Holocaust survivor shares his thoughts on the recent comparisons between Nazi concentration camps and detention centers at the Southern border.

By Michael Weiss

I am a Holocaust survivor. I read in the paper and saw on the television that a congresswoman compared American detention centers at our Southern borders to the Nazi concentration camps.

With all due respect, my question would be: Do you know what happened in the Nazi concentration camps?

The illegal immigrant in these Southern border detention centers has options. He can obtain legal status in this country or return to his own country. I, in the ghetto, in the concentration camps, had no choices. I was forced out of my home with my father and mother and my grandmother who was very old. She was blind in both eyes. That old lady, along with tens of thousands of Jewish grandmothers, was taken to Auschwitz, murdered by poison gas in the gas chambers, taken to crematoria and burned to ashes.

We were forced into an old brick factory in the city of Beregszasz, Hungary. We were treated inhumanely. We were legal citizens of Hungary who never committed a crime. Both my grandfathers fought in the Austro-Hungarian army. One was killed.

I am shocked and dismayed that intelligent individuals in this country cannot distinguish between American detention centers and Nazi concentration camps. While conditions in these centers are maybe not ideal, I am sure no one is starving or beaten to death. No one is denied medical treatment.

We, in the Nazi camps, were not temporarily detained immigrants who were trying to enter the country illegally. I only wish the Nazi government would have taken me and the Jewish people to an American detention center instead of the gates of Auschwitz.

German soldiers packed us into the box cars and took us to Auschwitz. We were away from our home in the ghetto for six weeks. In those six weeks, we did not sleep in a bed; we did not eat a hot meal; we did not have a shower or change of clothes. We had children and babies with us. If you could look in their faces — they were sleepy, hungry; their eyes cried out, depressed. In those days, we did not have disposable diapers, formulas, baby food jars. No cribs to sleep in.

After the war, we found out that the Nazi governments of Europe murdered six million Jewish people, including 1.5 million children, the future of the Jewish people. Their future, born as a Jew in Europe, was cut short. Most of them were murdered in gas chambers then burned in crematoria.

This is just a very small part of the Holocaust. The history of the Holocaust cannot be equated with the American detention centers at our Southern borders.

Michael Weiss is the author of Chimneys and Chambers: from Kaszony to Auschwitz to Detroit: the lingering smell of the Holocaust.


  1. You have my utmost respect and admiration, Mr. Weiss, for living a long life despite horrific circumstances in your youth. I don’t know that I would have had the strength to do as much. You also have my admiration and respect for being willing to talk about those horrors and share your experiences with others. As a society we need people like you to remind us of what human beings are capable of, and also remind us when we begin to equate things that are not equal. I am grateful for your courage. I would respectfully disagree with your assertion that while “conditions are maybe not ideal, I am sure no one is starving or beaten to death.” There are very young children being held without their parents in these camps. More than one child has died in custody. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/14/us/politics/migrant-girl-dead-border-patrol.html?module=inline Journalists have reported that kids are not allowed to bathe and are not being given access to medical treatment. The child I referenced above died of dehydration, that means not being given access to water. I agree that we must remember that there is a clear difference between the holocaust and what is happening today. But I am ever aware of Germans in the early 1930s. What did they decide not to look at? What did they say is “maybe not ideal” as they turned their heads? I hold the words “never again” close to my heart and have to look at this behavior from my country with suspicion. I will not look away.

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