MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - Stan Minkinow stood on a stage at Bob Jones High School on Tuesday. His presence served as a profound living lesson for the roughly 100 students in the auditorium.
"My mother was Jewish and my dad was a Christian," he told the crowd.
As an eyewitness to history, the 84-year-old Holocaust survivor shared how his family endured and ultimately escaped both the Lodz ghetto and the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. The ghettos were established and run by Nazis who had occupied Poland during this time.
"We were hungry all the time," Minkinow said.
He noted their main source of food was yellow beets. Horse meat was a rare treat.
Minkinow also said that everyone between the ages of 11 and 65 had to work. He was only nine-years-old at the time, but with no school or toys to occupy his time.
"We would find round stones and play soccer with stones," he said.
Minkinow described to the teens the ghetto's deplorable conditions. In vivid detail, he told of the carts frequently wheeled through the ghetto carrying dead bodies.
"We kind of got used to it, you know, you ignored it," he said. "You would see it and you would think you would be traumatized, but even the kids knew it was just another wooden cart."
After Minkinow and his parents left the ghetto, he finished high school in Germany. Once he graduated, Minkinow enlisted in the United States Army and earned his U.S. citizenship through the Lodge Act. After 27 years of service, Minkinow retired, earning numerous accolades including the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star and the Air Medal.
"I've lived the American dream," he said.