LEWISBURG — Few understand the sting of tragic loss and the cost of war like David Wisnia does.
The 90-year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor, who lost his entire family during World War II and spent years in the Auschwitz concentration camp, will serve as the grand marshal in the Union County Veterans’ Fourth of July parade this Saturday, will sing the National Anthem at the Recognition Ceremony following the parade, and on Sunday will share his story and his beautiful singing voice — which saved him from annihilation by the Nazis — at Rooke Chapel, Bucknell University. Two of the songs he will be singing will be compositions he compiled while in Auschwitz.
The Levittown resident and cantor said it is important for him to continue to share his story and his gift with others in order to uplift and inspire. Through his music, he turned and continues to turn a place of death into a source of hope and life.
“I’ve learned in early life that hate kills,” he said. “It begins innocuously with prejudice one way or another. It takes on death—it becomes death.”
Wisnia was only 16 years old when he arrived in Auschwitz, and was there for two and a half years, where he was kept alive to serve as singing entertainment for the Nazi soldiers. He later escaped while on a death march, meeting up eventually with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne division.
The orphaned Wisnia said, “They became my family. The 101st Airborne is my life, really. They not only nursed me back … I needed a family, and that became my family until I came to the United States.”
He stayed with the division, becoming a translator for them and helping lead the U.S. to victory.
In 1946, he arrived in the United States and has never stopped appreciating the new start he was given. And his message wherever he goes, including high schools and colleges, is one of encouraging other Americans to appreciate the country’s freedoms as well. And one another.
“They need a little honor, and respect for one another,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”
Wisnia continues to attend an annual gathering of the 101st, where he sings the National Anthem.
“It’s just the greatest thrill,” he said, adding that at the last gathering three months ago, the general who delivered the keynote address introduced him and gave him a medal.
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