I first heard Jack Eisner’s name in a Facebook posting showing the cover of his book, “The Survivor”. I was intrigued by this man and wanted to know more about him. What I learned; I am looking forward to sharing with you.
Jack was born Jacek Zlatka November 15, 1925 in Warsaw, Poland. He became Jack Eisner when he immigrated to the United States in 1949. Unfortunately, there was very little information about his life prior to the war, but what I did find was that at age 13 he had a scholarship to the Warsaw Music Conservatory. That year was 1939, the year the Nazis invaded Poland.
When the Jews were forced into the ghetto, Jack gave up music and became a leader to a group of youths that would smuggle food and supplies into the ghetto. They would go in and out of the ghetto, and at times it would allow Jack to see his girlfriend.
As time went by, Jack became more militant. He started using the group to smuggle in weaponry for the forth coming ghetto revolt of April 19, 1943. Later on, Jack estimated that he had thrown at least 200 Molotov cocktails.
He was eventually caught by the Nazis and spent time in Majdanek, Budzyn and Flossenberg concentration camps. Twice he was sentenced to death by hanging and twice he escaped it when the poorly constructed gallows collapsed. He was nearly beaten to death one time.
After the war ended, Jack helped the Americans track down Nazi war criminals, he even served as a witness at many of the trials. At a time when it was illegal for Jews to go to Palestine (before it became Israel), Jack helped Eastern European Jews escape there.
When he came to the United States Jack used the knowledge he had acquired as a smuggler to build his own import/export business, Stafford Industries. It was sold in 1978, at his retirement, for $50 million.
After his retirement he spent the years devoted to writing lecturing and producing films based on his life story. His book, “The Survivor”, became the basis for a stage play and a film, entitled “War and Love”. He also produced documentary films on the Holocaust. (For a list of his films see IMDB.)
In 1962 Jack started the Ghetto Resistance Organization and later on founded the Holocaust Survivors Memorial Foundation. Along with those he also founded the first Institute of Holocaust Studies at CUNY and the Holocaust Studies at Harvard Divinity School.
He was also the inspiration and sponsor of the Goldberg Commission. Its role was to investigate the role played by American Jews in the Holocaust and was overseen by Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg.
In 1993 to commemorate the 1.5 million Jewish children killed during the Holocaust, Jack created the Children’s Memorial Monument in Warsaw, that sits outside the Jewish cemetery. In 1995 he organized the very first meeting of survivors with Pope John Paul II, inside the Vatican.
During that last decade of his life, Jack spent his time lecturing and writing on the role of Christianity in the Holocaust. He worked to promote tolerance between the Christian and Jewish communities.
Jack Eisner passed away August 24, 2003 in New York City.
I hope that you learned as much about Jack as I did. A man who spent the last years of his life telling his story to the world, and making sure that the stories of other were also not forgotten.
As Holocaust survivors pass away, we must not let their stories go silent. We must keep retelling them to each and every generation to come, for our world cannot repeat the crimes committed during the Holocaust. Not just to the Jews, but also the Roma’s, homosexuals, political prisoners, Jehovah’s witnesses and any one that dared to speak out against Hitler and his regime. We cannot afford to let their stories die with them, the deserve to be remembered.
I’m a history nerd. I met my first Holocaust survivor when I was a teenager, and it had a profound effect on me. Since then I’ve read as many books on the subject as I could find, I’ve watched just as many documentaries and I listen to survivors speak on their experiences as often as I have the opportunity to hear them. I want to share the stories and make sure they are not forgotten.
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