(RNS) Mike Jacobs died this week. If you don’t live in North Texas, you probably don’t recognize the name. He was a guy worth knowing about.

Holocaust survivor and author Mike Jacobs died on July 28, 2014. He was 88.

Holocaust survivor and author Mike Jacobs died on July 28, 2014. He was 89.Photo courtesy DallasHolocaustSurvivor.com

Mike was born Mendel Jakubowicz in 1924, in the Polish town of Konin. He was 15 when the Nazis moved in. He spent his teen years shuttling through ghettos and concentration camps, surviving Auschwitz, Birkenau and Mathausen-Gusen. He weighed 70 pounds when he was liberated by American soldiers.

His obituaries noted what he was best known for: He was the prime driver behind the creation of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. And there surely has been no Holocaust survivor who has spoken to more audiences in person. Over the years, Mike told his story many thousands of times to many hundreds of thousands of people.

Mostly, he talked to kids. There are few people who went to school in the Dallas area over the past 30 years who didn’t hear him at least once. But he also talked to adults.

I saw him give his presentation to students from a local police training academy — experienced cops. They wanted to learn how German police officers were co-opted by the Nazis. Mike’s firsthand account of life under the Nazis was a centerpiece of the day.

He gave very much the same speech every time he spoke. But it never sounded rote.

“When I speak to you, I’m reliving every moment,” he always said. “I’m back in my city.”

Holocaust survivor Mike Jacobs was the prime driver behind the creation of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

Holocaust survivor Mike Jacobs was the prime driver behind the creation of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.Photo courtesy Holly Kuper

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His delivery was always matter-of-fact, however, as if he were describing a building demolition. Which made his account of the Germans having Jewish babies thrown out of a window for target practice all the more chilling. The cops squirmed.

So did kids, when they heard the same story.

Back in 2001, with the prodding and help of his wife, Ginger, Mike’s autobiography was published. They simply called it “Holocaust Survivor.” The level of detail of his memories was astounding. He remembered the very prayer he was chanting on Rosh Hashanah in 1939 when the Nazis rolled into Konin and smashed into his synagogue.

I asked him how his recall was so precise of so many small items. He told me that, even at the time, he saw himself as a witness to history. Even as 80 of his relatives were being murdered by the Nazis, he would live to tell the story, he told himself.

But Mike was not simply a witness for the Six Million. His memorial service made that clear. Several hundred people endured a rainy Dallas morning to crowd the synagogue he’d been a member of for many years. And yes, they heard about his Holocaust-related history. But that wasn’t all. Not hardly.

Only a couple of years after he was liberated, Mike had become a competitive soccer player. When he made his way to Dallas, he remained a soccer enthusiast. He was a player, coach and referee for many years and was eventually inducted in the North Texas Soccer Hall of Fame.

He was an entrepreneur before the word was hip, starting and running a successful business recycling scrap metal. (He learned about salvaging metal in Auschwitz.) He met and married Ginger in Dallas. They had four kids. Those kids had kids. And this year, he became a great-grandfather. He loved silly practical jokes, fine wine and filching an extra cookie or two from the sample tray at the supermarket.

The goal of the Nazis was to erase anybody like Mike Jacobs from memory and from the earth. But not only could they not kill him, they couldn’t even defeat him. Yes, he lived to give the lie to Holocaust deniers. But he also proved he could survive the largest and most inexplicable evil in human history and live a normal, productive and happy life.

And that may be his most impressive legacy.

(Jeffrey Weiss is a Dallas-based freelance writer. He can be reached at Jeff.Weiss@religionnews.com. Follow him on Twitter.)



    • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu In my opinion is a really good guy.

      I would not mind voting for such a fellow as he for president of the united states ..

      because he really takes his Job seriously and has his peoples best interest at heart also I believe it bothers him when any one is killed and even more so when children are killed..

      if Israel or the united states is to survive .. that the sort of fellow one would want as leader..

      • The only hope of worldwide peace and security for all nations will soon be realized by God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel. 2:44) in the near future through its King, Jesus, whose rule over mankind will be just, righteous, peaceful, and put an end to all the problems we now face (Isaiah 11:1-10).

        No more will wicked ones prevail over the meek (Psalm 37:10,11), and all sickness, disease, old age and even death will be done away with (Revelation 21:3,4).

        No man or government on earth has the love and the power to bring this all about.

        As Proverbs 29:2 brings out: “When the righteous are many, the people rejoice. But when the wicked one rules, the people groan.” Such is our world today.

      • Are you saying the Israelis are not committing genocide?


        Say Larry….aren’t you Jewish? HASBARA MUCH? Did they offer you a school grant too?

        • Nope. Israel has plenty of weapons of indiscriminate destruction. If genocide was the plan, you would be seeing napalm and massive artillery and strategic bombers being used. Gaza would have been a smoking ruin devoid of almost all of its inhabitants. Again you would have been speaking in past tense.

          Ad hominem much? I guess that’s easier responding in an intelligent manner.

          Egypt and Jordan would probably be giving the assist on the efforts if genocide was the plan. Jordan killed more Palestinians in one month than Israel has in 40 years. [You probably never heard of Black September]

          • As a jew, I assume you believe in a god. And I assume further a jewish god prohibits and endorses a few particular things. So, if correct so far, larry, what do you think of palestineians?

            And what do you think of christians?

    • The reason I ask about the number 6 million I had read ..population statics
      before and after the war don’t reflect that 6 million Jewish people were killed .

      I DONT KNOW how to check? do any of you ?

