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Holocaust survivor tells his story at Fort Sill

FORT SILL, Okla._A holocaust survivor shared his story of torment during the massacre that took 11 million lives more than 70 years ago.

One of the few to survive, Paul Kessler, talked about his life in what was then Czechoslovakia, at this year's Days of Remembrance luncheon on post.

While he was honored, Kessler honored those that didn't survive the holocaust including 1.5 million children. A penny was placed on each plate that serves in remembrance for one of those children. One of the pennies in remembrance at the luncheon was for Mose Vizel from Romania, but died in Auschwitz in 1944, he was seven years old. Mr. Kessler was only three when the Nazis entered his village.

When the Nazis raided his family's home, they took his father who would die in Auschwitz in 1942, leaving him and mother to survive what would come later.

"I think being that age, having your mother with you, gave you a certain amount of comfort. I can't imagine what it was like for her," said Kessler.

In 1944 his mother received word that Nazi's were headed for their village. They escaped to another village where they lived with peasant farmers.

"And one morning we hear loud screaming, the Germans are here," recalled Kessler.

He was five at the time. They threw on clothes and escaped to the woods. With the Germans still in the village, those same families still wanted to protect him and his mother.

"Behind their house they dug a whole in the ground; four walls of dirt, and a floor of dirt, with us in that hole. Covered it with branches from their trees, leaves and manure for their animals and that's where we spent the next seven months," said Kessler.

Then finally, in 1945, the Russians liberated the Kessler family and the remaining Jews. The holocaust leaves with it powerful lessons.

"It's that people have to stand up as soon as they see any hate, prejudice or intolerance. You know, they just can not care," said Kessler.

Kessler and his mom found their way to America a few years after the war, something he is very thankful for.

"It was not easy, though we imagined the streets were paved of gold. We were shocked when they weren't when we came here. But, I discovered that they are paved in gold, and it's called freedom," Kessler said proudly.

He says that's why he tells his story so that it won't happen again. Mr. Kessler also speaks weekly at the Dallas Holocaust Museum along with other holocaust survivors. He also talks to several schools and organizations, encouraging people to speak out against indifference.

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