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Simon Waksberg

Tennessee Holocaust Commission -

Memphis, Tennessee
Born: 1921 Lodz, Poland
Survivor : Lodz ghetto; Poznan and Andrzejewo Forced Labor Camps; Auschwitz and Flossenburg Concentration Camps

“Do not hate, hate will eat you up. Remember the past but live for the future,” says Simon Waksberg, who likes to speak to teenagers.

He was just 16 when Germany invaded Poland. The schools closed, including the Yeshiva he and his two brothers, grandsons of a Hasidic rabbi, attended. Jews were forced into a crowded ghetto. One day soldiers picked up everyone in the street. The imprisoned boy’s father asked him to promise to be a good Jew and a good human being.

Forced into hard labor, Simon dug tunnels for a railway near Poznan, then cleared a forest near Andrzejewo. When he returned to the ghetto, his family was gone. He went into hiding, sleeping nights on a grocery table, and sneaking over the fence daily to eat with the factory workers. In 1944, the ghetto was emptied. “It was July,”Simon recalls “the sealed train took three days... we stripped off our clothes to cool down... when the doors were finally opened (at Auschwitz), half the people were dead.” Months later, as Allied troops advanced, the weak and starving prisoners were forced on a six-week march into Czechoslovakia and Germany. Out of thousands of marchers, only 150 survived to greet American liberators at Flossenburg Concentration Camp on April 23, 1945.

Simon, whose family had perished, soon married Mina, a Holocaust survivor, and moved into in a confiscated apartment in Regensberg, Germany. They took in Oskar Schindler, his wife Millie, and Czech secretary Marta, and became lasting friends. When Schindler left for Argentina, he offered them passage with Catholic documents, but Simon and Mina resolved to remain Jews.