“My parents didn’t live to be in my bar mitzvah,” Heider told ABC News’ Erielle Reshef. “This day is, for me, a very happy day and a very emotional day, too.”
The Dayton Daily News has followed Heider's journey since coming to Dayton after the war. Most recently, the Daily News' reported Heider spoke emotionally of his life in captivity during a "Voices of the Holocaust" forum at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
The Heiders were forced to leave their Bielkow village farm in Poland and moved to a nearby town with 8,000 other Jews, gathered by Germany on the way to exterminating 6 million Jews during World War II.
The rest of his family was gassed in Treblinka. Of the nine, he is the only survivor, and he went through five camps, including Auchwitz and Dacau. At one time he stood in front of infamous Josef Mengele, an SS officer responsible for selection of gas chamber victims, who waved him to the right.
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“If he had told me to go left, I wouldn’t be here,” Heider told the Dayton Daily News in 2010.
Heider weighed just 75 pounds when he was liberated from Dachau. He said that the most beautiful sound he has ever heard were the words: “Americans! Americans! Americans!”
After the war, he spent five years in a displaced person’s camp, then migrated to Dayton with his wife, eventually ending up in the scrap business.
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The Associated Press and Staff Writers Meredith Moss and Mark Katz contributed reporting.