Lowcountry survivor remembers Holocaust camp

Lowcountry survivor remembers Holocaust camp

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Seventy years ago, January 27, 1945, more than 7,000 prisoners were set free from one of the largest and deadliest Nazi Camps.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, it's estimated that at least 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945.

Of these, more than one million were murdered, but Joe Engel survived.

A native of Poland, who now lives in Charleston, Engel was among millions tortured and beaten at Auschwitz.

Under Nazi rule in Germany, his parents and eight siblings were all split between forced labor camps and death camps, Engel recalls with little to no food or water.

"Nobody came back," he said. "I saw a lot of my friends die."

In 1945, while only a teenager, Engel escaped after jumping from a train going more than 55 miles an hour.

It was during the death march, where prisoners marched to trains carrying them even further into Germany.  Many were killed on the spot if they couldn't keep up.

"If I'm lucky I'll survive," Engel said Tuesday.

"If I stay on the train, I'm not going to make it anyhow."

For hours, he buried himself in the snow, before hiding in a manhole several more days.

Years later, he learned that three of his eight siblings also survived, but never heard from or saw his parents again.

Engel now uses his story to inspire and teach the next generation.  He's traveled the country speaking to students, churches, and national leaders.

"The young people should not forget what happened 70 years ago," he said.

In West Ashley's Addlestone Hebrew Academy, students are reminded of Engel's story daily, with a plaque in his honor at the entrance of the school.

So far, they haven't forgotten.

"I can live in a place where I can go to school with anyone I want, and I can go to synagogue and not get arrested," said student Elan Lezine.

"It's very nice to remember what happened, and to think that you've been there, but it's out of this world to be there," added classmate Maor Netanel.

"I think the only heroes in this world are those who've been in these terrible, terrible situations, like our Holocaust survivor Joe Engel."

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