Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher remembers May 8, 1945, as the day she ripped the yellow star from her chest, the symbol the Nazis had made her wear signifying she was a Jew.
The Red Army had just liberated the concentration camp known as Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia where Auerbacher and her family had been sent. In that moment of freedom, she felt a chance to live again, beyond the terrible world created by her captors.
The realization came that "every human being to me is a star," Auerbacher said Sunday. "And has a right to live and be happy."
Auerbacher's words helped to lead hundreds of people as they marched down King Street in silence, honoring the 6 million Jews who perished as Charleston held its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. The path took the marchers from the Charleston Music Hall on John Street to the city's Holocaust Memorial in Marion Square.
Auerbacher's story is one of the millions that came to light after the war ended 65 years ago. She was the last Jewish child born in Kippenheim, a small German Black Forest village near the border of France and Switzerland. In her address Sunday, she described life there as tolerant, until the sound of "marching boots" arrived. She was 3 years old when Kristallnacht broke out -- also known as the Night of Broken Glass -- where Nazis burned and looted Jewish homes, shops and synagogues all over Germany.
Harassment of her family grew. She was only allowed to attend a Jewish school a train-ride away in Stuttgart and had to wear the yellow Star of David when she was 6 years old. Family members began to disappear, never to be heard from again.
In 1942, she and her parents were rounded up and sent with about 1,200 others to Theresienstadt, also known as Terezin.
Life in the camp became a daily struggle to survive. There was terrible cold and terrible heat, along with rats and other vermin. Camp inmates died daily of illness, abuse and malnutrition. The words bread, potato and soup became the most important part of Auerbacher's vocabulary, she said.
"We grew up fast and became self-reliant," she said, adding "the smell of death was everywhere." She became sick with scarlet fever "and spent months in the so-called hospital," she recalled.
When the liberation came, Auerbacher, her mother and father were among the 13 people out of their original transport of 1,200 who had survived. In all, about 1.5 million children just like her died in the Holocaust.
After the war, she headed for America where she would have to battle through tuberculosis that she picked up in the camp. She restarted her education and became a chemist and author.
Sunday's remembrance of the Holocaust wasn't just for members of Charleston's Jewish community. It brought out people from numerous backgrounds in a show of solidarity. Sarah DeClue, a black Christian from Walterboro, drove in to pay her respects because she is studying and fascinated by the Jewish faith. She also sees kinship between Jews and their suffering and the evil that blacks went through in slavery.
John Hunsinger, who is not Jewish, attended because his granddaughters are. He felt a strong kinship to the bonds of Jewish family.
Jackie Berlinsky of Charleston is Jewish and attended with the Holocaust and current-day mass murder in places such as the Darfur region of Sudan in mind. "Genocide is genocide," she said.
Another of the speakers Sunday included Monique Saigal, who was born Jewish, but when her grandmother-caretaker was taken away to Auschwitz, Saigal stayed with a French family. She was baptized and raised as a Catholic, which saved her life. The Nazis never knew she was Jewish.
Auerbacher said there is always something good in remembering the evils of what happened in the Holocaust and telling the stories behind the lives that were lost.
"The silent voices must be heard today," she said.