[12/29/09 Update: Be sure to read Tony Prada’s comment at the end of the post. His initial thought, he wrote, was to move on to the next blog but once he started, he "became engulfed with the memoirs" and his "normal 5 minute stop at the blog morphed into 3 hours." Tony shared with us some very important "takeaway" messages that I commend to you.]
As incredible as my Mother’s story of survival is, as related in this previous post, my Father’s stories stand apart. In his 1995 interview with the USC Shoah Foundation, just two years before he died, he vividly retells his experiences before, during, and after the Holocaust. Born in 1911, he was the first in his family to pursue secular study. He graduated from Univ. of Krakow medical school, experienced violent antisemitism at many turns along the way, and was enlisted as a physician and captain in the Polish army when the war broke out. He tended to hundreds of Polish soldiers while on the frontlines during the Nazi blitzkrieg and to thousands in the Warsaw Ghetto through the uprising of 1943. He survived 5 Nazi concentration camps following the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The "death march" to Dachau in 1945 put him "one step, not even that, ahead of the angel of death." Following his liberation, he worked closely with teams from the US Armed Forces to establish and manage a number of hospitals and TB clinics for survivors. His hard and selfless work earned him not only accolades, but a Visa to the US, where he immigrated in 1949. He eventually settled in Syracuse, NY, and built a medical practice that thrived–notwithstanding a severe heart attack that nearly killed him in 1961–until he finally retired in 1984.
My Dad’s proud, fighting spirit is on magnificent display in this interview, which is split into eight segments (video links embedded at the end of this post):
For those seeking excellent educational tools to teach about the experiences of those who lived through the Holocaust, you’ll find them in the oral testimonies of my parents. I hope this personalizes the survivors’ experiences in a way that provides additional insight into their indomitable spirit, as this University of Texas at Austin "forgiveness and resilience study" proves.
One theme that resonates throughout their interviews is how they viewed their survival as a result of not just one "miracle," but many. As we ponder in this holiday season of miracles the meaning of life, I hope my parents’ stories inspire you to find meaning and purpose each day.
Happy holidays to all!
[The embedded photo is, of course, the famous "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" sign that was recently stolen from the entrance to the Auschwitz death camp. According to this Wikipedia source, the political prisoners who constructed the sign made the upper bowl in the "B" of "ARBEIT" wider than the lower bowl as an act of defiance and to signal what was really going on there.]
Here are embedded links to each of the eight parts of my Dad’s interview:
© Steve Jakubowski 2009