Saul Feilhardt, 93, a Holocaust survivor and former Jeep worker who moved to Toledo in 1947 after being moved from one Nazi concentration camp to another, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure.
Mr. Feilhardt was diagnosed with dementia in 2009, his son Marvin said.
As a young man in his 20s in World War II-damaged Poland, Mr. Feilhardt suffered many hardships and near-death encounters, Marvin Feilhardt said.
Mr. Feilhardt, the youngest of five children, was living with one of his two sisters and working in the family window business when the war began, making a ghetto of his neighborhood in Krakow. He and other Jews were crammed into spaces "like sardines," often living three to four families to a room, his son said.
The ghetto was liquidated in March, 1943, and -- while about 3,000 to 4,000 people were killed in the process -- Mr. Feilhardt survived to face the Plaszow concentration camp, where he was detained until October, 1944.
Mr. Feilhardt was then transferred to a second concentration camp, Gross Rosen, where he saw several Jewish prisoners -- who were able to offer money or valuables -- sent to Czechoslovakia by Oskar Schindler, Marvin Feilhardt recounted.
But a thinning Mr. Feil- hardt was transferred to yet another camp, Sonnenberg, until he was forced on a death march in March, 1945. The march began with 2,000 men, Marvin Feilhardt said, but only 500 survived. An 80-pound Mr. Feilhardt was among the living.
Though he couldn't walk by the end of the march because of starvation and a back injury he developed from guard brutality, he survived to see liberation, which came at the end of the war in May, 1945.
Mr. Feilhardt was one of three family members to live through the war. His brother Harry Feilhardt moved to America in the 1920s with the help of their father -- who was already living in America-- and fought in the U.S. Army. His other brother escaped to Russia when the Germans invaded Poland, Marvin Feilhardt said.
"He was able to work. That's why he survived," Mr. Feilhardt's younger son, Charles Feilhardt said. "It was luck. He was strong and he was lucky."
Mr. Feilhardt met Lisa Ladenheim, another Holocaust survivor, on the train from Poland to a German Displaced Persons camp after the war. The pair moved to America together in 1947, settled down in Toledo, and married in April, 1949, Marvin Feilhardt said.
Mr. Feilhardt was born Aug. 17, 1917 in Skawina, Poland.
Charles Feilhardt recalled his father working in several Toledo factories before finally settling at Jeep in the early 1950s. Mr. Feilhardt worked there until the early 1970s, when his job was moved out of town. Having already suffered three heart attacks, he retired from the plant and shifted his attention to the three apartment buildings he and his wife owned and rented out.
"They were very hard-working people," Marvin Feilhardt said. "The first apartment building they bought was when I was born. They saved their money and bought more. They were good with investments."
Charles Feilhardt said he remembers his father as an animal lover. In addition to caring for the family dog, Mr. Feilhardt was fond of a squirrel who returned to the house because it received food from Mr. Feilhardt.
"He even named it Pete the Squirrel," his son Charles said. "It sat on his shoulder and ate out of his hand."
Surviving are his sons, Charles and Marvin, and two granddaughters, Stephanie and Raquel Feilhardt.
Services will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at Beth Shalom Cemetery. There are no calling hours. The family suggests tributes in Mr. Feilhardt's name to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America or a charity of the donor's choice.
Contact Traci Tillman at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6050.
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