Leo Zelmanovich remained relatively free throughout the war, until 1944 when he was moved into a concentration camp. Part of his ability to survive was due to his work as a carpenter working on construction projects in Nazi camps. After the war he was able to return to and reclaim his home in the Soviet Union, only to be forced to stay when the borders were closed in 1945.
George Waldman tells of many acts of brutal violence against Jews during the war. He was buried alive along with other corpses, only to dig his way out to survival. He survived several camps including Auschwitz, Midonik and Buna. For about ten years he had trouble sleeping, screaming at night while having dreams about camp brutality.
“I am not going to be destroyed.” This was the motivating statement that helped Mr. Alfred Tibor survive persecution and the events surrounding World War II. Although he was drafted into a forced labor battalion of the Hungarian army and a prisoner of war in Russia, he always sought to find hope for survival.
Through this extensive interview the viewer will learn about his work as a designer, artist, and acrobat—skills that played roles in his vocational and survival successes. The viewer will not be able to walk away from this interview without recognizing the high value Alfred places on freedom.
Al Negrin (Abraham Moses Negrin) tells the story from the perspective of a Greek Jew. During the early part of the war he remained a college student, however he became a participant in the Greek underground movement. Through rallies, pamphlets, graffiti and sabotage, the movement attempted to thwart the efforts of the occupying Italians (and later, Germans). Eventually he was put into camps including Auschwitz Birkenau and Bergen Belsen.
Eventually his family and all Greek Jews were sent to Poland. They believed they were being sent to Cracow but their destination was Auschwitz. They arrived in April 1943 and upon arrival, he was separated from his family. He was fifteen years old and this was the last time he saw his mother, father, and two sisters.
Strougo worked at the camps, but often refused to work and was beaten many times. However he knew that working hard––in order to please the guards––would not save a person. Saving himself by whatever means was the only way to survive. He repeated a phrase that kept him motivated to survive, “If they don’t kill me, I will not die.”
He survived Auschwitz for two years and was moved to Dora-Mittelbau (?) where prisoners manufactured torpedoes for the German navy. He was moved, later, to Bergen-Belsen where he decided to take on an identity of a French gentile. He assumed this identity until liberation.
Upon returning to Greece after the war, he was able to regain ownership of his parent’s home, and, as required, he joined the Greek army. In 1955 he moved to the United States.
During his time in the camps, bread was everything. He dreamed of being a baker and when he came to the United States, this dream came true. Because of his experience with starvation and the horrors of the camps, to this day, he can’t throw away old bread.
Name of interviewee: Sala Grinblatt
Date of interview: 8/2/87
Type of recording medium and number of physical units: 1 videocassette
Playing time: approximately 65 minutes. There may be more on the tape since it stops mid sentence, but it will not play any more on my VCR.
Name of interviewer: not given. There are only about 3 questions on the tape and these are for clarification. Ms. Grinblatt simply recounts her story.
Language of the interviewer: English
Place of the interview: Not given
Names of other people present: None
Circumstances of the interview, including type of preparation: unknown
Other or former names: not given
Birth year: approximately 1923
Nationality: Polish at that time, American now
Number of siblings: Three brothers and one sister. Names not given
Parents’ names: not given
Parents’ occupations: father seems to be some sort of businessman, mother homemaker
Place of upbringing: a small town in Poland
Family background: from a ‘comfortable’ family
Education, including school(s) attended: not given
Date of marriage: not given
Spouse’s occupation: not given
Number and gender of children (names?): not given
Child or children responsible for initiative for interview: not given
Political and organizational affiliations: not given
Religion (was the individual a convert?; were both parents Jewish?): Jewish, not a convert, both parents Jewish.
Place of residence now: Columbus Ohio
Economic circumstances: not known
Decorations of qualifications: none known
III. SUMMARY OF THE GENERAL CONTENT, NATURE AND SCOPE
Geographical area discussed: Poland
Names of persons discussed: her family, no names given.
Time period covered: 1939 to
Summary of subject content: description of events, conditions, objects, and activities, with locations and dates when possible: see write-up of interview.
Opinions and attitudes expressed by the interviewee: tolerance towards all other groups despite religion or nationality.
Opinions the interviewee has heard expressed about the informant or others: none given
Personal recollections about other people: see write-up of interview.
Among what groups – ethnic or religious – did the individual live?: A mixed town of approximately half Jews and half Gentiles in Poland.
When did they first sense something was wrong? August 29th, 1939.
Did they witness any early anti-Jewish incidents? No, they were friends with their neighbors who hid and fed them after they fled their home.
When did they first witness arrests and deportations? The fall of 1939.
Was their own arrest as individual or family of other grouping? Sala was arrested alone when she was sent to the factory to work.
When were they split from family members? One brother was arrested earlier. Sala was sent away around November of 1941.
Were they moved around within the camp or from camp to camp? What were the names of the places? Sala worked in a spinning factory for most of the time. Her one brother who survived was in several different camps. Her parents were sent to Treblinka, a brother to Auschwitz and Buchenwald and another brother to work in a factory where he was murdered. Her sister disappeared but she did not mention where she went, and I don’t think the family knew.
Do they relate any Nazi technical terms or jargon – what words or phrases? No.
Do they mention perpetrators names? The only one was Mengele and that was at the very end where the tape stopped.
Summarize anecdotes? The whole interview is a series of anecdotes.
When were they liberated? Not sure.
Where did they go? Not sure.
Did they go to their old home? No, they returned to it a few weeks after they fled and it had been burned to the ground.
