Though some have denied that Holocaust ever happened, it is certainly real in the lives of those who experienced its horrors first hand. There are innumerable people, particularly the Jews, who have suffered terribly under the German Nazi regime and survived. Many were resilient enough to pick up the pieces and went on to achieve greatness in their chosen endeavors.
Elie Wiesel (1928 – )
Writer, Humanitarian, and Political Activist
Similar with many other survivors, Wiesel found it difficult to write or discuss his horrible experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he lost many of his relatives including his parents and a sister. It would take him ten years after the end of the World War II before he was finally persuaded to write about it by his close friend François Mauriac, the 1952 Nobel Laureate in Literature. He eventually wrote over 40 books, the best known of which is “Night,” an autobiographical novella describing his Holocaust experiences. In 1986, he received the Nobel Peace Prize “for his powerful message of peace.”
Imre Kertész (1929 – )
Kertész was only 15 when he was deported along with other Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, Zeitz and Buchenwald. He recounted of his experiences in these three concentration camps in his best known quasi-autobiographical book, “Sorstalansag” (Fatelessness). He won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature “for writing that upholds the fragile experiences of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.”
Roman Polanski (1933 – )
French Film Director and Actor
The Polanski family lived in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. Being the target of Nazi persecution, his family was forced into the Krakow Ghetto with thousands of other Polish Jews. Roman Polanski’s mother was eventually gassed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp while his father almost did not survive the Mauthausen-Gusen camp. He was able to escape from the ghetto and survived the war with the aid of a farmer. He overcame his horrible war experiences and also his well known tumultuous personal life to become one of the world’s finest film directors. His impressive filmography includes the classic “Chinatown” (1974) and the Holocaust-themed “The Pianist,” for which he won the Academy Award for Directing and Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002.
Viktor Frankl (1905 – 1997)
Austrian Psychiatrist and Founder of Logotherapy