WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Students at a school near West Palm Beach heard a first-hand account from a Holocaust survivor on Friday.
Manny Gurowski, 90, spoke at Oxbridge Academy and shared his story of survival.
Gurowski discussed how he hid in basements, traded soap for bread to care for his sick sister and came to America with just $5 in his pocket.
"Most of the people got shot, and I'm the lucky one that survived," Gurowski said.
Gurowski said his life in Germany started to change around 1937. That's when on the first day of school in Germany, he was told by his teacher to leave and never come back because he was Jewish.
After that occurrence, he said things got worse and his family was taken to a labor camp to make ammunition for the German army.
"It became very common to see bodies all over the place. They were stacked like cordwood," Gurowski said of his years at the camp at what is now Kaliningrad, Russia.
He and his fellow prisoners were subjected to inhumane conditions.
"A life didn't mean anything, nothing, even in this labor ghetto. Every morning when you line up, the Germans are famous for counting and you stand there for hours, and people would collapse right next to you and they just kick and they're done or a bullet in the head," Gurowski said.
He and his family survived the atrocities and were eventually freed by the Russian Army, later emigrating to the U.S.
South Florida has a large number of Holocaust survivors, and as they grow older there is a push to preserve their stories.
"I believe someone looked over my shoulder," Gurowski said. "I think that’s what pulled me through."
Students at Oxbridge on Friday also experienced a virtual tour of the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps where the death toll included almost 1 million Jews during the Holocaust.
Gurowski's visit to the school is part of Oxbridge Academy's summer reading program which included books that addressed the Holocaust.
He said he enjoys telling his story to a new generation and preserving the memory of what happened.
"I want them to know how lucky they are," Gurowski said.
Friday's presentation at Oxbridge Academy was arranged by the Jewish Student Union and Southern NCSY.