CHICAGO November 2, 2013: Here is a cluster of tormenting stories of war, suffering and survival of the last generation to witness holocaust.
Holocaust survivors share a history and a home: a retirement community founded more than 60 years ago for Jews who’d been victims of Nazi persecution. For decades, it was a refuge for those who’d went through the living hell of Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, Mauthausen and other camps. Only 12 Holocaust survivors — the youngest in their mid-80s, the oldest 102 — remain.
On Nov. 9, 1938, Kristallnacht — the Nazis coordinated a wave of attacks in Germany and Austria, smashing windows, burning synagogues, ransacking homes, looting Jewish-owned stores.
One of the pregnant prisoner Edith, miraculously avoided the gas chamber at Auschwitz. She lost her mother, father and husband in the camps. After liberation, she faced even more heartbreak: Her son died days after his birth. 92-year-old Edith Stern holds a picture of her father at the retirement community called Selfhelp Home, on the North Side of Chicago.
Seventy-five years ago, Margie Oppenheimer awoke with a Nazi pointing a rifle in her 14-year-old face.
On the eighth floor, there’s a 10 year boy Joe who was herded onto a cattle car and transported to a concentration camp — the first of five he’d be shuttled to over five cruel years.
Margie, on the 3rd floor, a prisoner of Nazi labor camps, hauled backbreaking cement bags and was beaten with clubs. Sometimes, she survived on only a piece of bread. She weighed 56 pounds when liberated.
One day at the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland, Nazis marched Oppenheimer and others naked into an open field for inspection. Those strong enough to work were directed to the right. Raw-boned Oppenheimer, was sent to the left with hundreds of older women. She was placed into new barracks and had the Roman numeral II scrawled on her left forearm.