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Concentration camp survivors reflect on Obama's visit

Werner Reich, 81, of Smithtown, a retired industrial engineer who was in multiple death camps from 1943 to 1945, including two stints in Auschwitz.

"The problem is people are visiting concentration camps and they really are not visiting the concentration camps. The concentration camps are gone. The smell, the bodies, the fear, the sweat, the urine, the feces, all that stuff is gone. The only stuff that's left are a few old buildings and they mean nothing. People think by visiting camps and so on that they're doing something, maybe it's symbolic, but to us, at least to me, who has been in concentration camps for two years, it means absolutely nothing."

"People think that once in awhile you stand there and make a speech and you place some flowers and it makes up for it. Let's do something constructive . . . and stand up for acceptance . . . and be constantly active in trying to fight prejudice."

Boris Chartan, 82, of Plainview, founder and former president of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove. Chartan was held in a labor camp in Sasow, Poland for 21/2 years from 1941-43.

"I think it was very meaningful that he visited. I don't think any sitting president ever visited any of the camps. The good part was that he took with him Elie Wiesel because Mr. Weisel was in that camp."

"Watching it, it's rough. It brings back memories. You start thinking, 'My grandparents died there. My relatives were there.' But I think it's very important to remember. After the Holocaust, people were saying we're not going to have any more Holocausts. And we've had Bosnia and all over, we have Holocausts happening all over. So it's very depressing."

Sally Wiener, Long Beach, owner of Sally's Discount Center. Wiener was hidden in a house in Poland for three years, living in a concealed bunker for part of the time.

"It was very unbelievable that the president expressed himself like that. And Elie Wiesel was there. I was happy to hear what the president said about the camps and the Holocaust, how he expressed himself, his feelings. I was very, very touched."

"It's touching because I'm a survivor myself. It's very sad, everything comes back. Pain, a lot of pain. I lost my mom, my dad, when they were very young. My mother was 39, my father, 41. My brother, 16, was shot. It's a lot of sadness in my heart. It's memories."



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