(Jewish Press of Pinellas County via JTA) — If one were to make a movie about Holocaust survivor Natalie Grauer’s life, picking the most dramatic scene would be difficult.
Perhaps it was when a boy she thought was her best friend betrayed her to the Nazis and she was sent to a death camp. Or when she was on a death march, weary and exhausted and with legs so sore she did not think she could walk anymore, but a friend encouraged her to hold on until American forces came – which they did later that same day.
Grauer, who died of COVID-19 on June 21 at the age of 91, was born Natalia Rosenwald in Krakow, Poland, in 1929.
She was 10 years old in 1939 when the Germans occupied Krakow and began forcing Jews into a ghetto. She tried to escape but was captured when a friend identified her as Jewish and sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. A few weeks later she was transferred to the all-women’s Ravensbruck camp near Berlin.
Grauer was made “shower girl,” given the task of collecting the clothing of those who were sent to gas chambers instead of showers. She rifled through pockets for cigarettes and survived by trading them for food, said her son Sam. Prisoners would be counted each morning and the Nazis would pick some from the crowd to shock with electricity or unleash dogs on them.
“Some things I still block out of my memory,” Grauer said.
When Allied forces closed in on the camp in 1945, prisoners were sent on a forced march. After days of marching, Grauer could barely walk and was ready to give up and die, but a friend urged her on. Grauer was 16 and weighed 82 pounds when she was liberated by American forces.
She met her husband, Moishe Grauer, in a displaced persons camp. She was 18 when they married.
The couple moved to pre-state Israel, where Moishe fought for the country’s independence. In 1962, they moved to New Jersey. They retired to Florida in 1980 and helped establish Temple Ahavat Shalom in Palm Harbor.
Grauer didn’t speak of the Holocaust for a long time. It was Rabbi Jan Bresky, the first rabbi at Temple Ahavat Shalom, who talked her into telling her story, eventually going on a radio show with him.
“You could ask her, but she would turn the discussion the other way,” Sam said.
Grauer and Moishe became early supporters of the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg and she began speaking about the Holocaust in local schools. She also put in thousands of volunteer hours at Menorah Manor, a senior living facility where she resided at the time of her death.
Grauer is survived by four children, six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.