Keeping the memory alive

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Posted on Sun, Apr. 19, 2009

Aventura resident’s Auschwitz survival story immortalized

”From the first transport of about 900 people, only about 136 came into the camp,” Stanley remembers. “The others were put to death in the gas chambers. . . . Within one month . . . only 27 remained alive.”

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As Allied troops bore down on the Auschwitz death camp in January 1945, the Nazis sought to conceal the living evidence of their crimes: 60,000 emaciated prisoners, hauled or herded out of Poland toward Germany.

Stanley Glogover dragged himself along a corpse-littered roadway, then broke for the deep forest. The teenager — now an Aventura retiree — hid 10 days in a barn until American soldiers rolled in.

There began an odyssey of healing and discovery that more than a half-century later led to an official United States Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Inspired by her father’s story, which she absorbed bit by bit over the years — and by his admonition to ”never forget” once she’d learned it — Bonnie Glogover lobbied the U.S. House of Representatives for the special day.

She succeeded. A joint resolution of Congress established a national Days of Remembrance period every spring, which includes the use of the Capitol Rotunda for an official ceremony.

In its eighth year, the event begins Tuesday, coinciding with Yom haShoah, the State of Israel’s day of remembrance. The Rotunda ceremony is scheduled for Thursday.

Recently, and with the determination she brought to her lobbying, Bonnie Glogover began pushing her father to speak to a wider audience than the South Florida school groups he addresses.

He has survived heart surgery and cancer in addition to the Nazis, and, ”because of his illness, I got scared,” Bonnie said. “Once the survivors are not with us, it’s a whole different thing.”

That time isn’t far off.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany — the international organization that seeks compensation for Jews victimized by the Nazis — estimates about 500,000 remain alive: 244,000 in Israel, 138,000 in the United States and the rest spread around the globe.

The organization’s definition of Nazi ”victim” includes not just concentration-camp survivors but others oppressed or displaced by the Third Reich.

Glogover’s is a broadly familiar survivor story of death-camp brutality and evil, suffering and unimaginable loss but with a rare twist that still brings the 83-year-old to tears, given that “28 members of my family were gone.”

Bonnie, a 46-year-old New Jersey hosiery manufacturer, recalls that for years, her father stayed silent “so as not to engage the family in sadness.”

When he did talk, “the tears would be rolling down his face.”

Glover’s story begins in the Polish city of Makow-Mazowiecki, where his well-off parents ran a clothing and shoe store. He was 14 in the fall of 1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland.

Within a year, the city’s Jewish population was squeezed into a squalid ghetto.

Stanley nearly lost his life there, when the Nazis decided to punish the entire community because several young men had escaped. He was one of four youngsters to be publicly hanged.

”My father came up with enough money to buy a black Russian full-length sable coat for the mayor’s wife,” he wrote in a memoir, “but it did not help much; the only survivor to come out alive was I. . . . The entire ghetto was ordered to attend the hanging of the three other hostages. . . . Everyone had to leave their home and bring along their children to witness this most horrible and brutal execution.”

In late 1942, the Glogovers were deported to the Auschwitz/Birkenau death-camp complex in cattle cars.

”From the first transport of about 900 people, only about 136 came into the camp,” Stanley remembers. “The others were put to death in the gas chambers. . . . Within one month . . . only 27 remained alive.”

Stanley managed to stay with his father for several weeks, until a work-detail guard broke Lazar Glogover’s arm and they were separated.

By then, Stanley knew his mother, two brothers and sister were dead and assumed his father had joined them — or soon would.

Despite his grief, the starvation and frigid winters, he struggled on: Auschwitz prisoner No. 81481.

During a bone-chilling outdoor lineup, he grabbed an icicle from a building, hoping to slake his thirst. A guard noticed and smashed his rifle butt into Glogover’s head, causing him to go deaf — permanently.

The guard later beat his hapless prisoner senseless, and Glogover found himself among a load of corpses headed for the crematorium.

Instead, he ended up on an operating table, where camp doctors ”cut open my skull behind my ear without anesthesia,” hoping to learn how a wounded soldier might fare during battlefield surgery, he said.

In late 1945, the Nazis started clearing the Polish camps. Glogover and some friends bolted from a death march, subsisting on root-cellar beets until U.S. troops arrived.

Recovering in Lower Bavaria, Glogover decided to search for any Makow survivor. For more than a year, he traveled the Displaced Persons Camps in Germany, Austria and Italy, where in the southern town of Nardo, he made an astounding discovery:

His father.

Lazar Glogover had survived, and was doing patient intake at a DP-camp clinic. Stanley approached with his head down and his heart pounding. Lazar looked up, saw his son, fainted, falling off his chair.

In 1947, relatives brought the two men to America. Lazar died seven years later at 64, still mourning his family.

”He never spoke about my mom or any of them,” Glogover said. “He couldn’t take it.”

Stanley Glogover married and had two children: Dr. Philip Glogover, of Aventura, and Annette Glogover, of Brooklyn. He became a successful lingerie designer and holds patents dating to 1961 that revolutionized both maternity and nursing bras.

After a divorce, he married Joan and had Bonnie.

Along the way, Glogover had his Auschwitz-number tattoo cut from his arm.

”Everybody who saw it asked me right away what it was,” he said. “It was very emotional in the beginning. I fell apart, to relive what I went through.”

He retired to Aventura in 1990.

Bonnie began working with hometown officials in Bergen County, N.J., toward a memorial day, then took her cause national on her father’s 75th birthday — May 9, 2000 — with quarter-page ad in The New York Times.

It was an open letter to then-President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, the U.S. Congress, “the American people and citizens of the world.”

She implored the president to set aside a day as ”an annual reminder to educate and reflect on this place in time,” and as “a small payback to the generations of people affected.”

Then she addressed her father personally.

The ad, she wrote, “is my way of telling you I hear you.”

Today, Sunday, Stanley Glogover will light a candle during remembrance day ceremonies at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center.

Monday, his daughter plans to stand outside the three major television networks’ New York headquarters with a sign ”reminding the world of what Tuesday is. If the cameras pick up the sign,” she said, “we’ve accomplished everything.”

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