Kurt Messerschmidt lived through incarceration at Auschwitz, served as cantor at Temple Beth El in Portland, and at age 100, still finds purpose in helping people.” It’s what you give’ that defines you,” he said in a Portland Press article, from which this excerpt is a part of.
When the war ended in 1945, Messerschmidt and his wife – neither had any idea whether the other had survived – were reunited in Munich. They emigrated to the United States in 1950 and moved to Maine a year later. They raised two children here, who now have families of their own. The couple’s story of survival also has been documented in an oral history collection at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine and the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation.
In 2012, Hochstadt published an oral history of the experiences of Kurt and Sonja Messerschmidt titled “Death and Love in the Holocaust.”
“My guess is it was very important for some people to see someone else who is maintaining their humanity, maintaining their religious faith … and really trying to survive,” said Hochstadt in the Portland Press article. “All survivors of Auschwitz talk about other people who lost their will to live and who became walking ghosts. And soon they were dead.”
Messerschmidt pointed out that while remembering the Holocaust is essential, he has never let that period define his life. “The concentration camp was one part. But it’s only one part.”
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