On a frigid morning in Radom, Poland, German soldiers forced twenty-one-year-old Icek “Joe” Rubinsztejn onto a crowded, open-air truck. The next day, several around him were dead. From there, things got worse for young Joe—much worse.
FORT COLLINS, CO, April 29, 2020 /24-7PressRelease/ — Joe arrived at Auschwitz on April 30, 1942, and was imprisoned there for over two years before being taken to several other notorious camps, including Buchenwald, Ohrdruf, and Theresienstadt. Throughout his ordeal, surprising and remarkable events occurred to save his life.
Barefooted when he was seized, Joe would become one of New York’s leading shoe designers for legendary companies Herbert Levine, Inc., Nina Shoe, and others. Beth Levine called Joe, “The Man with the Golden Hands.” Joe designed some of the most expensive and sought-after shoes in the world; shoes that lined the display cases of Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Lord & Taylor. Shoes designed by Herbert Levine, Inc. were worn by first ladies and movie stars alike. While the Nazis took everything else, they were unable to take Joe’s love of life and his love of people.
On September 16, 2020, Joe will celebrate his 100th birthday at his home in Colorado. Just after the war, Joe met Irene in Duisburg-Hamborn, Germany. This fall, that Jewish man and his Catholic wife, will celebrate 73 years of marriage.
When Joe was taken from his family, he had no idea he would never again see anyone he knew or loved. His widowed mother and four siblings, including Joe’s identical twin, were killed at the Treblinka death camp. Despite losing nearly everything a person could lose, Joe continues to live a joy-filled life.
Joe told his biographer, Nancy Sprowell Geise, during the two years she interviewed him for the book about his life, Auschwitz #34207 – The Joe Rubinstein Story, that he would give his life for one photo of his family. After the award-winning book was released in 2015, three photos of Joe’s family were found. Nancy said she had never seen human emotion as the day Joe saw the faces of his beloved family, faces he had not seen since 1942. Joe said through his tears that it was the greatest gift of his life.
Author Nancy Sprowell Geise has been asked to share Joe’s story around the world, including the U.S. Library of Congress and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., at the 75th Commemoration of the Liquidation of the Ghettos in Joe’s hometown of Radom, Poland, and with the staff and guides at the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum in Oświęcim, Poland.
For over 70 years, Joe never told anyone his story because he did not believe anything good could come from doing so. Now, Joe receives letters from readers around the world, writing to say that after hearing his remarkable story, they realize they, too, can overcome their hardships. Joe’s story of hope has never been more important to the world than now. It’s a story of discovering light in the darkest of places – inspiration for us all.
Nancy Sprowell Geise is an award-winning author and speaker.
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