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The Newspaper article below was a very well done piece. To schedule Brass as a speaker, go to the "Contact Us" page.

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'Challenge the Evil': Holocaust survivor, daughter tell story of humanity amid the inhumane

By Nicole Queen

While the systematic murder of 6 million European Jews under the Nazi regime in the 1940s ended only 65 years ago, the events that happened during the Holocaust remain to some as just another chapter in a history book.

<div class="source">Nicole Queen</div><div class="image-desc">Pine residents Karen Brass and father David Zauder. From 9 to 15-years-old, David Zauder, now a Pine resident, endured the brutality of the Holocaust in the 1940s. </div><div class="buy-pic"><a href=";orig=news-zauderbrass-nq-041509.jpg" target="_new">Buy this photo</a></div>
Nicole Queen
Pine residents Karen Brass and father David Zauder. From 9 to 15-years-old, David Zauder, now a Pine resident, endured the brutality of the Holocaust in the 1940s.

For Pine residents Karen Z. Brass, 45, and her father, Holocaust survivor David Zauder, 80, the Holocaust should not be remembered only for its brutality, intolerance and cruelty but also for the great humanity that revealed itself in many inhumane situations.

For Brass and Zauder, the Holocaust is part of the present as well as the past, and Brass is dedicated to telling her father’s story.

Blond-haired and blue-eyed, David Zauder was born on Sept. 14 in either 1928 or 1931 (the Nazis destroyed his birth certificate), and he was raised in Krakow, Poland, as Nazi rule and anti-Semitism spread.

David’s family was musically talented. His father, Karl, was a tailor by craft and a drummer by passion, and his older brother, Solomon, was a violinist in training under Henry Rosner, who appeared by the grave of Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.” David Zauder’s mother, Rose, was a seamstress and a theater costume maker.

Early in life, David didn’t have an instrument of his own. He recounts a day when a police lieutenant needing a suit tailored brought a trumpet into his father’s store. He knew one day that he’d play the trumpet.

On Sept. 9, 1939, a week before David turned 10, he and his friends hid under a bridge and watched as the Nazis entered the city.

Soon the entire Jewish population of Krakow, including the Zauders, was herded into the Krakow Ghetto.

“My dad was taught not to fight back …,” Brass said. “When you’ve got a bigger bully, your goal here is to stay alive and make it to the end …”

Karl Zauder, a respected man in the Jewish community, was made fire marshal of the ghetto. His job was to ensure all residents were home before the Nazis’ curfew.

Late one night on the job, Karl Zauder was shot by an SS officer. Realizing he had shot the fire marshal, who was permitted to be out after curfew, the officer carried him back to the Zauders’ home, saying it was an accident. Karl Zauder died two weeks later.

“My father, before he died, he told me, ‘You are going to get through this. You’re going to survive this insanity, and you’re going to go to America to contribute something worthwhile,’ ” David said.

“That was the momentum and the inspiration I had to keep going. It’s a matter of mental discipline first, and then physical discipline follows even when it’s painful. I had to do what my father told me to do. I had no alternative. You cannot defy your parents; remember that.”

David and Solomon Zauder and their mother were transferred to the Proshuv work camp, where they were forced to work under horrible conditions and constant fear for their lives.

One day the Nazis separated all of the women and children into one line and the men in another. David’s mother pushed him into the other line and gave him her handkerchief, which he folded into the belt his father gave him, now framed in his home.

“They took his mother, along with other mothers and children, and killed them,” Brass said. “Going into the other line saved his life.”

Alone and only 11 years old, David Zauder was put on a cattle car to Auschwitz, the largest and one of the most brutal of the concentration camps. Solomon had already been sent to the camp.

“He knew his brother was ahead; he knew his brother was going where he was going,” Brass said. And yet, they did not see each other once in the five years they were detained.

“He refuses to talk about the horror,” she said. “He says, ‘You’ve watched enough horror movies; it won’t bring me joy to watch your face when I talk about what it was like to watch the man-eating dogs be released on a man … .’ You need to just know this happened daily; daily people were murdered. People were affected, in ways that didn’t make sense. It was crazy.”

Many in the camp, Jewish and non-Jewish, befriended David Zauder and helped to save his life more than once.

“That’s the part of the story my dad likes to share,” Brass said. “There was a lot more humanity shown to him through those times in hell.”

Many times an older man who didn’t think he was going to make it would give Zauder his bread or an extra potato. During three days of being made to stand in the rain, the people Zauder stood next to would help him to stay upright.

“His life was spared many times by the mercy of other people,” Brass said.

Other times, David Zauder’s hard work — and random chance — saved his life.

“He did end up being in the gas chamber once,” she said. “And the guy didn’t turn on the gas. The next day, the doors flew open and (Zauder) ran out, and since he had blond hair, they assumed it was someone playing a joke on some German kid and let him run.”

Never once did Zauder feel he somehow deserved to live while others around him were murdered every day.

“He’s exceptionally blessed with life,” Brass said. “He knows he’s lived 65 years longer than he was supposed to. You never feel you deserved to live and the other guy didn’t. So you live your life with the understanding that, ‘I’m going to make sure I’ve proved myself and do something great for the world, so that I’ve participated fully.’ ”

In November 1944, the Allied forces were pushing the Nazis into a corner. Panicked, the officers at Auschwitz took all the people who they felt were strong enough and forced them to march cross Poland, Czechoslovakia and into Germany, many times walking at night and other times in cattle cars.

They started with 4,000 people, and 300 were teenagers, including Zauder. In April 1945, after five months of the march, only 1,300 people had survived, and only 30 of the teenagers remained.

During the march, if anyone fell, they were bayoneted, because the Nazis were trying to save bullets. If anyone stopped to help someone who fell, they were bayoneted as well.

