SADDLEBROOKE (KGUN9-TV) - One of the last remaining Holocaust survivors lives here in Southern Arizona. Willy Halpert escaped the war after hiding in Belgium for three years. After getting separated from his father, he never saw most of his family ever again. Now, he spends his time sharing his story of perseverance.
The year is 1942. Willy Halpert was walking along the streets of Antwerp, Belgium with his father, a member of the German resistance group called "The Underground."
"All of a sudden, the street became deathly silent," said Halpert.
The S.S. Army put the street on lockdown. As a member of the Resistance, Willy's father had to protect his son so he pretended his oldest child belonged to someone else.
"He said in a loud voice, 'Go to your father,' and he pushed me to his friend. 'I have to go,"'
Willy was just 9-years-old. It wasn't until later that he would realize what his father was trying to do.
"The worst and most impressive thing that happened in my life. I was left just with what I was wearing, and never saw anyone again. You always feel a certain guilt to be the only survivor."
He spent the next three years as a war orphan, hiding in a church and a high school with other children.
"We should not move, we should stay under our blankets, and everything is going to be okay."
Once the war was over, he was reunited with three of his younger sister. They moved to Australia to live with an Uncle for several years. Willy went on to become an engineer. He met his wife, moved to Canada and now spends winters here in Southern Arizona.
He spends much of his time sharing his incredible journey with the world.
"It's still emotional recalling all that. But during the presentations I have to put on a brave face and tell them."
But in spite of the heartache, the anger and the uncertainty during the war...
"Learning to live with it, and despite everything, I've been an optimist my whole life."