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Published: Wednesday, 4/29/2009

Holocaust survivor gives insight into novel

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - It was in 1933, when he turned 5 years old, that Martin Lowenberg learned about hate.

It was in January of that year when Adolf Hitler became leader of Germany, and Mr. Lowenberg, a German-born Jew and eventual Holocaust survivor, got his first taste of hating someone because of their religion.

Shortly after Hitler rose to power, his family's home in a village near Frankfort was set afire and looted by Nazi followers.

"I have suffered," Mr. Lowenberg, 81, told about 400 Bedford High School ninth-graders last week. "Unfortunately, for 12 years I lost my youth. I don't wish that on anybody."

Before he was sent to Sweden in 1945 after the end of World War II, Mr. Lowenberg was deported from Germany to a ghetto in Riga, Latvia, enslaved in a concentration camp, and watched his parents and younger twin brothers sent off to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

The appearance of Mr. Lowenberg, of Southfield, Mich., coincided with the ninth-graders reading Night by Elie Weisel, who as a young Orthodox Jew was sent with his family to the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Mr. Lowenberg, who immigrated to the United States in 1946, is associated with the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Mich. The center honors the memory of Hitler's 6 million Jewish victims.

"I lost my youth. I did not have a bicycle. I didn't have any toys. I couldn't have any playmates because people were mean to me," he said.

He told students about his third-grader teacher who invited four boys to beat and kick him in front of the class to celeberate Hitler's birthday in 1936. "He hated me because I was Jewish," he said.

Two years later, his family was forced to sell their home because of a new law that forbid Jews from owning property, and Mr. Lowenberg, then 8, saw his synagogue burned to the ground. "It was a sight that I will never forget," he said.

Mr. Lowenberg said that he and his family were packed into a railroad car on Dec. 8, 1941 with about 100 other people for a four-day journey, joining thousands of other Jews deported to the Riga ghetto.

There was no water, toilets, nor heat, only food left on the table from the Jewish family who had been taken from the house and executed with thousands in the forest, he said.

"Who can imagine that? Who can believe that?" he told the students.

His family joined other enslaved Jews from the ghetto and marched every day to the city to work. Eighteen months later, Mr. Lowenberg, 15, and his older sister, Eva, were sent to the Kaiserwald concentration camp, and their parents and twin brothers were sent on trains to Auschwitz. It was the last time he saw them alive.

As the Russians got closer to Germany, Mr. Lowenberg and his sister were taken to Hamburg, and then, nearly starving and weak, endured a four-day walk over 75 miles to a camp, where they were liberated by the Red Cross and taken to Sweden.



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