An 87-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Achieved His Lifelong Dream Of Receiving A Diploma

Mordechai Miller, 87, overcame adversity, and earned his high school diploma. It's never too late.

Holocaust survivor Mordechai Miller never believed receiving a formal education was possible. He grew up in a Polish Jewish family during World War II and hid to escape the Nazis. 

"I was a hidden child. [I was hidden] in a forest, in a bunker, by Polish people. We paid them money to hide us out," Miller said in an interview with Forward.  Despite the odds on June 21, Miller, 87, walked across the graduation stage to receive his honorary high school diploma from Smithtown High School West in New York. 


The Long Island resident received a brief period of formal education during his time in a makeshift school in one of Germany's Displaced Persons Camp. "My education from Poland was nothing. I only made it to the first grade in '39," he told the Forward. 

However, not receiving a traditional education did not deprive him of learning. "I'm ok. I speak a few languages, I read and write in some languages. I can hold on my own," he told  HuffPost. "I read a lot of books. That was my education." 

Millers is creating a legacy. He has four children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. His daughter, Leah, posted about his life-changing accomplishments on Instagram. 

"He made it a priority to educate people about the Holocaust, something he continues to do even while fighting pancreatic cancer. At 87-years-old, he finally got his diploma. Thank you to everyone who supported him, listened to his story, and made this happen," Leah shared on Instagram. 

A decade ago, Miller began sharing his story of bravery and survival to students at Smithtown High School West. 

"I tell them how lucky they are, that they have beautiful schools, libraries. All the knowledge is right in front of them, they just have to look it up and take it," he told HuffPost. "That's what I tell them. To appreciate what they have." 

Smithtown High School West teacher Christina Cone fell in love with his story and advocated for the school to grant him a diploma. 

"I want Mordechai to know how appreciated he is to me and the younger generation," Cone told HuffPost. "I believe that Mordechai has the character of his mother and takes the time to inspire others to live a life of good character. What better way to honor his message than to do something kind for him?"

He said earning the degree warmed his heart. 

"It was a whole big thing. It was hundreds of student graduates, and then I,  An 87-year-old graduate," Miller told HuffPost. "I appreciated it very much, that I got some recognition."


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