Telling the stories of the Holocaust

Sundown Wednesday marked the beginning of Yom HaShoah, which commemorates the murders of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Martin Greenfield is a man with many stories to tell. The 87-year-old is considered one of the best tailors in the world, and has outfitted mayors, celebrities and presidents. But underneath his own fine suit and crisp shirt, is a faded, but constant reminder of his past.

"This is A-Auschwitz 4-4-0-6" he explained, showing us the number tattooed on his arm by Nazis when he arrived at Auschwitz at age 15.

His entire family was taken from the small town of Pavlovo, Czechoslovakia, to the concentration camp, but only he survived. He has only recently begun to speak of the horrific past.

"I never spoke about the past for 40 years to anybody," Greenfield said. "I said, if I were them would I believe my story? No, because if you're born here how could you believe people would do something to you like this?"

But in 2006 after a late-in-life Bar Mitzvah, Greenfield decided it was finally time to share his story. The gruesome details of his family perishing are explained in his 2014 book, "Measure of a Man." Wednesday night, he recounted his story once again at Yeshiva University to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Among the messages he hopes to convey to those who listen to him speak: "I want them to grow up and think for yourself, don't follow anybody... What I mean by that is, why follow a person that kills innocent people?"

There aren't many survivors like Greenfield who can still tell their own stories. Of the estimated 55,000 Holocaust survivors still living in the New York area, the vast majority are well into their 80s and experts predict less than half will still be alive in 2025.

Felice Cohen is a third-generation survivor and author of "What Papa Told Me," a book about her grandparents' experiences during the holocaust. Now that they've passed away, she travels the country making sure their stories live on. In honor of Yom Hashoah she spoke at Eastside Community High School in the East Village. She also trains other grandchildren of survivors to speak through the local organization 3GNY.

"I think it's important to get these stories so at least we can have them to tell or write down to share, because when the survivors, when there are none left, it's easy for people to say oh it never happened, you have no proof," Cohen said.

The responsibility to carry on history is one I can relate to, both of my paternal grandparents, Pearl and Otto Delikat, are survivors.

"Sometimes you think you dream about those things, but they really happened," my grandfather Otto said recently.

He survived six concentration camps including Auschwitz. He is now 94 and doesn't speak publicly as much as he used to, but he never forgets what he lived through.

Like other survivors, he agrees the stories of the Holocaust must be passed on so history does not repeat itself. Still, he worries humanity has not learned from its dark past.

"It happened to us and it happens again now in different parts of the world, different religion, political reasons--persecution hasn't ended we haven't learned to live peacefully," he said.