PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Jakob Kryszek survived the Holocaust and five different concentration camps. He’s lived in Portland since 1952, but those events are seared into his memory.
Auschwitz — perhaps the most famous and deadly of the Nazi concentration camps — and Birkenau in Poland were liberated by Soviet troops on this date 70 years ago — Jan. 27, 1945.
Today, Kryszek said, “Never again.”
That is the focus of his life now at 96, to teach people about the Holocaust and to ensure that people “learn what happened in that situation.”
Jakob Kryszek was born in Lodz, Poland in 1918. He was taken by the Germans shortly after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 and was forced to work helping build the Autobahn.
He said he survived because he had tactile skills, but was eventually sent to a concentration camp. Once, he said, he was in a group of people headed toward the gas chamber.
“Then came two of those Germans and they took us out of the line,” he said.
Instead, he was sent to Auschwitz.
Later, during a transfer from one concentration camp to another, Kryszek said he was shot in the leg. Friends helped him survive, fashioning makeshift splints and bandages to help heal the wound.
He said there was one German officer who would sneak him sandwiches to feed him while he was recuperating.
He doesn’t actually remember which camp he was in when he was liberated, but again he credits good people for helping him out.
“I was working, working hard at whatever I could and the situation, people, well mostly people and I happened to survive because of people,” he said. But he “lost all of my family, my whole family.”
After the war, he married a woman who had also been in the concentration camps. Together they moved to Portland in 1952 where they raised two children and made a life for themselves.
Learning about the Holocaust
Stories of the survivors of the Holocaust are accessible at the Oregon Jewish museum. Two more survivors will share their stories this Sunday.
One thing Jakob Kryszek demands is that people don’t forget.
“Never again. Learn what happened in that situation.”