Family discovers Holocaust documents after Denver survivor passes

One of the few remaining Holocaust survivors living in Colorado passed away in March. Jerry Lista was passionate about sharing his story in the hope that others would never forget. What he didn't share was something he'd saved for decades.

KUSA - Jerry Lista survived a death camp and five concentration camps. After he was liberated, he moved to Denver. He passed away back on March 26, 2017. To honor his life is to honor his past, according to his family.

That's why they've been sharing his life story with 9NEWS and our audience.

PREVIOUSLY | Family honors Colorado Holocaust survivor after he passes away
BACKGROUND | Family discovers Holocaust documents after Denver survivor passes away
9NEWS travels with the family to donate their found documents to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. - see the amazing two-part story on Channel 9 on Monday and Tuesday at 9 p.m.! 

Dylan Sanborn, Jerry's grandson, says that his grandfather lived by specific tenants that he passed onto his family.

"Always wear your heart on your sleeve," he said. "Always be a good person. Whatever does happen, happens. But always know to live your life to the fullest."

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Dylan told 9NEWS that the family thinks his grandfather's whole family was sent to the death camps when Jerry was just 13.

He was liberated in 1945 - after six years. Only Jerry and two of his sisters were believed to have survived.

For Dylan, until March of last year, he'd only heard the stories. He'd never gotten to actually read them. That changed when his family found papers dating all the way back to the 1940s - discovered by Dylan's mom when she was sorting through Jerry's old boxes and documents.

"'Having fainted, I remained on the road and the next day, I was picked up by one of the cars driving the sick passengers,'" Dylan read.

It was a story about when Jerry was shot in the leg by SS officers before being liberated. The family says it helps them feel connected to history - connected to Jerry - even though they know they'll never fully understand what he went through.

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One document given to Jerry by American allies after liberation said he was born in 1927. His family said he'd always thought he was born in 1924. He moved to the U.S. in 1951 as part of a program for holocaust survivors.

Jerry passed after a year-and-a-half battle with Alzheimer's. His daughter, Sharon Lista, says her father always called himself a miracle.

Since his death, the family continued finding documents. They reached out to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C. after their discovery.

Brad Bauer is the Chief Archivist at the museum and when he heard what the Lista family had found, he flew out from D.C. to meet them in May of last year. Since piecing together history can be a serious challenge, he decided to come in person.

"Judging by how worn [the documents] are typically that means they were kept in a special place, carried around home to home over decades," Brad explained. 

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The family told 9NEWS they decided to donate them to the museum because, as time passes, discoveries like theirs become rarer and rarer. Discoveries like this art also a critical part of never forgetting the Holocaust - and remembering survivor Jerry Lista.

"[People] can connect these events with real names and faces of individuals who lived," Brad said. "And put a human face on the story rather than just speak in terms of statistics."

9NEWS' Anusha Roy first brought this story to the public light back in March 2017. Since that time, the family's traveled to the Holocaust Memorial Museum where they've donated the documents. 

The first piece of her two-part series airs Monday at 9 p.m on Channel 9. The second goes up on Tuesday at the same time.

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