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Holocaust Survivor Reacts To Russia's Atrocities In Ukraine; Bipartisan Group Of Lawmakers To Biden: Do More For Refugees; Strike Hits Train Station Where Thousands Waited To Evacuate. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 08, 2022 - 07:30   ET



KATE BEDINGFIELD, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: And so, people are out living their lives and certainly, the President of the United States is doing that, too.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Is he going to go to the White House Correspondents' Dinner after the Gridiron Dinner might have been a spreader event?

BEDINGFIELD: I don't have any news to announce at this moment but we will absolutely keep you posted on his plans for the Correspondents' Dinner.

BERMAN: All right, Kate Bedingfield, White House communications director. I appreciate you joining us on a range of subjects this morning.

BEDINGFIELD: Thanks for having me, John. I appreciate it.

BERMAN: All right, deliberate attack. The head of the Ukrainian Railway says the strike on the busy train station in Kramatorsk was intentional. He joins us in just minutes. And what Russia just said about this deadly attack.

Plus, he witnessed the horrors of World War II as a child. Now, with the horrific images coming out of Ukraine, a Holocaust survivor shares his journey and his personal connection with President Zelenskyy.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: More on the breaking news that we are following out Kramatorsk this morning. Dozens are dead and as many as 300 people are injured in a Russian missile strike on a railway station. That is the new count from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And officials say that Russian forces knew exactly what they were targeting.

We're going to have more on this developing story here in just a moment -- Berman. BERMAN: And, of course, everyone has heard Russia's leader trying to justify the invasion of Ukraine by saying it's to de-Nazify Ukraine somehow. Remember, the president of Ukraine is a Jew. It's a ridiculous comment but still, one that a lot of people hear and I think, frankly, wounds a lot of people.

Joining me now is Holocaust survivor and co-author of "Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz," Michael Bornstein.

Also with us is CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig. He is the grandson of two Holocaust survivors. And Elie has done a documentary and written extensively about the war crimes trial of Nazi, Adolph Eichmann.

Michael, thank you so much for being with us right now. You know, we see this train station blown up in eastern Ukraine with people who are fleeing their homes -- forced from their homes. I've spoken to people forced from their homes at gunpoint by the Russians in Ukraine. When you see that it evokes something very real.


Basically, I was in Auschwitz. I got out when I was four years old. And my mother and I were Zarki, the town I was born in. We were forced -- actually, I was -- had dystrophy. Didn't have hair. We went to Munich, Germany to try to get medical help for me.

And that was what people in Ukraine are going through. We went to the U.S. I came here -- didn't speak the language, didn't have the right clothes, didn't have any hair on my head. And it seems to be very similar to what the Ukrainian people are going through.

BERMAN: A forced evacuation. A forced immigration. It's something you lived through.

And it makes it all the more painful I imagine when you hear Vladimir Putin use the word "Nazis" to try to demonize the Ukrainians. What do you think of when you hear that?

BORNSTEIN: I hear -- I think of Nazis shouting at me in German in the town of Zarki. I think of the Nazis trying to hide things. As they burned bodies, trying to hide things. And you see Putin basically putting people in mass graves and hiding things and it's disgusting. It's absolutely disgusting.

My father was killed in Auschwitz. My brother was killed in Auschwitz. And I was lucky. My grandmother saved me from Auschwitz.

BERMAN: You were lucky. We're lucky. And you were telling me you could still smell the burning flesh. So when Vladimir Putin says Nazi it just -- it wounds.

Elie, Michael brings up a good point. He says Vladimir Putin and the Russians are trying to hide things. And that gets to the issue of war crimes here, which is something you have studied extensively.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, GRANDSON OF TWO HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS: Yes, John. One thing that I've learned from my family, from the research and work that I've done on the Eichmann trial, and from hearing from witnesses -- eyewitnesses like Mr. Bornstein -- is that we can never take history for granted and that any time in our history there is genocide or atrocities committed against civilians, there will be an effort to whitewash history by perpetrators.

In the Holocaust, we saw the Nazis destroy documents, destroy buildings. The crematoria still stands at Birkenau. Destroy human beings.

That's what the forced march was about. They marched people into the interior of Germany so the allied forces would not find those human beings, which -- who would be the best possible evidence. And we're seeing echoes of that now in Vladimir Putin's approach to this conflict.

BERMAN: I keep looking at my computer, Elie, because listen to this.


BERMAN: We've been looking at the video from the attack on the train station, right -- which we can see with our own eyes. At least 30 dead. We're now told maybe 300 injured there.

And this is the statement coming out of Russia. "All the statements of the representatives of the Kyiv nationalist regime about the alleged missile attack by Russia at the railway station are a provocation and absolutely do not correspond to reality."

