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Henry Orenstein: Holocaust Survivor and Entrepreneur Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 18th, 2021

Introduction to the Holocaust

‘Holocaust’ is a Greek word that more or less means ‘sacrifice by fire’.

The Nazi regime, were under the impression that the Germans were ‘racially superior’ to the Jews and believed that the Jews were somehow lesser than them. The Nazis were also under the impression that the Jews were somehow a danger to the ‘racially’ superior German race. (Holocaust Encyclopedia, 2008)

Under the Nazi regime; The Holocaust took place; around six million Jews were murdered in an organized, practical, state approved and stated aided massacre.

For the period of the Holocaust, groups such as the Roma (Gypsies), Poles, Russians, the handicapped and anyone else who the German authorities considered racially inferior to themselves were prosecuted. Some of the other groups were persecuted due to the political or religious differences and for behaving differently to the Germans, amid them were Communists, Socialists and homosexuals.

In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe was above nine million. Majority of the European Jews resided in countries that the Nazi Germany would rule or influence during and after the World War II. By 1945, the Germans along with their allies murdered almost two out of every three European Jews to eradicate any form of so called dangers to the superior Germans.

After the Holocaust ended, most of the survivors were sheltered in camps for displaced persons (DP); these camps were managed by the united alliances. Then between the years 1948 and 1951, approximately 700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel, this number also included the 136,000 Jewish displaced persons (DP) from other European countries. Some Jewish DP decided to emigrate to the United States and various other countries. The last camp for the DP was closed in 1957. The inhumanity delivered to the Jewish population resulted in wiping out hundreds in the Nazi occupied/influenced Eastern Europe and over all the Jewish communities was deeply affected and devastated during the Holocaust. (Holocaust Encyclopedia, 2008)

About Henry Orenstein

Henry Orenstein’s origional name was Henryk Orenstein. He was born in 1925 in Hrubieszów, Poland . Henry is a Holocaust survivor who spent a lot of time in various concentration camps at the time the World War II was ending. (Wikipedia, 2008)

Orenstein is now a successful poker player as well as an entrepreneur, who resides in Verona, New Jersey, USA. Orenstein is also a toymaker who convinced Hasbro to start producing Transformers. He holds more than 100 patents, and besides Transformers, he holds U.S. Patent 5,451,054, which has given Orenstein the sole right in the United States to detect and display hole cards in poker games. This aspect of showing a player’s hidden cards to an audience is the main reason what makes poker a well followed game and the credit for popularising poker goes to Orenstein. (Topper Toys, Inc)

Apart from making the game of poker a more audience oriented game, Orenstein is a very able poker player and champion himself. Some of his main winnings are as following:

  • $5,000 Seven-card stud tournament at the 1996 World Series of Poker (WSOP), earning $130,000
  • 12th in 1993; 8th in 1995 in WSOP.
  • 7th in the $2,500 Seven Card Stud event at the 2005 United States Poker Championship. He was the oldest participant (80) at the event and and won his first round against one of the best cash-game players in the world, Chip Reese. (Wikipedia, 2008)

Orenstein is also a remarkable toy maker who brought joy to countless children through his many safe and education toys. Some inventions of his that he specially cherishes are: Johnny Lightning cars, his signature unique dolls and his line of Transformer action figures. (Topper Toys Inc, 2006)

In 1995 Orenstein was issued U.S. Patent 5,451,054, making use of this licensed technology, Orenstein licensed this technology to Fox, NBC and other TV networks which enabled poker tournaments to be aired on TV. (Topper Toys Inc, 2006).

Struggles of Henry Orenstein

Henry Orenstein is a holocaust survivor, he survived five concentration camps. Orenstein was given freedom to live his own life freely on May 2, 1945. He was freed close to an old German university town; Rostok. He was released in the middle of the Sachsenhausen-a death march of the Jews; a march that had already consumed many Jewish lives. (Tom Gross, 2005)

Orenstein’s parents, Lieb and Golda Orenstein, were murdered brutally. Both of them were shot to death in the cemetery of their home village of Hrubieszow on October 28 1942.

