RALEIGH — Though it takes him a while to recover from it each time, Morris Glass tells his story of surviving the Holocaust as often as possible.
I promised myself as long as the Almighty gives me strength that I would speak, especially to the young people, Glass says. Thats my responsibility and my obligation.
Glass, now 84, was an 11-year-old Jew living in Poland when World War II began, and he spent the entire conflict in ghettos and concentration camps. He witnessed incredible atrocities and was subjected to brutal conditions during nearly six years under Nazi rule. Of 42 family members, only Glass, his brother and a cousin survived the war.
This week, during the Days of Remembrance, a time designated by Congress to remember the Holocaust, Glass will make two speaking appearances in Triangle. Thursday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, he will be at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, and on Sunday he will speak at the Yom Hashoah Holocaust Memorial Service at the Chapel Hill Kehillah synagogue.
Although Glass had considered writing a book, he knew he could not do it on his own, he said. When he was approached by Carolyn Happer, a history professor at Meredith College, about documenting his story, it seemed like a good fit.
Following about three years of work, the two self-published their collaboration, Chosen for Destruction: The Story of a Holocaust Survivor. The book mixes autobiographical passages by Glass with historical context and documentation by Happer.
Happer said she was riveted by Glass story, and thought that although much has been published on the Holocaust, his perspective was lacking. The length of his confinement and the range of his experiences were unusual: He spent over four years in Nazi-enforced ghettos, two months in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and eight months in five camps that were part of the Dachau camp system.
Few Jews, whether from Poland or elsewhere, survived in captivity as long as he, Happer wrote in the book.
She also felt that the story of the Polish Jews is an important one that is not well known in the U.S., she said. Half of the Jews killed during the war were Polish.
The book sold its initial 1,000-copy press run in six months, and is quickly selling through a second edition, Happer and Glass said.
Glass said that he is blessed with a tremendous ability for recall, and that he has heard from other Polish survivors who were amazed by the details he was able to include in the book.
He gives a detailed account of the day a ghetto his family was confined to was liquidated. It was the Sabbath, and there was an unexpected announcement for everyone to gather at the soccer field.
The residents were divided into three groups: those who were to work in factories; those who were to be killed; and those who were to stay and clean the ghetto, the smallest group. Glass family was part of the last group.
A man volunteered to accompany the young children, knowing they were being sent to the gas chamber. That mans daughter, Helen Chmura Aronson, calls Glass regularly, he said, and is very appreciative of the book.
Glass says he tells his story with a lot of emotion so that people, especially the young, can understand it.
I was brought up to think that to be stepped on and spit on was the way it was supposed to be, he said. For those young people brought up in this greatest country in the world it is very hard to comprehend.
Glass moved to the U.S. in 1949, and was the CEO of a clothing company in New Jersey for much of his adult life. Now retired, he moved to Raleigh about 12 years ago.