Joshua M. Green
April 6th, 2021
Unstoppable, by renowned Holocaust author Joshua M. Greene, is a compelling book. It delves into the life of story of a remarkable human being, Siggi B. Wilzig. He was a survivor who showed what grit and determination can do.
Born In Germany, he and his family, in February 1943, were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp after two years of slave labor. He lost his family, including his mother and father. He survived by pretending to be a master tool maker. After enduring two death marches he was liberated by the American forces in May 1945. The next two years were spent assisting the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps in tracking down Nazi guards and Gestapo operatives in Austria and Bavaria, and then emigrated to America in 1947 at the age of twenty-one. He barely had an elementary school education, no contacts, and little money. He worked as a toilet cleaner in sweatshops. But he had a dream.
“After researching him, I knew Siggi was a ‘Volcano of a man.’ He was able to rise from nothing to become in 1965 President and Chief Executive of the Wilshire Oil company. During his tenure, Wilshire acquired a large interest in the Trust Company of New Jersey, a full-service, commercial bank. Siggi became a director in 1969 and was elected Chairman and President two years later. Over the next thirty years, he grew the bank’s assets from $181 million to more than $4 billion. He considered America an amazing country.”
But he never forgot his past. In 1975, he told an audience honoring him, “I’m not liberated. I’m in Auschwitz every day.” Another quote by him, up in his office, “Free men who forget their bitter past do not deserve a bright future.”
“These quotes are reflections of who Siggi was. I wrote in the book how he had nightmares. For him, the Holocaust was a living memory. He did not think he could live without the nightmares that showed the awareness of the difference between life and death.”
Siggi was also the first Holocaust survivor to address the West Point Cadets. In that speech he told the audience, “You’ll need to know what Jews went through in the Holocaust so that you will be vigilant that it never happens again…Why did the world stand by and do nothing? Was there some kind of conspiracy of silence?” He went on to say how the allies were bombing German strategic industrial centers. Yet even though there were an access of bombs, why were they not dropped over the concentration camps that would have saved thousands of lives? He questioned if it was a strategic military decision or a form of Anti-Semitism. Emphasizing, it was very dangerous for those who underestimate the past.
This book is a must read for everyone who wants to see the characteristics of a survivor. Siggi had self-respect, determination, dignity, a sense of humor, and believed in the dignity of human life. He was never intimidated by bullies or Anti-Semites, and never forgot his past. As the author says, “Siggi was a beacon of light, and a candle of hope, with a story that deserves to be told.”