WAYNE, N.J. – Eric Mayer keeps sharing his story for one reason.
“I want to keep the Holocaust alive in their minds,” the Wayne man told a group of people recently gathered to listen to him speak at the Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne.
He hopes his story teaches people “that you have to take a stand.”
“I tell the gentile audience how important it is for them to do an act of bravery and to help neighbors if something happens,” he said.
Mayer was born in Germany in 1928. As children, he and his brother lived through the Nazi terror of Kristallnacht in Worms, Germany.
Throughout Germany, on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, Nazi paramilitary forces and German civilians torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after windows were smashed.
Afterward, the brothers were sent to France, where they were hidden from the German occupying forces after the 1940 invasion.
They both eventually immigrated to the United States.
Without the people who took a stand for his family, he and his brother may not have survived the Holocaust, he said.
Such people included their neighbor in Germany, he said.
When Mayer’s father was taken by the Nazis – they “started destroying everything in site,” he said. “We didn’t have any food because they destroyed our pantry.”
Their neighbor got them food. “People knew she only had one son, and she shopped for a large family, which was us,” he recalled.
The mistress of Mayer’s French cousin also helped them survive. She came to get the children in Germany and bring them to France. “We had false papers,” he said.
In 1941, they moved to Southwestern France, with nothing but their suitcases. “People bought us pots and pans,” he recalled. They lived in a village of 860 people who became their protection, he said.
Mayer’s parents both died in the Holocaust. Along with Mayer and his brother, his sister also survived.
“I am very, very, very proud of my family,” he said.