One hundred years is a big milestone for anyone, but for a Holocaust survivor, it’s especially impressive. On October 22, 2017, Elias Feinzilberg turned 100 years old. There was a big celebration for his birthday complete with dancing, singing, cake, and party favors. This celebration was well warranted as Feinzilberg’s life story is truly inspiring.
Feinzilberg grew up in Lodz, Poland, where he lived a peaceful life until the Nazis invaded. At 23 years old, he and his family were forced to move into the Lodz Ghetto. His family was starving and, as the oldest of seven siblings, Feinzilberg believed it was his duty to look out for them, he described during a talk at the BYU Jerusalem Center in 2013.
He left to work for the Nazis building roads in Germany, as they had promised him that his family would be safe if he did so. Yet, as it turned out, that was a bad move. The Nazis did not keep their promise. Feinzilberg returned home to discover that he was the last of his kin.
“The Nazis killed all my family and I was left alone,” Feinzilberg told CBN News.
Over the years, he was sent to nine different concentration camps to work. While the Nazis ultimately wanted to kill every Jew, they kept Feinzilberg alive because he was strong and made a good worker. Of course the working conditions were terrible. He was given incredibly tough tasks (such as coal mining) and his only reward was a single watery bowl of soup.
It gets worse, though. Feinzilberg had to bathe with bars of soap made out of human flesh. He also had to survive a death march where Jews weren’t given any food or water for two weeks. If anyone got caught eating or drinking they were shot. He only managed to survive by eating the snow off the ground.
“I was saved. God helped me. God helps me,” Feinzilberg said. “And I always ask Him for this.”
On May 1, 1945, Feinzilberg was liberated from the concentration camps by the U.S. Army.
He volunteered in the kitchen of an American refugee camp, shortly thereafter to help feed 12,000 other survivors. He also met someone very special there: his wife. From there, they moved to Guatemala where Feinzilberg had extended family. They spent the next 22 years there and Feinzilberg learnt to speak fluent Spanish.
Elias and his wife left Guatemala for Israel in 1969 and haven’t looked back since. No longer the last of his family, Elias has three kids of his own (two sons, one daughter), seven grandchildren, and 18 great grandchildren.
“I’m very happy that I did one thing in my life. I brought my family to Israel. I love Israel very much. Here, every stone is mine,” he said. He can now also speak fluent Hebrew.
Feinzilberg has done a lot of good in his life and inspired many different people. Having lived through such tragedy, he never sweats the small stuff and is able to live happily. Many say that his smile is infectious and I’d say I agree.
When he spoke to a Brigham Young University student about his experiences during the war, he ended the conversation saying:
“Well, that’s depressing to talk about. We should have a dance party now.”
Even at a century old, Feinzilberg can still cut a rug! Happy birthday, Elias and here’s to many more birthdays to come!
Watch his birthday interview with CBN News below: