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Northbrook Holocaust survivor Etta Katz

CHICAGO (CBS) — Northbrook native Etta Katz turns 100 years old in just a few weeks.

She’s made of the toughest stuff, surviving not one but two Nazi concentration camps. She’s sharing her timeless message of strength on this Holocaust Remembrance Day. CBS 2 investigator Megan Hickey has her story.

“They were in the parade. They were right in the middle of shooting. We were lucky that they all survived,” said Holocaust survivor Etta Katz.

Her family survived the Highland Park shooting and turned to her for guidance through that tragedy. Because Etta Katz knows one thing or two about survival. She was a young woman when she was taken from her home.

“Twenty-one. I started in Auschwitz,” Katz said.

When she arrived at the Nazi death camp in Poland from Czechoslovakia.

“Dead people laying around all over the ground. And then they just threw them in a pile,” remembered Katz.

Katz said she was separated from her mother, father, grandfather and two little brothers. She asked where they went.

“See the chimney. That’s where they are already. You wont see them anymore,” she was told. “I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to believe that any human can do this to the other.”

From there, she and her sisters were sent to a factory, and then the death camp Bergen-Belsen.

“I said to myself not me. I’m gonna fight. I’m gonna live. I want to marry my sweetheart and I want to have family because all of my family got killed,” Katz said.

When soldiers liberated the camp in April 1945, she was very sick, but still remembered that turning point.

“How did I feel? Liberation. Like you’re born again,” Katz said.

She went on to marry the love of her life, she immigrated to Chicago and nd started a beautiful, growing family.

“Life is life. Life is life life is life.”

She’s been honored here Chicago and was invited to Washington DC to be part of a Holocaust Memorial ceremony during the Obama presidency.

Today, she tries to use her experience to help others going through hardship.

“It’s worth fighting for life. Just like people who get cancer. They fight,” Katz said.

Hardship, like her family experienced back on the 4th of July. Because Etta promises, it always gets better.

“Not every day is a happy one, but then you say to yourself, tomorrow is going to be better,” Katz said.

Friday marks the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.

Megan Hickey

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