Holocaust Survivor Tells of 29 Months of Hiding as Library Opens Special Exhibition

Holocaust Survivor Tells of 29 Months of Hiding as Library Opens Special Exhibition

July 8th, 2013 03:02 pm

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The Central Library opened an exhibition today called “The Courage to Remember,” which tells about the Holocaust with 40 panels that aim to foster tolerance, hope, courage and change.

But the grim realities of the Holocaust came to life for an audience of about 50 people, who heard Laguna Beach resident Jack Pariser, 84, describe his 29 months in hiding after Nazis invaded his family’s village near Krakow, Poland in 1942.

Pariser described living with his parents and sister in a space “6 by 6 by 3 1/2 feet,” where you had to negotiate with the others if you needed to shift to relief a cramp or an ache. His family lived on a slice of bread a day, he said.

“My legs were so stiff, people actually had to bend them,” he said. “We were vegetating in that hole.”

The family escaped two times, he said. Once, they were able to bribe a hunter who was looking for Jews to turn in for reward money. Another time, they were jailed but escaped by digging a hole underneath a window and running into the night.

One family declined to hide them, he said. But they did not turn them in, which was itself a great gift. An employee of his father hid them.

“How do you thank someone for your life?” he said. “There is no way.”

After his family was freed, he said, he was educated in Germany. His family traded his mother’s ring and some silver coins to set up a new home. In 1949, his family moved to the United States. He attended college in New Jersey and at USC, studying electrical engineering.

Pariser said that he did not talk about his experiences for many years, but in the 1990s, Holocaust deniers so offended him that he thought, “Up yours,” and began to speak about his life.

“It hurts a lot for me to speak about the Holocaust,” he said. “I just want to make the world free of future genocides. It’s not a survivor issue. It’s not a Jewish issue…It’s a humanity issue.”

Several times while speaking, Pariser became overcome and paused to sip water and gather himself before speaking again. He answered several questions from the audience, including one about how he found something to laugh about amid all the despair.

“I’m standing here,” he said. “That’s a lot to smile about.”

Wendy Selin of Huntington Beach thanked Pariser for sharing his story. Her cousin, she said, was a Holocaust survivor but never would speak of his experiences.

“I really admire him,” she said of Pariser. “People have to know. My cousin’s stories were lost.”

Rabbi Reuven Mintz of Chabad of Newport Beach in Corona del Mar called Pariser “inspirational.”

“I’ve always been touched by his courage,” Mintz said. He also praised Mayor Keith Curry for bringing the exhibition to Newport Beach’s Central Library, where a wide audience can view it.

Curry introduced Pariser and praised the exhibit, which was first displayed 20 years ago and has since had more than 2 million visitors in 75 locations and 16 countries.

“I thought it was important to bring this exhibit to Newport Beach,” he said.

The exhibition will be on display through July 29 on the second floor of the library at 1000 Avocado Ave.