Dr. Alfred Munzer was just nine months old when his family was separated during the Nazi Regime occupation of Holland, but he grew up hearing about his relatives’ hardships.
These stories influenced him to share his experience during the Holocaust Commemoration at Joint Base Andrews, April 26, 2017.
April 26, 2017- Dr. Alfred Munzer, Holocaust survivor, speaks during the Holocaust Commemoration at Joint Base Andrews, MD. He spoke of his family’s experience, including the death of his father and two sisters, and being reunited with his mother after she was liberated from a concentration camp. Speaking at the JBA memorial was part of Munzer’s plan to continue spreading his knowledge and message in an attempt to positively influence individuals around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordyn Fetter)
“The Holocaust has many lessons,” Munzer said. “It shows what can happen when there is discrimination and hate, and how they can progress to actual murder. That’s one of the things, the terrible things, that happened during the Holocaust.”
Munzer took these lessons and transformed them into teachings to influence generations to come.
“I really became acquainted with my past when my mother would go through the photographs and tell me stories about my sisters, my father and my grandparents,” Munzer said. “I asked her which concentration camps she had been in, what kind of work she did there and what kept her alive. That’s how I began to construct the story.”
Once he better understood the events surrounding his early childhood, Munzer began sharing it with people like Capt. Steven Rein, 11th Wing chaplain, who gave the Holocaust Commemoration invocation and listened to Munzer’s story.
“We are human beings and a society of individuals who, for the most part, have grown up without first-hand experience with survivors of the Holocaust,” Rein said. “Every survivor’s story is very personal and moving in a way that you don’t glean from history books.”
During his speech here, Alfred described the Munzer family’s Holocaust chronicle, which began shortly after their son, Alfred, was born in 1941 and restrictions on the Jewish community had tightened.
“Jews were prohibited from going into public parks,” Munzer said. “But one day, my mother decided to take the baby carriage with my little sister into a public park and a German woman approached the baby carriage. The woman turned to the baby carriage and saw my baby sister, with blond hair and blue eyes and she turned to my mother and she said, ‘Ah, I can tell this is good, German, Aryan blood.’”
It was around this time that Munzer’s father, Simcha, and mother, Gisele, decided to separate their family and go into hiding. His father subsequently faked a suicide attempt to gain admittance to a mental hospital, his mother became a nurse at the same institution, his sisters were placed with a neighbor and Munzer was cared for by a Dutch-Indonesian family.
Munzer disclosed that, despite Simcha’s and Gisele’s attempts to keep the family protected, their two daughters’ location was disclosed to the Nazi’s and they were then killed at Auschwitz at the young ages of six and eight.
“The emotion was palpable in the room [when Munzer spoke],” Rein said. “He touched a lot of heartstrings throughout his presentation.”
Alfred’s parents were deported from the psychiatric hospital to Auschwitz in early 1943 and were then separated. Simcha lived to see liberation from the concentration camp Ebensee, but was so weak that he passed away two months afterwards. Gisele passed through 12 concentration camps before she was evacuated by the Swedish Red Cross in the spring of 1945.
Alfred greatly attributes his survival to Tol� Madna and Mima Sa�na, the individuals who sheltered and cared for him during those challenging years.
“We hear about all the horrors of the Holocaust and we certainly want to avoid those horrors from reoccurring, but there’s another important lesson which comes from the family that rescued me,” Munzer said. “They took tremendous risks and their story is one of two very simple people standing up to evil and doing the right thing.”
Alfred and his mother were eventually reunited in 1945. After spending a few more years in Europe, the two moved to the U.S. in 1958. Munzer went on to become a doctor and serve two years as an Air Force major at JBA’s Malcom Grow Medical Center.
In recent years, he has spoken more frequently about his experience to the public and to the U.S. Armed Forces.
“The military plays a very important role in protecting civil liberties and protecting people, not just from physical harm, but also harmful speech,” Munzer said. “I think the values of protecting humanity and human rights are essential to the military.”
Speaking at the JBA memorial was part of Munzer’s plan to continue spreading his knowledge and message in an attempt to positively influence individuals around the world.
“As members of the Armed Forces, we play a vital role in ensuring and protecting the values of this country and of democracy” Rein said. “We have to remember the evils and atrocities that human beings are capable of and the role we all play in ensuring a society of pluralism and mutual respect.”
By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jordyn Fetter
Provided through DVIDS
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