B-488.

The black letters and numbers have melded together so they are almost indistinguishable on Jack Meister's 90-year-old skin.

The needle used to brand Jack when he was just 14, marking him as a Jewish concentration camp prisoner, did the same to countless other men, women and children who were murdered before they could tell their story.

Yesterday, while standing in front of 105 students at Xavier Catholic College, Jack spoke not only for himself but on behalf of the millions for the victims who did not survive the Holocaust.

Jack was brought to Hervey Bay after he met Star of the Sea Primary School Principal Nathan Wilson during a teachers education session at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Mr Wilson promised to bring Jack to Hervey Bay to share his story.

 

PRESERVING HISTORY: Holocaust survivor Jack Meister speaking with Year 10 Xavier Catholic College students.
PRESERVING HISTORY: Holocaust survivor Jack Meister speaking with Year 10 Xavier Catholic College students. Alistair Brightman

Addressing 115 parents, family and friends on Wednesday night, Jack told the crowd talking about his story helped him.

In 1928 in Poland, Jack was the second child of a Jewish shoe maker and house wife and grew up speaking Polish and Yiddish.

At 12, Jack was too young to understand why he was made to wear the Star of David on his clothing, why he wasn't allowed to attend school or why his family was rounded up and forced to live in the 'ghetto'.

Two years later, Jack's community was ordered to make two lines and he was put in a different line to the rest of his family.

Jack's line was ordered to march to a concentration camp in Buchenwald.

He never saw his family again.

To this day, he does not know what happened to them.

"I was very young to be alone. Something inside me snapped. It was very hard, I did not know what to do."

 

Holocaust survivor Jack Meister showing his camp tattoo B-488.
Holocaust survivor Jack Meister showing his camp tattoo B-488. Alistair Brightman

During his time in hard labour, Jack was transferred to the third Auschwitz concentration camp, known to him as Buna.

"It was indescribable," he said.

"In there you hated every-one.

"People were sick. It was hard work. I remember mothers and children were ripped apart and screaming.

"I had no idea when they told everyone they had to go and 'take a shower' they were leading them to the deadly gas chambers.

"I used to have nightmares but working in the museum has helped me."

Jack was freed aged 18 when the American armed forces entered his camp.

"I never gave up, I told myself I would never give in," he said.

"They came very early and we were still asleep then people started screaming 'the Americans are here'."

Holocaust survivor Jack Meister showing his camp tattoo B-488.
Holocaust survivor Jack Meister showing his camp tattoo B-488. Alistair Brightman

After a stint in hospital, Jack was transferred to Switzerland to live in a group home for Jewish children.

At 20, he was sponsored to live in Australia where he would meet his wife Neeta and have a daughter of his own

The Randwick grandfather-of-two has been with the Sydney Jewish Museum since it opened in 1994.

He has been sharing his story ever since to educate future generations.

"I can forgive but I will never forget," he said.

"We will never talk about politics but we will always talk about the Holocaust.

"Hate is a terrible thing, I hate hate. It doesn't matter what religion you are, we are all the same, we are people. I cannot hate Germans now for the crimes of their grandparents."



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