Before the Torture (02:47)
As a child, Joe Engel lived with his parents and eight brothers and sisters in Poland. He went to public school where he was told by other children he did not belong because he was a Jew. One day Germans made all the Jews come to the marketplace where they were forced to wear a Star of David patch; fifteen Jewish boys were shot and killed.
Warsaw Ghetto (05:01)
The Germans forced Jews to come to Warsaw where they were required to live with 20 to 30 people per room. There were Jewish police in who would torture other Jews at the request of Germans because they received extra food. The Germans first took the elderly and then the middle-aged Jews to the train station where they put them on cargo trains without food or water and sent them away.
Separating Families (02:26)
The Nazis took Engel from his parents when he was 14; he never saw his family again. He and other Jewish people were forced onto cattle trains that were so full, there was no room to sit. For over two days, people had to relieve themselves in their pants, screamed, lost hope, and some died before reaching their concentration camp destination.
When Jews arrived at Birkenau, they stood in a line, removed their clothes, had their hair cut off, received tattooed numbers, and were given one striped uniform each. Everyone was sent to different barracks where they slept four people to a bed; there were no bathrooms. They were starved and enslaved; Engel volunteered to go to Auschwitz because he thought it could not be worse than Birkenau.
Engel was put in brick-laying school. If people got sick, the doctor would blame them, report it to the Gestapo, and the sick would be tricked into entering a gas chamber where they were murdered. Every Friday, they were made to watch the hanging of Jewish boys; Engel was once was severely tortured.
The Germans took the Jews from the camp and took them on a death march to a stadium where they stayed the night and were loaded on trains the next day. Engel jumped out when the train was running, and escaped the Nazis. He found a farm and met a man who introduced him to the resistance.
The Red Army liberated Engel in 1945 and treated him very well. They also captured Nazi soldiers and allowed formerly enslaved Jewish people to do whatever they wanted to the soldiers for twenty-four hours. Though some people did the same things to the soldiers as was done to them, Engel spit in their faces and called them names.
Where to Now? (03:16)
Engel returned to his hometown to find relatives, but no one was there; he ran to the American zone and was in a displacement camp before coming to the United States. Engel heard he had family in South Carolina so he traveled there. He reunited with his only surviving family members—two brothers, one sister, and one cousin.
Reflection and Next Generation (03:41)
The torture Engel survived and what he lost is always on his mind. Engel's nephew talks about his admiration for his uncle and shows the concentration camp number he got in honor of his uncle’s survival and endurance.
Never Forget (02:02)
Engel goes to the Holocaust Memorial in Charleston, South Carolina. He points out his name, his brother’s name, and his sister-in-law’s name on the memorial. Everyone needs to remember what happened so they do not make the same decisions in the future.
Credits: To Auschwitz and Back (01:51)
Credits: To Auschwitz and Back
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