The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Jewish Observer

The Man who Survived 12 Concentration Camps comes to Nashville

Joe Alexander.jpeg

Holocaust survivor Joe Alexander, 101, pictured with Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel, will speak on June 18 at the Gordon JCC.

The Man who Survived 12 Concentration Camps comes to Nashville 

A 101-year-old Holocaust survivor, who was in 12 Nazi concentration camps during World War II, will visit Nashville and share his story, hosted by Chabad of Nashville, on June 18, at the Gordon Jewish Community Center.

He has survived the unimaginable; a genocide that claimed six million lives of people just like him and he’s hoping his words will prevent anything like that from ever happening again. 

His name is Joseph Alexander and he has a century of life under his belt. Some of those years were spent deprived of freedom, dignity, and nearly his very life. 

Alexander wants to tell what he went through to honor those who were killed in the Holocaust — his mother, father and five brothers and sisters — and 6 million Jewish people. 

“God has kept me here so I can tell people what happened,” Alexander said. He is the only member of his immediate family to live through the Holocaust. 

“This is a very special opportunity for us all to hear this story, to personally hear the story of survival,” said Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel of the Chabad Jewish Center of Nashville. “Somebody who survived the worst time in our history, the worst time in our memory.” 

Rabbi Tiechtel invited Alexander to come to Nashville and speak about his six years of living in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, including the death camps, Dachau and Auschwitz- Birkenau. All told Alexander found himself in 12 different camps, including Dachau and Auschwitz, infamous places of evil and suffering. 

After the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Alexander, then 16 years old, his mother, father and five brothers and sisters were forced to go to the Warsaw Ghetto, where he saw people dying in the streets. Later he was forced to go to Auschwitz and other concentration camps where he barely escaped death and had to do hard labor with hardly any food. 

Alexander said the worst moment was when he encountered Josef Mengele, known for conducting inhumane, and often deadly, medical experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz. 

One night, Alexander and others were selected by Mengele to form two lines. Alexander was forced to go in the left line with children and the weak and sick, who were going to be taken by truck to Auschwitz. He ran back to the other line and walked to the camp. 

“If I hadn’t run to the other line, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “The people in the other line went to the gas chamber.” 

Near the end of World War II in 1945, Alexander was among thousands who were forced to march from the camp in Dachau to the German town of Tegernsee, where they were to be executed. But he was among those liberated by American and Allied troops in the midst of the death march. 

Alexander became separated from his family and never saw them again. But he survived and for the last eight decades has made it his mission to speak to whomever will listen. He describes what happened during the darkest times of the second world war, and how he was somehow able to survive, giving a voice to genocide for the millions who died. 

Alexander’s presentation is aremarkable story of resilience, courage and hope. His message is one of triumph over adversity, and it will inspire all who hear it. “  

The best way for us to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again and the best way for us to honor the memory of those six million who were killed is to know what happened and to resolve to live more ethical and moral lives. 

“We need to remember there’s not many opportunities left where we can meet somebody who survived the concentration camps, somebody who survived Auschwitz, there’s not many opportunities left for us,” Rabbi Tiechtel expressed. 

The event with Joe Alexander will take place on Tuesday, June 18, 7:00 PM, at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. Tickets can be purchased at joealexandernashville.com or by Calling Chabad at 615-646-5750. 

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