ARLINGTON -- Jack Repp was only 15, about the same age as members of his rapt audience Thursday, when his Jewish family in Poland was torn apart by the Nazis.
It started Sept. 1, 1939, and Repp, now 88, told the new generation of 15-year-olds to never forget what happened.
"Hitler took everything from me, but he did not take my mind," Repp said.
He was at Bailey Junior High School, where eighth-graders have been studying the history of the Holocaust, writing reports, creating chilling art pieces and reading The Diary of Anne Frank.
Never miss a local story.
"Being able to bring a Holocaust survivor in here brings it all home to them," said English teacher Colleen Bond. "They've been looking forward to his visit and asking, 'When's he coming?'"
Repp, who was born Jick Rzepkiecz in Radom, Poland, told of the six years of forced labor, death marches, starvation, beatings, illness and the cruel games of his Nazi captors that he endured until he was liberated when he was 21.
He was in some of the most notorious concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau, and before that worked beyond exhaustion in munitions plants with nothing but a piece of bread and dirty-water soup to eat.
When freed, Repp said, he was lice-infested, had typhus, weighed 69 pounds and had had every tooth removed with a rusty pair of pliers for the gold fillings.
"I have so much respect for him and what he went through," said Macy Parker, 14. "This really happened; it's not just something in a movie. We were crying when he talked."
Of his four brothers, one sister and their parents, only he and his sister Nanette survived. She had married and moved to Paris before the war. Four years after it ended, he found her hidden away as a nun there, and her daughter was hidden in an orphanage.
Nanette never left Paris and died there three years ago.
Repp, who now lives in Dallas, came to America and North Texas in 1949. He owned Repp's Department Store on Second Avenue near Fair Park for 44 years. Now he talks to schools, colleges, religious and military groups at least once a week as part of the Dallas Holocaust Museum's speakers series.
"I think it was pretty cool," said Jonathan Zamudio, 15. "It really got me inspired to do what I want to do -- special ops, learn another language, do good for people."
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657