San Antonio, Texas: a sanctuary for Holocaust survivor Jack Wysoki

The Texas Story Project.

"Do you know the definition of a survivor? A survivor is an individual who takes control of the situation he's in and makes the best of what he must work with. You don't complain. You don't think about yesterday, you don't think about tomorrow. You just work with what you have. That is the definition of a survivor, that is how you survive." This was a quote taken from Jack's interview, when asked about his survival through the various concentration camps. This quote touched me deeply and showed how difficult his circumstance really was. According to the United States National Holocaust Museum, nearly 1.3 million Jews were sent to concentration camps over the course of the Nazi reign. Out of the 1.3 million, an estimated 1.1 million were executed; some in gas chambers.

Throughout history, San Antonio, Texas has posed opportunities for many. San Antonio offered Jack Wysoki a sanctuary to live in and raise his family. Born in Siedlce, Poland in 1926, Wysoki was only thirteen years old when his family was forced to enter their first concentration camp. When WWII ended and the extermination of Jews finally came to a halt, Jack Wysoki was nineteen years old and had survived a total of twenty-one different concentration camps. He was both suffering and alone in this world. During the long years in the concentration camps, Jack Wysoki lost his father, mother, brother, and sister. He survived by being a part of the kitchen chefs who helped clean and feed the Nazi generals.

As stated in an interview by USC Shoa Foundation, Mr. Wysoki had a difficult time explaining how he had survived those years of torment and great sadness. "...what I tell them is, do you know the definition of a survivor? A survivor is an individual who takes control of the situation and makes the best of what he must work with… That is how you survive."

His daughter, Maureen Wysoki, spoke highly of her father and with sincere regard for his devastating past. She said, "My dad was a very kind man, he was loving and protective with us and all his grandchildren. But how can someone fully forget such a devastating past. It was difficult for my dad to talk about his childhood, and we didn't really ask.

Once Jack arrived in San Antonio he worked hard to become a successful hotel owner. He first began working as a meatpacker, and later saved enough money to invest in a hotel. Three years later, he purchased the El Tropicano hotel where he was owner for twenty years. During his hotel ownership, he hosted important presidential events which included Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Baines Johnson. He also formed relations with the White House and was received at the White House and Pentagon by both President Reagan and his wife Nancy. With this investment of the hotel, he continued to work hard to support his children and wife.

Jack is a true example of the American Dream and how someone can survive hardships. I can't imagine how difficult it will be to continue to live life without family members. During his sickness he spent the last months of his life ensuring the memory of his life events as well as lecturing to local communities and schools. As an active civil leader he spent his time playing a part in charitable and business organizations that aimed to create a better world. Jack finally passed away at the age of seventy-five and left many loving memories and friends.

Lorena Palacios is a senior at St. Mary's University studying International Business and International Relations.

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