In telling his story of surviving the Holocaust, concentration camps, forced marches and losing his family to Ector County Independent School District students at Odessa College Friday, Max Glauben told the young people they need to be “upstanders” to make sure something like what he endured never happens again.
Glauben spoke to a full house in Deaderick Hall Auditorium to students who listened in rapt attention. The 90-year-old Dallas resident said he is one of the able survivors who can do outreach. After being transferred from camp to camp, Glauben was liberated by the U.S. Army in April 1945.
“You need to be upstanders and do what’s right if you see anyone bullied or mistreated,” Glauben said.
He also urged students to never give up, keep trying and keep in mind that there is never an end as long as they are still living. “Never underestimate what you possess and what you can do,” Glauben said.
He said the Holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews and millions of others, happened almost 70 years ago in World War II.
“I’m one of the youngsters that lived through the Holocaust,” Glauben said.
He added that he is giving his testimony in honor of those who perished because they should never be forgotten. Glauben said Hitler not only wanted to kill Jews, but destroy them.
Glauben is from Warsaw, Poland, and survived the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. His family’s apartment overlooked a square that saw early fighting in the uprising.
Anyone who was Jewish, a minority or handicapped was taken to the gas chamber. Jews had to register and answer questions you wouldn’t have to in a free society.
Glauben said the registry was used later on to find and kill the Jews. If you were a professional, you couldn’t practice your profession for the public at large. The Germans wouldn’t allow customers into Jewish-owned stores and Jews weren’t allowed to own property. Raids were conducted daily and people were told how much money they should have on their person or in a bank at times.
Jewish people in the ghetto were subjected to starvation and disease and were forced to turn against their own people. Glauben said there were 2,700 apartments and each room became a dungeon with six to eight people, depending on its size.
The apartments also became hiding places where people could pretend to be dead if the Germans came in. There also were tricks such as if you did something useful for the Germans, they would give you a certificate you could redeem, but they would grab you while you stood in line and take you to a concentration camp.
Youngsters were the first victims, then the elderly and handicapped. It wasn’t just physical abuse, but mental abuse, Glauben said.
He described the conditions in detail and how Jews were forced to build the walls around the ghetto. Warsaw had been the capital of Poland, but the Germans changed it to Krakow.
He ultimately lost his whole family, except his father with whom Glauben was sent to forced labor camps and salt mines. His father, a newspaper owner, was killed three weeks after being sent to the camp.
Glauben came to the United States in 1947 as an orphan.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951 and served at Fort Hood, an article in the Dallas Morning News said. He served three more years in the reserves after his active duty ended in 1953, the Morning News reported in 2013.
Glauben said he married a native Texan and is still with her to this day. They have three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Through the years, Glauben has held many jobs, including toy buyer for Neiman Marcus and owner of Imperial Garment Supply, the Morning News said.
Gerad Sandate, a 15-year-old ninth-grader at Falcon Early College High School, took Glauben’s message to heart. He added that he hadn’t studied this period of history before.
“He told about all the hard things he lived through and all the struggles that he went through with his family and why this should never happen again,” Sandate said.
“It did give me motivation because I am going through some hard times at school. He showed me that what he went through was much harder than what I went through,” he added.
Shelley Wagner, an English teacher at OCTECHS, wrote the grant to the Education Foundation to bring Glauben to Odessa. Wagner said it’s invaluable to students to have a chance to listen to Glauben.
“There will not be very many opportunities in the future to have a firsthand account of something so devastating in our history. Like Mr. Glauben said, being an upstander is the most important part of our community.”