Holocaust survivor recounts story of survival and overcoming adversity

Posted at 10:30 PM, Mar 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-15 22:35:10-04

ALLENDALE, Mich.-- It's referred to as one of the darkest times in human history. On Wednesday, one woman who survived the Holocaust shared her story at Grand Valley State University.

Magna Brown was 17 years old when she was separated from her family at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Brown shared her story to a room of more than 600 people of how she escaped a death march from Auschwitz to Buchenwald by hiding with a group of other prisoners before being rescued by American soldiers and coming to the United States in 1946.

Brown says she's seen the worst in people and the best in people and believes there's more good than bad.

"You still have hope that tomorrow will be better," said Brown.

Brown, now 89, was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp from a ghetto in her home country of Hungary.

"I was 17 when they put us into the cattle car to ship us out of the country," recalled Brown.

From there, Brown was sent to work in a German munitions factory, then sent on a death march to Buchenwald in March of 1945. One night, Brown along with a few other prisoners saw a barn not far away and had an idea.

"In the distance we saw a barn, maybe three city blocks in," said Brown. "Then fantasy sets in. How would it be if during the night in the dark we crawl on the ground and try to reach the barn?"

Brown says fantasy overpowered everything else.

"You have no idea how much you want to live," said Brown.

For a day and a half, Brown and a few other prisoners hid in piles of straw until they were rescued by two American soldiers.

"Our self-esteem was zero," said Brown. "If they find us, they will kill us and it will all be over. Thank God it didn't happen that way. The following day, two American soldiers liberated us."

In September 1946, Brown came to America. When she eventually found her new normal, she began sharing her story whenever she could.

"It lives with you forever, but I try my best to spread my message so these young people will learn something from it," said Brown.

The message was a story of hope and overcoming adversity.

"We survivors were destined to live so we can tell our story," said Brown. "We say never again and it has become a slogan all these years so I live by that. I tell my story in remembrance to the family that I lost. I feel that the audience deserves an explanation because I never assume that everybody in the audience knows more about my background."

To learn more about Magda Brown and her story, visit her website.