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Holocaust Survivor Shares His Story with Chico Community

Amy Besnard
Amy Besnard

Pleasant Valley was fortunate enough to have been visited by one of the last, and quite possibly, the oldest holocaust survivors, Joseph Alexander. He has a very warm nature as well as a grateful aspiring attitude–one that everybody should take note of based on what he has been through and shared with our community. The 101-year old Holocaust Survivor talked about his powerful life story: he survived twelve different concentration camps, lost his birth name to a tattooed inmate number, and lost his immediate family (who, to this day, Alexander does not know what happened to). Alexander shared many inspirational morals in which we should all attempt to live by.

Alexander has a warm and welcoming heart: he believes in looking on the bright side of life. He holds no grudges and makes it a point in his daily life to live by those beliefs. He noted that the only thing that helped him stay alive was the little help that people gave him. Such as the kindness of sneaking an extra small bite of bread into the camps from other prisoners. Joe also said that God had such a big impact on his survival. Everyday he would look up and pray and hope that the next time he opened his eyes the war would be over. Finally that day would come…

The atmosphere of the crowd was a sight to see. Before Alexander even started to speak, as he was walking out on stage the crowd started to cheer and even stood up to give a welcoming standing ovation. Once the crowd died down, he told his amazing, heart-wrenching story of how the Nazis came and destroyed everything he ever knew and left him to venture out on his own. The good news is that he is still here, living a great life and proudly sharing his story at 101-years old. He has spoken to countless people, schools, and news organizations and plans to continue to do so until his last days. One of the attendees, Mary Waldorf, told a little bit about her story and why she came out to see Alexander, “When I was in 4th grade I read the Diary of Anne Frank, and ever since then I became really interested in the Holocaust; my aunt [a holocaust survivor,] passed away 3 months ago and looking back it’s good to remember the good times and hope that kids nowadays respect that and know what they have and that they recognize what these people have went through and the importance of the Holocaust.”

When one of the audience members asked Alexander if he had any family now, he responded, sadly, that his wife had passed 27 years ago, but he does have three children and one grandchild. He even mentioned that he had a girlfriend! The crowd went wild, they clapped and cheered for him. His girlfriend, Riva, was sitting in the front row supporting him. So many good questions were asked and Alexander was happy to answer every single one of them. Some of the questions included: Did he ever find out where his family went? What were some of his pass times during the war? Would he change anything in his past? Another audience member, Page Bush quotes, “In high school when I went to PV, I became interested in the Holocaust, especially Auschwitz [later traveled there] and the fact that we can hear from someone first hand and see someone roll up the sleeve to show off their tattoo is pretty incredible because that opportunity doesn’t come very often.”

 One of the biggest and best parts of Alexander’s amazing personality is that he holds zero grudges. He does not blame anybody for anything that has happened to him in the past. The ninth graders, prior to Alexander’s visit, read Night, written by Ellie Wiesel, which coincides with the Holocaust. So it was such a great experience for the students to see and listen to a survivor. One of the 9th grade students, Dash Rider says, “ I went to the [holocaust presentation] because I am really interested in that topic and seeing how [Joe] was affected by this event.” They also said that the event was “very eye opening.” If the Chico community were to take anything away from this amazing speaker it would have to be to be thankful for what we have and to live by Alexander’s moto: don’t hold onto grudges and always act with kindness.


Joseph Alexander walking down the student quoted hallway (Amy Besnard)
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About the Contributor
Greta Hauser
Greta Hauser, Consultant
A sophomore at Pleasant Valley High School, Greta Hauser is very dedicated to her job as editor on the paper. Where she writes articles and edits. Ever since freshman year she has been committed herself to working on the Pleasant Valley’s Newspaper; aka the SAGA. Participating in school spirit days, going to football games, and supporting fundraisers is all part of her school spirit! In her spare time; she enjoys the simplicity of baking and cooking. She’s always striving and looking for new recipes to create. This year she's hoping to find a new dedication to put her time into. She is to continue her work on the paper for the next four years, until she graduates as a senior. If anybody is interested in past articles that she has written, use this link Greta Hauser – The Saga

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