Fayette County

Holocaust survivor prepares to turn 100

Dr. Oscar Haber turns 100 Monday.

He could be gloating that he, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust, has lived to tell so many about it.

And yet there is nothing boastful or revengeful about Haber. He is a man without hate.

There is no secret to his surviving a world in which hardly anyone he knew was left alive. There is, as well, no secret to his living so long after the peril had passed.

There is, he said, only this: "The good Lord gives, I take. It is very simple."

Oscar Haber was a 29-year-old dentist when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. He was married in 1930, when, if you can imagine, a man who drove cars for Hitler drove Haber's in-laws to Haber's wedding in a red German ambulance.

It was the beginning of a war that saw Haber work in a work camp as a dentist for the Jews imprisoned there. He was allowed to come and go with special papers — until the day he wasn't. Saved then by a Catholic priest, Haber and his wife, Fryda, were given fake identification cards that allowed them to move to another village.

There, too, they lived in fear of being found out, and one day, the Gestapo came to get them. Haber and his wife saw Hitler's secret police before they were seen and were able to escape, making contact with the Polish resistance and a farmer who hid them for the remainder of the war.

Haber's mother, three sisters, a brother and a niece all perished in the camps. But, for all that sorrow, Haber knows that many good people did not stand idly by when Haber needed help.

After the war, he and Fryda were acquaintances of Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who saved 1,100 Jews from extermination.

For every evil he saw — and there is no way to put that reality to paper, he says — there is also immeasurable goodness. It would do us all good to remember that, he said.

"Not everybody who spits on you is your enemy," he said. "Not everybody who embraces you is your friend."

Take Hitler's driver. He risked his life to bring Jewish parents to a wedding.

That man told Haber, "If you weren't a Jew, we'd be best of friends."

There is much in life that is not simple, Haber said. But he knows this much: "Every day is a new day. Every experience is new to you, and with God's help, you try to manage it. As you can see, I did."

On Saturday night, American tenor Gregory Turay, who has performed with the Metropolitan Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago, sang for Haber at a party in Lexington that included 70 of his closest friends. Opera is one of Haber's greatest earthly joys. Turay's appearance was a surprise.

"If you are kind," Haber said, "the answer will be kind to you. That is life."