Holocaust Survivor Remembers Pain of War

While time has helped heal his wounds, the memories will never fade.

ByABC News
November 10, 2008, 2:10 PM

Nov. 11, 2008— -- At Gelson's Market in Los Angeles, 84-year-old Fred Wolf is always the oldest box boy on the clock, bagging groceries for the rich and famous who live nearby.

"I like my life now," said Wolf. "I work for Gelson's. I like it. I see people every day, and people know me."

But every once in a while, he surprises customers with something they didn't know.

"My father was murdered at Auschwitz," he told a woman as she unloaded low-fat yogurt and whole-grain bread onto the belt. "And I was at Auschwitz."

"I never knew that," she responded. "I'm so sorry."

Most of Wolf's customers don't know of his miraculous life journey. As his tattoo shows, he is a Holocaust survivor. Born in Merl-Mosel, Germany, Wolf's father owned a shop that made men's suits before the war. While he fondly remembers his childhood, Wolf recalls feeling different.

"I didn't want to stand out," he said. "When I was playing outside with the non-Jews they would say, 'You killed Christ, didn't you?' They always nagged me, but we played together."

From 1942 to 1945, he was a slave laborer for the notorious German arms maker I.G. Farben, which produced the poison gas that killed so many Jews like him.

"I remember crying, 'God, what did I do?'" he said. "'Why me? I'm a Jew, but I'm no criminal. Why did they take me?' And so they did."

He endured three horrible years of hard labor, a starvation diet and beatings.

"Each one had to march out. We had to unload 50 kilos of cement -- 12 hours and a half-an-hour lunch. Some miserable water soup. And I'm thinking, 'I'm not going to live through this,'" he said.

He survived the most feared death camps at Mauthausen and Auschwitz -- even a face-to-face encounter with Dr. Joseph Mengele, known as the Angel of Death.

"He came walking, and all of a sudden he stood right in front of me. He asked, 'How old are you?' '18.' 'You know how to work?'" Wolf said. "And we found out after the war -- this was Dr. Mengele. And it's unbelievable. He let me stay and let me go to work."

"I don't know why. I was just an 18-year-old kid."