Holocaust survivor reacts to recent antisemitism

Joseph Alexander recalls vividly one of the darkest chapters of world history, not because he read it; but because he lived it. As a Holocaust survivor, he often shares his personal story with Los Angeles area students in an effort to educate them about the perils of antisemitism. 

Alexander, who will turn 100 years old in a couple of weeks, spoke to me with aching clarity about this painful chapter in history. He worries history could repeat itself. 

Kanye West’s recent online outbursts against Jews were followed by antisemitic acts across Southern California, including a demonstration by a well-known hate group in West LA with a sign that read "Kanye is right about the Jews." 

In a separate incident, anti-Jewish pamphlets were left in Beverly Hills over the weekend. Joseph Alexander was aware of both these. 


"I would never believe after the Holocaust that we still would go on with this antisemitism," he said.

I asked Joseph about the concept that these attacks were only verbal, and by extension, not dangerous. 

He disagreed.

"These words have to be eliminated… Words can hurt as much as if you hit someone… because words spread. Words spread, millions of people can hear," He explained. "This is how it started in Germany. Jews couldn’t go to school. Jews couldn’t hold a job. Jews couldn’t own anything, that’s how it started in Germany. "

All these years, Joseph thought and believed antisemitism would disappear. But he says that’s not the case.

"It’s growing. The only thing you can do is educate," he said. 

Joseph Alexander was the only person in his family to survive the concentration camps. He lived in the camps for five years, just narrowly escaping death. Monday afternoon, he showed me the pin he wears on his lapel, and the coin presented to him by LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore. He said Moore promised he will always be protected.