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Survivor Profile: Yankele "Alex" Gross

Born in 1928 in the Carpathian Mountains area of Czechoslovakia, Alex Gross was the youngest of six sons. His only sister was born in 1930. After Carpathia was annexed by Hungary, Alex was repeatedly attacked by Hitler Youth, boys who had once been his closest friends.

In March of 1944, Alex and his family were taken to the Munkach Ghetto. Weeks later, told they were being sent east to work, the family was locked into a cattle car where they spent six days with no food, no water, no toilet, and no room even to sit down. Alex’s strict father and especially his angelic mother begged him to promise he would stay alive. Alex’s devotion to his beloved parents gave him the will to never give up.

The trip ended at Auschwitz where 15-year-old Alex was immediately separated from his family. He never saw his parents again. At Auschwitz, Alex worked 18 hours a day digging ditches, lifting heavy building blocks and hauling steel and rocks. Although he was beaten and starved, Alex never stopped trying to help and encourage his fellow prisoners.

As the allies approached, Alex endured a death march from Buna to Gleiwitz. Of the 60,000 who began the march, only 8,000 were alive when it ended. From Gleiwitz, Alex was transported in a coal carrying car to Buchenwald. As the temperature in the open car dropped well below zero, many people froze to death. Of the approximately 120 people in that coal car, only eight survived that journey. Most people froze to death. Alex was liberated by the Americans on April 11, 1945. He returned to Czechoslovakia where he was reunited with his siblings. He was 16-years-old, seriously ill and orphaned. When the British Jewish Welfare Agency arranged to fly orphans to the British Isles, Alex, his sister and one brother were flown to Scotland. Alex lived in the British Isles until he emigrated to the United States in 1949. One by one, the brothers and their sister all made their way to the United States. They are believed to be the only family to have all seven siblings survive the Holocaust.

Wanting to repay America for liberating him and his brothers from Buchenwald, Alex joined the United States Army in 1951. Alex found great happiness in America: He married, had four children, and built a very successful business. He also suffered the tragic death of his only son in a construction accident and the murder of his first wife. Despite his difficult past, Alex believes he is truly blessed.