Were they reunited? No. Only one brother survived. The other children and the parents were killed.
Paul Fleischmann was born in Budapest, Hungary, April 28, 1932. He had two older brothers. His father owned a store. One day the Germans came and closed it. They put a large sticker on the door, which told people they could no longer do business in the store.
Paul is only 10 or 11 years old when the Germans force all the towns’ Jewish population into the synagogue. They are kept there three days with only one bathroom to handle the hundreds of people. When they are finally sent home everyone is told to stay inside and away from the windows. The Germans tell them if they come out of their homes or apartments they will be arrested, and if they look out of their windows they will be shot. Two days later the Germans post signs in the apartment buildings announcing everyone 16 to 60 must report to the town soccer field for work. This was the last time Paul ever saw his father or his oldest brother. His father and oldest brother were both killed in concentration camps.
President Horthy and his son contact the United States and try to surrender the country to them. The United States refuses. President Horthy is jailed, his son killed, and a former meat butcher named, Ferenc Szalasi is placed in charge of the country. A favorite saying of President Szalasi is “who doesn’t do what Szalasi wants, he’s going to be cut up”. This saying is put on small stickers and large signs all over the town.
Paul had 14-16 uncles and aunts on his father’s side of the family. They owned shops and stores in towns all around Hungary. They never believed the Germans would mistreat them because “they were such good citizens”.
When Paul’s family were all taken away he was left alone in Budapest. He ended up in a Wallenberg “safe house” and received some food each day from the Red Cross. He survived by selling new papers, and running errands for the elders. When the Russians invaded Hungary they liberated Budapest. Paul’s surviving brother returned from the concentration camps. The Red Cross discovered their mother in an Austrian hospital. Paul and his brother join the Zionist organization and the Zionists help smuggle them out of Hungary. They go to Austria and find their mother. She regains her health and eventually they are sponsored by a Jewish organization in Des Moines, Iowa. They immigrate to Des Moines and get jobs. Eventually, they move to Cleveland, Ohio because there is a larger Jewish community there and also better jobs. It is in Cleveland that Paul meets and marries Hanna Hoffman. Their children are all born in Cleveland, Ohio.
Paul and Hanna move to Findlay, Ohio for only 8 months and then move to Columbus, Ohio where they are living at the time of this interview.
Mr. Murray Ebner was born near Krakow, Poland on September 20, 1928. His family was in the wholesale farm product business that afforded them a comfortable life. As he grew up he was educated at both Catholic and Jewish schools and had good relationships with non-Jewish friends and acquaintances. When the war broke out, however, the relations between Jews and non-Jews changed for the worse.
The Ebner family was forced out of their home and assigned to a Jewish ghetto but eventually, at thirteen years of age, Murray was separated from his family and placed in a camp, making this the last time he ever saw his family. He was transferred to Auschwitz–Birkenau and toward the end of the war, successfully escaped from his German captors. Ironically, after emigrating to the United States and being drafted into the military, Murray was assigned to guard the borders of East Germany and West Germany. He guarded the Germans from the Russians.
Murray’s story is full of vivid recollections of horrendous experiences during the Holocaust.
Morris Dach is born February 23, 1921. His father is in the cattle business and he joins him in this. The whole family works in the business. Life was very hard even before the Germans invade Poland. Morris remembers being cold all the time. There was anti-Semitism and he would be in fights all the time with kids at school. One day he comes home crying and his father, seeing him, tells him if he ever comes home crying again he will hit him. This makes Morris very tough and he never cries again.
Germans invade Poland in 1939 and his middle brother is the first to be called into the army. When Poland falls and the Germans take over, the Jews in Plonsk are put to work sweeping the streets. The Germans cut off the men’s beards and do not pay the Jews for the work they do. Morris and his friend escape to the countryside for a time. There they have plenty to eat but eventually they return and are subjected to daily persecution.
Morris survives a machine gun barrage by the Germans, flees to Warsaw and survives by running a smuggling operation. He smuggles Jews from Plonsk to Warsaw. In the Plonsk ghetto he survives and gets money for food for his family by sneaking into the deserted houses and selling whatever he finds there to Poles. Eventually, the Jews are moved out of Plonsk to concentration camps. He drives his parents to a train not knowing they are being taken to Auschwitz. It is the last time he sees them. His two brothers also die in a concentration camp.
In Birkenau life is horrible. Morris has never seen such death. There is no water, no sanitation. It is filthy with lice, fleas, bugs and dead bodies. He begins to lose hope but when the Germans are looking for workers to learn bricklaying he gets on the team. This allows him to travel each day from Birkenau to a much cleaner and better run Auschwitz. There in Auschwitz he lays bricks for buildings. When the Germans are not looking he lays “crooked” bricks and to this day he is very proud of this fact. He found the will to live and would get much satisfaction out of doing the opposite of what he was told to do. Later in life he would never like taking orders but always found a way to have his own business and be his own boss.
As the Russian army arrives in Poland the Germans move the prisoners on a march. Mr. Dach and some comrades escape, take a German family hostage, regain their strength and wait out the liberation. After the liberation Morris returns to Plonsk and gets his family property returned to him. His home becomes a kibbutz for returning Jews after the war.
In 1949 Morris moves to Boston, Massachusetts. There he eventually opens his own delicatessen. A cousin also in Boston befriends Morris and it is through him that Morris meets and later marries his wife, Marion. They have two children, 1 son and 1 daughter. They move to Marion, Ohio for a time where he works in real estate and investments. Eventually they move to Columbus, Ohio where he retires from the restaurant business.