There was nary a dry eye in the Chabad & F.R.E.E. synagogue in Niles, where a group had gathered to hear a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor share his tale of triumph over Nazi evil and rebuilding a Jewish life anew in America.
A teen when the war broke out, David Dragon was initially interred in the Warsaw Ghetto. After escaping the ghetto, he hid with a family until his protectors felt they had no choice but to turn him in. He was taken to Auschwitz and received a number on his arm. He was attached to a labor detail that made bricks that were used to build the crematoria, where hundreds of thousands of Jewish bodies were burnt after being gassed to death.
Near the end of the war, Dragon was transferred to Dachau, which was liberated in the spring of 1945. By then, his parents, grandparents, siblings and relatives were all dead.
In the DP camp, he met the woman who would be his wife of nearly 70 years and soon moved to the Niles, Illinois, where the Dragons raised their family. Despite the terrible tragedy of Dragon’s recollections, David Ernst of Mount Prospect described the talk as a “very inspiring presentation.”
The talk, which took place on Memorial Day, was part of the Legal Holiday Lecture Series sponsored by Chabad, which also offers regular Shabbat and holiday services as well other opportunities to celebrate and practice Judaism in an open and welcoming environment.
“Hearing his story,” reflected organizer Rabbi Lazer Herskovich, “inspired participants to recognize that Memorial Day is our internal reminder that the incredible soldiers of our Armed Forces made the ultimate sacrifice to gift America with an unparalleled openness to all people, a haven for all patriots and a beacon of liberty for all of humanity.”