Holocaust survivor’s story: How a hero saved his life, lives of 40,000 Jews

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

A Holocaust survivor shared his story about how he was able to survive, how a piece of paper and the bravery of a leader on a different landmass saved his life and gave him back his freedom.

Holocaust survivor Robert Nossen, an educator, was born to German Jewish parents.

“I was born in Holland, or the Netherlands, in 1938,” Nossen said.

Nossen’s family left Germany in 1936 because they feared Adolf Hitler and the direction he was steering Germany, but safety in the Netherlands didn’t last long.

“Amsterdam eventually became the ghetto for all Jews in Holland in 1942 when they started doing roundups,” Nossen explained.

The Nazi’s sent Nossen’s family to the Westerbork concentration camp, but because his father was a chemist, he got sent back so he could work.

“When we came back from the camp in 1943, we got these papers, and that changed our life,” Nossen said.

These were papers that showed the Nossens were citizens of El Salvador.

“There’s no question in my mind that the odds are I would not have survived the war without that,” Nossen said.

Col. Jose Arturo Castellanos of El Salvador is a hero of the war. He helped save 40,000 Jewish people from the Holocaust, and Nossen is one of them.

“Some people went out of their way to help, you know, the Jews, wasn’t just one sided,” Nossen said. “And that’s the important thing to understand how important these people were, how many people were saved by being hidden”

The Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center in North Naples is honoring Castellanos. Nossen talked to Castellanos’ two grandsons, praising their grandfather’s bravery.

“We want to tell our story. We want our story to be told and also the stories of people that help the Jews,” Nossen said.

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