Henry Oster was born Heinz Oster on November 5, 1928 in Cologne, Germany to Hans and Elisabeth Oster. He entered grade school in 1934 and in 1935, the Nurumberg laws prohibited Jewish students from attending school and Henry was expelled.
In October of 1941, Henry and his parents were forced on a train and sent to the Lodz Ghetto. He lived in a single room with 18 other people with no modern facilities. His father died of starvation within 6 months. In 1944, Henry and his mother were forced into cattle cars and transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp. Henry was selected for the work camps and his mother was immediately murdered in the gas chambers.
Henry was tattooed with the number B-7648. Working 16 hours per day in the stables, Henry was able to avoid selection for the gas chambers on three more occasions. With the Soviet Army advancing, Henry survived a Death March to the train station and transported in an open cattle car to Buchenwald Concentration Camp. A thousand Jewish boys were rounded up to work in the quarries. From April 1 to 11, Henry and the other inmates were given no food. On April 11, 1945, General George Patton’s U.S. Third Army liberated Buchenwald.
Henry was sent to an orphanage in France and was able to reach the United States in 1946 to join his uncle in Los Angeles. Today, Henry shares his personal testimony as a speaker at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
Henry’s message to all of us is “Be aware of how easily people can be persuaded to commit genocide if nobody speaks up against it.”