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Characters Unite Award Winners

Oskar Knoblauch


Oskar Knoblauch is a Holocaust survivor and author. In his talks to over 10,000 students around the U.S., Oskar teaches young people about the horrors of the Holocaust and the deadly consequences of religious intolerance and prejudice.

Oskar was born in 1925 in Leipzig, Germany. Along with his brother Siegmund, sister Ilse, and his parents Leopold and Ruzia, Oskar’s childhood was shattered at the age of eight. In 1936, he and his family were forced to leave Germany and re-settle in Krakow, Poland. The outbreak of World War II on September 1, 1939 and the German invasion of Poland marked the beginning of a dark and deadly time for Oskar’s family and millions of other Jews across Europe.

After the German occupation of Poland, Oskar's family was forced into a Jewish ghetto in Krakow. Forced labor and deportations to concentration camps began as early as mid-1941 and continued with deadly intensity until the ghetto's liquidation March 13, 1943. His mother was sent to slave labor camp Plaszow and Oskar and his father, sister and brother, along with 116 Jews from the ghetto, were assigned to work at Pomorska, the headquarters for the Geheime Stadts Polizei (Gestapo), SD (Security Department), the SS and SP (Security Police). Oskar’s work station was the boiler room in the basement that provided hot water and heat for the gigantic complex.

During these years, Oskar faced a life of hard labor and constant fear of death. He personally escaped death many times, using his young quick wit and the help of unexpected friendships with fellow prisoners and even Nazi soldiers willing to risk their lives for him. While working as forced laborers at Pomorska Street, Oskar's father was murdered by a Nazi. The rest of his family and Oskar escaped January 17, 1945 and were liberated the following day by advancing Soviet soldiers. Their fellow workers were deported the evening of January 17 to a KZ camp in the German interior, where very few survived. Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust of World War II.

After the war, in 1945, Oskar reunited with surviving family members and ended up in a DP (displaced person's) camp, in Feldafing, Germany. With the generosity of a Canadian family, he was able to get sponsorship to enter Canada, where he joined the work force and married a young American woman named Lila in 1951. In 1953, Oskar and his family moved to the U.S., where they raised three children and Oskar became a Naturalized Citizen of the United States of America.

After living and working in many areas of the U.S., today Oskar is retired in Phoenix, Arizona. With the encouragement of family and friends, he began writing a journal of his Holocaust experience and in 2007, published his book "A Boy's Story – A Man's Memory: Surviving the Holocaust 1933-1945." Oskar says he is honored to be asked to come into classrooms and auditoriums to speak to children and adults of all ages about his book and details of the Holocaust.

Oskar Knoblauch