RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A local man who survived the Holocaust has died of COVID-19 complications. Alan Zimm lost most of his family in the Holocaust but he survived multiple concentration camps. 

“I think he was probably about 5’2”, my height, but I always felt like he was so much bigger than that,” said Zimm’s friend, Nancy Wright Beasley. 

She remembers Zimm as having a giant presence. 

Alan Zimm and his sister, Rivka Zeminak. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Holocaust Museum)

“He had a way about making you feel important,” she told 8News. 

Wright Beasley, who is a writer, met Zimm more than 20 years ago at a Holocaust service at Emek Sholom Holocaust Memorial Cemetery in Richmond. She was asked to write a freelance story on the first anniversary of the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

“I simply refused to do it because I found the Holocaust so difficult,” she said. 

But after the service, her mind changed. She heard Zimm and other survivors speak about family they had lost, but Zimm stuck out to her.  

“Out of all the people who spoke, he was the only one who gave an identity,” said Wright Beasley. 

Zimm was from Poland and was captured in 1942. He survived through multiple concentration camps before he was liberated in 1945. He met his wife, Halina, who is also a Holocaust survivor, after the war and they ended up in Richmond.

Wright Beasley said her life was changed after meeting Zimm. 

“I began to cry and I knew that that was a pivotal moment in my life,” she said.

Alan Zimm (middle) with Nancy Wright Beasley (left) and Inge Horowitz (right). (Photo courtesy of Wright Beasley)

Wright Beasley went on to write two books and produce a play about the Holocaust. When she learned Zimm passed away of COVID-19 complications, she was shocked. 

“I thought, ’How can this be? He survived, I believe it was five camps in the Holocaust, and he was taken down by a virus?’ And it seems so ironic and so unfair,” she told 8News. 

Wright Beasley said she felt as if a piece of history died, but she remembers one message in particular that will live on: don’t hate. 

“He would say, ‘Don’t hate Germans, don’t hate anybody. Live your life, be a good person, be good to other people,” Wright Beasley said. 

Zimm would have turned 100 years old next month.