CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — Holocaust survivor Ernie Gross, 90, spoke at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center on Monday.
Now a Pennsylvanian, Gross was only 15 when he was taken to Auschwitz from Romania. The trauma left him scarred and unwilling to publically share his recollection until 15 years ago when he realized his stories needed to be told.
He says he likes to make people smile, even when talking about the greatest struggles of his life.
“If I mixed in a little bit of humor when I feel it, I’m going to use it, and that’s going to keep me going,” Gross said.
He delivered on that when he shared the stories of being a prisoner in Auschwitz during WWII.
Gross recalled being 15 when he was in line for either slave labor or the gas chambers. A fellow prisoner told him to lie and say he was 17 if he wanted to live.
“At least I’m safe for today. I didn’t know what would happen next, so that young man really saved my life,” Gross said.
He survived the year in the camps before marching alongside 56,000 prisoners to Dachau, Germany, in sub-zero temperature. The prisoners were liberated by U.S. troops several months later in 1945.
Gross moved to the U.S. shortly after and currently travels and shares his tales.
He recently became an honorary member of the American Legion Post 405 in Philadelphia and looks to share his account at a Memorial Day concert in Washington, D.C., in May.