In 1941, when Henry Oster was 12 years old, German soldiers came to his home in Cologne, Germany, and took him and his family away to the ghetto of Lodz. This is his story of surviving the Holocaust:
"In the middle of the night, they kicked down the door — they were yelling and screaming. My mom and dad were at a loss. They grabbed me to protect me, especially from the German shepherds, which were pretty much at my level."
"I, of course, was scared and confused. I had no way of doing anything to escape. ... We were greeted by people who had an emaciated, hollow look. They really moved like zombies."
"The Germans slammed the arm onto a table, and with a hypodermic needle, every little dot was injected until it became, in my case, the number B-7648."
"My father was forced to work repairing the electrified fences. My mother made iron plates that went under the military boots. I, miraculously, was given the chance to work in the agricultural department."
"The food ration that you received was a single loaf of bread and a watery cabbage soup. ... That was your total food for the week. As far as I was concerned, I had an escape mechanism from that level of starvation by stealing food as much as I could."
In 1944, Oster and his mother were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Oster was 15 years old. "One Nazi dragged my mom away and was like, 'You belong there, on the other side.' ... I realized very quickly that to see my mother again is not ever ever going to happen."
"They shaved our hair and pushed us through an archway and doused us with a painful liquid. We were washed for about 10 seconds."
"And [then] I'm pushed against a large building with a huge smokestack and an enormous flame, and the most obnoxious odor that we could not recognize."
In 1945, Oster was transported by train to Buchenwald concentration camp. On the way there, the train was circled by French and German fighter planes who mistook the Jewish passengers as returning German military and attacked. Oster was at the front of the wagon and not near the trajectory of the machine gun fire.
"Then, on Friday April 11, at 3:15 we hear a very unfamiliar noise, a mechanical noise, and I see a tank coming up... Being familiar with German insignia, I didn't see that. What I saw instead, of all things, was a white Star of David. The commanders wore uniforms of the United States 3rd Army."
Oster stayed in California, went to university, and studied to become an optometrist. He ran an optometry practice in Beverly Hills, California, for 60 years before retiring in 2014.
Oster spoke to BuzzFeed about his perspective on the world: “It’s difficult to reach age 88 and see the world not get along with one another. I’ve witnessed Kosovo, Somalia, Darfur, Rwanda, and another 20 different genocides since World War II."
Oster went on to say that he feels like democracy has "the chance to be greatly diminished in our country," adding, "Seeing Mr. Trump ask the audience to raise their hand and give an oath... things like this are not very welcome to someone who survived the Holocaust."
"Are we actually going to build a fence around our country and make a ghetto out of the United States? Are we going to have 11 million people sent out and made refugees? I just simply cannot accept that America goes the way of Germany at one time."
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