Nat Ross, who was 20 at the time, would never have believed you if you had told him he was turning 100.
“It’s never happened in my life,” Ross said emphatically. “If someone told me I was going to live to be 100 years old and become a great-grandfather, I’d laugh — because I expected to die every day.”
He expected death because it was all around him. Ross was one of millions of Polish Jews targeted by Adolf Hitler as part of the Final Solution.
His granddaughter Dana Archin-Kraslow commented, “In my wildest dreams, I can’t imagine him going through what he went through.”
Ross survived ghettos, years of forced labor in Auschwitz-Birkenau and other concentration camps, and even a wintery death march.
He found bits of potato to eat while excavating the Nazi sewer system.
“We picked up the potatoes that had fallen on the floor and put them in the wash.”
His granddaughter told him what happened next.
“The Germans had prisoners throw their clothes into a pot of boiling water every few weeks to disinfect the clothes they were wearing, and my grandfather came up with a way to throw in a few bits of rotten potatoes he found,” he explained. Arshin Kraslov.
Until the Ross was apprehended and ordered to dig his own grave.
“They asked him to lay down on the earth when he was almost done excavating to test if his body fit,” Arschin-Kraslow added. “When he did, the guards instructed him to continue digging.” And all the while, a rifle was pointed at his head.”
A fellow prisoner collapsed nearby at that precise moment for reasons he’ll never understand.
“It was probably because he was dehydrated, overworked, and hungry,” his granddaughter speculated. “And the guard said to my Papi, ‘Isn’t today your lucky day?’ in German.” They shot the second man, who had slumped, and buried him. That grave was completely intended for my grandfather, but he had to live with the guilt for the rest of his life because it was mistakenly placed for someone else.”
On the electric fence, Ross saw a number of inmates commit themselves. For one reason, he claims, suicide was never an option for him.
“I wanted to survive so I could recount the story,” he explained. “It’s amazing how humans can suffer.” “I wanted to be a part of it.”
Ross still gets upset when he talks about his survival, reliving the events as if they happened right in front of his eyes.
“It doesn’t matter what time of day or night it is, my memory goes through everything I went through,” he stated.
This week, on the other hand, will be filled with wonderful memories as Ross celebrates his 100th birthday in Florida with his family. On Tuesday, he and his wife Celia, who have been married for nearly 70 years, will celebrate their anniversary.
And he knows that his tale will continue on via his children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren.
Arschin-Kraslow added, “I just try my hardest to speak about it as often as possible.” “I attempt to write about it, and all I want is for my daughter and future generations to remember how they felt.”
Only four of Ross’ nine siblings survived the Holocaust. For years, neither of them knew where the other was. When he first arrived in New York, he worked as a pattern maker for children’s and women’s apparel in a garment center in Manhattan for several years.