The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

December 5, 2012

Holocaust survivor shares more of his story

By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 — Editor’s Note: Last week, Mandred Katz shared his story about surviving the Holocaust. This week, he continues to share about his life.

“Eventually you settle in your mind that you have to do something. ‘What about my parents? Where do I find them if they survived?’ ” wondered Manfred Katz after enduring German imprisonment and slave labor.

Katz walked to Berlin, occasionally riding in a horse and wagon, arriving in June 1945.

After checking many of the lists of refugees, Katz found no information on the rest of his family.

At this time, he was in Russian controlled East Berlin, but wanted to be in West Berlin.

“One foggy morning, a number of us moved across a hill. We were shot at by the Russians, but no one was injured.

“When we got to the American Zone, it was like a shade had been pulled from a bright light.

“I found employment with the U.S. Army. In uniform, I ate well and learned how to drink Coke,” Katz said.

Katz sent a letter to a Jewish agency in Delaware, searching for his sister in the States.

“The letter went from desk to desk; eventually it got to a woman who recognized my sister’s first name; the last name didn’t match, though.

“In any case, on September 1945, I was cajoled and pushed to go to a religious ceremony. My love for God had disappeared. Shortly into the service, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said I had a visitor waiting for me. The visitor introduced himself as my brother-in-law. That was why her last name didn’t match; my sister had been married,” Katz said.

Katz relayed that his brother-in-law had to go AWOL to find him. On his way to find Katz, the brother-in-law encountered an officer.

“The officer came to the back of the plane and caught my brother-in-law. He told the officer the truth. The officer told him, ‘Carry on soldier.’ He even helped him get a Jeep to help find me.

“The officer was Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was attuned to what happened in Europe during the war and was sympathetic to my brother-in-law,” Katz said.

He was on the first ship of Displaced Persons out of Germany.

“I arrived in America on May 20, 1946, with $3.50 in my pocket,” said Katz.

Coming through New York, Katz got off of the boat in Brooklyn. Fluent in English, Spanish, Hebrew and German, Katz experienced some problems immediately.

“I couldn’t understand anything anybody was saying. I wasn’t sure I had arrived in the right place until I saw my sister,” said Katz.

He moved to St. Louis with his sister and brother-in-law and began to attend school.

“June of 1946 I started a high school summer session. I hadn’t finished the seventh grade. I was 18 years old, everyone my age was graduating and I was in a hurry.”

He finished high school in June 1948 and went to college the following September. He met his wife while in college and they were married in 1950 and are still married today.

Katz has four children and nine grandchildren. He’s worked for the military, NASA, on nuclear submarines and on automated transportation.

“My life didn’t start too well, but I’ve had the most wonderful experiences as an engineer,” he said.

At first Katz did not tell his children about his experiences during World War II.

“They were reticent to ask questions. I was happy they didn’t ask at first, but now I wish they had.”

Katz relayed to the gathered teachers at the recent seminar what he thought they could accomplish through education.

“There are lessons to learn from the Holocaust. Students are our best hope. Teachers have the opportunity and responsibility to convey the lessons from the Holocaust. We are losing the chance to speak with survivors,” he said.

“We need to use our own standards. There is good and bad in every culture. We have to get to know one another. We are all God’s children, and we are all responsible for one another.”

Katz explained that people need to have respect for their selves, respect for others and responsibility for their actions.

“Crayons can teach us a lesson. There are different colors, different names, but all of them have learned to live in the same box,” he said.

“We’ve got to get to know each other. Simply going the same route the world has gone for centuries isn’t working. That’s what’s wrong. Invariably, once we get people to listen, the problems will be solved.”

Because of the chaos and wanton destruction caused during World War II, many familial and historic records have been destroyed, or many things simply weren’t recorded. There is a lack of information from this time.

Katz and his sister try to talk about the good memories they have of their family and lives before the war, though his sister does become violently ill if she sets foot in Germany.

Katz to this day doesn’t know what happened to the rest of his family.

In May of this year, three memorial bricks were installed at Katz’s old home in Germany in remembrance of his lost family members.

Called stolpersteine, or “stumbling blocks,” the project headed by Gunter Demnig has installed many stolpersteine in Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and Norway.

Katz is happy about the stolpersteine embedded in the street in front of his old house.

“Now I have something physical I can point to in remembrance of them.”