INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — International Holocaust Remembrance Day has particular meaning to one man in Indianapolis.
Alex Star has lived in the Circle City for several decades, but he’s originally from Hungary.
A 19-year-old Jewish man during World War II, he had to live a life on the run to avoid a fate others in his family could not: the gas chambers.
Family photos line the walls of Star’s home — many from recent years but others from the early years in Hungary.
One family photo includes his mother, grandparents and younger sister, all of whom were taken to and died at Auschwitz.
“I didn’t know that until after the war,” recalled Star.
Since Star was 19, the Nazis forced him to work on farms.
“Three hundred of us slept in a barn,” he remembered.
The conditions were miserable.
“I was about 96 pounds,” he said.
And it was very dangerous.
“I tried to sabotage, one time, the machine, and they told me if they’re going to catch me again, they’re going to shoot me,” said Star.
So one night, despite the threat of being shot if anyone tried escaping, Alex Star did just that. He said he was afraid the gas chambers awaited him in Auschwitz, so he jumped on a passing train.
“I took my yellow arm band off and my star off,” said Star, referring to items he was forced to wear to signify he was Jewish.
Star spent months on the run. He couldn’t go home.
“The Germans used it (his family home) as storage room,” he said, remembering walking through fields to go back to his family’s old home.
So he hid from the Nazis.
“A friend of my parents, I went in their barn,” he said. “And I dig myself in the hay.”
He spent a week there and then took more trains, hiding until the war ended several months later.
Star then wanted to move to be with his uncle, who was living in Indianapolis. After five years, he got his boat ticket, which he’s kept more than 60 years, to travel from Paris to Ellis Island.
Soon after, Star became a U.S. citizen, his certificate another original document Star has in his possession.
“It means a lot to me,” said Star as he looked down at the papers certifying his citizenship.
He worked in engineering for a couple decades and laid down his roots. Star has three children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“I am either lucky, or somebody else look out for me up there,” he said.