American woman recalls her capture on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Elsie Ragusin Azzianro is an American woman who was captured overseas during World War II and became a prisoner of the Holocaust. She was sent to concentration camps Auschwitz and Ravensbruck, accused of being a spy.

She survived.

Azzianro’s story is now laid out at an exhibit of Ravensbruck at FGCU, now open to the public.

We learned about Azzianro’s story Monday on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“My name is Elsie. Where do I start?” Azzianro said to us during our sit-down interview with her. “I don’t know where to start.”

From the beginning

Azzianro was an American girl in Europe in 1939.

“My dad and mom went to Europe to my grandparents because they weren’t feeling good,” Azzianro said.

There, Azzianro was captured and tortured.

“My own country. They took me away from my own country,” Azzianro said. “I wanted to be back. They had no right to take me. I did nothing wrong, and I wasn’t gonna stand for that.”

Six years after she was captured and sent to the camps, Azzianro was an American woman off 22 years old. She was liberated along with her fellow war prisoners.

“There were buses. We weren’t sure where we were going. They always taking people somewhere,” Azzianro said. “They tried to talk to us, but we were afraid of them. We didn’t know what to do.”

Azzianro was freed. But not without eternal grief.

“He was so kind and gentle, a loving father. And he told me, when they took us, ‘Elsie you’ll be back home. We’ll be back home. You’ll see. They made a mistake. You’ll see. We’ll be back home,’” Azzianro said. “And those words are with me all the time because he never made it home.”

Today, 75 years later, Azzianro is 98 years old, and she is still looking toward the future.

“Be there for each others, and be there,” Azzianro said. “If someone’s pulling back, keep em going; give em strength; tell them you love them.”

And she shares one message for the world.

“Don’t ever let it happen again,” Azzianro said. “Don’t ever, ever have anything like that happen again.”

Reporter:Sydney Persing
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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