HONIG: It's a grotesque lie and it's a reminder why it's so important that we document this. We can't take things for granted, right? The technology now is way different than in 1945. Now we have cellphones, digital technology, satellites, drones.

That said, there will still be denialism and that's why it's so important that you and our colleagues who have been in Ukraine -- Brianna is there now -- document what's happening. This is for history. And that we listen to people like Mr. Bornstein who are the living witnesses.


BERMAN: And Michael, you brought this Kiddush cup, which is extremely special to you. This was one of the items that your family saved prior to being taken captive throughout the Holocaust. And just talk to me about this cup and a picture that you're going to show us right now with President Zelenskyy.

BORNSTEIN: Yes. This Kiddush cup was found by my mother. Actually, my father and mother saw what the Nazis were doing. They made a makeshift vault behind our house and hid jewelry, money, and the Kiddush cup. My mother, after coming back to Zarki -- the town I was born in -- dug and dug. Her hands were bleeding. Everything was stolen except this Kiddush cup.

And we were at Auschwitz-Birkenau for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. My daughter and I -- my daughter Debbie and I were keynote speakers at that event and President Zelenskyy was there, too.

BERMAN: He was one of the only world leaders who came.

BORNSTEIN: One of the only presidents -- the only president who came.

He was very, very kind. He saw that we were nervous. He put thumbs up at the end. He asked if he could touch the Kiddush cup and we said why don't you hold it? And we took some pictures with my two daughters. And he's a very, very, very kind person.

And we -- every time I hear about Ukraine I think about him and I worry that he's going to be hurt.

BERMAN: Elie and I are looking at you, getting chills right now --

HONIG: Definitely (ph).

BERMAN: -- because that picture right there is -- there's so much history in that. There's so much meaning to see that. To see someone going through something now, which you went through a version of so long ago.

We're so glad you're here to tell the story. It's important for you to be here and to warn the world about what absolutely can happen again. Michael, thank you.

Elie, thank you.

HONIG: Thank you.

BORNSTEIN: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: As we continue to follow the breaking news on an attack on this train station in eastern Ukraine that left as many as 30 people killed, we're now hearing 300 injured.

We're also learning that Ukrainian forces are bracing for what they're calling a massive breakthrough attempt by Russian forces in the eastern part of Ukraine.

Stay with us. Our live breaking news coverage continues right after this.



KEILAR: I'm Brianna Keilar live in western Ukraine.

And more than 60 bipartisan lawmakers are urging President Biden to do more for the refugees who are fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine. If they do manage to escape without physical harm, many Ukrainian adults and children still need help dealing with the mental and the emotional toll of running from explosions and uprooting their lives.

CNN's Dana Bash is live for us in Warsaw, Poland with more on this. Tell us about their needs and how they're being met, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, in my grandparents' generation, when they fled from war they were not encouraged to talk about their emotional well-being at all. But here in Poland, in 2022, mental health is being addressed.


BASH (voice-over): Eight-year-old Yana (ph) is used to going to gymnastics class six days a week in Odessa, Ukraine. Now, she practices here -- a refugee center in Warsaw, Poland.

BASH (on camera): Do you know why your mom decided it was time for you to go?

YANA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (through translator): Well, because there were explosions there and stuff like that.

BASH (on camera): Did you hear explosions? Did you see any of the war?

YANA (through translator): Uh-huh.

BASH (voice-over): She left Ukraine with her brother and mother, Liudmyla.

LIUDMYLA BATS, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: The journey was very hard because we decided -- we decided to go there through Moldova, through Romania, through Hungary, and through Slovenia -- and then, Poland.

BASH (voice-over): Yana sits at a table full of donated supplies and goes to school remotely on her phone, right in the middle of this Warsaw refugee center.

BASH (on camera): And she's OK?

BATS: She says yes.

BASH (voice-over): Liudmyla Bats is not so sure about her own trauma.

BATS: Even here, every time when I hear there's some sounds, and when there -- a plane is flying, I'm afraid.

BASH (voice-over): Poland's generosity towards Ukraine's flood of refugees -- shelter, food, baby supplies -- is well-documented. Less known is a focus on what you cannot see -- the mental health of the mostly women and children who crossed the border.

BASH (on camera): You've redirected a lot of the psychiatrists and psychologists to the Ukrainians. MAYOR RAFAL TRZASKOWSKI, WARSAW, POLAND: Yes, I have.

BASH (voice-over): Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski says tending to Ukrainians' emotional wounds is critical. Foundations drop leaflets encouraging Ukrainian refugees to seek counseling.

TRZASKOWSKI: Those kids are incredibly resilient but you never know what's beneath the surface.

BASH (on camera): But it wasn't that long ago that people just kind of said suck it up -- you just deal with it. But that's not where we are in society anymore.

