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Monday, July 28, 2014
Rambam honors Holocaust survivor
Grandfather Jack Ratz ‘graduates’ with grandson Brian Fine
Susan Grieco/Herald
Rambam Mesitva in Lawrence presented an honorary high school diploma to Holocaust survivor Jack Ratz, left, who “graduated” with his grandson Brian Fine.

At 88, Jack Ratz has a full head of hair and remains passionate about life despite the tragedies he experienced during the Holocaust.

His book “Endless Miracles” is used to educate students in both public schools and yeshivas about that time in history, he has lectured at schools throughout the country and recorded his stories on DVD.

But this past Monday, Ratz, a Brooklyn resident, received a piece of paper that he was denied earning due to the Nazi occupation of his native Riga, Latvia. He was presented with an honorary high school diploma from Rambam Mesitva during the Lawrence’s school graduation ceremony at Congregation Beth Shalom, also in Lawrence. His grandson, Brian Fine, was one of the graduates.

“Like no other person he will be able to tell his children, his grandchildren, ‘I graduated high school with my grandfather,’” Ratz said. “Who ever heard of such a thing?”

Unfortunately not Ratz’s family or the thousands of Jewish people in Riga who were divided up by gender and age with men and a some boys surviving to work and women, children and the sick being annihilated.

Ratz was the second oldest of five brothers. The oldest, conscripted into the Russian Army, was never heard from again. His father and Ratz survived, while his mothers and brothers. 12, 9 and 1 were all killed.

Instead of carrying high school textbooks, Ratz was hauling heavy duty pipes. “I am sick today because of the labor camp,” he said. “Water pipes 20 feet long, 15 inches in diameter, my whole shoulder — tore my rotator cuff — is kaput.”

However, due to “endless miracles” he survived, came to the U.S. in 1947 and has thrived. Two years later Ratz picked up his father, who had remained in Germany after the war, in his own car. Ratz met Doris Wittenberg in 1949 and a year later they were married. The union lasted 57 years, until Doris died. It was his wife who pushed him to write the book. They had two sons and a daughter. There are now 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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