Remembering Local Holocaust Survivor Nina Katz

By Shelley Orman

Published 02/10 2014 08:49PM

Updated 02/10 2014 10:47PM

MEMPHIS, TN ( Memphis has lost a truly remarkable woman. Holocaust survivor Nina Katz died over the weekend at 89 years old.

She lived her life working to better others. Katz saw the absolute worst of humanity, but spent her life preaching love and bringing out the best in others.

At 12 years old Katz was forced into a concentration camp. She survived for six years until the war ended. Katz endured, witnessing unimaginable horrors. Despite all the hate, she made it her mission to live as a symbol of love.

"Nina's legacy will be in the stories she shared," says her friend Rachel Shankman with Facing History and Ourselves.

Katz made it her life's mission to share her story. "She felt an obligation to people who couldn't speak. Six million jews died," says Shankman.

Katz told spoke hundreds of times to thousands of people about how she survived those six years in Nazi concentration camps.

Her mother, father and sister all burned in the gas chamber.

When she talked, Katz preached love and equality for all -- things she'd learned from her parents, ideals she never lost.

"My father spoke to me about a world without boundaries a world where one language would be spoken, the language of love," Katz said during a 2005 speech at the University of Memphis.

Her message was one of hope, survival and service.

"Anyone who ever heard her speak will carry that message with them," says Rabbi Joel Finkelstein, of Anshei Sphard Beth El Emeth Congregation in East Memphis. Katz attended synagogue there for 50 years.

"She shared the horrors of what she experienced in the Holocaust -- she didn't shy away from that -- but she never left people in despair," Shankman says.

"It was a message of love," says Rabbi Finkelstein.

Katz was a huge advocate for equal rights, education and literacy. She loved America and the freedoms we have. There will never be another like her.

As her father did with her, Katz talked to others about leaving our world a better place, and she did just that.

"Hitler didn't win with me," Katz said in one of her many speeches. "In the darkest hours of my life, I remember the teachings of my family."

Her funeral was Sunday.

There is a book written about her life. It's called "Out of the Night: The Life and Legacy of Holocaust Survivor Nina Katz."

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