Teens sentenced to talk to Holocaust survivor after vandalizing menorah at Chandler home

Posted at 8:03 PM, Aug 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-23 23:03:00-04

A man who survived the Holocaust believes the teens responsible for turning a family's menorah into the shape of a swastika have learned a valuable lesson.

Three teens, all juveniles, pled guilty last week to criminal damage. The charge stemmed from a December 2016 incident where a Chandler family's menorah was turned into the shape of a swastika in their front yard.

"They are youngsters, just like anybody — your next-door neighbor, a prank," said Oskar Knoblauch, who survived the Holocaust.

As part of the agreement, the three teens were required to meet with a Holocaust survivor. Knoblauch, 91, tells ABC15 he met with the three teens and sent a message he hopes stays with them.

"You're a senior in high school, you're going to be in college, time goes fast," Knoblauch said. "You're going to have a family, so how are you going to raise your family? Are you going to raise them with hate in their hearts or would you rather have them with love in your hearts?"

Knoblauch, who wrote a book about his experience, recalled memories from when he was a teenager.

Born in Germany, and Jewish, he and his family left Nazi Germany for Poland. After German forces invaded Poland in 1939, Knoblauch, his siblings, and his father ultimately wound up in a "sub-camp" called Pomorska in 1943.

"I ended up in the basement, providing heat, shoveling coal," he said.

Knoblauch says during one encounter he showed a member of the SS respect and that person subsequently spared his life on two occasions. That is why Knoblauch often teaches a message about respect, in addition to understanding hate.

"If not for respect, we wouldn't be talking," he said. "I wouldn't be here."

Knoblauch trusts his message resonated with the teens in the Chandler case.

"They have learned something and I know they will tell other kids that hate doesn't work, even a prank," he said.