Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 1:00 PM
At age 13, Ernest Michel was expelled from his high school in Manheim, Germany because he was Jewish. Two years later, he witnessed the beginning of the destruction of the Jewish community of Europe with the advent of Kristallnacht. His father's business and property was seized and the spiritual unity of his family was destroyed.
Barely able to earn a living, Ernie's father insisted that Ernie needed a skill. Ernie began to study calligraphy because as his father said, "You never know when it might come in handy, and in the mean time, it will keep you busy. His father's idea would prove to be a life-saving prophecy.
In 1939, the Gestapo seized him and transported him to the concentration camp at Gurs in France. The stay was temporary and soon Ernie found himself as a slave laborer in the rubber works at Auschwitz – Buna. Having been assaulted by a camp guard, Ernie was sent to the infirmary where a miracle took place. Patients were asked if anyone could write and Ernie volunteered. Soon he became a clerk at the documenting prisoner numbers and causes of death.
Surviving Auschwitz, death marches and horrors so devastatating the words have yet to be created to describe them, Ernie becomes a reporter covering the Nuremberg Trials. His byline is Ernst Michel, Auschwitz Number 104995.
Today, Michel is retired executive vice president of the United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York. After a successful career in fund raising, he now devotes his time to speaking about Nuremberg and its lesson.
He is an author and the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Lehman College of the City University of New York and Yeshiva University. He is the author of Promises to Keep.