Gabriel, in 1947, three years after the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and liberated prisoners 
Courtesy Gabriel Cis
Rose Minutaglio
August 17, 2017 03:15 PM

When Auschwitz survivor Gabriel Cis, 89, turned on his television to watch the evening news on Saturday, he thought he’d accidentally put on a World War II documentary on Nazis.

“I see men, hatred on their faces, with torches in parades and screaming, just like the Nazis did to us years ago,” says Cis, who agreed to speak with PEOPLE using his given Hungarian name (he later changed it after immigrating to the U.S.) after receiving threats from neo-Nazis.

“I see torture and violence and swastikas and I was brought back to the worst moments of my life.

“I couldn’t believe they were speaking English, that this was in Charlottesville. I thought this nightmare was in the past, way in the past.”

Even more disturbing, the Holocaust survivor says, was President Donald Trump’s response to the current political climate and deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump initially condemned groups like the neo-Nazis, KKK and White Supremacists, but, on Tuesday, blamed “both sides” for the violence in Virginia that resulted in the death of a young woman.

“His heart is not in this — he is totally irresponsible and it makes me angry,” says Cis. “We need someone strong to say this is wrong, before there is more blood spilled on the streets.

“He is the worst person I can think of, next to Hitler.”

Gabriel with his two sisters before being taken to Auschwitz
Courtesy Gabriel Cis

In the spring of 1944, a 16-year-old Cis was forced to wear a yellow star on his clothing by the Nazi regime in his Hungarian hometown. Next, his father’s store was confiscated. And not long after that, the Jewish teen found himself, his parents and his two sisters in a crowded cattle car headed straight for Auschwitz.

Cis’s father was immediately sent to the gas chambers and executed. Cis worked as a slave, building railroads on starvation rations, until the Soviet army liberated him one year later.

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And hearing President Trump’s response to the political climate and reading about the resurgence of hateful beliefs is bringing back those painful memories.

“It’s eerie,” says Cis. “I’m watching the news every night and thinking, ‘My home, the U.S., could become like this, if this problem isn’t nipped in the bud.’

“And I’m angry — and very, very worried.”

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Cis emigrated to the U.S. with his mother and two sisters in 1947 — the family, grieving the loss of their murdered father, sought a fresh start, a new home and a new life.

He attended art school, served in the Korean War “with pride” and started a family of his own.

“I was welcomed with open arms,” recalls Cis. “It was such a fantastic country, it was the place to come to.”

But lately, Cis isn’t so sure.

“The violence I’ve seen in the country, lately, is the kind of thing that lead to the Holocaust in the first place,” he says. “I always knew there was hatred with the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, but it’s as if lately they feel they can get away with their hurtful beliefs.”

Gabriel, in 1947, three years after the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and liberated prisoners
Courtesy Gabriel Cis

And the disturbing footage from Saturday’s “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally that drew attendees and counter-demonstrators into confrontation, has Cis more worried than ever.

“This could snowball, next thing it’s going to be little incidents all over the country, marches, more violence, more people will die,” says Cis. “We have to come together, Republicans and Democrats alike, to stop the nonsense.”

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