Con­cen­tra­tion camp sur­vivor talks of sec­ond chance at life

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - FRONT PAGE - L.A. Parker Colum­nist L.A. Parker is a Tren­to­nian colum­nist. Reach him at la­parker@tren­to­ Fol­low him on Twit­ter@ la­parker6

When most peo­ple prom­ise to roll up their sleeves, the act pro­duces ex­pec­ta­tions for hard work. When Sol Lurie turns up his left sleeve, that ac­tion cre­ates an en­tirely dif­fer­ent re­ac­tion from on­look­ers as their eyes laser beam to B2858, in this case, a scrib­bled ink con­nec­tion to his Jewish sta­tus in­side a strand of Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps.

Lurie, 87, cap­ti­vated a Trin­ity Church au­di­ence Fri­day evening as One Ta­ble Café guests heard mem­o­ries of his child­hood, be­ing pitched into a Lithua­nian ghetto then trans­ported to a strand of con­cen­tra­tion camps.

Din­ner had pro­duced a ca­coph­ony of sil­ver­ware, con­ver­sa­tions and laugh­ter be­fore the diminu­tive Lurie, traced a child­hood tale that started at 11.

Ger­mans forced Lurie and fam­ily mem­bers into the Kovno ghetto, a pre­cur­sor to an even­tual res­i­dence Auschwitz-Birke­nau.

Auschwitz op­er­ated as a net­work of three con­cen­tra­tion camps con­trolled by the Third Re­ich in Pol­ish ar­eas dur­ing World War II.

An es­ti­mated 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple died there, most of them Jewish.

“The gas cham­bers and burn­ing of bod­ies never stopped, it was a 24-7 op­er­a­tion,” Lurie said.

“You could smell flesh burn­ing. Even now if I smell bar­be­cue, my mind goes back to Auschwitz. We didn’t know ex­actly what it was, but you could smell the flesh.”

Lurie said he and thou­sands of oth­ers es­caped death when Ger­mans struck a deal to end the killings in Auschwitz in ex­change for 10,000 trucks. He even­tu­ally or­phaned in France.

Lurie re­counted ex­pe­ri­ences as images from the Holo­caust pro­jected onto a screen, Buchen­wald, an­other large Ger­man con­cen­tra­tion camp; gas cham­bers; bod­ies gassed then burned.

His sto­ries in­cluded an in­ci­dent when a Nazi of­fi­cer ended a baby’s cry­ing by toss­ing the child sky­ward then im­pal­ing it on a bay­o­net.

Lurie de­scribed a clan­des­tine child­hood. “It seemed like I was al­ways hid­ing. Slip­ping be­tween houses to avoid Ger­man sol­diers.”

Al­though one day a get­away forced Lurie into an out­house where he slipped into a hole filled with fe­ces and urine.

“I hid out un­til the danger passed. Maybe for an hour. And when I got home, my mother was just happy that I walked through the door. She took me in her arms and hugged me, even in that con­di­tion,” Lurie said.

The Rev. Paul Jeanes, Rec­tor for Trin­ity Church of­fered “some­times we need to see what we don’t want to see and know what we don’t want to know, and hear

what we don’t want to hear to make sure that things like this never hap­pen again.”

Lurie por­trayed him­self and other Jewish sur­vivors, as peo­ple spared to tell their sto­ries about the hell of the Holo­caust which ac­counted for the mur­der of six mil­lion Jews.

“And to love. What good would it do if I hated peo­ple. That would make me as bad as the Nazis,” Lurie said.

Lurie has al­ways cel­e­brated that he out­lived Hitler. He called his post con­cen­tra­tion or­deal a sec­ond chance at love and life.

Elie Wiesel, a fa­mous Jewish au­thor, hu­man­i­tar­ian, world ac­tivist and No­bel Peace Prize win­ner, en­dured his time in Auschwitz-Birke­nau be­fore be­ing trans­ported to Buchen­wald.

Free­dom even­tu­ally ar­rived an Wiesel penned fan­tas­tic in­sights and in­spi­ra­tions about liv­ing.

“That I sur­vived the Holo­caust and went on to love beau­ti­ful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life that is what is ab­nor­mal,” Wiesel wrote.

Lurie promised to live and speak out un­til love con­quers hate.

“Un­til we ac­cept each other as broth­ers and sis­ters,” Lurie said.

Lurie re­sides in Mon­roe. Twp. N.J. He speaks fre­quently about his life ex­pe­ri­ences.


A packed house at One Ta­ble Cafe turned out to lis­ten to holo­caust sur­vivor Sol Lurie.

Sol Lurie rolled his sleeve to dis­play Nazi con­cen­tra­tion in­signia B2858, shown at up­per right.

Sol Lurie rolled his sleeve to dis­play Nazi con­cen­tra­tion in­signia B2858.

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