Holocaust survivor advises people to respect—not hate

Jack Adler of Lone Tree, Colo., speaks during his presentation about being a holocaust survivor, Tuesday in the Student Center Ballroom. — Photo by Ashley Swanson

Jack Adler of Lone Tree, Colo., speaks during his presentation about being a holocaust survivor, Tuesday in the Student Center Ballroom. — Photo by Ashley Swanson

So many people in today’s world complain about life being too hard—about having too much homework, or having to work that extra shift; however, Jack Adler, 85, a Jewish native of Poland, tells a story that makes those problems seem insignificant.

Chadron State invited Adler to come speak during the three-day holocaust conference in the Student Center’s Ballroom, Tuesday. All sitting room disappeared as more than 250 people crowded in as Adler began to tell his story.

“I speak on behalf of six million souls who were wiped off the face of the Earth,” he said. “They would want you to know.”

In a family of six, Adler was only 10 when the Holocaust began in 1939. He talked about Nazi’s coming into his town, posting notices stating that Jewish people were not allowed to leave their homes without wearing two stars of David—one on the front, and one on the back. Furthermore, attending public school and places of worship was forbidden.

In 1940, along with countless others, he and his family were relocated to an open ghetto, which means the area was not surrounded by barbed wire. In the ghetto, a Jewish committee was formed that decided who would become workers for the soldiers. It also distributed food, which consisted of a piece of bread and a bowl of soup. Malnutrition and disease, the main causes of death, killed Adler’s mother and brother.

Adler answers questions after his presentation. — Photo by Ashley Swanson

Adler answers questions after his presentation. — Photo by Ashley Swanson

It wasn’t long before more travesties took place, and on May 16, soldiers told families to stand in front of their homes.

“At 2 p.m. sharp, Nazi solders marched us to a soccer field, where they split us into group ‘a,’ and group ‘b,’” Adler said.

He explained that group ‘a’ consisted of old, sick, and young people, which is where his youngest sister was placed. Soldiers deemed group ‘a’ as useless and assumed they could not perform the tasks the soldiers wanted them to accomplish. Group ‘b,’ the group Adler, his sister, and father were placed, was full of people who were “able-bodied.”

With a population of 300,000, group ‘b’ transferred to Łódź. Another ghetto, Łódź was surrounded by barbed wire, and every 12-feet stood a Nazi solider, Adler said.

Like in the open ghetto, meals included one slice of bread and a bowl of soup. It didn’t take long for diseases and malnutrition to take effect, and eventually, people were dying by the thousands, leaving the population less than 68,000.

At the age of 15, he was transferred to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. Adler spoke of medical experiments conducted on people by Josef Mengele, a German SS officer and physician. Mengele would choose random “subjects” to perform the experiments on. Although Adler was chosen for an experiment, he escaped a gruesome end thanks to one of his father’s friends, who smuggled him to his father on the other side of the camp.

The experiment Adler had been chosen for, but narrowly escaped from, stemmed from the German air force, who wanted to know how much pressure the human body could withstand. There were no survivors of the experiment.

In 1944, those remaining at the camp were pushed into a death march—with the soldiers’ intent on killing all survivors. Some marchers were given shovels so that they could dig large ditches.

Once complete, they were told to stand around the opening of the ditch, they were then shot and killed by the soldiers.

Escaping death once more, Adler and other survivors were hospitalized shortly after German armed forces surrendered in May of 1945. During his 90-day hospitalization, Adler found out that he was the only survivor of his immediate family, and one of five survivors of his extended family, which started out as 83.

“Sixty-eight years ago the Holocaust ended,” Adler said. “We haven’t learned much [since then].”

Sharing his story around the world, Adler has spoken about the holocaust for more than 21 years, throughout which he has had his fair share of Holocaust deniers.

Although his childhood was far from the kind any young people today see, Adler doesn’t believe in hate.

“It’s a waste of energy,” he said.

There are hate groups who will picket their signs at people, and are ready to tear the nation apart, Adler said.

“You don’t have to love everyone—I don’t. You don’t have to like everyone—I don’t. Just respect each other,” he said. “We all belong to one race, the human race.”

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