COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The start of Hanukkah on Saturday night had special meaning for a Holocaust survivor in Ohio who turns 100 next week.
Abe Weinrib was selected to light the first candle on a 13-foot public menorah at Easton Town Center in Columbus on Saturday evening.
As a victim of the Holocaust, "it's a miracle I survived," Weinrib, who will turn 100 on Tuesday, told The Columbus Dispatch (bit.ly/RJIH5k).
Hanukkah commemorates the reclamation by the Maccabees of the Second Jewish Temple after it was desecrated by Syrian Greeks in the second century B.C. Hanukkah runs through sundown on Dec. 16.
"He's lighting a candle of hope, of love and of meaning," said Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann of the Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center in New Albany, which sponsors the Easton menorah lighting and another in Bexley on Tuesday. "He is the flame. His life and Hanukkah are synonymous."
Weinrib was in his 20s, working in Polish factories owned by his wealthy industrialist uncle, when he was arrested and beaten repeatedly by Nazi police who believed that he knew where his uncle might have hidden gold, silver and diamonds.
He spent six years imprisoned in several camps, including the notorious Auschwitz, where more than 1 million prisoners died.
He remembers giving a portion of his bread to other prisoners, having a job dragging corpses to ditches and seeing then-Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower cry over the carnage.
He was at the Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany when it was liberated in 1945 by British forces. Near death with typhus, he was sent to Sweden to recover.
Weinrib met his wife and fellow Holocaust survivor, Anna, in Sweden. They married and had three children, moving to Columbus in the 1950s. Anna died in 1979.
For years, Weinrib has shared his story with students at Ohio State University, Capital University, Olentangy Liberty High School and other locations.
"Rather than blowing out 100 candles, he'd rather light one candle representing kindness and good deeds," Kaltmann said. "He wants this to be the way he ushers in his next century. He knows that every day he is alive is a blessing."
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com