This part of Zauder’s story is Brass’ favorite to tell, she said with a smile.

“The story goes,” she said, “that my father was wearing his black and white striped uniform, wooden shoes, and that’s it, through the winter. He was frostbitten and starving and really having a hard time … so, my dad fell. It was at night, and it was very cold. His feet were frostbitten and he couldn’t feel anything, and he said to himself, ‘I’ve come this far, and I can’t get back up.’ But then he turned around and said to himself, ‘I can’t be left here.’ ”

Brass said David chose to speak in perfect Polish to a man covered in a blanket and said to him, “Please, I cannot die here; please help me or I will die.” The man in the blanket bent down to pick Zauder up.

“And their eyes met, and it was his brother,” she said. “His brother lifted him up, and my dad passed out. He was carried the rest of the march.”

Zauder and his brother were inseparable the rest of the march. They stopped at two other concentration camps, Flossenbürg and Schlosserhausen, and were forced to work. When they were walking through Germany, Brass said, Gen. George Patton’s tank division came over a hill. The Nazis made all the survivors lie face-down in the snow. Certain they were going to be shot, Solomon laid his body over David’s to protect him. After an hour of lying in the snow, someone looked up and saw that the Nazis had fled.

“Within 15 minutes, the tanks were visible by the survivors, and everyone got up and cheered,” Brass said. “It was pandemonium.”

Solomon and David were helped onto American tanks and helped to shoot at Nazi soldiers who by then were hiding in the woods.

After the Nazis were defeated, David Zauder spent a year with the Displaced Persons Camp and befriended many American soldiers. Solomon fell in love with another survivor, Bella, and they married and moved to Brazil. David was steadfast about going to America.

“His father told him that he must go to America and live a free life,” Brass said. “… My dad was clear that he was going to go to America and play the trumpet and become a musician.”

A new life with music

David Zauder arrived in America on May 20, 1946, to live with his aunt and cousins in Detroit.

After a year in public school, he studied under trumpet teacher Leonard B. Smith.

Smith got David a full-ride scholarship to the New York Military Academy, and he graduated in the 96.3 percentile.

After the academy, David played trumpet and cornet for the Cleveland orchestra. He was named first cornet and second trumpet in the orchestra and was its personnel manager for 40 years. David Zauder remains the longest-tenured trumpet player in the orchestra’s history.

“Playing the trumpet … it was a choice to do something to be accepted,” David said. “When I came to this country, I couldn’t catch a fly ball … so I picked the trumpet.”

It was a wise choice.

“He didn’t just play music because it was fun,” Brass said. “He played music to make the world more beautiful.”

David Zauder moved to Colorado to live with Brass two years ago and has recently been successful in battling prostate cancer. For David, if he could survive the Holocaust, he can survive cancer.

Remembering Yom Hashoa

As a successful Mary Kay sales director of 19 years and a mother of two, Brass felt called to share her father’s story after realizing that remembering the Holocaust was not only important to its survivors and their families but for all the world’s people.

“We need to become better humans; we need to evolve,” she said. “And for second-generation survivors, a lot of us do call ourselves survivors, because we do feel we’ve survived the fallout of the emotional damage our parent has gone through.”

In 1995, Brass organized a Second Generation Holocaust Survivors support group while living in Toledo, Ohio, and since then has organized support groups for second-generation survivors in Evergreen at Congregation Beth Evergreen.

Since 1982, Brass has spoken at various schools and church groups about her father’s story and about remembering the Holocaust and its consequences.

Brass has also spoke on behalf of the Mizel Museum at Peterson Air force Base and in 2006 to military officials at NORAD.

Brass is passionate about telling her father’s story to the next generation. The most recent school she’s spoken to was Conifer High School.

“She invites students to be aware and not to just set it aside as another history lesson,” David Zauder said of his daughter. “She asks them to be involved today, now, with the kind of attitude that prevents the abuse of human beings. That’s the main focus of her going and speaking to the kids. It is a fact — we have to count on the young people to change things … it’s bringing history out of a book and into your face.

“Thousands of high school students have written letters in response. And that’s the proof of the importance and benefit of what Karen brings to the schools.”

While Brass does all the talking, it’s her father’s story that solidifies her message, and that resonates with the students.

“The whole sophomore class last year at Conifer High School were asked to write essays on who their hero was, and they all wrote ‘David Zauder,’ ” she said.

When asked if he saw himself as a hero, David gave a modest laugh.

“No, no, no. I’m just lucky to be alive, that’s all,” he said. “Everyone that survived is a hero because they fought their own battle. There was no Superman, no Batman, no Spiderman … human beings who have a chance to be human, perform heroic deeds that have nothing to do with saving the world. What they do is challenge the evil; human beings who challenge the evil of society and the evil of the world are heroic, period.”

April 21 is nationally recognized as Holocaust Remembrance Day — Yom Hashoa in Hebrew — and for Zauder and Brass, remembering means more than just reflecting on the atrocities of the past.

“What’s to remember is that the world is still not safe and not tolerant of each other,” David said. “That’s what this is all about — it’s not tolerant. There is still human abuse, human cruelty and human death all over the world, everywhere. That’s why Holocaust remembrance should be revisited and understood.

“Even though the Holocaust, as it’s being remembered historically, brought man’s inhumanity to man to the front page, it has not solved it. It’s still out there … that’s why this is important. It doesn’t matter how many people die senselessly if society hasn’t learned how to deal with its inequities. If it doesn’t, then the Holocaust needs to be remembered every single year.”

April 21 is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

For more information about the Holocaust and its survivors, visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website at.

For information on events where Karen Brass speaks or to set up an appearance, contact Brass at or call 303-816-5811.

To hear David Zauder’s music, enter his name in a Google search.

Contact Nicole at