Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holocaust Survivor: Hank Brodt

Hank "the Tank" speaking at Temple Emmanuel about some of his
experiences as a Polish Jew during the Holocaust.
From an email received regarding the event:
Hank Brodt, a member of Temple Emanuel, is a Holocaust survivor of five camps.  It took him a long time to open up and address children and other groups about his past life. For years he did not tell anybody the story, refusing even to speak to his own children about his experiences, but when he opened up and spoke to his congregation here in Greensboro, it made him feel at home and he is now willing to share his experiences. Hank is a spokesman for those who cannot tell their story. He will be speaking about his experiences, in memory of those who perished and for those who cannot say Kaddish.

Hank immigrated to the United States in March of 1949 and was drafted into the American Army in 1950 during the Korean War. He has two daughters and two grandchildren. He and his wife Aida have lived in High Point for the last five years. He has been on four March of The Living trips with Temple Emanuel. When he was on the 2007 March of the Living, Rabbi Guttman asked him to light one of six candles at Birkenau. When he lit that candle, he pledged to himself that he would never turn down a request to speak about his experiences.

We are so lucky to have Hank in our congregation. We invite everyone to come and hear him speak; all ages are welcome.
It was quite remarkable to listen to Mr. Brodt speak.  We had attended because of the kids' interest in World War II and our intentions to start studying it after the holidays.  Unfortunately, the kids didn't gain as much from it as I would have liked--he has a lingering accent which was difficult for Eldest to understand--and he spoke conversationally rather than as a presenter of information (like a seminar or workshop).  It was similar to a conversation with me, tangenting off occasionally and not always chronological--it was enjoyable and IMO the best way to learn from another's experience, but my kids couldn't keep it straight, especially with not having prior knowledge of the main events.  So the kids felt a little lost.  If nothing else, it was great practice for sitting and listening respectively, and being respectful in a house of worship they were unfamiliar with.

He has added his story, or testimony, to the audio repositories of WWII stories.  He survived five concentration camps, the first of which he had been sorted into the line of those to be disposed of, but when asked his age he lied and said he was 16 which moved him to the line of those to be put to work.  If I recall correctly, he was 13yo when Germany invaded Poland.  The first camp he was in was Plaszow.  I didn't catch the name of the second one well enough to guess at the spelling in order to look it up online later.  His third camp was Mauthausen.  The fourth one sounded like "Melk" and he said it was 80km from Vienna, but I haven't found it yet.  The fifth one I have not yet located either, despite a list of Nazi Concentration Camps.  It sounded like he said Edenhausen, he said it had three crematoriums and he was liberated 6 May 1945.

Some articles about Mr. Brodt (or quoting him):

His interview with Wake Forest University for their Holocaust repository:

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