By Nanette Light
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Even when a deathly fate seemed like the only escape, Mike Jacobs’ hope never died.
It’s this spirit he repeatedly credited to his survival, as millions of lives — including his entire family — were claimed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
“So long as you have hope. So long as you have belief, you can get through anything,” said Jacobs, 86, author of “Holocaust Survivor: Mike Jacobs’ Triumph Over Tragedy,” to a crowd of teachers and eighth-grade students at Whittier Middle School on Tuesday, when he recounted his survival story as part of the students’ unit on the Holocaust.
Jacobs, creator of the Holocaust Museum in Dallas, Texas, who immigrated to the United States in 1951, was freed on May 5, 1945, from a concentration camp near Linz, Austria — one of five camps he was shuttled between.
That was six years after the Nazis raided his hometown in Konin, Poland, and crammed him and his family into a windowless boxcar (normally built to shuttle 12 cows) with 75 others.
And that was after his left arm was stamped with number B4990 — along with a scar on his head marking where he was hit with a bullwhip — branding those six years on him forever.
He was 14 years old then, and 19 when he and others made the 10-mile walk to the soup kitchen in Linz after American soldiers broke through the concentration camp’s gates.
He weighed 70 pounds.
“I said, ‘Sister, there’s something wrong with the scale,’” he recalled saying to a nun at a soup kitchen in Linz after he stepped on. “She said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with it.’ I stepped on it again and couldn’t believe it.”
And despite his scrawny frame, his wife, Ginger Jacobs, said he faired better physically and emotionally than most.
While in the camp, Jacobs remembers waking at 6 a.m. in a bunk with five others, standing naked at attention in the freezing cold, eating small pieces of bread and soup and aiming for a small bathroom hole.
“God bless you if you missed. You were clobbered to death,” Jacobs said.
Lajuana Pierce, eighth-grade math teacher, said Jacobs’ positive outlook throughout was notable, commenting on it also to her students sitting near her during his presentation.
“If you thought negative, you would get weak,” Jacobs said. “Never forget how beautiful it is to be free.”