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Richmond Doctor Whose Father Died in Auschwitz Says Hatred of Minorities and Threats Remain

Elderly man in focus on brown background
Dr. Roger Loria, professor emeritus of virology at VCU, spoke with VPM about surviving the holocaust. (Photo by Charles Fishburne/VPM)

Yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  

At Virginia’s Holocaust Museum one of the few remaining concentration camp survivors says Charlottesville and threats surrounding the Richmond gun rights rally show that hate remains.

Dr. Roger Loria, is Professor Emeritus in Virology at Virginia Health Systems. He talked with Charles Fishburne about escaping a death camp with his mother when he was three years old.

Full Transcript

Dr. Roger Loria: My mother was up with the women in the kitchen, and as soon as the two soldiers closed the front two doors, she jumped to the back door, went around the building grabbed me, and into the woods we went. We were the only ones who made it out of there. Everybody else was taken to the gas chamber.

Charles Fishburne: You were three years old?

Loria: Three years old.

Fishburne: How were you? Were you just frightened? I mean, how much does a three year old understand it?

Loria: My mother had lost the glasses. And she used to hold me and say "Roger, are these Germans? Can you tell?" And I had to tell. So, I was really aware of the detail.

Fishburne: So your mother, your father was gone. Your mother was there. So you had some love? Some support? Some hope? Did she give you all of that?

Loria: Oh, absolutely.

Fishburne: What did she tell you?

Loria: She not only brought me to the world, she saved me over and over again. Okay, she just took care of me. There's no question about it. We both survived the war. We were taken later to another camp in the south, in the south of France. And we made it later on from there to Swiss border. We walked by night, and we made it in 44 to the Swiss border. I can still see the Swiss soldier holding the barbed wire and letting us crawl through.

Fishburne: It's 75 years later why- why do we have to retell the story?

Loria: I do a lot of talk about the hate now which is coming out and we see the hate... Irish Don't come here. Italian have been hanged in New Orleans. Blacks don't come here. Chinese go away, Japanese, no, not here. Every minority in the US at one time or another was discriminated against severely. We need to make sure that we don't let this continue.

Fishburne: It's not just Jewish people?

Loria: No, it's everyone, every minority. It doesn't matter which one, as long as there is a minority to hate, they find a reason to hate it.

Fishburne: The conference last week where world leaders were concerned about what seems to be a resurgence of hatred for the Jews. Do you see this happening and why is it happening?

Loria: Absolutely happening, and we are the canary in the mine. We're the first. After us, the Muslims, then the blacks, then comes somebody else. But we are the first always, always in history. Jews were the first target.

Fishburne: Goes back to the beginning of time humanity seems to have something in them that brings it out. What can we do about it?

Loria: Education is the only way to do it, is by education. And by teaching people that we are all human beings, we all need, you know, to live with each other. And by doing that we are not achieving any good if we try to do that, not to help each other. We should have a requirement that we do this in the schools of the state of Virginia, all of them and that we talk about this and not just play ostrich with the head in the sand.

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