My father is a Holocaust survivor. He was never a victim. His unresolved grief and sadness became a catalyst for ambition. His parents were Orthodox Jews who in my fathers’ words “never had money in the bank and lived hand to mouth.” One of eight children, he is the only one to survive in his entire family including his parents and grandparents. His education stopped at the seventh grade when he was taken away from his home by the Germans. They came for his father but my dad talked them out of taking the grandfather I never knew and to take him instead. He was in nine work camps in Poland from the age of fifteen to twenty and suffered from Tuberculosis because of the conditions he was forced to live under.
On the day the Russians came in he heard in Yiddish, “the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming”.When Dernau, the final camp he was in was liberated May 8, 1945, he collapsed at sixty-five pounds.He spent a year in a sanitorium called Marin House, a place mainly for people for Tuberculosis. He would suffer from Asthma and Bronchitis his entire life.I remember when we were driving he’d frequently have to pull over to open his driver’s door, lean his head out and spit.
A self made man, at one time he had eleven homes in the San Fernando Valley. He never spent money he didn’t have. He was street smart and knew how to talk to people. He worked as an aircraft inspector for Hughes Aircraft for thirty years but he always sold something on the side. At lunch time at work guys would line up for leather coats and porn, which he sold out of the trunk of his car. He also went to downtown Los Angeles on his lunch hour where he bought thousands of pairs of seconds of jeans and shirts.When most people were eating lunch, this hour became another way for my father to make money. All his children knew not to call him at work for this reason.I remember him telling us not to call him at work on his lunch hour. We spent the eighties working the swap meets on Saturday and Sundays selling the clothing. I learned how to sell from watching him.
My father married twice. After his second wife died from a brain tumor when he was eighty years old, he sold his home in Los Angeles and moved to Las Vegas, a city he always loved. He has a full time, live in caretaker.
He is a proud, resilient man. Even though he suffered a stroke and a heart attack, he continues. He has a spiritual outlook on life and believed it was because of G-d that he survived the work camps. He told me recently that he thinks he has ten years left.
My photos show him at home, in casinos and at dinner. His capacity to go on is unlike any person I have ever known. I remember when I was a little girl and my mother went into intensive care.He said “Hannah, you have to control your emotions and not let them control you”. He is an inspiration to me to keep going especially when my emotions get the best of me.