Survivor thinks about Holocaust every night - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Survivor thinks about Holocaust every night

Survivor thinks about Holocaust every night

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Joel Engel has a five-digit number tattooed on his skin: 8-4-0-0-9. Engel is a Holocaust survivor, one of only a few living survivors left in the Lowcountry. 

"They took away your name and everything else the only thing they gave was you a number," said Engel.

While the physical scars may have healed, the emotion is still raw for Engel. He was taken from his home in Poland at the age of 14 and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during World War II.

"When we got in there to the camp, to the death camp, they opened the door you could see people laying dead -- they couldn't make it," he said.

"Inside the camp was so ruthless," Engel said. "It is impossible to explain because people don't believe it. How can one human being be so ruthless and kill kids?"

Living off of only two pieces of bread a day and a little soup inside the camp, Engel says only three people survived the Holocaust out of his entire family.

"Every night I go to bed I think of it. I consider myself lucky," Engel said.

He was lucky because Engel made a risky move that saved his life. He says in the middle of the night he jumped off a cattle train full of prisoners and fell deep in the snow where he hid for an hour and was not found by guards looking for him.

"I wanted to live through the war badly, badly. That is why I took all kinds of chances to survive," he said.

At 87 years old, Engel makes it a point to share his story as a way of honoring the millions of victims who were not as fortunate to be here today. Engel dedicates his time teaching local school children about his past; speaking to half a million school kids over his lifetime.

"We are not suppose to forget the past because the future can repeat itself -- so don't forget the past," Engel said.

Monday marks Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day recognized around the world to honor the 6 million people who died in the genocide killings of World War II.

  • Stefanie Bainum

    Email: sbainum@abcnews4.com Reporter Profile




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