EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- As celebrations of both Christmas day and Hanukkah overlap this year, a Eugene man is sharing his story of survival, living through World War II and persecution with two religious identities.
“I'm incredibly lucky.. To be alive,” says Shlomo Liebskeend.
As millions celebrate Christmas on December 25th, 2011, it is also the 6th night of Hanukkah. For Shlomo Liebskeend, both holidays draw significance in his life and their context in World War II.
Today, Shlomo lives what most would call a relatively normal life, married to his wife Debbie Rose, and teaching math at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
But how Shlomo got to where he is today was through an incredible journey, hiding his Jewish faith through World War II by posing as a Christian.
On a day where Hanukkah and Christmas are both celebrated, for Shlomo it’s a chance to reflect.
Looking through the pictures, memories are conjured.
“I’m walking here with my mother,” says Shlomo, pointing to a picture.
It’s a past that Shlomo says he’s lucky to have survived.
“This is me and my uncle, before they started persecuting Jews,” says Shlomo.
“I was born in Poland… born in 1937, just three years before the war started, not a good time to be born,” says Shlomo.
From the ages of two to eight years old, Shlomo and his family lived through World War II and the Holocaust.
“My parents and I had false papers, as being Christian,” says Shlomo.
“Hiding in plain site,” chimes Debbie.
“Yeah and that's how we survived the war,” says Shlomo.
Close calls came when cars drove down the street. One incident, Shlomo recalls his mother seeing a car belonging to the wartime German Police.
“Suddenly my mother said, ‘Go to the outhouse and hide and don't get out of there!’”
Shlomo’s family though the police were coming for them. He survived. Two women living nearby, did not.
Another incident happened when playing with other kids in the neighborhood at age 5. Shlomo said he wanted to be a banker when asked what he wanted to do when he grew up.
“Money helped keep my family alive with bribes and what not,” says Shlomo.
A child playing alongside Shlomo then told his parents. His parents immediately approach Shlomo’s.
“They said you need to leave right away. Other wise we'll report you to the Nazi's.”
“So we left,” says Shlomo.
“I mean they moved probably about 40 times in those 6 years,” says Debbie.
Years later, Christmas Day 2011 is a chance for one man of Jewish heritage to remember life in the 40’s.
“We had Christmas trees and I went to church, I tried to imitate and make sure I did things right,” says Shlomo.
Remembering, how in some form, two religions played a role in his life.
“I have to say.. I have some fond memories of Christmas that come back to me,” says Shlomo.
Moving to Israel, then to the United States and eventually landing in Eugene, on Christmas Day 2011, in the midst of Hanukkah, there is deep respect for society today that surrounds Shlomo and his family.
“How tolerant people are, and how kind people are, and I am thankful for that,” says Shlomo.