Joshua (Jeno) Kaufman

Joshua (Jeno) Kaufman, born February 20, 1928, Debrecen, Hungary, to a Satmar Hasidic family. He was the third of four siblings, including an older sister and brother and a younger brother. His father was a successful merchant; the family lived a comfortable life. Despite the families middle class standing, Joshua was consistently beaten up by non-Jewish children until he discovered Shomer Hatzair (an underground Zionist youth group) where he learned self defense and started to fight back and shield other Jewish children from the torments of anti-semites. In 1943, the family was dealt another blow, his father, who had fought as a decorated officer in WWI, was stripped of his medals and rifle, handed a shovel and donning a yellow star was shipped to Siberia for slave labor. 

In 1944, the remaining family members were forced into a ghetto and deported to Auschwitz/Birkenau. His mother, both brothers, and sister were murdered by the Nazi's. Joshua, tall and strong, was selected for forced labor.  He strategically volunteered for tasks, driven by the chance to receive extra food and get a glimpse into the comings and goings of the camp. One of his more unfortunate tasks was clearing dead bodies from the gas chambers and loading them on carts. He survived Auschwitz/Birkenau, The Death March to Dachau, and Muhldorf, where he was put to work building a hidden underground runways for the Messerschmidt planes. Many of the workers too weak to carry the cement sacks, were stacked "like potato sacks- one on top of another", to be taken to the crematoria. Joshua often overheard the last wishes of those barely alive saying “if you survive, don’t let them forget what they did to us”. He was determined to find a way to keep that promise.

In April 1945, he was liberated by American soldiers and taken to a displaced persons camp, Feldafing, where he regained his strength.  Joshua then returned to his hometown in Hungary for a surprising and heart wrenching reunion with his father who had survived the labor camp. In 1949, Joshua immigrated to Israel and immediately enlisted in the IDF. He served in 3 wars, 1956, ‘67 and ‘73, and worked as a heavy equipment manager for the IDF building the famous road to Eilat.

On a trip to America to visit his father in 1973, he traveled to Los Angeles where he was invited to a Hungarian family for a Shabbat meal. There he met and fell in love with Margaret, also a Hungarian survivor.  A few weeks later, they married and settled into family life, having four daughters and five grandchildren. Joshua became a plumber and was known for his indelible spirit  and iconic truck that proudly displayed American and Israeli flags. He's an optimist, a dreamer; he loves life and is grateful. He leads a simple, yet meaningful life and he likes to quote a saying "People who are happy with nothing, are happy with Everything."

Six years ago he returned to Dachau to give his testimony, since then, he’s been featured in a documentary by the German History channel- the opening scene went viral (insert Youtube URL), participated in a trial against an SS officer and was invited as a guest of honor to the White House for the State of the Union. He spoke to hundreds of teenagers, encouraging them to always ask questions. Joshua is also the proud father-in-law of current State Senator Henry Stern.

Joshua’s message to the world is to value others, be strong and be a proud Jew. The way to fight hatred is with LOVE.