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.
ESCAPE TO LIFE
A JOURNEY THROUGH THE HOLOCAUST
The Memories of Maria and William Herskovic
Caught in the crossfire of Nazi oppression, two people triumph in this story of courage, luck and passion during one of the darkest moments of the 20th Century. After surviving a perilous escape from Auschwitz's infamous death camps, William Herskovic miraculously made his way across Nazi-occupied Europe. Becoming one of the first recorded eyewitnesses of Hitler's atrocities, he alerted the underground, and was eventually credited with the rescue of hundreds, perhaps thousands, bound for the gas chambers.
Mireille, still merely a teenager, managed to hide her parents in attics and rural homes, risking her life daily to venture out for the food to keep them alive. The Herskovic family survived the perils of the Holocaust with their souls and spirits soaring.
"Some historical events are so powerful, touching so many lives, that they can never become mere dusty facts on a page. They become woven into our minds, perhaps our very DNAthe way Patricia Herskovic still feels the loss of her sisters she never knew. In telling the story of her father's Holocaust survival, and so many others who never escaped, Herskovic takes us on a poignant journey of the heart. One of danger, loss, endurance, and ultimately triumph." David Brin, NY Times best-selling author of The Postman and Earth
"[William Herskovic's] survival saved hundreds." Simon Wiesenthal Center Tribute
Patricia Herskovic was born in Belgium and immigrated to the United States as a child. She received her degree in political science from UCLA. Currently a motion picture producer, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.
2002, 218 pages
ISBN 965-308-152-7 hardback $29.95/£19.95
Distibuted for Yad Vashem Publications, Jerusalem
Only Stevie would cast Tom Cruise, and the religious persecution part would be from the Evil Jews toward the innocent tea-drinking Muslims.
Don't forget about the noble homosexuals who rescue the Scientologists from Christian attackers at the end of the movie.
While deployed to Kosovo, I had the honor of meeting a gentleman who survived the horrors of Auschwitz.
His story changed my perspective on everything in Europe.
Well the one time he made a film about this subject it turned out pretty good...
Thank you, Sir! ;)
Yes but that was more than a decade ago and I suspect his outlook has changed some.
Although, bless my heart (gag) I do SO enjoy buying books like this at Barnes & Noble. It drives them crazy. ;)
About the Nazis? Probably not. He's still quite active in the Shoah Foundation.
May he rest in peace.
Never bought on Amazon.
If I'm lucky , I can get wifey in and out of a Barnes and
Noble or Borders in half an hour.
Sure glad some of them book stores have coffee shops.
I checked B&N's web site. It only has used ones for sale, from private sellers. It says the book is no longer for sale through them.
Anyone wonder how many hundreds of thousands would be saved if USAAF and RAF decided to destroy the railway lines to Auschwitz instead of bombing of civilians in Nazi occupied Allied cities?. I guess allied bombs would be more efficient than bricks on a raiway tracks in stoping the trains to the death factory.
Of course, bombing of Auschwitz railway tracks would harm syntetic rubber production in Auschwitz Buna plant and would not be good news to the Standard Oil Co. and their Nazi business partners.
Simon Wiesenthal is gone. Sadly, as the last eyewitnesses are slowly fading away the complete story will never be told.
Interesting. Perhaps you could share more information with us. For exaple, what was the ethnicity of the person you talked to.
Do you know that Kosovo is JUDENREIN today, owing to the sons and grandsons of Albanian Waffen SS division who ethnically cleansed ALL JEWS and 90% of Serbs, Roma, Goranis and others?
Do you know that Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo live 24/7 under armed guard in barbed wire encampments or they got killed?
The gentleman whom I am referring to was not a native of Kosovo.
He flew in courtesy of the USO to speak with us.
I cannot remember his name, but I will post it once I find the brochure that was handed out.
So true. It's up to the current generation to not allow the memory of the millions butchered during the Shoah to be forgotten, especially by those lurking about deliberately stating it never happened.
Shame on you for being a coward and poor excuse for a human being