From A Name to A Number
A Holocaust Survivor's Autobiography
Dust Jacket Hardcover
Alter Wiener's father was brutally murdered on September 11, 1939 by the German invaders of Poland. Alter was then a boy of 13. At the age of 15 he was deported to Blechhammer, a Forced Labor Camp for Jews, in Germany. He survived five camps. Upon liberation by the Russian Army on May 9, 1945, Alter weighed 80 lbs as reflected on the book's cover. Alter Wiener is one of the very few Holocaust survivors still living in Portland, Oregon. He moved to Oregon in 2000 and since then he has shared his life story with over 800 audiences (as of April, 2013) in universities, colleges, middle and high schools, Churches, Synagogues, prisons, clubs, etc. He has also been interviewed by radio and TV stations as well as the press. Wiener's autobiography is a testimony to an unfolding tragedy taking place in WWII. Its message illustrates what prejudice may lead to and how tolerance is imperative. This book is not just Wiener's life story but it reveals many responses to his story. Hopefully, it will enable many readers to truly understand such levels of horror and a chance to empathize with the unique plight of the Holocaust victims. Feel free to visit my website www.alterwiener.com for more information including links.
GROSS MASSELWITZ - ZAL Zwangsabeitslager f r Juden
I arrived in December 1942 to this camp where about 1,500 Jews were crammed into a large warehouse. The living conditions and food rations were similar to the previous two camps. However, we had to endure less hardship because the commander did not act brutally as the two previous commanders, in Brande and Blechhammer, did. Also, we did not have to march so many miles to our working place.
One of the inmates, Simcha Schonberg, said to me: “I would like to be your mentor, to help you as much as I can. I was lying next to your father when the German shot him and me. I am the one that managed to escape during the night by pretending to be dead.” In practical terms, there was not much that Mr. Schonberg could have helped me. He just had sympathy for me, because of my tender age.
I worked in military warehouses above and below the ground, not far from our camp. When we saw those huge warehouses stockpiled with heavy weapons and military supplies, even the optimists among us doubted whether the Germans would ever be defeated. It was irritating that we were actually helping the Germans to build their mighty fortresses. Our hope for deliverance diminished. While the Germans were in aura of triumph we lived in aura of helplessness.
The German efficiency warranted admiration. Any item collected on the battle front, such as uniforms of German casualties or enemy’s, their personal belongings, their guns, reached Gross Masselwitz’s rail terminal. We had to unload the train cars, assort, repair, clean and shelve all those items in warehouses.
While unloading a train car, a machine gun fell on my foot. I was groaning and writhing in pain. I felt bleeding and wanted to take off my clog to see what had happened. Perhaps I could find some kind of an improvised bandage with which to bind my toe. The guard did not permit me. I had to continue to work. Coming back to camp in the evening, I realized that my toe was badly injured, and my nail was loose. I was in constant pain for a long time. That toe has never completely healed.
I had lived in Forest Hills, New York for 40 years and I had never been asked to share my life story, with students or adults. Like many other Holocaust survivors, I was focused on adjusting to a new life in a new country. I had a full time job until the age of 73, and then I left New York for Oregon.
I have never been able to bring down an iron curtain on my past. For me, the horrific memories from the Holocaust are still fresh. The ashes I rose from are still smoldering. I am tormented by memories even as I try to carry on with my life. I am crying in silence, I am still in pain, I am draped in sadness. While grieving I am also somewhat healed. Most members, of my extended family, had passed away but their love will stay and our relationship will never end, because love is not mortal.. The warmth that permeated our family is the anchor that I hang on to. The Holocaust is a ghastly and repulsive historical nightmare. Not all physical and mental scars can be completely healed with passing years; some extend through time. However, I can not let grief immobilize me.
I realize that it is beyond the understanding of most people to fathom the horror and dread that I have witnessed and endured. The Holocaust is indeed beyond comprehension. My tribulations during the Holocaust are so removed from people’s daily lives that those horrors sound unbelievable to them.
In April 2000, I moved to Hillsboro Oregon. I met a Holocaust survivor who urged me to join the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center (OHRC). I did, and became a member of the OHRC “Speakers Bureau.” The Speakers share their Holocaust experiences with young students and adults, in the State of Oregon and Washington.
I have always been self conscious of my limited vocabulary, my foreign accent and my flawed diction. Had I been well versed in the English language I would still feel uncomfortable to address audiences. However, I was coaxed by the coordinator of OHRC to give a try, and I made my first presentation, in December 2000, at Century High School, Hillsboro.
Since then, I have shared my life story with over 800 audiences. Most of my listeners have been quite respectful, sympathetic, as reflected in their faces, sometimes with outrage and often with tears. They are captivated, in their rapt attentiveness. The appreciation for my implicit and explicit messages is reflected in their verbal and written responses. I am very pleased when told by teachers that my presentation had inspired even the most fidgety students.
The book was very gripping and I did not want to put it down. I was amazed at the amount of photos and documents about his life. Thank you very much for telling your story.
Dust Jacket Hardcover
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