Skip to comments.Auschwitz escapee William Herskovic dies in Encino at 91
Posted on 03/07/2006 10:01:05 AM PST by NormsRevenge
William Herskovic, who helped fuel the Belgian resistance during World War II after escaping from the Auschwitz concentration camp, has died. He was 91.
Herskovic died Friday at his Encino home after a lengthy battle with cancer, said his daughter, Patricia Herskovic. He was the longtime operator of Bel Air Camera in Westwood, which he opened soon after moving to Los Angeles in 1957.
Three months after arriving at Auschwitz, Herskovic fled the camp on the first night of Hanukkah in 1942, cutting through a chain-link fence to freedom with two other prisoners using a pair of wire cutters he had stashed in the snow. The three hopped a train to Breslau, Germany, but a local rabbi threw them out when they tried to tell him about the horrors at Auschwitz.
For the next three weeks, they trekked across Nazi-occupied Europe by bus and train, financing their journey with proceeds from a 3-carat diamond that Herskovic had embedded in the heel of his shoe. Herskovic met with resistance leaders in his prewar home of Antwerp, Belgium, relaying one of the earliest firsthand accounts of the atrocities of the Holocaust.
The resistance swiftly mobilized, placing bricks on the tracks to stop a transport train packed with hundreds of Jews bound for the camps. About 250 prisoners escaped.
"His survival saved hundreds," the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles said in a tribute.
Herskovic spent the next three years in and out of hiding in Belgium. In 1945 he married Mireille, the younger sister of his first wife, who had been murdered in Auschwitz along with their two young daughters.
He had operated a photography studio in Antwerp as a teenager and returned to photography for at least a decade after the war. But he no longer wanted to be an artist.
"The things he saw - his artist's soul was pretty tromped on," his daughter said.
In Los Angeles, loan officers talked him into buying the Westwood camera business that his family still owns. Almost 50 years after escaping, Herskovic sat down with his film-producer daughter and wrote a memoir of the Holocaust.
In addition to Patricia, Herskovic is survived by two other daughters, two brothers, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Now that story would make a heckuva movie. Maybe Spielberg can get his mind right again and look into it.
Maybe he could play the German Rabbi.
Great story. Why can't we get a movie made about this instead of the braindead crap Hollywood is producing? Do we REALLY need another movie re-make of some bad 60s sitcom? These kinds of stories are just screaming for Hollywood to produce. Instead we get "Hustle and Flow" and "Syrianna."
Anyway, God rest this brave hero.
Interesting background. Bel Air Camera was kind of a "mega store" setup before the Best Buys, etc., of the world took over. Very successful, if I recall. Good for him.
God rest his soul..How many of us could go through what these people did and survive?He is at peace now..
A great man has passed on.
It figures that the a rabbi would not believe such stories. I have little use for the rabbinical groups. Probably was a reformed rabbi too.
Bel-Air Camera is still a thriving concern.
A MUST-visit for shutterbugs while in West Los Angeles.
Prices are close to or just slightly higher than "big boxes" and service is
simply orders of magnitude what you'd get at the big boxes.
"Almost 50 years after escaping, Herskovic sat down with his film-producer daughter and wrote a memoir of the Holocaust. "
Does anyone know if this is in written form, for sale? I would like to be able to read it.
G-d rest your soul, Mr. Herskovic.
I spent a lot of time and money at Bel-Air Camera in 70's and 80's. You payed a little more but the staff was very knowledgeable. I would guess there days are numbered because of all the discounters out there.
Let's hope Spielberg never hears about him.
Especially if Herskovic used *gasp* guns in his escape.
"It figures that the a rabbi would not believe such stories. I have little use for the rabbinical groups. Probably was a reformed rabbi too."
Oh please, this is the kind of bigotry that started the Holocaust in the first place. One rabbi does something, possibly out of great fear, and you're willing to blame all rabbis? Am I meant to blame the entire church because some priests collaborated in the Holocaust and others have been involved in child abuse? What about the many millions of gentiles who collaborated in the Holocaust? Am I meant to blame all of Christian Europe?
In any event, my guess is that you know next to nothing about rabbis, or indeed the Jewish religion, outside of the many prejudices that have been inculcated in you by others.
I think I would have to cut the rabbi a little slack.
The stories they told him were probably so monsterous as to be unbelievable to a rational person.
He probably just thought they were nuts.
Reading through some of your previous posts, I've just learned that you are Jewish.
Shame on you!
"He probably just thought they were nuts."
He was afraid for his life. Think about who he was and where he was living.
Yes, but I think the stories were just so unbelievable that he could not have fathomed that such things were actually happening.