TICONDEROGA-A Holocaust survivor, Murray Jaros has seen the worst of humanity. He's also seen the best.
"My story is not really about the suffering, but of the people who helped us," Jaros said. "It's a story of hope. What's remarkable is not my story of survival, but what's remarkable is what others did so I could survive."
Jaros told his story to a group of Ticonderoga High School students June 2. He came at the invitation of his friend John LaPointe, Putnam supervisor.
"He has an amazing story," LaPointe said. "I think everyone should hear it. I'm glad he was able to come to Ti."
A summer day in 1941 the 8-year-old Jaros was outside when he heard a noise in the sky. It was a plane, the first he had ever seen in rural Poland. Moments later, bombs began to fall.
"We lived in a very rural, small town," he said. "We didn't have electricity or communication with other towns. I didn't even know there was a war."
Soon the German army arrived, setting up camp near his home. The Nazi war machine was little more than a curiosity for Jaros.
"They had tanks, trucks, machine guns," he recalled. "I'd never seen any of those things. They never threatened us."
That changed that fall when German SS officers arrived. The SS, the Schutzstaffel, were a special unit assigned the task of identifying and eliminating threats to the Third Reich. It became infamous for its war crimes and for advocating the Final Solution - the execution of 6 million Jews.
One night a few SS officers and a group of collaborators identified the Jaros family as Jewish and broke into their home. As Jaros and a young cousin watched, his grandmother was beaten. She eventually died of her injuries. His mother and father were stripped naked, beaten and tortured as the Nazis demanded gold and money - which the Jaros family didn't have. When the pain became too much and the parents passed out, the intruders threw water on them and repeated the process.