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Scott Air Force Base Team Listens to Inspirational Story of Holocaust Survivor, Eugene “Yani” Halpert


Halpert, only 5 years old in 1942, still vividly remembers the day when he witnessed a swastika sign with an antisemitic message in his small town in Slovakia.

Following this incident, there was a period of unrest and confusion as Jewish families were being rounded up and sent to Auschwitz under false pretenses.

Halpert recalled, “They started deporting Jews to Auschwitz and we were not aware of what it really was, that it was a test camp. The Germans made it seem like it was a resort town… a nice, pleasant atmosphere. In 1942, the first 200 people were deported from my town.”

His family was one of the few exempted due to the services they provided to Nazi soldiers. “About 10 or 15 families in my town got exemptions. The people who were useful, for example, my father supplied the Germans with blankets, heavy coats, and socks,” Halpert shared.

However, their exemption was short-lived, and they had to seek shelter in the attic of a neighbor’s home when they learned they were on a deportation list. With the help of his father’s business connections, they made their way towards the Tratra Mountains.

After settling in a tourist town, they had to flee to a cave to hide from the growing Nazi presence. Eventually, they were found by allied Russian forces in 1944, leading them to American Forces.

Halpert’s family, like many others, returned to their hometown after the war, only to realize that many had not survived. “There were about 2,800 Jewish people in my town, only about 290 people came back and survived,” he lamented.

Halpert’s story is a reminder of the millions of Jewish people who did not return home after the Holocaust. The Days of Remembrance honor the survivors, pay tribute to the rescuers, and serve as a reminder to confront antisemitism and other forms of hate-based conduct to build a better future for all.

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Caleb Alexander

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