Holocaust Memorial Project 2013
On April 8th, I had the solemn honor to co-chair and preside over the California State Assembly's 2013 Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony at the State Capitol. Each year, the State Assembly pauses to remember the victims of the "Shoah" and to celebrate the lives of the courageous survivors, many of whom traveled to the Capitol to personally share their experiences with lawmakers. Only through the lessons of their memories can we safeguard that these horrors never again befall any people. The Assembly has created a dedicated web page to the 2013 remembrance where we profiles survivors from all across California. Please take a moment to explore this page and read about these remarkable Californians.
It is my honor to introduce you to one of the survivors, Mr. Michael Popik, a Shoah survivor who now lives among us in Assembly District 50. Here is his story in his own words.
Michael Popik: Assembly District 50
"I was born Michael "Miki" Popik on May 11, 1931 in Levice, Czeckoslovakia to William and Frida Popik hadan older brother Andrew and a younger brother, Gabi. The Hungarians occupied Slovakia in November 1939. Life in occupied Levice was very difficult for Jews until April 1944 when we were put in a ghetto 9 concentration camp for a short time. In early May 1944 we were moved in cattle cars for 5 days under terrible inhumane conditions until we arrived in Auschwitz/ Birkenau. After arriving in Birkenau, Frida Popik, my mother who was 39 and my younger brother Gabi who was 3 years old were taken straight to the crematorium. I spent the next month with my father and my brother Andrew, when they were taken to Dachau concentration camp- the last time I saw them."
Before my father was taken away, he advised me to volunteer for any type of work. A month later I was chose by the infamous Dr. Mengele or work assignments in the labor camp."
"I was in that labor camp until January 1945 when we were ordered to evacuate because the Russian army was closing in. We walked all day in one of the coldest winters in recorded European history. On our arrival to the train station we traveled again for 3 days in cattle cars without any food or covers. We finally arrived at the camp Mauthausen which was probably one of the filthiest and most horrific concentrations on the earth. In February 1945 we were punished by the SS and had to stand for hours on the freezing snow outside of the barracks wearing only wooden shoes. They took us into the barracks for some exercise and we were ordered to stand."
"My friend Robert a year older than me, 15 years old, had no energy to stand. SS sergeant Kaduck kicked me with his boot because I tried to help Robert stand. The kick was so hard I gagged o my own blood and spit out blood through my mouth and nose. I slowly recovered at the end of April we were sent on a 3 day death March. I was part of a group of 2000 boys and men. Only about 300 of us survived that march. Upon arrival at the new camp in the forest, Gunskirchen, we remained there for 4 days without food. We ate the barks off the trees to survive. On May 5, 1945 the SS abandoned the camp. I took 2 of my friends and we walked out of the camp. Later that day we encountered the American army who gave us food and we were unable to sleep- we just kept eating all night."
"I spent 40 days being cared for by the American doctors in the hospital in Germany. Eventually I returned home to find myself an orphan at 14. Of my family of 39 people I was the sole survivor.
Life was strange and difficult until 1948 when as a teenager I volunteered to the Israeli army. It was then that I was told by a doctor, that I had sustained permanent damage to my right kidney as a result of Kaduck's kick. It was there in the Israeli army that I regained my dignity and my strength. A short time later I met my wife Esther, a refugee from Russia, and we started our new life. We have 3 daughters, Frida, Anita and Vivian. We immigrated to the USA in 1963 and I found many different jobs until I was able to build my own business. I am now retired and enjoying my grandchildren."