TRZASKOWSKI: No. I mean, when you -- especially when you see what's happened in Ukraine. How vicious this war was and all of those atrocities committed by Russian soldiers. And those kids watch T.V. You know, they see it.

BASH (voice-over): In this group session, the mental health professional for Ukrainian women is a fellow refugee. In the Women's Circle, as they call it, buried emotions spring to the surface. While mothers tend to their own mental health their children are in makeshift daycare on the other side of the room.


Little Yana (ph) is thrilled by the toys and new people to play with -- young enough not to know too much. Her big sister Antonina (ph) knows far more -- experienced more than any 8-year-old ever should.

BASH (on camera): Antonina, why are you here in Poland? Do you know?

ANTONINA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE (through translator): Because of the war. Because -- I don't know. Putin has something in his head.

BASH (on camera): It turns out not all grownups make good decisions, huh?

ANTONINA (through translator): When it comes to Putin, yes.

BASH (voice-over): To better take care of her girls, their mother takes care of herself in this therapy session.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): With like-minded people, it's easier to talk. They understand you.

BASH (on camera): Why did you want to have these sessions?

MILENA KONOVALOVA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE AND CRISIS PSYCHOLOGIST (through translator): When we talk to other women we hear that we have the same problems and we see our situation from a distance.

The most prominent trauma is that women don't see tomorrow. They're not sure. They are frightened and scared. They don't feel protection anywhere. And it's important to convey to them that there is tomorrow.

BASH (voice-over): As for today, seeing their children playing, smiling, laughing, it helps get them to tomorrow.


BASH: But the reality, of course, Brianna, is that it's very hard to heal emotional wounds when the cause -- the war is very much raging. And, of course, these women and children left behind, for the most part, their husbands, their fathers, and their brothers, and they know that they are still there fighting -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a trauma every day, still.

Dana Bash, thank you so much for that very important report for us from Warsaw, Poland.

We do continue to follow some breaking news of that train station attack in Kramatorsk. As many as 30 people reported dead now. This includes children. And President Zelenskyy says that around 300 people were left hurt by this attack.

I'm not joined by Alexander Kamyshin. He is the head of Ukrainian Railways, which services this area here. Sir, thank you so much for being with us.

These are horrific images that we are seeing here. What can you tell us about the latest on the casualties? Sir, can you hear me?


KEILAR: What can you tell us about the latest on the casualties -- the number of killed and injured there?

KAMYSHIN: Indeed, Russians shelled the station of Kramatorsk. We've got 39 people killed, all civilians. We've got 87 people injured and counting on (ph). Indeed, this shows that they tried to kill civilians. They do block migration program.

Yesterday, they bombed the bridge which connects all the cities, like Kramatorsk, Slovyansk, (INAUDIBLE), and others with Ukraine.

And they keep shelling stations. They keep shelling trains. And they do whatever they can to stop the migration program of civilians.

KEILAR: Alexander, just to be clear, you said 39 people have died and 87 have been injured. Is that right?

KAMYSHIN: Yes. That's the correct numbers right now.

KEILAR: And where are those numbers coming from?

KAMYSHIN: Those numbers are coming from officials.

KEILAR: They're coming from officials.

So, we had heard that this may have been not just one strike but two strikes. Is that the case? KAMYSHIN: Indeed, there were two strikes. And, indeed, they keep shelling all the stations and all the railway infrastructure around. And they keep doing it daily.

KEILAR: Can you tell us, in particular, these two strikes -- what facilities at the rail station were they on? One was an overflow passenger area. Is that correct?

KAMYSHIN: That's -- rocket fell down on the area which is (audio gap) us all people were around and inside were hit by the pieces of the rocket.

KEILAR: So there -- so there were people inside where one of these strikes happened. Is there rubble? Do you know if there are any more survivors they're trying to rescue?


KAMYSHIN: The station is also shelled. It's also -- it's also broken. But more people suffered from those people who were outside. From all the parts of the station. From all the sides of the station.

KEILAR: All parts of the station.

What can you tell us about what was written on the side of the missile? We can see it. It says "for the children." What can you tell us about what you know about that?

KAMYSHIN: That's horrible and it's bloody to kill children -- Russian-speaking children in Russian-speaking cities, and keep saying that they try to protect someone. And they write "for children" on their rocket.

KEILAR: Alexander Kamyshin with Ukrainian Railways. We thank you so much for being with us. These are -- it is atrocious what we are seeing there and we're trying to get an update on it. We appreciate you helping us. Thank you so much.

We do have some more on our breaking news. Ukraine says that dozens are dead. We just heard that there. Many more dozens injured after Russian forces struck a train station full of people waiting to evacuate. We're going to go live to the ground next.