      I do know some things told to me in school have been proved to be just repeated propaganda. .. propaganda is often used by governments to get people in a war mood . especially if that country’s government is interested in getting involved with a war..

      • That number came originally from Adolf Eichman’s estimates based on average train loads of people and frequency of delivery. It turns out that figure may have been an underestimate!

        There are numerous resources on the subject. The best one for you would probably be either Ushmm.org or Hdot.org

  1. I have come to the conclusion I to will die.. because of my sin’s ..Just as scripture say’s.

    I think if your dead your death SCREAMS OUT TO ALL THE PEOPLE SAYING NICE THINGS ABOUT YOU…. see I wasn’t as good as you all thought.. if I was i would be some where else——- partying.

  2. Leaving the theological discussions to people who are qualified to have them, it’s an easy task to check the statistical number of people murdered by the Nazis. If you’re not lazy there are plenty of places to find the information. The number 6 million is for the Jews that the Nazis murdered in a dedicated, deliberate attempt to extinguish a whole people.6,000,000 is a big number and, as I think Stalin said, 1 death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic. But that doesn’t make it less true, or not overwhelmingly tragic – but the human mind has difficulty grasping such enormity. Still, Mike Jacobs was speaking the truth.
    But look at the website above cited and think about the numbers as an “underestimate”. How to wrap your head around such numbers? Factor in the number of Gypsies murdered by the Nazis, then Freemasons, Catholics, Communists, political enemies, homesexuals, people with mental or other disabilities, etc., and seeing the word “murdered” followed by figured like “20,000,000” should not surprise you.
    So, if you want to dispute the facts you live a free country that allows you to do that. Just be aware that being free to be a dolt doesn’t change world history.
    When people like Mike Jacobs emerged from the Nazi darkness they didn’t KNOW these numbers. They knew their worlds had been shattered and somehow they survived. Then they, too, just like the rest of the world, got to read of the Nazi horrors as the Nuremberg trials unfolded and the facts became known and the “statistics” became real. That’s how Mike Jacobs knew these real numbers – he didn’t have to see every death to know. Neither do any of the readers here. It’s history, it’s established fact. Saying that you doubt it is just juvenile and silly and evidences deep seated prejudices from which you ought to find a way to disabuse yourself.
    Comparing the current news in Gaza and Israel is equally foolish. People die in wars. Non-combatants frquently perish – but more die than expected when enemy combatants hide in people’s homes, in schools, in religious edifices. Israel repeatedly states that it’s war is with Hamas, not with the people of Gaza; Hamas doesn’t claim that it’s war is not with the Israeli people and it fires rockets into civilian populations accordingly. Never mind the rockets that fall short and land in Gaza and kill Palestinians. Hamas has become expert in manipulating propaganda while it uses children to hide behind. So, no, do NOT try to compare the situation in Gaza to the murdering marauders of Nazi Germany. It just makes you sound completely and ignorantly prejudiced. Unless that’s what you want to sound like, in which case I shan’t attempt to further edcuate you.
    Denying the Holocaust is worse than ignorant; it shows a repugnance for the truth. Calling the war between Hamas and Israel genocide shows a similar repugnance for truth and makes what you say completely non-credible.

  3. My last comment contains an error (never mind typos). The war of Hamas against against Israel is, itself, genocidal. Hamas is totally dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the people therein – that IS genocidal. That is the very definition of genocide. Turning it around and calling sad collateral damage by the same term is not only disingenuous it’s invidious discrimination the like of which has not been seen for a very long time.

  4. What a fabulous article and life. Mike Jacobs life was well-lived and purposeful. Which is what everyone should strive to do, unless you are someone like Rob, who prefers to waste his life being spoon feed data from ignorant people. There is more the enough facts and figures to sift through that bares out what any Holocaust survivor, German civilian, U.S. military personnel, and many more that saw first hand will testify to, and have over the years. Even Hitler made movies documenting the atrocities. So you just keep your head in the sand Rob, because at the end of your life I bet no one will know that you even existed. You just propaganda that your parent made up – birth certificate, photos or any proof was all faked.

  5. As long as there are humans, worldwide peace is unfortunately an impossibility – but this only makes the need for acceptance, understanding, love, and remembrance all the more acute. The atrocities of the Holocaust, the breadth and horrors of which most people do not even know and will rarely hear about, must not be forgotten lest they be repeated. The tone of hatred and racism (not only toward Jewish people, though that specific brand of discrimination is sadly on the rise) that is building in this world is a shadow that must somehow be halted, and the only way to stop it is to educate and to embrace. Mike Jacobs’ life, his survival, was clearly dedicated to those ideals – education of future generations, and embracing of whatever differences or paths our lives offer for the good. Who are we to judge another based on religion, creed, color, orientation, or any other detail that serves to make us unique? Who are we to say what is desirable, or righteous, or human? The Nazi mission was to stamp out whatever they deemed unworthy or unclean, and yes, the numbers are staggeringly huge, and it’s impossible to understand how such violence was ever perpetrated, but the facts are clear. If we are to combat the vitriol of that regime, or even combat the terrorists of today, we must learn context, open-mindedness, and empathy. Denying history, denying experience, serves as an affront to any life that has been lost to blind intolerance and repugnant evil. We must never forget, we must work to carry the flame of hope and perseverance alight in our hearts. This world is bettered by those who seek to enlighten and uplift the people they touch, and it is all the more powerful when they do so despite cruelty or despair. Survivors speak for those who were silenced, and may we continue to speak and survive once the torch is passed to us. “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Bless this man for the life he led, and may he rest in peace.

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