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Jack Adler


Holocaust survivor shares his story


By Micah Sturr
Boomerang Staff Writer


Respect, not love, is the key to peace. Holocaust survivor Jack Adler shared his story and message about respect with a standing-room-only audience at the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture Auditorium on Wednesday.

"We live in the greatest nation in the world, represented by every race, ethnicity and religious group, and it's a diversity that we should be very proud of. It's a diversity that built and continues to build this great nation of ours. However we also have in our society hate groups who are ready and willing to tear this great nation apart," Adler said.

Adler used his survival story as a backdrop to illustrate some of the historical causes of anti-Semitism, the historic and future impact that hate had and can have and to demonstrate that common, decent people can be part of a system of hate and discrimination.

"Many people came to the United States hoping to find freedom and opportunity, but they came from countries where anti-Semitism was a way of life and they brought with them this little baggage of hatred and they passed it along to future generations," Adler said.

The latent anti-Semitism in America prevented the United States from bombing the crematorium or railroad at Auschwitz, Adler said

"If they would have bombed just the railroad tracks, over 1 million innocent lives would have been saved. As you can see, there is enough blame to go around," Adler said.

Five Jewish lives lost in the holocaust belonged to Adler's immediate family. His two young sisters were killed at Auschwitz, his brother and mother died in the Lodz ghetto in Poland and his father in Dachau. Only Adler survived. He moved to America as a war orphan at the age of 16 after being liberated by American soldiers in 1945.

In 1939 Nazi soldiers occupied Adler's hometown of Pabianice, Poland. Jewish residents immediately were forced into a ghetto and systematically abused. Adler's family was separated on a soccer field along with the rest of the community's Jews. The old, sick and young were sent to death camps and those capable of slave labor to worked in and concentration camps.

This pattern would continue, as the starving and broken were separated from the starving and whole until only Adler remained of his family. Despite the suffering and horrors that he was subjected to and saw, Adler insisted the Germans are no different than other groups of people and said some Nazi's acted humanely when given the opportunity.

An SS colonel left food in the ashes of his wood burning stove for Adler to find when he cleaned the officer's office every morning.

"He was a decent human being who got caught up in something over his head. When he had the chance to do something humane he did," Adler said of the SS cololonel he credited with saving his life.

Despite the recollections of tiny acts of humanity punctuating intense suffering and cruelty, as well as incontrovertible evidence supporting the facts of the Holocaust, there are still disbelivers.

"From the Nazi trials and documents, to liberators who testify to what they found when they liberated the camps and eyewitnesses such as myself. Despite this overwhelming evidence there are people in the world today including the United States who deny the holocaust," Adler said.

In addition to hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nation, skin heads and the Nation of Islam, movie star and director Mel Gibson is amongst anti-Semetic holocaust deniers, Adler said.

"He chose, deliberately, the Passion of the Christ because he has the passion to re-ignite the origin of anti-Semitism, or else he would have made a movie about the teachings of Jesus -- love thy neighbor, respect, thou shall not kill," Adler said.

Blaming Jews as a group for the death of Jesus is the seed of anti-Semitism, and Gibson's film was designed to nurture that lie and ancient hatreds, Adler said.

"If it weren't for organized religion, you wouldn't have the holocaust. Religion is the most divisive force ever created by mankind," Adler said.

Divisions created by hate are not possible when there is mutual respect, Adler said. All people are of one race -- the human race -- and basic respect for the humanity in everyone is necessary to snuff out hate, Adler said.

"I don't love or like everyone, however in order for us to survive as a nation, we must learn to respect each other. Don't love me, don't like me, just respect me as a human being," Adler said.


© Laramie Boomerang


Holocaust survivor: Anti-Semitism survives


Star-Tribune correspondent

 LARAMIE -- Exhausted by a grimy, two-day train trip to an unknown destination, the Jews were told to remember what hook they hung their clothes on. That way, they would be able to reclaim their own when they came back from the showers.

The guards who told them this knew that these people would never put their clothes back on. The destination was the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination and Selection Camp. The shower was a gas chamber. The seemingly considerate words were a bit of gratuitous cruelty in the horror of the Holocaust.

After the bodies were taken to the crematorium, the guards "would go home on leave, play with their little children, go to church and pray, and come back to continue the same evil over and over again," Holocaust survivor Jack Adler of Denver said Wednesday.

Adler, 76, was 10 years old in September 1939 when Nazi soldiers marched into Pabianice, Poland, where his family owned a textile business. Along with other Jews in the town, they were moved to a ghetto in the Polish city of Lodz, where they were held virtual prisoners. His mother and brother died there. In 1944, Adler and his father and two sisters were sent to Auschwitz/Birkenau. His sisters were killed. He and his father were later sent to a work camp at Kaufering, Germany.

Young Jack was later sent to the German concentration camp at Dachau. He was the only member of the family to survive the camps.

Speaking to a mostly student audience that jammed the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture auditorium, Adler said, "Adolf Hitler did not create anti-Semitism, nor did the Nazis. They were students of the anti-Semitism that had existed for many centuries."

Hate groups are still thriving in many parts of the world, he told the students, and "it is up to you to make sure they never succeed."

In his native Poland, he said, "the core of anti-Semitism survives," and he has "no desire to go back there" as long as it does.

His stories were not all about cruelty. At one camp, his chores included cleaning the commanding S.S. colonel's wood-burning stove daily. In the ashes, he said, he regularly found neatly wrapped bits of bread and bacon that he could share with his father.

"He wanted me to find that, or else he would have thrown it into the garbage," he said.

After he was beaten by a guard one day, he said, the commander, an S.S. officer, asked him to point out the guard who had done it. Despite his fear of reprisal, he did so, and the commander duly disciplined the guard.

"He was a decent human being who got caught up in something over his head, as I am sure were many other Germans," he said.

Adler's speech was the first of three planned this semester as part of the UW Graduate School's Distinguished Speaker Series.


Star-Tribune correspondent W. Dale Nelson can be reached at wdnelson@bresnan.net

Copyright © 2005 by the Casper Star-Tribune published by Lee Publications, Inc., a subsidiary of Lee Enterprises, Incorporated