News | April 20, 2018

Virginia Commonwealth University professor shares his story of survival during Holocaust Remembrance Day at DSCR

By Leon Moore DLA Aviation Public Affairs

Roger Loria was born April 19, 1940 in Antwerp, Belgium, and was only a few weeks old when the Germans came.

 

“We were all forced to flee but were caught,” Loria said.

 

What happened next was a riveting and painful story Loria, now a professor emeritus in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Virginia Commonwealth University, told as the keynote speaker for the Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony held on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, April 12.

 

Loria said he and his mother were sent to several concentration camps before managing to escape and making their way to Switzerland and remained there until after World War II. Loria said when they returned to Antwerp, there was no happy reunion.

      

“On my father’s side, my grandparents, my father and his four siblings and their spouses and children, along with many other members of my grandparents’ extended families were dead. Many of them were shot after being forced to dig their own graves. Others died in Auschwitz or in Birkenau,” he said.

Loria said his father was at Birkenau and died on the starvation marches at the end of the war.

He went on to talk about how more than 45 other relatives on his father’s side of the family were killed and buried in a mass grave in a small village in Poland where they were trying to hide from the Nazis. On his mother’s side, her father, sister, brother-in-law and four-year-old niece died in Auschwitz. Many of her extended family and friends also perished.

Loria said only a very small percentage of Belgian Jews survived.

“In addition to those who perished and their loved ones who mourn them, those who had to fight and clean up after the terrible destruction also carried that suffering with them forever. When evil is loose in the world, it takes a lot of prisoners,” he said.

 Loria and his mother immigrated to Israel In 1949, where Loria served in the army and studied microbiology. In 1964, he came to the United States and settled in Richmond, where he lives today with his wife, Win.

Loria said retelling his story is very painful, but one that must be told.  

“When we forget, we repeat painful history,” he said.