The first transport of Jews to Auschwitz was 997 teenage girls. Few survived.

As world leaders gather in Poland Monday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi-run Auschwitz death camp in occupied Poland, Edith Friedman Grosman will be far away in Toronto. On Monday, the energetic 95-year-old, who was on the first official transport of Jews to Auschwitz, plans to live-stream the ceremony from home, but only if she feels up to it.

 

She’s already returned to Auschwitz four times, and that’s enough.

 

“I’m glad they’re doing something for Auschwitz 75,” she told The Washington Post. “But they have to do something in 100 years and 125 years, too.”

 

Friedman Grosman grew up in the village of Hummené, Slovakia, with her parents and older sister, Lea.

Slovakia joined the Axis powers in 1940. Soon, Edith was forced to leave the public high school, and her dad had to sell his glass-cutting business to a Christian, whom he then worked for.

Even amid the Jewish crackdown, it was still a surprise when the town crier announced a new order — all unmarried women 15 and older were to report to the school gymnasium in two weeks.

They were told they would be registering for three months of work in a shoe factory, and that it was their patriotic duty to help in the war effort. But when they showed up to “register,” they were strip-searched, loaded into trucks and taken away. Most were teenagers, some were in their twenties, and a handful of mothers in their forties boarded in place of their daughters. None of those mothers would survive.

Over the next few days, Jewish girls were swept up from all the surrounding villages. By the end of the week, Friedman Grosman, then 17, and her sister Lea, 19, were on the first official transport of Jews to Auschwitz, arriving by train on March 27, 1942.

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