Daily Pilot

Holocaust survivor ushers in new exhibit

Lagunan Jack Pariser shares his experiences at opening of "The Courage to Remember" at Newport Beach Central Library.

Jack Pariser, a Laguna Beach resident, survived the Holocaust in Poland by hiding with his family in a hole in the ground in a barn for two years. He spoke at the Newport Beach Central Library Monday about his experience. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Coastline Pilot / February 6, 2013)

Jack Pariser and his family spent two years in a cramped hole in the forest floor outside Krakow, Poland.

They subsisted on a slice of bread a day. If one person wanted to move, he had to negotiate with everyone else — including Pariser's older sister and parents — for room to shift.

"When I came out I walked like a duck," said Pariser, 83. "When I came out my legs were so stiff, people had to bend them."

Still, during the Nazi occupation, it was better than being in jail. His family had escaped that fate by digging a hole through the jail walls using a pen knife.

But that wasn't the first time they had been caught. They had bribed a Pole "hunting Jews" to let them go.

Pariser, a Holocaust survivor living in Laguna Beach, spoke to a room of about 50 people Monday morning at the opening of "The Courage to Remember" exhibit at the Newport Beach Central Library, a traveling exhibit from the Museum of Tolerance.

The exhibit, on display through July 29, is housed on the library's second floor. It features more than 200 photos on 40 panels split into four themes: "Nazi Germany," "Moving Toward the 'Final Solution'," "Annihilation in Nazi-occupied Europe" and "Liberation, Building New Lives," according to the library.

Pariser told his audience about the abuse of his grandfather, who was made to walk on Torah scrolls. When he disobeyed, he was severely beaten, revived in a frozen pond and then beaten again.

"If you did not obey, there were real dire consequences," Pariser said.

Maria Egbert, 47, came from Riverside to hear Pariser speak.

"Since I was a kid I've always had an interest in the Holocaust and World War II," she said.

One thing in particular that Pariser said touched Egbert: "What does ideology do to a society?"

"That struck a chord with me because we're dealing with similar issues throughout the whole world," she said.

As Pariser's talk wrapped up, someone asked him how he could smile and cry at the same time during his presentation.

"Do you see me here? Standing here?" Pariser replied. "That's a lot to smile about."

If You Go

What: "The Courage to Remember," an exhibit on the Holocaust

Where: Newport Beach Central Library, 1000 Avocado Ave.

When: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays until July 29

Admission: free

Information: http://www.newportbeachlibrary.org