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By B.A. Van Sise

B.A. Van Sise portrait of Holcaust survivor Rene Slotkin
B.A. Van Sise portrait of Holocaust survivor Rene Slotkin

“There are good-hearted people all around the world,” says Rene Slotkin who—along with his twin sister—spent his childhood as the victim of medical experiments at Auschwitz. He’d only once and briefly seen his sister—silently, and through a fence—but, parentless after his liberation from the camp at the age of 7, he was greeted by the news that her adoptive American parents had scoured the world for him, hiring private detective to finally locate him in the orphanage of a small Czech city. At thirteen, they brought him to the new world, their new family, and his new future.

Thus began his American life. In spite of the number on his arm, Slotkin made a name for himself: studying accounting, building a comfortable life on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He has an easy smile, a constant laugh, and a flirtatious manner that has served him well over more than eight decades; it helped him to marry June, to raise four kids and a flock of grandkids, some of whom have children of their own. A man who was never a child, his children will number as many as the stars.

“I am here because of good people, good people everywhere. I came to know them, they came to know me, and slowly we came to know each other. The people who took care of me, the people who adopted me, the people I meet everywhere.” He grabs my leg tenderly. “This is hard for me to talk about, you know. There are good spots in everybody’s heart.”

Stories Survive is made possible by the Goldie and David Blanksteen Foundation.