Holocaust survivor to share courageous account

Ernest Michel
Ernest Michel
Holocaust survivor Ernest Michel frequently speaks to students about his story of bravery and survival.

A Holocaust survivor, who escaped Nazi captivity only weeks before Allied armies liberated concentration camps, will share his story of bravery and survival next week on the Northern Arizona University campus.

Ernest Michel, an author and lecturer, will discuss his experiences during a lecture titled “From Holocaust to Nuremberg and Genocide” beginning at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11, in Gardner Auditorium at The W.A. Franke College of Business.

“We are losing people like Ernie who have been eyewitnesses of this horrific period in history,” saidBarbara Veltri, assistant professor in the College of Education. “We need to bring young people and community members to hear their stories to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Michel is the author of 1993’s Promises to Keep andPromises Kept: One Man’s Journey Against Incredible Odds, which will be released this month. Michel will sign books and meet with individuals after his presentation.

Michel spent more than five years in forced labor at Birkenau, Berga and Auschwitz concentration camps. In January 1945, 60,000 prisoners were evacuated from Auschwitz to escape the advancing Soviet army. Michel and other prisoners wrapped paper around their bodies to survive the bitter cold.

Four months later, in Berga, officials ordered another death march to escape the advancing Allied armies. During this time, Nazis were randomly shooting 10 men every few days. Michel and two friends were able to run away and gain their freedom on April 18, 1945, just three weeks before the end of the war.

“We decided we didn’t spend 5 ½ years in concentration camps to get shot within sound of the Allied armies coming to liberate us,” Michel said.

In November 1945, 22-year-old Michel became the special correspondent for the newly formed German news agency DANA. He reported on the International War Crimes Trial under the byline “Special Correspondent Ernest W. Michel, Auschwitz Survivor 104995.”

Michel was the initiator and chairman of the 1981 World Gathering of 6,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors and their families in Israel.

His talk is sponsored by NAU College of Education and Martin-Springer Institute.