CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Joe Engel ran a dry cleaning business on King Street for years, joking that he was a CPA, specializing in Cleaning, Pressing, and Alterations. But behind his good sense of humor is a story of survival.

Engel recently turned 95, an accomplishment he is thankful for every day.

Engel is a Holocaust survivor. He, his eight brothers and sisters, and his parents were sent to concentration camps. Engel spent time at the infamous Auschwitz.

Engel’s parents and five of his siblings died in the camps.

Engel survived by jumping out of a cattle car and burying himself in snow to hide from German troops.

“Frankly speaking, I don’t know how I survived,” Engel said.

Two of his brothers and one sister survived as well, but his siblings have since passed. Now, Engel works to make sure their story is not forgotten.

“I was there. I saw what happened. We have to talk about it.”

Joe Engel

Anita Zucker has known Engel since she was a teenager. Her parents were also Holocaust survivors. She is thankful to have someone like Engel who continues to share his story.

“Whenever there is an issue related to the Holocaust or survivors, he steps up and stands out and uses his voice to represent our people,” she said.

Engel lives by the Hebrew phrase “Tikkun Olam,” which means “repair the world.” It’s the idea that Jewish people are called upon to make the world more just, peaceful, tolerant, and equal. It’s also what guides Engel’s pursuit of social justice and remembrance.