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Auschwitz Survivor Mel Mermelstein Dies At 95

An older man, Mel Mermelstein, sits in a office chair. Behind him is a desk, a menorah in the shape of the Star of David sits on top of it. On the wall are three framed pieces of art.
(The Auschwitz Study Foundation)
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Mel Mermelstein was 17 when he lost his mother and two sisters in the gas chamber. His brother was fatally shot on a death march, and his father would die as a slave laborer in Auschwitz.

When the allied powers liberated him, he weighed 68 pounds.

But at 95, Mermelstein died from Covid complications in his Long Beach home last week.

Still, Mermelstein was able to persist because of the promise he made to his father in Auschwitz: to carry on the memory of and educate the world about the holocaust.

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Edie Mermelstein says her father emigrated to the U.S. after the war, but he began going back to Auschwitz in 1967 while it was a part of the Eastern Bloc.

"I think that going back to Auschwitz was really communing with, honoring, and commemorating his family, because that's really where they were not laid to rest, but where their remains are held," Edie Mermelstein said.

He established relationships with the people overseeing the concentration camp and would bring back artifacts. Mermelstein incorporated these artifacts into art pieces that he used to help process the trauma he experienced in the camps.

In 1978, Mermelstein would open the Auschwitz Study Foundation to educate students on the horrors of Nazi occupancy.

Ten percent of Mermelstein’s artwork is at the Chabad Jewish Center in Newport Beach. Eventually, the Newport Beach Center will house Memerlstein's entire collection and use it as a teaching tool.

Edie Mermelstein says her father, at some point, knew he would no longer be here, but he wanted his teachings to carry on.

"My dad was deliberate and forthright. He spoke his truth and was unwavering, and I think that's how he always approached it. There was nothing to fear because he just spoke the truth," Mermelstein said.

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