For countless years Holocaust survivor Murray Ebner traveled to Big Walnut Middle School to share his personal experiences while interred in several Nazi death camps during the Second World War.
Each year, Ebner showed an Emmy award-winning video, A Survivor’s Journey, filled with graphic Holocaust images and his journey with his grown children to visit his former home and the concentration camps he lived in during the Holocaust years.
Ebner made his annual journey to Big Walnut to help eighth grade students wrap up their module studying the Holocaust. During the visit he would answer student’s questions, share experiences not covered in the video, and pose for photos with students.
On Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, Murray Ebner passed away, leaving a gap in what had always been a traditional visit that students and staff looked forward to.
Last week, Ebner’s two daughters, Cindy Ebner and Lisa Rosen, picked up the thread and visited the middle school to share memories of their father and his Nazi concentration camp experiences.
Murray Ebner’s father was in the wholesale farm product business. 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. At that time his brothers were 17, 15, and 11 years old.
On that day, 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.
Ebner was transported to Auschwitz in a cattle car where he 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 World War II, 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. He lost his parents, Herschel Tzvi and Feigel Ebner, his brothers Avrom, Zeisha, and Nuta Ebner, his grandfathers, uncles, aunts, and cousins.
During the Holocaust 6 million Jews were killed, 1.5 million of them were children, two-thirds of the Jews in Europe.
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.
Rosen told the students that Murray Ebner was their age when he went through the Holocaust.
“He was a typical teenager, an athlete, he would even get into small troubles,” Rosen said. “We ask you to be ambassadors, to never let those who died in the death camps be forgotten.”
Rosen said during her father’s final days, while in the hospital, he would lift his hand to his mouth and imagine that he was nibbling the crude bread given to laborers as sustenance; that some part of him was still back in the camps.
As part of their Holocaust studies, some students read Murray Ebner’s book, Chosen for Reasons Unknown: A Holocaust Survivor’s Journey.
Eighth grade student Lindsay Luchsinger said reading Ebner’s book was amazing.
“Reading about his experiences, particularly about when his brother was shot was so heartbreaking,” Luchsinger said. “It was hard reading his story, but it was amazing learning about the Holocaust from someone who lived through it.”
To hear Murray Ebner’s story log on to Vimeo and search for “A Survivor’s Journey.”