‘Be like Joe’: Community pays final respects to Holocaust survivor from Charleston

Family and friends remembered a Holocaust survivor who called Charleston home at a funeral service Monday.
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 12:06 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Family and friends remembered a Holocaust survivor who called Charleston home at a funeral service Monday.

Joe Engel died Saturday at the age of 95.

As a teenager, Engel, a Polish native, spent time at two of the most infamous death camps during the Holocaust: Birkenau and Auschwitz.

Engel made his way to Charleston in 1949 and opened up Glamour Cleaners on King Street.

He often shared his survivor’s story to students and members of the community hoping to make sure history would never repeat itself.

“Why we have such an incredible infrastructure to teach the Holocaust is all because of him,” Synagogue Emanu-El Rabbi Evan Ravski said.

From the atrocities of experiencing the worst of humanity… came unconditional love, a message Engel preached to groups across the country.

“It’s a courageous story. It sends chills up and down your spine when you would hear Joe deliver that story himself,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said. “It was remarkable.”

Engel’s friends say they want to make sure his message is carried on.

“Be like Joe. Let people know what happened. Help them to understand, but at the same time, talk about how important kindness is and love for each other,” Anita Zucker said.

From grim to good, Engel never let the stories he told take away his joy.

“Not only did we have serious moments but we had a lot of fun moments, and he was one of the best dancers,” Zucker said. “Joe would be one of the first people out on the dance floor dancing with all the women. He really knew how to have a good time and after going through so much hardship in your life, being able to still celebrate the good times is so important in our lives.”

Those close to him want to make sure his dance moves, his kindness and his stories are never forgotten.

“At the end of the day, what Joe used to say, ‘Be kind to one another. Be kind to one another,’” Tecklenburg said.

Engel is survived by his five nieces and nephews and extended family.