• UNC Charlotte professor talks about surviving Holocaust 'to avoid the mistakes of the past'

    By: Elsa Gillis

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It has been 80 years since the first coordinated, nationwide attack on Jewish citizens under the Nazi regime.

    Susan Spatz, a professor emerita at UNC-Charlotte, survived the Holocaust.

    "I spent two years in a concentration camp, in an extermination camp,” Spatz said.

    In 1942, Spatz and her mother were taking refuge from Adolf Hitler's occupation of Austria in Prague and were deported to the concentration camps.

    "When the train arrived into the terminal, you could see one large chimney throwing flames out,” Spatz said. “My mother went directly into the oven. There was a selection at the railroad station."

    Spatz spoke candidly with Channel 9 about the unimaginable truth that surrounded her at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

    "When they came into the shower room, instead of shower, gas came out, and as I understand, it did not take very long,” Spatz said. “It took four or five minutes to kill one batch, about 1,000 at a time."

    Spatz said she managed to find connections, and some security, by working within the administration of the camp, in part because of her ability to speak several languages.

    "It was all a matter of knowing how to communicate and get yourself located where you had a chance of survival,” Spatz said.

    Spatz made it through and lived to share the story.

    "This is the very picture taken in Brussels, my permission for permit to stay in Brussels as a foreigner when I came out of camp in 1945,” Spatz said.

    At the age of 96, Spatz continues to talk about the torture she and thousands of Jews went through.

    “Why is it important?” Channel 9 asked.

    “So that it will never happen again,” Spatz said. “I keep hoping and talking as much as I can. We've got to know the past, in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. We should always be clear that we have a democracy where people make their own decisions and work together."

    After the liberation, Spatz was reunited with her father in Brussels.

    She married an American GI and came to America in 1946.

    Read more top trending stories on wsoctv.com:

    Next Up: