Eugene Katz was born in Dyszna, Poland in in 1927. He was one of five children, growing up in a Jewish family not too far from Vilna; he recalls a difficult life, beset by hunger and poverty, but also filled with family and friends. When war came in 1939, Eugene’s family was in eastern Poland, the part of the country assigned to the USSR in the infamous 1939 Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. The family suddenly found itself under Soviet domination; as big a change as this was, life continued, though clear signs of Soviet communism began to enter their lives. 1941 saw the real change though…Germany initiated Operation Barbarossa, and within a matter of days Eugene’s family was under the heel of the Nazi regime. The family was quickly put in a ghetto, and Eugene’s oldest sister Sophie was murdered. Life became increasingly difficult in the ghetto, as the young Eugene and his family struggled to survive. Then the darkest of days arrived, with the liquidation of the ghetto by the Einsatzgruppen. Most of Eugene’s family was taken to a killing site and murdered. Eugene was there, witnessing these terrible events, but he and his brother escaped, taking advantage of the fog and running into the forest. Now a teenager, Eugene joined the Russian partisans, and he managed to survive four intense years of warfare, often the victim of political intrigue and anti-Semitism in the Red Army. Very crafty and clever and willing to do what he had to, Eugene made it, the only member of his family to survive the war and the Shoah. He began to rebuild his life, marrying and working in Riga, and in the 50s he made it to Poland, and from there Canada. Every step of the way his survival instinct kept him afloat, and he went on to create a prosperous business in postwar Canada, helping to build the country we know today.
Eugene Katz was interviewed at his home in July 2017, by Crestwood teacher Scott Masters. The interview was set up courtesy of the Jewish War Veterans Association of Toronto.
Oral History Project October 11th, 2017
This week Crestwood was visited by Faye Kieffer who spoke to Mrs. Winograd’s Grade 8 class about her experiences during the Holocaust. Faye is a hidden child survivor and she was born in Binyacorna, Poland in 1928. When the war broke out, Faye and her family were quickly moved to Ghettos. Her mother and siblings were taken away to Auschwitz. Faye decided to run and went to a Gentile’s house who let her hide in the attic of their farmhouse. From there, she was with the partisans for 8 months before being liberated. After that, she moved away from Poland to Russia and later emigrated to Canada in 1948. We are thankful for her time and sharing her courageous story with us.
Felicia Carmelly is a Romanian Holocaust survivor currently residing in Toronto. Born in 1932 amidst European anti-Semitism, Felicia faced persecution at the hands of the Green Shirts in Romania. Felicia and her family were taken from their hometown to Transnistria, an area under Romanian governance where Romanian Jews were forced into mass ghettos. Here, she and her family suffered with little food and resources for survival. Through the help of child partisans, Felicia survived Transnistria and was liberated by the Soviet Army. Following the war, Felicia and her family travelled to Vienna and Israel before finally arriving in Canada in 1962.
Felicia was interviewed for this project in September 2015 by Crestwood students Sabrina Wasserman, Tina Wang, Daven Siu, Robert McHale and Spencer Arshinoff.
Oral History Project November 1st, 2015
Hank Rosenbaum was born into a comfortable Jewish family in Warsaw in 1936. The German invasion of Poland turned life for the Rosenbaum family upside down. He and his family would spend the next 6 years in and out of ghettos- escaping and evading the Germans on multiple occasions. He spent the final years of the war living with Jewish partisans in the forests of Poland. His story is an amazing one of Jewish resistance in Poland. He shared his story in 2014 with Maya Morrow.
Oral History Project May 27th, 2014
Today Crestwood was visited by Faye Kieffer who spoke to our Grade 8 class about her experiences during the Holocaust. The grade 8 class has been studying The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and discussing the notion of the “hidden child.” Faye is a hidden child survivor. Her emotional story is likely to remain with the students for their entire lives.
Faye Kieffer was born in Binyacorna, Poland in 1928. When the war broke out, Faye and her family were quickly moved to Ghettos. Her mother and siblings were taken away to Auschwitz. Faye decided to run and went to a Gentile’s house who let her hide in the attic of their farm house . From there, she was with the partisans for 8 months before being liberated . After that she moved away from Poland to Russia and later emigrated to Canada in 1948.
We are thankful for her time and sharing her courageous story with us.
Etti Miller is a child survivor of the Holocaust. Born just as the war was beginning, Etti and her family were forced into the Vilna Ghetto. They were lucky to escape the liquidation of the ghetto, as they managed to find their way into the forests. They remained there the duration of the war, living among the partisans and with the local farm,era who were brave enough to offer them shelter. Even though she was just a child, Etti sees this as a formative period in her life, something she shared with Crestwood students Alex Hobart and Savannah Yutman at a Cafe Europa interview in February 2013.
Oral History Project May 1st, 2013
Jozef Cipin was a young boy when the war began. He and his family were on the run in the early part of the war, evading the Nazis and hiding out with the partisans. When the Gestapo caught up, Jozef was interrogated and deported to the Terezin camp, where he managed to survive the Holocaust. After the war he remained in Czechoslovakia, until the failed 1968 uprising convinced him and his family that it was time to leave. He ended up coming to Canada, where in 2012 he brought a powerful message of tolerance to Crestwood students Stephanie Tanz, Kaily Wise, and Natalie Krause. In 2017 Jozef again visited us, this time doing an interview with Robbie Altschuler, Armin Selzner and Arielle Meyer, as well as speaking to Mrs. Pagano’s English 8 class.
Oral History Project January 9th, 2013
Simon Zelcovitch was born in Poland shortly before the onset of the war. When his father foresaw the approaching Nazi invasion, the family fled to Russia, where they lived in ghettoes. With the escalation of the Holocaust, the family followed Simon’s older brother Yossel into the forest, where they took refuge in the Bielski Brothers’ family camp. With the exception of his brother, killed during partisan activity, the Zelcovitch family survived the war. They emigrated to Canada shortly after and began their new lives in Winnipeg. Their lives are profiled in the film Defiance.
Simon’s family story also appears in the book Fugitives of the Forest. Mr. Masters read about him and contacted him; Simon has visited Crestwood on several occasions now; in the fall of 2012, he was interviewed by Savannah Yutman and Kristen Stribopoulos. In 2016 he returned to visit Mr. Hawkins’ class, and students reworked his story for this project.
Oral History Project January 7th, 2013
Faye Wolpianska was born in Bieniekonie, Poland, in 1928. Her childhood came to an end in June 1941 when the Nazis came to her village. With the war underway, Faye and her family were quickly moved into a ghetto. As conditions worsened, the family made the decision to leave, ending up in the larger Vilna ghetto. Their lives drifted into starvation and slave labour. One day, Faye was laying railway ties in a labour camp and returned home to find that her family had disappeared. Now on her own, Faye decided to run.
She spent months begging for food and shelter. She hid in barns, the woods, and fields, depending on the occasional farmer who would help her. As a young teen, she was brutalized, infested by lice, and forced to walk barefoot in the snow when her boots fell apart. When she wandered into a swamp, the Partisans found her. Faye’s legs were frozen in the material that was wrapped around her feet, her skin peeling off with the material. Although there were no antibiotics or medicine, Faye miraculously survived.
After liberation by the Russians in 1944, Faye returned to her hometown and learned that of the 500 Jews who had lived there, only 14 survived. Her father was murdered in a camp in Estonia, and her brother and sister were gassed in Auschwitz.
Faye arrived in Canada in 1948 and was joined by her mother in 1949. She married Mortz Kieffer in 1952, and together they have two sons and two grandchildren. We first met Faye at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, where she has twice told her story to Crestwood students. In December 2013 and again in 2015 she visited us at Crestwood, where she sat down with Ms. Winograd’s English 8 class.
admin July 9th, 2012
Esther Bem was raised in Zagreb. Two of her older sisters, Jelka and Vera, joined Tito’s Underground Resistance Army in 1941. Jelka was caught by the Croat Fascist Ustashi in 1942 and executed. Vera was cited for bravery by Tito’s Partisans and became an officer. Esther and her parents survived by hiding in Italy with poor farmers. She and her family arrived in Canada in 1966. Esther came to Crestwood two times: in 2008 she participated in our Holocaust Workshop, and in 2009 she sat down for an interview with Grade 11 student Caroline Murphy.
admin July 9th, 2012