Obituary: Joseph Sher, Holocaust and Hurricane Katrina survivor

Joseph Sher, Holocaust and Hurricane Katrina survivor who made suits for the young Elvis. Picture: Contributed
Joseph Sher, Holocaust and Hurricane Katrina survivor who made suits for the young Elvis. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 27 November 1915 in Krzepice, Poland. Died: 24 March, 2016 in New Orleans, aged 100.

Joseph Sher, a Polish Jew, survived the Holocaust, reached New Orleans after the war, made costumes for a young Elvis Presley, was rescued from his flooded home at the age of 89 during Hurricane Katrina and lived to be 100. He often said he owed his life to “a needle and thread,” since the Nazis had spared him because of his skills as a tailor, including repairing Nazi uniforms. Sher’s parents and his three sisters all died in the Treblinka extermination camp while he and his two brothers survived.

Once in New Orleans, in addition to tailoring some of Elvis’s first “jump suits”, Sher made costumes for Chubby Checker.

Jozef Scher was born on 27 November 1915 in Krzepice, southern Poland, a town with a 43 per cent Jewish population, most of them tailors, milliners, carpenters or locksmiths.While he was in a labour camp near Treblinka after the German invasion of Poland,,two German Jews helped win Sher’s freedom, citing his usefulness as a tailor.

Before being rounded up by the Nazis, Joseph Sher had married his sweetheart and fellow Jew Rachel Israelowicz. She too survived and would eventually get to New Orleans with her husband.

Sher worked in the city’s tailors’, Harry Hyman, for 40 years. It was there, in early 1958, that he met a young Elvis Presley, making the singer several suits.

Sher was coming up 90 when Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005 when he was saved by a young neighbour. Sher said later. “Katrina was a piece of cake compared to the Holocaust.”

Joseph Sher is survived by his sons Martin and Leopold and grandchildren Rose, Samantha and Jay.