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Holocaust survivor shares experience for Holocaust Remembrance Day

Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 10:33 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Many gathered at Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham for Holocaust Remembrance Day in memory of the six million Jews that were killed during the Holocaust.

Jack Schniper is a member at Temple Emanu-El and was honored by the Temple for surviving the Holocaust. He is the youngest survivor in Alabama.

Schniper tells WBRC he is thankful for the support of the Jewish Community in Birmingham.

“I grew up here,” Schniper said. “My family came here in 1950, coming here and not even speaking a word of English.”

Schniper said his parents met in a Nazi controlled labor camp in Ukraine during WW2.

“This was not a concentration camp,” he said. “This was a labor camp, but it was hard labor. They treated the prisoners the same way, you know one line this way, one line that way. You live and you don’t live.”

Jack was born in the labor camp in 1945 before his parents escaped with an infant in tow.

“They never talked about how they escaped,” he said. “But, they traveled during the nighttime’s and stayed hidden during the day cause the war was still going on. The thing is I never cried. How do you not cry as an infant?”

Schniper said had he cried as an infant, his parents may not have made it to Stuttgart, Germany where they found American Allied forces.

“They set my parents up as DP’s, displaced persons, in housing in Stuttgart, Germany,” he said. “From Stuttgart in 1950, when they got proper clearance to come into the country, they didn’t care where they went as long as they left that side of the world.”

By 1950, they made it to the port of New Orleans. That is where they were assigned Birmingham and they never left.

“People that wanted to come in heard about the land of milk and honey,” Schniper said. “This was that land to them. They were so glad to be here and they imparted that on us.”

Jack said he grew up as normal as possible with his two brothers. His mother was a seamstress.

“My father was in medical school when the war broke out, but they couldn’t continue in higher education because they were expelled because religion,” Schniper said. “My dad, when he was in hiding after the Polish Army was crushed, he learned to barber. Until I left for college, I had never had a haircut outside of the home, I was spoiled.”

He said Holocaust Remembrance Day brings up memories of what his parents went through, but he said he is glad to be a part of history. He said he hopes people keep talking about the Holocaust, so it doesn’t happen again.

“If it’s not perpetuated through events like this and through educational purposes, then people forget,” Schniper said. “It is unfortunate that anti-Semitism is on the rise, but you just have to live your life the best you can. This benefits anybody that would listen to the lessons they can learn from the oppression and the hatred that can be put forth throughout a dark period of history.”

Schniper said at the service he was brought to the front as one of the remaining survivors. His son, Adam, joined him and they lit candles in memory of the six million Jewish people killed during WW2.

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