Louis D. Koplin
Louis Koplin (Ludwig Kopolowitz) was born in Nelipeno, Czechoslovakia (now Ukraine) on July 30, 1920, where his parents operated a shoe store. His family, (parents, two boys and four girls) lived as observant Jews. He graduated from the Munkacs Gymnasium (high school), a secular Jewish school In 1941, two years after the German-sympathizing Hungarian government occupied the area. Louis was drafted and sent east to the Russian front in 1941. Upon arriving at the Komarom labor camp, the two thousand Jewish men were lined up. Those with shoemaking experience were asked to step forward. Although Louis’s shoemaking experience was limited to being in the family of a shoemaker, he stepped forward and was selected as one of four people to make and repair shoes for the German army.
Louis remained in Komarom until March 1944, when the Nazis invaded Hungary. The Nazis sent Louis and the other Jews to the Austrian border to work in yet another labor camp. As the Russians moved west, the Nazis forced the captives to march some 300 miles to the east, to Mauthausen concentration camp. About 95% of the prisoners died during the march. Shortly after arriving at Mauthausen, Louis was liberated by American soldiers on May 8, 1945. Louis’ father died shortly after liberation.
Working for the Joint Distribution Committee, Louis traveled across Europe to help refugees. He eventually reunited with his brother and one surviving sister; tragically the others were all killed by the Nazis.
In September 1947, Louis arrived at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he studied pharmacy. After graduation, he moved to Milwaukee, where he eventually opened a pharmacy in 1957, which he ran until 1998. Louis married in 1954, and raised a family of three children. Today he has seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Louis’ message to the world today is “stop the hate!”.