LUBBOCK, Texas – Jan. 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp 78 years ago.
The United Nations General Assembly designated the day as a time to remember the 6 million Jews and other victims who were killed during the Holocaust.
Lubbock’s John Cobb had Jewish family members living in Germany back then. It was 1936 when he said his family members felt that things had started to get scary for the Jews, so his great-uncle got on a boat to Brazil to find if it was a safe place for them. He would write back to share the good news with his other family members to join him there.
“In 1939, when things really had gotten bad, my family, my grandmother, who was 19 at that time, my great grandmother who was 51, and my great grandfather who was 56, then decided this is the time, we must go now,” Cobb said.
Jewish people were labeled by the Nazi regime in a number of ways. Their travel documents were stamped with a red letter “J” and they were all required to add the name “Israel” for men and “Sara” for women to their identification cards.
Cobb’s grandmother and great-grandparents were able to bribe German officials to escape by trading their Berlin apartment for visas in 1939.
“They traded their property for a minimum amount for the visas,” Cobb said. “We were lucky. We basically left Germany with nothing except our lives.”
After that, the three of them were able to move to Brazil and start a new life. They had no money, and they didn’t speak any Portuguese.
“It’s a very, very difficult thing to do to leave everything behind,” Cobb said. “My great-grandfather was a pharmacist professional in Germany with a good career up there and just had to leave. Other members of the family didn’t make it.”
Cobb’s mother was born in Brazil and had him in Utah where she worked as a translator. Cobb and his brother moved back to Germany with their mother for 10 years before returning to the U.S.
Ultimately, it was the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine that would bring him to Lubbock, and the Hub City has remained his home ever since.
Now, with his wife and two sons, his family’s story can live on.
“There are 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and it can be argued that to forget their deaths is to murder them again,” Cobb said. “If we forget the mistakes of the past, then we’re likely to repeat them, so it’s very, very important to remember today.”