(Sacramento) Assembly Speaker-Elect Toni Atkins today honored San Diegan Lou Dunst, a survivor of several Nazi concentration camps, as part of the Assembly’s Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies in the State Capitol.
“Holocaust Remembrance Day is an opportunity for us to recognize the suffering and the bravery of victims of the Holocaust while we also remind ourselves to guard against genocide in our own times,” says Atkins. “As a teenager, Loud Dunst faced death and inhumanity numerous times, but today he spreads a message of love and healing. We all have much to learn from Mr. Dunst.”
Dunst was living in the Ukrainian village of Jasnia when the Nazis took control. First, he and his siblings were barred from attending public schools. Then, his father was conscripted into serving as a human minesweeper. And finally, in 1944, his whole family was rounded up, along with the other members of the Jewish community from his village, and Lou began a terrifying odyssey to four different concentration camps via rail car. This journey didn’t end until he was finally liberated from the Ebensee labor camp in Austria in 1945 by a company of General George Patton’s Third Army.
Lou lost his parents to the Holocaust, but, miraculously, his brother Irving and his sister Risi both survived. Incredibly, he and his brother Irving managed to stay together during their imprisonment in concentration camps in Hungary, Poland, and Austria. Twice the two brothers were herded into death chambers, but twice random circumstance saved their lives. And, in the end, it was Irving who saved Lou’s life.
It was just before liberation that the typhus-ridden, emaciated, and broken 19 year old Lou Dunst lay himself on top of a pile of corpses, expecting to die. He made a bargain with God: “Let me live so I can tell this story.” Twenty-one year old Staff Sergeant Bob Persinger was among the liberators. Irving grabbed his sleeve and, pointing to his brother’s body on top of the corpses, he said, “Please save him!” And Lou was plucked from death’s arms.
The post war period found Lou sick, hungry, homeless and stateless, but with the help of surviving family members and the nuns at a Catholic hospital he finally recovered enough to begin putting his life back together. His path took him to Rome, Canada, New York, Los Angeles and, finally, to San Diego. Along the way, Lou built a thirty year career in business.
He also kept his bargain with God. He now spends much of his time telling his story as an inspirational writer and speaker. His message is one of love and peace.
More information is available about Mr. Dunst at his website http://www.loudunst.com/index.html.
Speaker-Elect Toni Atkins recently met with Holocaust Survivor Lou Dunst in her San Diego office as part of Holocaust Remembrance activities. Left to right: Estelle Dunst (Lou’s wife), Alberto Hamui (family friend), Speaker-Elect Atkins, Lou Dunst, Assemblymember Brian Jones.