BEVERLY HILLS (CBS) — Even at 95, Max Webb has little trouble recalling from memory the serial number — 145223 — that he was assigned when he arrived at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1943.
But as KNX 1070’s Diane Thompson reports on this Holocaust Remembrance Day, Webb still struggles to describe the events he endured nearly 70 years ago.
“It’s impossible to explain what happened, in which way people have been killed, in which way people have been dying,” said Webb.
The Polish-born businessman said he can clearly recall when Nazi troops marched into his town in 1939, rounded up Jews and hanged them — just one of many unspeakable atrocities that included Nazi soldiers throwing Jewish babies from a five-story hospital window.
“They went into every room, wherever there was a child born, to open the windows, take every child by their little legs, knock them against the walls, throw them down to the trucks,” Webb said.
He also recalled a female friend who refused to give up her child to the soldiers and was subsequently shot along with the infant. Webb said Nazi soldiers later returned and abducted all the remaining mothers as well.
Over the span of five years, Webb survived 12 labor camps and six concentration camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, and even a face-to-face encounter with Joseph Mengele, the infamous German SS officer known for performing experiments on camp inmates including children that earned him the title of “Angel of Death”.
An estimated 1.3 million people — around 90 percent of whom were Jews — are believed to have been exterminated at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1942 and 1944.
He lost both of his parents and four sisters in the Holocaust, but he survived, he says, to fulfill a promise he made to God and his mother 73 years ago.
“And I kept my promise, to bring back the Jewish life and helping people,” said Webb.