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Exhibition looking at Auschwitz, and horrors of the Holocaust coming to the South Coast

A World War II era German boxcar similar to what the Nazis used to ship Jews, and others to concentration camps is now on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, in advance of an upcoming exhibition on the Auschwitz concentration camp.

During the announcement of the Auschwitz exhibition coming to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, some holocaust survivors spoke.

This week marks the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht, when mobs destroyed synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses in Germany. Many consider it to be the start of the Holocaust.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley noted the anniversary, announcing it will host an exhibition looking at the infamous Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. It’s called “Auschwitz. Not Long Ago. Not Far Away.” It’s the first time the collection of hundreds of artifacts from the death camp with be shown in the Western United States.

As part of a preview Thursday, a German World War Two era freight car arrived for display at the entrance of the Presidential Library. It’s the same type of freight car which was used to take Jews throughout Europe to concentration camps.

Two Auschwitz survivors were among those on hand for the announcement of the exhibition.

David Lenga was just 11 when Nazi Germany invaded his native Poland. He and his father survived, but 100 members of his family died in the Nazi’s concentration camps.

"In a way, it seems improbable. 98% of my family died," said Lenga.

He survived a number of slave labor ghettos and concentration camps.

Lenga was 15 when he was sent to Auschwitz. He didn’t know about the camp, but a fellow inmate pointed out the smoke coming from its crematoriums.

"I thought this man is insane," said Lenga. "But, this is where people would burn."

He survived, moving to the United States where he married, had three children, and seven grandchildren, and a successful career as a clothing designer. For decades, Lenga didn’t talk about his Holocaust experiences, but he thinks it’s important now.

"Only by knowing...only by knowing can we be on guard," said Lenga.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.