On Sunday, Nov. 8, Holocaust survivor Murray Ebner passed away. Ebner had visited Big Walnut Middle School each year for many years to share his experiences with eighth-grade students studying the Holocaust.
On Monday, the following announcement was read over the middle school’s PA system, letting students know of Ebner’s passing:
“It is with great sadness that I inform you that a Big Walnut friend, hero and world-view advocate has passed away. Mr. Murray Ebner is a Holocaust survivor who has taught us about the results of prejudice, discrimination and hate. Mr. Ebner taught us how significant it is to remember the Holocaust and encouraged us to speak up and prevent these atrocities from happening again. Mr. Ebner taught us that we can still experience joy after looking in the face of pure evil. Mr. Ebner demonstrated for us an unconditional love for life and the future.
“Many had the opportunity to shake his hand or receive a hug. Some recent students were even able to get a selfie with him. His story brought us to tears, but we found consolation in his warm embrace and charming conversation. We will remember the Holocaust. We will remember Mr. Ebner. Please participate in a moment of silence to pay respect to a man who will forever have an impact on our lives.”
Ebner, born and raised near Krakow, Poland, always opened his presentation by showing “A Survivor’s Journey,” an Emmy award-winning video filled with graphic Holocaust images and Ebner’s journey with his grown children to visit his former home and the concentration camps he lived in during World War II.
Ebner’s father was a businessman. When Jewish families were being put into ghettos, the Ebner family hid in the forest, then in a barn, then in a bakery, until need finally forced them into the ghetto. At age 13½, Ebner went for a walk; he was picked up by German soldiers and pressed into labor. He never saw his family again.
On the day he was pressed into labor, Ebner experienced the first of several twists of fate that kept him alive. A German soldier asked Ebner how old he was; he replied 13. The soldier said he would put his age down as 16. Ebner later found out that everyone in that group under the age of 16 was executed.
While he was at Auschwitz, Ebner was tattooed as B2992, a designation he carried when he was moved to Birkeneau. Near the end of the war, Ebner survived a death march by hiding under hay in a barn.
Following WWII, Ebner returned to his hometown to find that the community of 4,000 Jews he was raised in had been reduced to only five male survivors. No women in his home Jewish community survived the war.
Ebner was subsequently placed in a series of orphanages until he came to the United States, served in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict, and became a successful Columbus businessman in the real estate market.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093