DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — January 27, 2023 marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day; a day where people around the world took time to honor the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust.
Ira Segalewitz moved to the Dayton area more than 20 years ago, but he is one of the survivors of the Holocaust. He was born in 1936 in Sarny, Poland. When Germany began its invasion of Poland, he and his mother fled to Russia to escape the horrors they knew were coming with the Nazis. They ended up in a work camp in the Ural Mountains near what used to be Stalingrad.
“It was a horrific place…old barracks that the military had there, and they built new ones, and brought in thousands of people,” Segalewitz explained.
Segalewitz and his mother spent the rest of World War II in that Russian camp. They were forced to bear the bitter cold weather with little to no clothing or food. His mother would work 10 hours a day, every day.
“The payment was in rations. And so, once a month, trucks would come in and we would get a sack of potatoes and then a small sack of flour. And that’s what we had to live on for a month,” Segalewitz said.
When the war was over, they walked all the way back to Sarny; however, everything was gone, including his family.
“We learned from some of the people there that as soon as the Nazis came into Sarny, they established a ghetto and rounded up 14,000 Jewish people and then decided to liquidate that ghetto. And so they murdered almost everybody,” Segalewitz said.
With no where to go, Segalewitz and his mother went to a Displaced Persons Camp in Austria. The U.S. and United Nations set up several of those camps throughout Europe following the war. They spent five years there before they were able to go live with aunts in New York City.
At 16 years old, Segalewitz finally had a home that was not a camp.
“When we came here to the United States, we had an actual bed to sleep on, and food and all we could eat. So, yeah, this was heaven,” Segalewitz said.
Segalewitz later joined the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War. He went on to work in Telecommunications and moved up the ladder in the industry. He has four sons and six grandchildren, which brought him to Dayton.
Segalewitz said it took him years before he started opening up about his experience in the Holocaust, but now he wants to make sure no one ever stops talking about the lives of the six million Jews killed.
“We have to continue teaching this, we have to make sure that this is part of our education. You have to learn, as you learn how to read and write, you have to know about your history because you are bound to repeat it if you don’t know about it,” Segalewitz said.