The Registry of Holocaust Survivors currently contains the names of over 195,000 survivors and family members. One survivor lives right here in Houston, and he would like to share his experience with the Cy-Fair community.
His name is Al Marks, and he has a powerful story to tell. It is a story of loss, sadness, and, above all, a story of strength and survival in the face of extreme suffering and adversity.
Marks, an 83-year-old native of Hungary, recalls the harsh conditions in Nazi concentration camps, as well as the day he came face-to-face with the infamous Dr. Mengele. Dr Mengele is known for the unethical medical experiments he performed on the prisoners at Auschwitz. He was also a member of the team of doctors assigned to do "selections”— a daily procedure that determined the fate of new arrivals at the camp.
For 20 years, Marks refused to talk openly about his traumatic experience in the camps. It wasn't until a teacher at a local school strongly encouraged him to tell his story. He then began speaking to classes, churches—anyone who invited him.
"As time goes on, less and less people are going to know about it. Less and less people are going to talk about it," he said. "This is the reason people tell me, a lot of teachers and lecturers, you've got to talk as long as you can because it's essential."
The tragedy began for Al Marks in 1944. At 13 years old, Marks and his parents were taken from their home on the outskirts of Budapest and placed on a train to Auschwitz. Once they arrived at the concentration camp, he was separated from the rest of his family.
He never saw them again.
Marks moved from camp to camp. From Auschwitz to Mauthausen, then to Melk, and finally, to Ebensee. Marks recalls wearing pinstripe uniforms and wooden shoes that quickly became a breeding ground for infection.
Every day, conditions within the camps worsened. During his last month at the camp, Marks lived only on potato peels. He weighed a mere 80 pounds when American troops arrived to free the prisoners at Ebensee.
Marks will never forget the day of May 6th, 1945, when he was rescued from the camps. A sense of triumph overcame him as he witnessed the tanks drive into Ebensee. Marks keeps photos of his liberator, Bob Persinger, who drove the first tank into Ebensee. These photos serve as a keepsake—a symbol of the restored hope he felt the day he was freed.
"Even in the darkest moments, every person had the tiniest smidgen of hope and faith that something may happen," Marks said of the survivors of the camp.
Marks has always remained optimistic despite the torture he endured. Through his agony, he found enlightenment. He is grateful; a figure to admire. He is a role model to both the wounded and those who are struggling.
Marks sums up his experience in one succinct statement: "Some miracles do happen."
The Thomas A. Glazier Senior Education Center hosts the event on Wednesday, January 14th at 11:00 AM. For more information, visit here.