NEWS, SPORTS, COMMENTARY, POLITICS for Gloucester City and the Surrounding Areas of South Jersey and Philadelphia

Student Carly Shaw of Haddon Twp. Visited West Coast for Presentation of Research at Conference
Brooklawn 3, Gloucester City 1

91-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Recalls Nazi Terror

 As Antisemitism Rises Again

New Autobiography Tells Remarkable Story of Journey From ‘Hitler Youth’ to American Dream

BALTIMORE, Md. -- A 91-year-old Holocaust survivor has recalled the terror of being a Jew under Adolf Hitler’s dictatorship — as the world experiences a disturbing new wave of antisemitism in the midst of the Israel-Hamas war.

At the outbreak of World War II, 7-year-old Jochen “Jack” Wurfl and his 8-year-old brother, Peter — sons of a Roman Catholic father and Jewish mother — had to hide their Jewish roots to escape being sent to a concentration camp.Two Lives Pic.png

To avoid being identified as Jews, the German-born youngsters joined the ‘Hitler Youth’ according to Wurfl’s new autobiography “My Two Lives.” [Click here to watch the book trailer video.] His mother was seized by the Nazis and taken to the infamous Auschwitz death camp, where she died. Other close family members were killed at various concentration camps. It’s estimated six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust between 1939-1945.

Disappearing Generation

Today, Wurfl is one of a rapidly disappearing generation, with fewer than 60,000 WWII Holocaust survivors remaining.

His timely new autobiography comes amid rising antisemitism around the world, fueled by the Israel-Hamas war. He hopes his story “will sound an alarm about the atrocities human beings are capable of inflicting on one another — so they never happen again.”

Hamas’ shocking Oct. 7 attacks on Israel killed 1,400 Israelis, reportedly the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

In addition, several leading U.S. universities have been accused recently of tolerating openly antisemitic voices on campus, with some Jewish students reportedly too scared to go to class.

Many Americans ‘Know Little About Holocaust’

While most American adults know what the Holocaust was, and approximately when it happened, fewer than half can correctly answer multiple-choice questions about the number of Jews who were murdered or the way Hitler came to power, according to Pew Research.

The suffering inflicted by Hitler was “unfathomable, not even human,” said Wurfl, who was baptized Catholic to avoid being identified as a Jew by the Nazis.

To blend in and avoid detection, he and his brother had no choice but to join the Hitler Youth, an organization like the Boy Scouts, set up to indoctrinate boys into Nazi beliefs. 

“We had to line up outside to practice marching formation and learn how to use weapons. Peter and I sometimes asked each other, ‘What are we doing in the Hitler Youth?’ We always arrived at the same answer: We have to go along and sing the songs so we won’t be found out. We wanted to stay alive,” Wurfl said. 

“I noticed our Jewish neighbors in Berlin disappearing,” he recalled. “One day, they lived next door or down the street — and the next day they were gone.”

Wurfl and his brother even witnessed their mother being whisked away from their home by the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police. She was killed in Auschwitz and their father, a political prisoner at another concentration camp, died just after he was liberated by the U.S. Army at the end of the war.

Their grandfather arranged for the brothers to live out the war at a children’s camp 200 miles north of the German capital, Berlin. They were taken under the wing by a kind German woman and — remarkably — a Nazi officer who became their school teacher.

America: Life Number Two

After the war, at age 17, Wurfl was given the opportunity to relocate to the U.S. — what he describes as his “second life.”

Driven to "build something that will last," he took night classes in Baltimore to learn English and found a job at a small insurance company. After becoming a U.S. citizen and serving two years in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Wurfl founded Diversified Insurance Industries that he built into one of the nation’s largest and most successful insurance agencies.

During his life, Wurfl’s family knew celebrities like actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr, and he played golf with the first U.S. astronaut, Alan Shepard, and tennis with Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova — among many stories recounted in “My Two Lives,” published by Outskirts Press and co-authored by Bill Tamulonis and Diane Lonsdale. He also married a former Miss El Salvador, Zonia Nusen, a marriage that spanned 63 years until her death in 2018, and they had three children.

“I hope my story will help those growing up in difficult circumstances, like I did, to overcome their obstacles and succeed,” he said.