The third life: Sixteen Holocaust survivors in El Paso

Nancy Nemeth-Jesurun, University of Texas at El Paso


The "third life" of sixteen Holocaust survivors who settled in El Paso, Texas examines the lives they built on their own. It is the final chapter of their Holocaust experience. Since most of the individuals in this group were children before their contact with the Holocaust, their first lives were lived with their families where their parents were in control. They existed during their second lives at the direction of the Nazis whether their incarceration was in ghettos, camps, Soviet prison camps, or outside of mainstream German society. This concept of the third life entered into the content presented here because of the way in which these survivors divided their lives into before, during, and after. ^ The definition of survivor used here is a very inclusive one, but it is the articulation of the local survivor community. They decided to include all of the following: escapees prior to the war, Kindertransport children, camp survivors, gulag survivors who escaped the Nazi net, and also mischlinge, the mixed children denied citizenship in the Third Reich, and who were also segregated from mainstream society. ^ This work is based upon the remaining sixteen individuals alive at the time the project commenced. It does not claim to be a definitive work on the postwar experience of survivors. Rather, this work provides us with is a window into a little-studied community and how they responded to the survivors who came to El Paso. ^ In part, the successful adjustment these individuals experienced stemmed from their European origins. Jewish people in prewar Europe were multicultural—part of the Jewish community as well as citizens of their respective nations. In El Paso, many of the early leading members of the El Paso Jewish community were in fact from an even more multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual, and multi-religious region—the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This factor made them uniquely suited to live on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Additionally, they demonstrated a sensitivity toward the large Mexican/Mexican American community which the survivors later also manifested. ^ The core of this research came from oral interviews conducted with the survivors. Since this is their story it seemed only valid to start with their recollections. Additionally, members of the local Jewish community were also interviewed. Finally, the records of the local synagogue and temple, Jewish community Center, and local newspapers were also culled for information. ^

Subject Area

History, United States|Jewish Studies

Recommended Citation

Nemeth-Jesurun, Nancy, "The third life: Sixteen Holocaust survivors in El Paso" (2008). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3311416.