Holocaust survivor shares stories with East Texans to make sure - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Holocaust survivor shares stories with East Texans to make sure history does not repeat

Source: KTRE staff Source: KTRE staff
Source: KTRE staff Source: KTRE staff
The gas chamber at Sobibor. Polk's parents were killed here six days after they were taken from their home in The Netherlands (Source: Hans Polk) The gas chamber at Sobibor. Polk's parents were killed here six days after they were taken from their home in The Netherlands (Source: Hans Polk)
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) -

Timpson resident Hans Polk says if you want to see proof that God exist, all you need to do is listen to his and other stories from the Holocaust.

Polk is a native of The Netherlands and moved to the United States in the 1950s. Polk belong to a Jewish family and when Nazi Germany invaded his neighborhood in 1943, Polk's parents made a tough decision.

"The arrangement was made between my parents and our neighbor that if the Germans would come that my father and mother would put me over the fence,” Polk said.

Polk said the Nazi's took his parents in July of 1943 and six days later they were dead, based on records given to him. Polk's parents weren't the only ones taken from him. He is one of the few in his family to survive.

"I lost 98 percent of my family, between Auschwitz, Dachua and Sobibor,” Polk said. “It was very secretive. No one knew what was going to happen when they got off the trains."

Polk said his story is very similar to the one told by Ann Frank.

“Ann Frank lived only 11 minutes from where I was hiding,” Polk said. “We had a very similar story to tell. After things calmed down, my neighbors would take me to an orphanage. It was interesting because it was ran by Jewish people but they dressed like nuns and priests.”

After a short stay at the orphanage, Polk would be adopted by the Van Peski family. The Van Peski's were a high-ranking family in the Dutch Underground that looked to protect Jews from Hitler's army.

“They visited me, and then came back a week later an adopted me, because they could not have children,” Polk said. “They risked their lives for me. The risked their lives. My name was changed to Han Van der Pol and as a 6 year-old I never made a mistake with what my new name was.”

Polk would survive the Holocaust and then be taken from his family and put in a Jewish orphanage again.

“We were transferred to Israel where I would then get pulled into the War of 1948,” Polk said. “At age 11, I was in a kibbutz, feeding ammunition to a machine gunner."

Polk's adopted parents would continue to fight for him, and eventually get the courts to give him back.

Polk said he would make his way to the U.S., when his adopted parents feared another World War would break out when the Russians invaded Hungary in the 1950s.

Polk now spends his time speaking to students as a way to warn of a chance to repeat the Holocaust.

"I'm an advocate, because there's a lot of people today that do not believe this happened, and I guarantee you that it did."

Polk said he talks to students about more than just his story.

“Hitler killed more than Jews,” Polk recently said to an auditorium full of Lufkin Middle School students. “He killed artists and Christians, businessmen. He even killed half of the Dutch swim team that won medals at the Olympics. "When Hitler came into power in the 1930s, no one could have imagined the hate that he had for the Jewish faith."

Polk said he does what he does because he wants to make sure everyone learns of the tragic death of 6 million Jews and thousands of others who worked to protect them.

"The worst part of all of this is the world has not learned a thing by it,” Polk said.

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