Holocaust survivor, 91, beats cancer

A Brooklyn man who survived of the Holocaust has beaten the odds once again. This time he survived a health crisis.

"A lot of people did the same thing that I did and they didn't survive, maybe I had a little luck," Ludwig Charatan said.

It was a lot more than luck that led Charatan, 91, to survive the Nazis and most recently, cancer. Perseverance and a strong will to live are why this Brooklyn remains a living legacy, according to his doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital.

"It's a wonderful story of someone who throughout his life has met so many different aspects of almost unbelievable adversity yet comes out of it with the best attitude," said Dr. Daniel Labow, chief of surgical oncology at Mount Sinai Hospital.

As a teenager, Charatan miraculously survived Janowska concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and witnessed the slaughtering of family and friends. In the 1970s, he was called to Germany to testify in court against the camp's commander, Fritz Gebauer. Charatan later wrote a memoir called "Eye to Eye."

"Well sometimes I get a little depressed and sometimes you're happy that you're still alive and can see your family," Charatan said. "And to live to this kind of age like I live, it's a really nice age to live. I never expected to live to this kind of age."  

Charatan built a life in Brooklyn with his wife, Dora, two children and later grandchildren. But just when he thought he survived it all, a few months ago doctors discovered a cancerous tumor in his gallbladder. He was ready to fight again, with two hero physicians by his side.

"This man seems to have moved in and out of shadows of absolutely catastrophic problems through the course of his entire life and by the means of something enchanted always comes out and makes the best of it and survives," said Dr. Michael Marin, chairman of surgery at The Mount Sinai Hospitals.

Now cancer-free, Charatan is ready to take on the world once more. He lives by the motto "Never sweat small stuff."

"You have to try your best," Charatan said. "You don't make from small things a big issue because a Holocaust survivor went through so much."