Stephanie Marks, 92, though never imprisoned in a concentration camp, considers herself a survivor of the Holocaust. Born in Poland, Marks and her family fled Poland when she was 14 years old and traveled approximately 7,000 miles across five countries and two continents for two years to reach sanctuary in Cincinnati. Grace Ramey // DN
Stephanie Marks was never imprisoned in a concentration camp, but she still considers herself a survivor of the Holocaust.
“We had the guts to run and outrun and outsmart the entire German army," Marks said.
The 92-year-old was born in a small town in Poland, and just before the start of World War II, her family relocated to Belgium due to rising anti-semitism. While visiting family in Poland, WWII broke out and Marks' family was trapped.
"The next thing we knew, bombs were falling on Kanin [Poland] and the Germans were marching," Marks said. "There was no way of coming back [to Belgium]."
At 14 years old, Marks and her family fled Poland. Two years, 7,000 miles, five countries and two continents later, they found sanctuary in Cincinnati.
She's lived in Cincinnati since then, and now travels around to speak to people about her harrowing experiences escaping from the Nazis. More than 100 people crowded into the L.A. Pittenger Student Center Ballroom today to hear Marks tell her story for the second time on campus.
More than six million Jewish people died during the Holocaust, in addition to tens of millions more non-Jewish people, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Marks traveled through Poland by horse and wagon, dodging German soldiers who shot at them and dropped bombs on them. Brave Polish families offered to hide Marks and her family in their cellars — even though if anyone had been discovered to be hiding Jews, they would be killed as well.
They finally made it back to Belgium, but as soon as the bombs started to fall, they knew it was time to leave. They fled Belgium and made it to France, crossed the Spanish frontier and found refuge in Portugal. Eventually, relatives in Cincinnati sponsored them so they could travel safely to the U.S.
"My mother was the one who kept me going [throughout everything]," Mark said. "She's the one who really saved us."
Marks still speaks to students at the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education about the Holocaust. And even after everything she's gone through, Marks has never lost her faith in humanity.
"If you can make somebody smile, if you can make somebody happy, do it," she said.