Holocaust survivor perseveres after childhood horrors in concentration camps

CAROL STREAM, Ill. (WLS) -- Decades after the Holocaust, 91-year-old George Levy Mueller still has vivid, horrific memories of his childhood, surviving the Holocaust while his parents, aunts, uncles and cousins were all killed.

Mueller and his younger sister Ursula survived three concentration camps between 1943 and 1945. They were transported from Vught to Westerbork to Bergen-Belsen

"The third camp was really bad, really bad," Mueller recalled Thursday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. "At first we were treated better there, because we were special people. There was a man. I have to mention his name, his name was Joseph Van Mackelenbergh."

Mackelenbergh owned a hardware store at the time, and according to the Mueller family falsified documents to appear that Mueller and his sister had a father living in the United States. It was all false.

"He is the reason I'm still here, and my sister too," Mueller recalled. "He said to the camp commandant we were only half Jews. That was a lie."

The lie saved his life. But while his was spared, 6 million Jews were killed. They, along with the all the other victims of the Holocaust, are remembered on this solemn day.

For Mueller, the horrors he witnessed, experienced and saw were so terrible he never told his family, even his children, until the 1990s.

"We were all married with children, and we still hadn't heard the full story. I just knew there was some involvement. But we didn't talk about it," said Amy Hasso, Mueller's youngest daughter.

It wasn't until Mueller traveled back to Europe for a reunion trip years later that he began to share what he survived. Hasso said the trip changed him. Mueller agreed.

"From then on, I did a lot of talking. They couldn't shut me up," Mueller chuckled.

Since then, Mueller has shared his story with school children, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, community groups and organizations.

At the Illinois Holocaust Museum, he's featured in a video and his book, "Lucie's Hope: George Levy Mueller's Memoirs of the Holocaust," is sold in the gift shop.

When Mueller opened up later in life his wife of 66 years, Katie Mueller, started recording his story. And she gets credit for much more as well.

"She was his rock. She still is," said Jane Mueller, daughter. "She kept it together for him, for the kids, and allowed him to move through it at his own pace."

Mueller is an Army veteran, pilot, musician and retired pharmacist. His wife is a former teacher and retired nurse.

Their children say the couple has taken advantage of every opportunity that has come their way. Today their lives are filled with family as well.

As an Army veteran, Mueller puts it this way.

"As they say in the Army, I was in the Army," Mueller said, "I got it made."
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