Auschwitz survivor's story encouraging hurricane evacuees - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Auschwitz survivor's story encouraging hurricane evacuees

Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Helen Reuland is a Hurricane Harvey survivor.

“The water just came up so fast,” she says, recalling when the wrath of Hurricane Harvey hit her home in Kingwood, Texas, a suburb just outside Houston. "I have a garage apartment over my garage and I had to go up there and a bot rescued me from the upstairs garage apartment.”

That was after being stranded for several hours.

A couple of days later, family came and got her and brought her to Alabama. A week later, 91-year-old Rene Hammond arrived at the same home.

A neighbor helped her evacuate Florida before Hurricane Irma hit.

“I wasn't planning to leave,” Hammond recalls, adding she’s lived in Florida since the 1960s and has never evacuated before.

Hammond has been through much, much worse before.

In 1944, she was an 18-year-old girl living in Hungary. At the time she was born, the country was known as Czechoslovakia until the Germans forced it to cede with Hungary.

Hammond clearly remembers the day the Nazis came.

“They came into the house with guns and rifles and forced us out of our homes,” she recalls.

The family was loaded onto a cramped kettle car and told they were going to a farm. Three days later, they arrived at the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz. She remembers the guard she met first.

“So he separated my father and brother from us. I never saw my father again,” Hammond says.

Guards also separated Hammond and her sister from their mother, saying the older women were going to take a shower.

“They loaded people onto trucks, including my mother and children, and they were all taken to a gas chamber and gassed,” she says.

The months that passed were horrific: the sights, smells, experiences, seared into her mind.

In 1945, she and three other women bravely escaped their captors.

Now, her story of survival is inspiring Reuland to know she can survive, too.

“It’s inspirational,” Reuland says with a smile. “You think you can get through anything you have to. You think you can't, but you can.”

Click here to see the entire interview with Hammond about her Auschwitz experience.

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