Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Holocaust survivor celebrates the courage of others

CLEARWATER — William Hauben, like other Holocaust survivors, saw monstrous things during the war. His parents and brother were murdered and he experienced unspeakable cruelty during his five years in four different concentration camps.

But this is not the memory that he shares with others. His message is about the humanity and courage of the people who helped the Jews before, during and after the war.

It's about "honoring people that did the right thing during the Shoa (Holocaust)," said his son, Sheldon Hauben of Tampa.

While William Hauben, 89, is known mostly for his two decades as cantor at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Tampa, he has spent the past few years making trips to Washington, D.C., to visit the ambassadors of countries he says "put themselves on the line" to assist the Jews.

"This is the reason I survive," Hauben said — to serve as a "living testimonial," not just a survivor.

"God sent me to speak to ambassadors," Hauben said last week during a presentation at Temple B'nai Israel in Clearwater.

The countries Hauben credits include Portugal, Sweden, Australia, Albania, Bulgaria, Denmark, China, Finland and Norway, in addition to the United States and Israel.

Through a thick Polish accent, Hauben marveled at the "miracle of his survival" after being shot and "chopped to pieces" during the war.

He also spoke of his relationship with famed concentration camp survivor, Pulitzer-prize winning author and activist Eli Wiesel.

Hauben is the author of Light: Courage and Hope. The book's title is a reaction to Wiesel's well-known book Night, which details the atrocities of the war. Hauben said he wanted to talk about the positive things, the light, not the darkness.

Hauben's previous book is titled, From the Flames: The Miracles and Wonder of Survival.

In January, Hauben went to Washington, D.C., for a ceremony at the Embassy of Israel for the ambassadors and dignitaries of the countries that were honored. A slide show of the event showed the dignitaries mingling, shaking hands and meeting Hauben and the person he calls his "right-hand man," Bill Stefekar.

Stefekar, 65, retired from Hillsborough County government as a city planner and was a producer of B'nai Brith Presents Jewish Life in Tampa Bay on public access television. He said the stories he's heard from Hauben during the three years they have worked together are "beyond comprehension."

"I think this is what we want people to go away with: Where do we go from here?" Stefekar said. "The book talks about the most noteworthy of human virtues. … There's so many people that are fighting against intolerance and genocide, and we have to acknowledge them."

One person recognized posthumously at the Washington event was Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in Congress. He was chairman of the foreign affairs committee and made a trip to Tampa to speak at Hauben's synagogue in 1982. Hauben's son Sheldon, now an attorney, had served as an aide in Lantos' office and presented a plaque to Lantos' wife.

"As there is a God in heaven, life comes full circle," Sheldon Hauben said after showing pictures of himself and his father with the late congressman.

While Hauben "withstood all the worst that life has to offer," Stefekar said, he and his book are showing the goodness, serving as a torch for the next generation.

"I am going to be a living witness," Hauben said. "Not of how many people were killed, of how many people were saved."

>>fast facts

FAITH in action

William Hauben is the founder of FAITH, the Foundation Acknowledging Individuals Treating Humanity. The purpose of the group is to "make the world better one encounter at a time," said David Kalin, a member of the board. For more information about FAITH, visit or call (727) 492-5444.

Holocaust survivor celebrates the courage of others 05/17/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 17, 2011 7:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 21: Tears of love and parting mark the beginning of the final leg of a pilgrim's journey.


    Day 21: León to Hospital de Orbigo: 32.6 km, 8.75 hours. Total for Days 1-21 = 498 km (309 miles)

  2. Pinellas detectives investigating shooting that led to car crash

    Public Safety

    LARGO — Pinellas Sheriff's detectives are investigating a shooting that investigators said led to a man crashing his car after he was shot in the abdomen early Tuesday.

  3. Trump tweets, McCain return set stage for health bill vote (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged Republicans to "step up to the plate" for Tuesday's crucial Senate vote on their bill eviscerating much of the Obama health care law. The stage was set for high drama, with Sen. John McCain returning to the Capitol to cast his first vote since being diagnosed with brain …

    President Donald Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and others, speaks about healthcare, Monday, July 24, 2017, in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington. [Associated Press]
  4. Teenage driver livestreams crash that killed sister in California (w/video)


    FRESNO, Calif. — A teenage driver lost control of her car while she was livestreaming on Instagram and recorded part of the crash that authorities say killed her younger sister in California.

    This July 22, 2017 photo provided by the Merced County Sheriff, shows Obdulia Sanchez in Merced, Calif. Sanchez has been arrested in California on suspicion of causing a deadly crash that she recorded live on Instagram. She was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter after Friday's crash that killed her 14-year-old sister and badly injured another 14-year-old girl. [Merced County Sheriff via AP]
  5. Fiancee: Clearwater driver in truck trafficking case helped people


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When a long-haul truck driver from Clearwater called his fiancee Sunday from a jail more than 1,000 miles from home, he had only a few minutes to describe the gruesome events that led to him being charged with a crime in which he could face the death penalty.

    James Mathew Bradley Jr., 60, of Clearwater, center, is escorted out of the federal courthouse following a hearing, Monday, July 24, 2017, in San Antonio. Bradley was arrested in connection with the deaths of multiple people packed into a broiling tractor-trailer. [Associated Press]