PINE RIVER -- St. Paul author and Holocaust survivor Henry Oertelt will speak at 7 p.m. April 14 at The Warehouse in Pine River as part of the "Meet the Author" series with Pine River-Backus Community Education.
Oertelt wrote "An Unbroken Chain: My Journey through the Nazi Holocaust," published in 2000. The event is free; donations will be accepted. Refreshments will be served.
Oertelt, 83, has lived in Minnesota since 1949. He gives presentations at universities and high schools about his survival.
"My message is what can happen if hate goes uncontrolled," he said. "You have to do everything in your power ... to see that hatred will not exist anymore. That doesn't mean you have to love everybody. I've had neighbors I do not love. But do you want to destroy them because of it? Of course not."
Oertelt was removed from school in the mid-1930s and went to work in a plant where he learned how to design and build furniture. He remembers the knock on the door in the middle of the night in June 1943 when he and his family were taken away to a concentration camp.
The skills he learned designing and building furniture were key to his survival at the camps. While other people at the camps did hard labor, he worked on furniture and the few calories he received went a little further, he said. By 1943, 90 percent of Jews in Germany had been taken out of their homes, but his family hadn't met the same fate.
"We always were convinced the Allies would defeat the Nazis," he said.
He was at Flossenbrg concentration camp in 1945 when American forces started to close in and the camp was evacuated.
He and 16,000 other inmates were put on a death march for three days and nights; those who straggled or fell were shot. On the third day, a contingent of American armored vehicles approached, and the German guards fled. That day, April 23, marked his mother's birthday. She was murdered at Auschwitz.
The event is sponsored by Pine River-Backus Community Education. For more information, call (218) 587-2080.
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