Louis Koplin’s three children believe he was one of the lamed-vavnik.
A Jewish legend provides that a given generation has 36 righteous men. Koplin, his children say, was an example of how to live a righteous, good life.
“Having this father my whole life that was just so different and special, I feel very lucky,” said Dr. Anne Koplin, one of his children. “I felt like I won the lottery.”
Aged 100, Koplin died Oct. 12 and is survived by his kids, their children and a great-grandchild.
Koplin’s children describe him as loving, supportive, a lifelong learner and a man committed to educating younger generations about the experience that shaped his world.
Koplin was born in Nelipeno, Czechoslovakia, in 1920. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, he was sent to a labor camp in 1941 in Komarom, Hungary, and was chosen to stay there as a shoemaker. He remained there until March 1944, when the Nazis invaded Hungary. Koplin was sent to the Austrian border and worked in a forced labor camp until February 1945, the Historical Society says.
From there, he was forced to march more than 300 miles to the Mauthausen concentration camp. The Nazis fled soon after his arrival at the camp and Koplin and his fellow inmates were alone until the U.S. Army liberated them days later.
Through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Koplin was accepted to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied pharmacy. After school, he moved to Milwaukee, where he opened his own pharmacy.
Koplin openly shared with his kids his experience during the Holocaust, they said. Steven Koplin said their father explained his identity as a survivor in the context of his upbringing.
“If there is a most important lesson learned from him, (it’s) the importance of knowledge of where you come from and how we’re part of a continuum of a long history, not just of the Jewish people, but also the traditions and culture he came from in his part of the world,” he said.
As their dad aged, said Rita Koplin, he grew more comfortable speaking about his experience. Koplin educated school students, churches and other audiences. He was a member of the speakers bureau of the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, a program of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
“As he got older, he really felt very strongly about sharing it,” she said. “When we were growing up, he shared, but not too much. He found a really good balance. We had a very joyful home growing up.”
Koplin even shared his story with those who treated him for different health challenges, his kids said. An adept user of technology, he later began referring medical professionals to internet accounts of his experience.
Koplin’s kids said they believe his legacy will live on through their children.
“He was a role model for them, no question, on how to be a good person and to pass that down to their families: the importance of Judaism, the importance of study, the importance of remembering where you came from,” Anne Koplin said.