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Holocaust survivor, family members share harrowing stories of survival

Days of Remembrance is the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust.
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 4:36 AM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - During World War II, six million Jews were murdered by the Nazi regime. However, some Jews escaped the persecution or survived until the end of the war and now live on to tell their story.

Nat Kranowski is one such hero.

“I was born in France. Two years before WWII,” he began.

Kranowski shared what happened when the German Nazi influence came to France. His father, a Polish Jew, was the first in his family to be arrested in 1941 and taken to a concentration camp near Paris.

“Then in 1942, the French police knocked on our door and arrested my mother,” Kranowski said. “And I was there. This is one of the few memories I have as a four-year-old.”

At that time, he explained that children weren’t being rounded up yet and being so young, his life was spared.

“If I had been arrested, I’d probably be dead by now.”

He lived with his aunt for a time before being hidden in the country by a couple of farmers till the end of the war. Then he was sent to live with another aunt in New York in 1948 - the whole time never knowing happened to his parents.

“I wasn’t even sure my parents were dead,” he said.

It wasn’t until the mid-1960′s that he discovered the truth.

“I did some digging and research on my own, and it turned out that they died within a two or three days of arriving at Auschwitz which tells me they did not die of illness or starvation, but they died in the gas chambers,” Kranowski said.

Family members of survivors also still live with scars of war.

“What I saw as her daughter was how those tragedies affected her,” Dr. Limor Glazer-Schwam said of her mother. “She had one loss after another loss after another loss.”

Glazer-Schwam and her daughter, Virginia Tech student Briana Schwam, can tell you that for their family the war never ended as their family still carried the burden of loss everywhere they went.

“I remember my family to see the musical, The Sound of Music, when I was little and when the Nazi flag came down, my grandmother started running out,” Schwam said.

VT student Samantha Levy shared how her grandmother was one of only 33 people from her village in Greece to survive the concentration camps.

“My Nona, my grandmother, never really talked about it,” she said. “It was a very, very hard time for her.”

So Levy shares her grandmother’s story to anyone who will listen.

Just like Kranowski.

“My mission is to spread the word about the Holocaust,” he said. “Especially as I say, to younger people because I think they are the future and they are the ones who really need to hear it.”

And between the Schwams and Levy, these stories will not soon be forgotten because there’s a bigger message at stake.

“When it comes to something like this, when it comes to any sort of hate, any kind of mass genocide, you need to understand that you need to know your neighbor” Levy said. “You need to learn about who they are, not just their religion or the color of their skin, but understanding who they are as a person. And that’s how we stop those horrific things from happening.”

Click here to hear Nathan Kranowski’s full story during a webinar he gave with the Virginia Tech Malcolm Rosenberg Hillel Center in April 2020.

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