Man Credits Parents' Sacrifice For Surviving Holocaust


UPDATED: Friday April 5, 2013 6:35 PM

A man who survived the Nazi regime after he was given up by his Jewish parents to another family remembers the ordeal that he went through to survive.

Sunday is Holocaust Remembrance Day, in memory of the 6 million people killed during the Holocaust.

The Nazi regime persecuted and killed them, considering them politically, racially or socially unfit.

Joseph Koenisberg survived. He remembers May 10, 1940, like it was yesterday.

The Germans used a surprise attack to invade Holland.

“We were absolutely not prepared, not prepared at all,” Koenisberg said.

Bernard and Sally Koenisberg knew they had to give up their son if he was going to survive the Nazi regime.

The Gestapo had already taken Joseph’s grandfather.

“I remember the knock at the door,” Koenisberg said. “It was horrendous. I went to a back bedroom and hid.”

Joseph was sent to live with another family in northern Holland to keep him alive.

His father worked in Dutch resistance and with a handshake, he entrusted a family he did not know with the life of his son.

“The only reason they kept me is that my parents promised them some money, with the promise of more money as the war went on,” Koenisberg said.

His mother also was sent away in hopes of escaping the death camps.

“She lived in a basement for two and a half years. The only thing she did was a lot of cross-stitching,” Koenisberg said.

As the Nazis moved closer to their perfect solution, Koenisberg’s family started to disappear.

For years, he lived in a home, hidden from the eye of the Nazis. He had no heat, no hot water and no electricity.

“If I had opened my mouth and said I was Jewish, they probably would have taken me as well,” Koenisberg said.

He said he survived on tulips and beets, changed his name from Joseph to John and attended Catholic Church services.

“They used to walk our village many, many times, and I was hidden, trying to pretend that I was sleeping,” he said.

When the war was over, Jewish parents began looking for their hidden children.  Koenisberg was in the hospital for malnutrition and word got out there was a Jewish boy in the small village.

The hospital records allowed his birth parents to locate him, but the reunion meant leaving one family for another.

“I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to go because I was so bonded with that family,” Koenisberg said.  

Koenisberg said he was lucky to be alive to tell his story.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” he said. “The only reason I speak, is so the story of the Holocaust will not be a footnote in the history books.”

A Holocaust memorial is planned for the statehouse.

On May 6, there finalists who have been selected to possibly design the statue will present their drawings.

The state hopes to unveil the memorial sometime next year.

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EVENTS:

April 7, 7:00 p.m. - Holocaust Portraits: Victims, Perpetrators, Witnesses - Congregation Beth Tikvah

April 9, Noon - Governor's Holocaust Commemoration - Ohio Statehouse Rotunda

April 12, Noon - Columbus Yom HaShoah Observance and Holocaust Rembrance - Columbus City Council

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