By Senior Airman Naomi Griego
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
David Bram woke up before dawn every morning for years in the freezing cold mountains of Austria in a concentration camp during World War II. He was emaciated, ill and struggling to survive daily. But he lived to talk about it Aug. 20 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., during the Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Bram, now an 86-year-old businessman and entrepreneur, spoke to Team Schriever members about surviving Ebensee Concentration Camp, losing his entire family, being liberated and starting over in a new country with absolutely no possessions to his name.
“The only thing I had was a number on my arm,” Bram recounted. “The Nazis had taken everything from me, including my identity.”
Bram was only 13 years old in 1940 when he volunteered in lieu of his father to be taken by the Nazis to Auschwitz. He spent nearly five years as a Nazi captive.
“It was not easy and I don’t wish it upon anyone,” said Bram. “The concentration camps were impossible to survive. They were designed to be inescapable.”
After departing an excruciatingly mortifying train ride to Auschwitz, Bram’s fate lay in the hands of a Nazi officer, who decided whether he would be executed or work in the labor camp.
“I don’t know why I survived,” said Bram. “If the Allies didn’t knock the Germans out when they did, I would not be here today.”
He said right before the concentration camp was liberated, they ran out of food and the Nazis had abandoned the site.
“In 1945, the U.S. Army liberated our camp,” Bram said. “They were shocked when they saw us and the horrific conditions we were in.”
The American Soldiers were kind and offered him a place to stay and food to eat. He and a friend were able to work with the Army for a short time.
“They were very friendly and even gave us new names,” he said.
“They called us Thursday and Friday,” he added jokingly.
Following the war, Bram applied for a visa to the United States. After two years of waiting, he was sponsored by a family and ultimately became a citizen.
“It was a journey,” he said. “It changed my whole life. I was never afraid though.”
Bram was later drafted into the Army in 1951 during the Korean War. He served honorably for three years.
“I love the United States,” he said. “It offered me freedom. And as someone who has had their freedom taken, I know what freedom is.”
Despite the adversity he faced, Bram continues to promote forgiveness and hope.
“Hope gives you strength,” said Bram. “I believe in forgiving others and if I start hating others, it wastes energy. Hate is very destructive.”
He added hate is a choice and showing compassion is a much greater accomplishment. He’s still not sure why he survived and so many others did not, but he said he is beyond grateful he did.
“I didn’t want to give up,” said Bram. “As long as my heart is still beating, I will never give up.”
Col. Bill Liquori, 50th Space Wing commander, welcomed Bram here as a friend and special guest. He said Holocaust Remembrance Day served as a reminder of the past terrible atrocities, which occurred when intolerance and evil crimes went unchecked.
“We can’t change what has happened but we can make sure nothing like this happens again,” said Liquori.