CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Crowds stood at the Emanu-El Cemetery in West Ashley for about an hour as Joe Engel was remembered and laid to rest on Monday.
The 95-year-old Holocaust survivor called Charleston home for decades after moving to the Lowcountry with his family.
When he first arrived in the Lowcountry, he lived with many family members in an apartment building on St. Margaret Street and once owned Glamour Cleaners on King Street.
“Today was a unique day for Charleston. Joe was the last Concentration Camp survivor in Charleston who finally passed away,” said Rabbi Yossi Refson.
Earlier in life, Engel had survived his time spent at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. He escaped by jumping out of a cattle car and hiding in snow from German troops.
Rabbi Evan Ravski says that Engel was reluctant to tell his story at first, but it became his salvation in Charleston.
“There was nothing left unsaid. It was remember. It was be kind. It was take care of one another,” said Rabbi Ravski. “He got his story on video and has it for us to distribute so that the next generation can still see him and hear his voice.”
Once Engel started telling his life story he could not stop. Schools, churches and many other places were where he spoke about the Holocaust.
“He made every effort to tell his story and to make sure everybody remembered the tragedy of the Holocaust and remember all of the things that he had been through,” said Jonathan Zucker, a friend of Engel’s. Additionally, he always spoke out about all the children that were killed during the Holocaust. That was near and dear to him.”
Friends and family describe Engel as humorous, loving and caring.
“He would always ask how I was doing and how my parents were doing,” said Rabbi Ravski.
“Joe was always a source of happiness despite all the things that he had been through,” said Zucker. “To visit with Uncle Joe was always something happy and special.”
“He just brought out that joy in people. Whenever I saw a call coming in or saw him anywhere it was a delight,” said City of Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg.
The next task for those who knew Engel is to carry on his story, the legacy of those who died and survived the Holocaust.
“There are an incredible amount of foundations and charities that are set up in his name,” said Rabbi Ravski.
“As a child of Holocaust survivors, I’m actively engaged now in going to schools to speak to students. Joe was our role model,” said Anita Zucker, another friend. “I will represent Joe, but I will also represent my own parents and be their voice because their voice isn’t with us.”