Long-time Beverly Hills Optometrist and Holocaust Survivor Honored at State Capitol
SACRAMENTO – Today, Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) honored long-time Beverly Hills optometrist and current Woodland Hills resident, Henry Oster, at the State Capitol as part of the California State Assembly’s 15th Annual Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony.
“Part of today’s ceremony was about remembering the dark days of the Holocaust and the depravity and evil of that time. But remembering the darkness of that time is not the only reason we are here,” said Bloom. “Survivors went on with their lives, raised families, started businesses, and created a state for the Jewish people. So while we remember the tragedy, we are also reminded of the resilience, the triumph, and the human spirit.”
Henry Oster and his parents were forced onto a train and sent to the Lodz Ghetto in October, 1941, when he was just 13 years old. While in the Lodz Ghetto, Henry was made to work twelve-hour days in the fields and the local cemetery. Henry’s father died of starvation within six months. In 1944, Henry and his mother were deported from the Lodz Ghetto, forced into cattle cars, and transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp. Upon arriving at the extermination facility of Birkenau, Henry was selected for slave labor and his mother was murdered in the gas chambers upon arrival. He managed to survive three separate selections for the gas chambers.
As the Soviet Army advanced in the Spring of 1945, Henry and the other surviving inmates were transported to Buchenwald. From April 1st-11th, the inmates were starved by the Nazis. Finally April 11th, 1945, the United States Army liberated Buchenwald. Henry is one of only eighteen German-born children found after the war in all the concentration camps.
Henry arrived in Los Angeles in 1946 after an uncle living in the city found his name in the Los Angeles Times B’nai Birth Messengers List of Survivors. After graduating from UCLA, Henry became an optometrist and developed a successful private practice in Beverly Hills for many years before taking a position with Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles. He practiced as an optometrist for 60 years. Henry is married to Susan and they have two daughters, one son, and four grandchildren.
For the past fifteen years, the California State Assembly has honored survivors of the Holocaust during a designated California Holocaust Remembrance Day. This year, the designated day is April 16th. To observe this important event, every Assemblymember invites a Holocaust survivor, liberator, or a child of a survivor from their district to attend a special legislative floor session on the importance of remembrance.
“None of us will ever be able to fully comprehend the Holocaust in the same way as those who experienced it firsthand. However, we can listen and learn and pass these experiences on to our children and grandchildren so that we never allow this to happen again.”