Holocaust survivor knows something about terror
One November morning in 1941, Hugo Holzmann arrived at the Jewish Public School in Munich, Germany, and most all of his classmates were gone. His teacher told Holzmann, then 13, that the boys and girls he considered family had received deportation notices over the weekend along with 1,000 others.
“They disappeared, we never heard from them again,” said Holzmann, 79, who now lives in Solana Beach.
A lifetime later, Holzmann sat down to write his autobiography and through a little research learned his classmates’ fate. Nazi soldiers upon arrival at a Lithuanian fort shot all 1,000 people on that particular train, including 175 children.
Holzmann wrote about life before and during World War II and his classmates in his autobiography. It was selected for publication as part of a special series of untold Holocaust survivor stories, but funding ran out before it went to print.
Determined not to let his classmates be forgotten, Holzmann wrote and recently self-published a historical novel, “Terror.” Through the fictional life of Anton Nagil, the novel explores the very real forms terror takes from Nazi atrocities to present-day suicide bombers.
“It does not matter if it’s murder by the Nazis or Islamic terrorists, I think terror threatens all of us,” Holzmann said.
The novel will be on display at the International Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany in October.
Holzmann was born in Munich in 1929. He attended the Jewish Public School until the Nazis banned it in 1942. During the war, the Gestapo assigned him to work for a garden company under forced labor. When the bombs began to fall, he ran away to the countryside with his mother to hide until the war ended.
Holzmann immigrated to the United States in 1947. He still remembers the storm that extended the ocean voyage from one week to two, but cleared as the arrived in New York.
“The sun was shining on the Statue of Liberty, that is a big moment for all newcomers,” Holzmann said.
Wanting to see the world as a sailor, Holzmann planned to join the Navy, but through a mix-up at the recruiting office he landed in the Army.
During his 20 years of service, Holzmann spent most of his time overseas. He drew topographical maps in Korea and wore white gloves and shiny shoes in General Douglas MacArthur’s honor guard in Tokyo, Japan.
“But I didn’t like playing soldier,” Holzmann said, so he was reassigned to pharmacy school, and spent the next 40 years as a pharmacist both in the army and at hospitals in Denver, Colorado.
Colorado is where he met his wife, Isabella, who is from Russia. An avid outdoorsman, Holzmann loved camping in the mountains, hunting and fishing.
“I love the mountains, she loves the ocean, guess who won,” he said.
The couple moved to Solana Beach in 1989, where they raised their grandson, Daniel.
Holzmann enjoys playing computer games, reading, painting and writing.
Holzmann has always had a passion for writing. When he was 11 years old, he wrote an essay that was so imaginative, his teacher assumed he plagiarized.
“If you have an imagination to write, you can write about anything,” Holzmann said.
Besides his autobiography and historical novel, Holzmann has written another unpublished book “The layman’s view of the universe.” Even though he only had seven years of grammar school, Isabella describes him as a “walking encyclopedia.”
Holzmann has extensively studied astronomy and astrophysics.
“What I like about astronomy, any science, is that any question you have, there is a true answer,” Holzmann said. “To look for the answer is fascinating, trying to find the answer, even if I never do.”
There is one thing he is certain of and that’s about old age.
“People really think ‘What can an old man write that’s interesting?’” Holzmann said. “Having lived now for 80 years, unless you are sick or have Alzheimer’s, you are at the top of experience, knowledge and wisdom.”