Holocaust Survivor Speaks To Marshall County Students in Glen Dale

Photo by Alan Olson Holocaust survivor Howard Chandler shares his memories of surviving Nazi concentration camps during World War II while visiting John Marshall High School on Monday.

A man who lost many of his family members in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust shared his story with Marshall County students Monday, recounting the deaths he witnessed and warning such horrors could happen again if people are not careful.

Howard Chandler, who celebrates his 89th birthday today, spoke to students at John Marshall High School, who were joined by each eighth-grade class in the county to hear Chandler’s presentation.

Born in Poland, Chandler’s family, including his younger brother, Sam, and his mother, were taken from their homes to the Treblinka concentration camp when he was 14 — a memory Chandler said will never leave him.

“This was accomplished with such ferocity that it was positively unbelievable. I still have nightmares,” Chandler said. “People who didn’t come to the market square as quickly as they were ordered to … were shot on the spot. In a single day, they shot almost 200 people. Blood was flowing like water after the rain.”

Chandler’s father obtained work permits for himself, Chandler and his brother, falsifying records or bribing officials to ensure they were admitted despite their young age, sparing them from the initial roundups. His father was assumed to have died at another camp, where he was later taken along with his brother. Both survived their experiences, with Chandler being liberated by Russian soldiers and sent along with his brother to England before he moved to Canada to start a new life.

“Four to four and a half thousand people, including my mother, my older sister and my younger brother — together with most of the Jewish inhabitants of the town — were marched down to the waiting train at the station, put on the train, and never to be seen or heard of again. … In the case of the people taken from my town, we know they were taken to one of the extermination camps, called Treblinka, and there they were murdered on arrival.”

Before he spoke, Chandler said sharing his story was an important duty he felt he must undertake. Chandler is an active participant in Students Without Borders, and recently accompanied several local students and teachers to his hometown in Poland.

Looking forward, Chandler worries that the stories of those who endured the Holocaust and fought in World War II eventually will be lost, but he reminds listeners that there’s still time to take in their experiences.

“We’re not going to be around forever, and the people at our age, we’re on the front lines, so to speak,” he said.

When his generation is no longer able to speak for themselves, Chandler said, he wonders how well the horrors of the past will be remembered, and said that it all depends on how history is taught.

“It’s hard to tell. It all depends on the political and educational powers that be, and if they bring it up or not. How much do you talk about (World War I)? Occasionally, it still comes to the fore. You have to learn history, but how much of it — and what kind you learn — is up to those who present it.”

Kailey Filben, a junior at John Marshall who participated in the Students Without Borders program and walked with Chandler through the halls of the concentration camps he had once endured, said his inner strength led him to become her role model.

“Howard has an amazing sense of humor, and has more courage in him than, as far as I’m concerned, the rest of the world holds,” Filben said.