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‘Finding Manny’: A Holocaust Survivor’s Story of Hope

Award-winning Documentary Is More Relevant Than Ever



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Watch the full documentary here.


Don’t miss the award-winning EpochTV documentary “Finding Manny,” which travels with a Holocaust survivor as he retraces his life journey, telling his story of endurance and hope. From Poland to Germany, Manny Drukier confronts his past and shares his experiences.


Manny’s daughter, NTD’s “The Nation Speaks” host Cindy Drukier, and her husband, host of EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” Jan Jekielek, produced and are featured in the 2020 film. Jekielek said the couple hopes the film offers inspiration for the hard times facing many today.


Manny’s Story


Manny Drukier was 11 when the Nazis invaded Poland. Miraculously, he survived the Holocaust and arrived in New York City in December of 1946. There, he met and married his wife, Freda, after only 6 months of courtship. The couple settled in Toronto, where Manny became a successful entrepreneur, and where they raised their four children.

Over the years, his wife said Manny did not speak much about what he had been through in World War II. “How can you talk about something that’s been so horrendous?” Manny said. “Out of Poland alone, 3 million people were exterminated. Altogether, 6 million Jews were sent to camps and never came out.” Manny, his mother and father, and his sister had all been sent to concentration camps. “You try to forget it, but you can never forget it.”


How the Journey Began


Manny’s journey to tell his story began when his son Gordon happened to see a Smithsonian article about Kloster Indersdorf, an orphanage that helped hundreds of displaced children after World War II. Gordon remembered that his father had been at Kloster Indersdorf. He sent the article link to his mother because he thought it might be interesting to her. As Freda scrolled through the old pictures in the article, she was surprised to recognize her husband.


The Smithsonian article led the couple to German historian Anna Andlauer. Andlauer was locating children who had been at the orphanage after the war. She had been trying to find Manny for 9 years.


When they finally connected with one another, Andlauer invited Manny to come back to the orphanage, which had since become a grade school, and share his story with a group of students. Manny’s wife felt it was time for him to talk about it, saying it would be good for him: “not [to] get it out of his system, but to share it.”Although he was hesitant at first, Manny decided to go on the journey, traveling to the place of his birth in Poland, and retracing his journey through World War II, ending in Germany.


The Ghetto


Manny’s childhood home was in Lodz, Poland. In early 1940, the Germans created a ghetto for the Jewish people in Lodz. Manny, along with his mother, father, and sister got out. The rest of his large extended family decided to stay.


In Lodz, 160,000 Jews were forced into a small area. Horrendous living conditions in the ghetto killed many before they could be deported to death camps. Most of its residents did not come out alive. “Every now and then they would send out people who never came back,” Manny said. The film shows the family looking through lists of Jews who had been sent to death camps and coming across names of their family members. In 1944, the Nazis began liquidating the ghetto. The few remaining residents were sent to death camps.




Manny and his family went to the next major town, Kielce, renting a flat and staying there for about nine months. However, when food got scarce, they moved to Staszow. They spent a year or two there, hiding in the basement of a burned-out house. In 1942, Staszow also became a ghetto, and they knew their days were numbered. Eventually, they were captured by the Nazis. Manny and his family were sent to a camp in Kielce where they were separated and placed in concentration camps.


Captured


Manny’s mother was sent to Auschwitz.


Manny and his father were sent to Czestochowa, where they were forced to make munitions for the German army. He was about fourteen years old at the time. “You didn’t know if you were there for a month or a week or a year,” Manny recalled. “There was no such thing as a safe place. While all this was happening, you were hoping the war would end at some point. Well, the war didn’t end, so you had to find a way to stay alive.”




Manny and his father were forced to labor at the camp for about two and a half years, before being sent further west to a camp in Buchenwald, Germany. “He wasn’t just in concentration camps, he was in some of the worst concentration camps. These places were designed, not just to kill you physically but to destroy your soul,” Jekielek, Manny’s son-in-law, noted.


Manny’s Escape


Due to overcrowding, Manny and his father were sent to a nearby camp in Flossberg, Germany. One day, prisoners were put on a death train headed for an extermination camp. Manny and his father were in different train cars. Periodically, the train would stop and they would remove the dead bodies from the train.


Sadly, it was on this train that Manny’s father passed away. The remaining victims were given a single slice of bread every day on the train, and Manny decided he wasn’t just going to sit and starve to death—he was going to try to escape. Manny and a friend decided to take their only chance at escape—to jump when the train was moving. “I had the fellows push me out of the window because I didn’t have the strength to lift myself and get out.” After jumping from the train, Manny fell down an embankment, and his friend walked back to find him and pick him up.


Manny and his friend walked to the first farm they could find and sleep inside a haystack. In the morning, they went to the next town, Indersdorf, where they found the children’s home. There they received three meals a day and a roof over their heads.


Just a few days later, Germany surrendered and the war was over.


Manny’s mother and sister also survived the Holocaust. The three were reunited in 1948.


‘Just Ordinary People, Exterminated’


The film journeys with the family as they visit Auschwitz, where Manny’s mother was sent. Over 1 million people were killed in Auschwitz, ninety percent of whom were Jewish.


Manny’s daughter Cindy said she believes it’s good for people to connect to the Holocaust on an individual level to prevent it from happening again. The photos displayed of Auschwitz victims before their imprisonment are similar to photos every family has in their own home. The Jewish victims were normal people who did nothing wrong, yet were taken from their homes and forced to suffer so much. “Just ordinary people living their lives, and exterminated,” said Manny’s daughter Laurie.


Manny’s Legacy


Manny said that he believes “some people are born with optimism and some are born with pessimism. You just have to do the best you can with the circumstances.”


His family said Manny never felt sorry for himself or treated himself as a victim. He focused the rest of his life on moving forward, rather than being burdened with the past. Jekielek observed that Manny could have had a sense of entitlement in life. “He lost his family, almost his whole history,” Jekielek said, yet he never acted as if the world owed him something. Manny ended his journey by telling his story to a group of students in Germany. “No matter what the circumstances, you gotta look at the bright side. Never get discouraged. Nothing is forever.”


‘Never Again’


Very few Holocaust survivors are alive to tell the story. During the filming of the documentary, Manny turned 90 years old. Andlauer said that it’s extremely important to tell their stories before they’re gone: the story of the Holocaust, how it started, how it ended, and what it meant to individual human beings.


Manny’s daughters noted that oppression on this scale is not merely a historical event. It still happens in our world today, in places like China, where the eradication of religious minorities continues.


Manny passed away on Jan. 10, 2022, at the age of 93. It is the hope of Manny’s family that through this EpochTV film, people will connect with the reality of the Holocaust and stand against the oppression of others.


It was Manny’s wish that telling his story would make the words “never again” truly have meaning.


 

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