A Brazilian public school was named after Aleksander Henryk Laks, the late iconic president of the Brazilian Association of Holocaust Survivors who died in 2015.
Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor Eduardo Paes led the inauguration solemnity on Thursday attended by Jewish and non-Jewish officials.
“Mr. Laks’ dedication to preserve the memory of the Shoah is the legacy he left for the Jewish leadership. We need to illuminate the past to lighten the future,” Osias Wurman, Israel honorary consul and a former president of the Rio Jewish Federation, told JTA. “He was an icon for a generation among Holocaust survivors.”
Located in Rio’s neighborhood of Jacarepagua and ready to house some 850 students ages 11-14, the Aleksander Henryk Laks School is part of the “Schools of Tomorrow” program. Launched in 2009 by the municipality’s education department, the initiative aims at reducing school evasion and upgrading the studies at elementary and middle schools located in the city’s most vulnerable areas, where poverty and urban violence are dominant.
Aleksander Laks died last year at age 88 of a lung infection. Born in Poland in 1926, he was held in the Lodz ghetto, as well as Auschwitz and other concentration camps, between 1940 and 1945. In 1945, he fled to Rio.
Laks wrote two books, including hos biographypublished in 2000: “The Survivor: Memoirs of a Brazilian who escaped from Auschwitz.”
He was passionate about sharing his life story with Jews and non-Jews, including children and youth, who would often call him “Grandpa Laks.” He would often say to his audiences, “May my past never be anyone’s future.”