On Thursday, in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, speaker Leibel Mangel recalled a harrowing story of his grandfather’s time in an Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, specifically his experiences with the notoriously evil Dr. Josef Mengele.
In a series of tweets, Mangel, who served in the IDF at age 19 and now gives speeches fighting for Israel and the Jewish people, details his grandfather’s two encounters with Dr. Mengele.
“My grandfather, his older sister, and his parents were waiting in line at the gates of Auschwitz for the selection process. Those sent to the left, were sent directly to the gas chamber. Those sent to the right, were sent to work,” explained Mangel. “While standing in line, a Sonderkommando came up to his mother and told her to get rid of her young child because Dr Mengele would send young children and their mothers to the gas chambers immediately. If she got rid of him, she would have a chance to survive.”
Mangel’s great-grandmother was dead-set against giving up her son. When she refused, he was told the following horrifying story by the Sonderkommando:
Earlier today a mother with a young child were standing where you are, and a Nazi asked the mother to hand over the child. She refused. He asked one more time. She refused.
The Nazi grabbed the child, & removed the child clothings. He then took rope and tied one end to a truck and the other end to the child’s foot. He then took another rope and tied it to another truck and the other leg. He then ordered the truck to drive in opposite directions..
The child was split in half right in front of his mother. As she screamed, the mother was shot on the spot.
“The Sonderkommando urged my great-grandmother to give away her young child so the same wouldn’t happen to them,” Mangel said. She refused, saying, “I will NEVER give away my child.”
“My great-grandfather was a tall & broad man, so he told my grandfather to hide behind him, and maybe Dr Mengele wouldn’t see him,” Mangel continued. “Their time finally came for the selection. Dr Mengele right away saw my grandfather and asked him to come forward. He asked him how old he was. My grandfather said he was 17, hoping Dr Mengele would send him to work. He was 10. Dr Mengele started laughing. ‘I know you aren’t 17, you can’t be older then 10 or 11, but go with your father (to work).'”
The second encounter took place when Mangel’s grandfather was hit with scarlet fever and was transferred to what they called the “medical facility” in Auschwitz, which was a facility “where medical experiments were performed mostly on children.”
“He had been there for a couple of days when in walked Dr Mengele,” said Mangel. “Dr Mengele walked over to the Nazi in charge of this barrack, pointed at my grandfather and said: ‘I am going to do an experiment on him. I am going to try and find a specific nerve in his neck and give him an injection.. If I find the nerve, this boy will be paralyzed for life, and if I can’t find it he will be dead in a matter of moments.’”
Mangel’s grandfather reacted by jumping “off his top bunk and started screaming as he ran towards Dr Mengele: ‘Experiments are for monkeys, not for children,’” he yelled.
“Dr Mengele reached for the pistol on his waist, and my grandfather thought that this was how his life was going to end,” Mangel continued. “Dr Mengele held his pistol for moment while staring directly at my grandfather … Then walked out of the room. My grandfather never saw Dr Mengele again.”
Mangel posted a photo of him and his grandfather, Rabbi Nissen Mangel, visiting Auschwitz two years ago. He captioned the post:
Two years ago, my grandfather once again walked through the gates of Auschwitz accompanied by a soldier.
His grandson. A soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces.
My inspiration. My hero. My grandfather.
Rabbi Nissen Mangel
Mangel noted of his grandfather’s “empire,” which he created after he “rose up from hell,” which includes six children, 40 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren.
“He has traveled the world sharing his story and message of faith and perseverance,” said Mangel of his grandfather. “Now it is my turn.”
Two years ago, the young man posted a heartfelt tribute to his grandfather on Facebook:
I visited Auschwitz with my grandfather – one of the youngest to come out alive.
I was able to feel his pain as he wept. The pain of so many. To see first hand the evil and destruction. The atrocities done to my people. So much death. So much agony. All very real.
However, that is not what I will remember. I will remember walking side by side with my grandfather on the tracks and into the barracks, as hundreds of people surrounded him hanging on to every word. What I experienced, and what I will remember – was the victory, the pride, the celebration of life.
I didn’t see a survivor, I saw a warrior.
I saw the strongest of men.
I saw a man who stared evil and death in the eyes, and did not waver.
I saw a man who rose up from hell on earth, and created an empire.
I saw a man who doesn’t use his past as an excuse, but as a tool to inspire so many others.
I saw a man who could take all the glory for himself, but instead gives it all to GD.
I saw a man who has accomplished so much, and has so much to be proud of, but takes the most pride in his family – 6 children, 39 grandchildren, and (for now) 15 great grandchildren.
I saw a man that all of humanity could and should look up to.
I saw my grandfather.
Thank you Zaidy for showing us the path and for paving the way. Thank you for sacrificing so much for our family, and for our people. Thank you for inspiring me to do better and to do more. I know I will never be even half the man you are, but I will never stop trying.
Thank you for sharing with me a day that I will cherish forever.
To view Mangel’s Twitter thread, click here.