gena Turgel, such an elegant, soft-spoken woman. But that makes her story of how, at 21 years of age, she walked out of the gas chamber at Auschwitz even more compelling. How was it that this gentle, loving woman not only survived three concentration camps, but walked out of the Auschwitz gas chamber alive? I’ve read an account of a young women who survived the gas chamber at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, but had never known of a present-day gas chamber survivor until Gena.
Gena was 16 when her hometown of Krakow, Poland, was bombed by the Nazi Luftwaffe on Sept. 1, 1939, the first day of the war. In Krakow’s Jewish ghetto, her two brothers died fighting the Nazis. She then was sent to Plaszow concentration camp and after 2 and a half years was marched to Auschwitz. There, she survived testing by Doctor Josef Mengele and the gas chamber.
“I completely lost my voice,” Gena said. “I just never realized I was in the gas chamber … it must not have worked.”
70 years ago tomorrow, as the Red Army advanced towards Auschwitz, she was sent on a death march to Buchenwald concentration camp and then to Belsen, where she shared a barracks with the dying Dutch teenager Anne Frank. When the British liberated Belsen, she showed a young British army sergeant, Norman Turgel, around the clinic where she worked. Within six months they were married.
With all the horror of Auschwitz, it’s wonderful to know this extraordinary woman found such a happy ending. You can read the whole story here, including video of Gena’s incredible story: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/auschwitz-survivor-gena-turgel-walked-out-gas-chamber-alive-n293496