Holocaust survivor shares his story: ‘People should be careful that this doesn’t happen again’

"Hopefully, I can just help make people understand antisemitism and understand what the Jewish people want and who they are," say author Jochen "Jack" Wurfl (Courtesy Jochen "Jack" Wurfl)

He watched his mother get pulled from a Berlin apartment by the SS. On Saturday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a Maryland man is telling his family’s story.

In a new book, Baltimore resident Jochen “Jack” Wurfl, shares the story of the last time he saw his mother — in a prison cell before she was killed at the death camp at Auschwitz.

“She said, ‘Boys … I love you very much. And I know you love me, but I want you to leave now because if you don’t, they’re going to get you here,'” Wurfl told WTOP.

As he exited the prison, an SS guard actually chased him, but he and his brother escaped.

All the details are shared in Wurfl’s book, “My Two Lives,” which was published in September.

German-born Wurfl saw his Jewish mother and Catholic father, who had worked for an opposition party in Austria, get taken by the Nazis.

“I lost my entire family to the Nazis … Not only my parents — my grandparents, my uncles, my aunts,” Wurfl said. “My brother and I were the only two people left at the end of the war.”

Once his parents were taken, Wurfl was sent to live in Northern Germany near the North Sea. He and his brother lived with a woman who hid them, raised them and became like “a second mother.”

To avoid suspicion, Wurfl and his brother had to join the Hitler Youth — something Wurfl despised as a kid.

“We had to stay at the school and learn how to march, and when we were a couple of years older, we had to learn to use some simple weapons … hand grenades, bazookas. And we were trained on those weapons,” Wurfl said. “So we were Hitler’s young army.”

He was also protected by an unlikely teacher. The man taught Nazi propaganda and was a member of the SS.

“Every morning at eight o’clock, we were in school, he taught us Nazi philosophy,” Wurfl said. “However, he was a good friend with the lady we lived with and knew that we were half Jewish, and he also protected us.”

Wurfl’s book describes the struggle of growing up and avoiding concentration camps in Nazi Germany, but it also details the triumph of a Jewish immigrant to America after the war.

Wurfl was sent to New York and began learning English. After he received his final papers, he decided to buy a one-way bus ticket to San Francisco, but learned he did not have enough money.

“I said, ‘With my broken English, where can I go?'” Wurfl said.

He was told to go to Baltimore.

Wurfl was later drafted by the U.S. Army and was stationed back in Germany as an interpreter.

He said one of the greatest honors of his life was serving in the color guard at Normandy on the 10th anniversary of D-Day, an event he vividly remembered as a boy listening to BBC radio.

“We marched in front of people that I had only heard of, like Winston Churchill and de Gaulle and Eisenhower,” he said. “It was my honor to carry the American flag.”

Wurfl later returned to Baltimore, founded a successful insurance company, married and had three children.

At 91 years old, he decided to share his story after prompting from his family.

“Our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren, and on and on and on — they should always know who we are,” Wurfl said his family told him.

Wurfl also commented on what he called a rise in antisemitism amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“Hopefully, I can just help make people understand antisemitism and understand what the Jewish people want and who they are,” he said.

Wurfl added, “I don’t think there has ever been a case like the Second World War where 6 million Jews were killed because of their race; and people should be careful that this doesn’t happen again.”

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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