'I still get very anxious': Holocaust survivor shares his family's journey to live

Bianca Holman Image
Sunday, January 28, 2024
Holocaust survivor shares his family's journey
Claims Conference has compiled a database of living Jewish Holocaust survivors around the world.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Saturday, we reflect and remember the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

For the first time, the Claims Conference has compiled a database of living Jewish Holocaust survivors around the world. According to the Claim's Conference, there are 245,000 living Holocaust survivors worldwide--- 16% of which live in the United States.

There are almost 100 survivors still living in North Carolina.

Alexander 'Lex' Silbiger is a college professor in the Triangle. While he is in his late 80s, he still holds onto harrowing moments from his childhood from the Holocaust.

"I remember the German troops marching through our streets right in our neighborhood.," said Silbiger. "So that was the beginning."

Born in 1935, in the Netherlands, he was around five years old during the German invasion and occupation. Silbiger shared moments of fear of being in a basement shelter to stay safe from air raids. His father was resourceful. He converted some of their money into diamonds and hid them in a pipe, so they would have money to fund their escape.

Silbiger, his parents, and his brother fled the country and made the dangerous journey through Belgium, Spain, and France.

"I also suddenly realized I was cut off from all my friends," said Silbiger. "Everything I owned, except for a few clothes you know, my whole life just... turned around."

His family eventually made it to a refugee camp in Jamaica, however his grandparents were killed at a concentration camp.

Silbiger's family moved to the states in the 1950s.

"I have great faith that my parents would protect us... I've counted on that, that somehow they will get us through this and it'll be justified," he said. "Looking back on it, there were so many points where things could have gone wrong."

To this day, Silbiger says the past still troubles him.

"I still get very anxious when I have to go through a border crossing," said Silbiger. "When I have to deal with immigration and customs. And in fact, I see people in uniform. I mean, it's totally irrational... but I still kind of a fear there."

He speaks to groups often about the Holocaust and his family's journey.

Silbiger wants people to know that everyone plays a part in preventing racial hatred. His memoir is reserved online with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. His experience along with others are memorialized forever.

"And now I want them to know that they need to be careful it doesn't happen again," said Silbiger. "That that they don't become victims themselves or perpetrators, that I need to make sure."