Sept. 16 is Holocaust Survivor, Fort Collins Resident’s 100th Bday
Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell has declared September 16 as 'Joe Rubinstein Day.'
Wednesday marks the Fort Collins resident's 100th birthday, who told the Coloradoan that he is simply grateful to be alive.
Rubinstein survived years in Auschwitz and remembers the stench of chemicals coming off of the bodies from the gas chambers. He was forced to move those bodies from the chamber into an open pit.
As if that wasn't enough, Rubinstein has been through quite a bit of trauma in his life. He last saw his mother and four siblings in 1942, following a 4 a.m. knock on the door.
Joe's story was shared by his friend, Nancy Sprowell Geise, in her book “Auschwitz 34207: The Joe Rubinstein Story”.
Nancy and Joe met at his senior living facility and she wrote the book after Rubenstein said he wanted his family to know his story.
Armed Nazi soldiers led Rubenstein out of his home, barefoot, into a freezing cold, open-air truck laden with other captives, which eventually brought him to a coal mine sub-camp in Auschwitz
While working in the mines, Rubenstein became very ill, his skin changing to a yellow pallor. He almost didn't seek medical help because the Nazi soldiers were known to kill anyone too sick to work. Reluctantly, Rubenstein visited the on-site hospital, where the doctor saved his life. However, Rubenstein was too sick to return to work, so the physician made him his assistant.
In 1945, chaos broke out at the camp, which led to an unlocked gate and a sign that said the prisoners were free to leave. Rubenstein told Nancy that he thought it might be a trick, but he didn't care because, at that point, he was more dead than alive.
Over the next few years, Joe met his wife Irene while living in Germany and they had a child. They then went to America by boat with a newborn in tow and, would you believe it, on that ship Rubenstein ran into the doctor who saved him.
Rubenstein went on to become a best-selling shoe designer in New York, inspired by the horribly painful clogs he was forced to wear in Auschwitz. Rubenstein began hand-carving clogs that were actually comfortable, and became the origin of clogs as a fashion statement in America.
“He always asks me to tell people: They must love life, love God, and love each other,” Nancy told the Coloradoan. “Because that’s all there is.”
Rubenstein has had a 'joy-filled life' and he truly loves people. Despite his heartaches and hardships, he hasn't given up on humanity and I think, especially now, this message has never rang more true.