LOS ANGELES — For years, Joe Alexander has visited the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles, hoping to warn younger generations about the evil of antisemitism.
What You Need To Know
- Born in Poland, Joe Alexander was 16-years-old when the Nazis transported his family to the Warsaw Ghetto. He survived thanks to his father, who bribed some guards to let him and his siblings escape
- After surviving 12 different concentration camps — including Auschwitz — he came to the U.S. in 1949
- But these days, at 99, he’s worried as antisemitism is yet again on the rise
- Alexander says the only way to fight antisemitism is with education, especially when it comes to the younger generations
Born in Poland, Alexander was 16-years-old when the Nazis transported his family to the Warsaw Ghetto. He survived thanks to his father, who bribed some guards to let him and his siblings escape.
Three days later, however, he was captured again. Alexander spent the next six years in 12 different concentration camps, including Auschwitz — where the Dr. Josef Mengele, known as “The Angel of Death,” pointed him to the gas chambers.
Somehow, Alexander sneaked into the line of those meant for forced labor, a split-second decision that saved his life.
“If I didn’t run back to the other side, I wouldn’t be here now talking to you,” he said.
He was able to survive the camps and a forced death march, eventually coming to the U.S. in 1949, where he got married and had two children. But these days, at 99, he is worried as antisemitism is yet again on the rise.
In January, a man held four people hostage at a synagogue just outside Dallas, and last May, Jewish diners were attacked at a restaurant in West Hollywood.
“We have not learned the lesson,” he said. “[The U.S.] has become a comfort zone for antisemites.”
The recent rise of antisemitism has been worrisome for Beth Kean, the CEO of the Holocaust Museum.
“Just last week we found antisemitic fliers in schools in Santa Monica, propaganda pamphlets in Beverly Hills. It’s happening right in our backyard,” she said. “Everyone has to participate and take a stand against all forms of bigotry.”
Alexander said the only way to fight antisemitism is with education, especially for the younger generations.
A 2018 study showed two-thirds of American millennials surveyed could not identify Auschwitz and 22% said they had not heard of the Holocaust or were not sure whether they had heard of it.
“This is why we have to educate the young people,” Alexander said. “That’s our future.”