Regarding the holocaust, Orenstein says that despite of all the stirring words written on the ghastly subject, no words can possibly describe the horrors, torture, savageness and cruelty which the Jews faced during the Holocaust and in the concentration camps.

Orenstein says that although he hopes that the world will become a better place some day. But he says he’s saddened by the behavior of the Western Europe’s population. Since he was born in Poland, he saw Western Europe as an enlightening region, who understood humanity but as a grown up he now sees the picture otherwise and says he was wrong to believe that. He believes that the present generation in Western Europe hasn’t learnt much from the Holocaust, even though it happened so close to their homes, there isn’t a lot learnt.

Orenstein has written an autobiography narrating his personal, wartime, Holocaust experiences. The title of his book is, ‘I Shall Live: Surviving against all odds, 1939-1945’ and it was published by Beaufort in 1987. (Tom Gross, 2005)

Horrors faced by the Holocaust Victims in general

The Holocaust Began in March 1942. A Jewish massacre took place across Europe. In the next 11 months 4,500,000 Jews were wiped out. And by the end of World War II the death rate increased to about 6,000,000 Jews of which included 1,500,000 were children. So many innocents’ lives were forever lost, due to the Nazi murderers. (John Menszer, 2008)

The Jewish victims would arrive in the morning at the concentration camps; the chief of the political bureau would announce their arrival. They would be between 800 and 1,000 in number, some walking; others who were too ill to walk would arrive in trucks, from which they were tipped out without any warning. Then they would be either taken into the courtyard or in winter, to a large hall of the crematorium, where they would be instructed to undress; and were told that to take a bath. (Tom Gross, 2005)

Then the victims were pushed inside the doors of the two-roofed gas chambers, the guards used to beat them up with whips and sticks in order to get them to go inside and hence locking the doors once they were all forced inside.

It used to take around 20 minutes for the gas chamber to end so many lives, when the doors of the gas chambers were open; the main task of the special Kommando began. The commanders’ job was to drag the dead bodies as quickly as possible from the gas chambers to another place in order to make room for other victims to be put to death in the very same gas chamber. On opening the doors, the bodies would spill out, which were often impossible to separate one from another and they all gave the impression of putting up a great fight against death.

Anyone who had witnessed a gas chamber filled to four feet of dead bodies would never be able to forget it. The people who had human faces 20 minutes ago were unrecognizable due to the distortion of the killer gas. (Tom Gross, 2005)


Despite facing the horrors of five concentration camps; Henry Orenstein achieved a lot more than most people with happy childhoods and lives ever do.

He holds more then 100 patents; he brought happiness to numerous children through his educational and fascinating toy range. He gave the game of poker a new twist to make it more appealing to the masses and played an important role in popularizing the game and not only that he was also a successful poker champion himself who won many championships. Throughout his life, he succeeded at many things he is a writer who has authored several books, including I Shall Live, an account of his own life changing experiences during World War II., owner of over 100 patents. He is also a philanthropist, has a foundation with the name of ‘Henry and Carolyn Sue Foundation’, which helps hundreds of families, senior citizens and specially the Jewish community and causes.

He treated the experience of Holocaust to set a shining example of how not to fail in live and to keep striving for the absolute best.

Works Cited

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. ‘The Holocaust’, Encyclopedia. 2008. Web.

Wikipedia, ‘’, 2008. Web.

Hall of Fame Inductees, Topper Toys Inc, ‘Henry Orenstein’, 2006. Web.

Tom Gross, Mideast Media Analysis, ‘’, 2005. Web.

John Menszer, ‘Survivor Stories’, 2008. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Henry Orenstein: Holocaust Survivor and Entrepreneur." August 18, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/henry-orenstein-holocaust-survivor-and-entrepreneur/.


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