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
Stefania Sitbon is a Holocaust Survivor from Poland. She was born just before the war began, so Stefania doesn’t remember the German invasion, or life before the war. The memories she has are of her childhood, a time when things had changed dramatically. Stefania grew up in the chaos and hunger of the Warsaw Ghetto, where her father had taken up resistance against the Nazis – he later participated in the uprising, which he survived. With the help of a righteous Gentile, Stefania and the other members of her family found temporary refuge in the Warsaw Zoo, the subject of the recent film The Zookeeper’s Wife. From there Stefania and her family were separated and sent to convents and surrounding villages, from which they were liberated in 1945. Her reunited family spent the immediate postwar years in Austria and Poland, after which they emigrated to the new nation of Israel, later deciding to go to Canada.
Oral History Project June 9th, 2017
Jenny Pietrzyk was born in 1920s Poland, and she was a teenager by the time the war came. Finding herself in eastern Poland, Jenny and her family were in the Soviet zone, based on the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact. While the early years brought deprivation, the real onslaught for Jenny and her family came in 1941, after the German commenced Operation Barbarossa. Like many Poles, Jenny’s family became victims of the Nazi territorial readjustment. While Jews and others were massacred in her village, Jenny’s mother stepped forward to help, and Jenny recalls the haunted survivors who would come to her farm at night. Most local Jews hiding in the forests were turned in by collaborators, principally Ukrainians. Jenny’s mother and sister too fell victim, as the Nazis manipulated collaborators in various eastern European nations. Jenny managed to escape the horror of that night, though she was later detained and sent to germany as a slave labourer, where she spent the balance of the war. Jenny’s story reminds us of the complex ethnic realities in wartime Europe.
Oral History Project May 4th, 2017
Sid Handler was born In Vilnius, Lithuania in 1934 (at the time it was part of Poland and he was born with Polish citizenship) as Samuel Rezjewski. Through his childhood, he had lived close to lots of family, and was always surrounded by them. When the Holocaust Began and they were forced into the Vilna Ghetto and they moved his grandmother’s apartment in the Ghetto. At the end of the Holocaust Sid and his mother, the only two surviving members of the family, escaped from HKP labour camp. Sid now lives in Newton, Massachusetts with his wife, two children, and 5 grandchildren. He is now 82 years old and living happily. Sid Handler’s Oral History Project Interview, conducted by Zach Halpern, took place on the 25th. Nov, 2016.
Oral History Project March 24th, 2017
Oral History Project March 13th, 2017
Born in the small town of Klimontov, Poland in 1938, Saul was only an infant when Europe transformed into a war zone. He was born into a loving family: his father was a banker, his mother was a homemaker, and he had two older brothers. Saul remembers very little of this briefly relatively peaceful life before his family was transferred to Tzozmer ghetto when he was three years old.
While Saul’s story is one of survival, it is also one of loss. Like many other families, the Shulmans were separated during the Holocaust, with no knowledge of each other’s whereabouts or well-being. Saul clearly remembers his tragic separation from his two older brothers. After this traumatic experience, Saul and his mother were deported to a concentration camp. Sometime thereafter they were deported to Auschwitz; it is truly a miracle that Saul survived. He remembers the sleepless nights he endured in cramped barracks.
Eventually, Saul and his mother moved to Canada to start a new chapter of their lives. They arrived here in 1948, when Saul was nine years old. While Saul suffered the devastating loss of his father, brother, grandparents, aunts and uncles, he was thrilled to discover that Perry survived the Holocaust after being liberated from Buchenwald, a German concentration camp. Saul feels proud to live in a nation that espouses the values of diversity, anti-racism, and human rights.
We are proud to have heard his story, and are thankful that he invited us to his home in October 2016, where students Taylor Frankfort and Jonah Patel interviewed him.
Oral History Project November 5th, 2016
Jean Chase is a survivor from Trembovla, Poland, a small village near Tarnopol. Born in 1933, Jean was the only child of Chuna and Nechama Goldstein. When the Nazis came, the family was relocated to the Tarnopol ghetto, and though she was very young Jean remembered many key moments from this period. She recalled the aktions of the SS, as the population of the ghetto was steadily liquidated, and that her father, a local tailor, was spared at first. When her parents were ultimately taken away, Jean bravely and miraculously escaped to the forests surrounding the town, beginning a pattern that she would repeat multiple times. Upon learning of her parents’ murder, Jean found herself orphaned and depending on the locals who began to shelter in a rotating pattern. She even remembered staying at the home of a Ukrainian policeman who told her that he had murdered her mother. Jean made the decision to go another local village, Krovynka, where she connected with her friend Sylvia and members of her family who had escaped. She spent some months there, almost discovered by the Germans while hiding in a hole; it was a period where she recalls that was like a wild animal. With the end of the war, another period began, one which jean remembers as even worse in many ways – she was without family, and with nowhere to go. She made her way to Kutno, staying in Poland and resuming school, but Poland offered her nothing, and she made her way to Israel with many other orphans. While she met her husband there, Jean was not happy there either, and when family connections emerged in the United States, she was able to secure passage to Canada. She raised her family there, and recovered her emotional health. Jean was interviewed in August 2016, when Scott Masters and Savannah Yutman visited her in her home.
Oral History Project September 12th, 2016
Oral History Project August 24th, 2016
Sylvia Mahler is a survivor of the Holocaust. Sylvia does not know her age because her records were lost in the war, but she is registered as born in 1925. She grew up in Stopnica (Poland) and lived there until the war started. In 1941 Sylvia was taken to Skarzysko-Kamienna labour camp, where she was forced to work in an ammunition factory. After she was taken to Czestochowa and forced to work in another ammunition factory. In 1948 Sylvia moved to Canada with her husband and she has lived in Canada since then. Sadly, during the war her parents, sister and three brothers were killed and Sylvia was the only survivor of the Holocaust from her family. She sat down with Crestwood students in February 2016 in her room at Baycrest to share her story.
Oral History Project May 23rd, 2016
Oral History Project May 17th, 2016
Sol Nayman is a Holocaust Survivor from Poland. He was born in 1935 to Yudel Najman and Sore Roize Rosenberg; his older sister Mania was born in 1928. When the war came in 1939, simple, everyday life in their village was turned upside down. The family was fortunate to escape to the forest, where they saw the Wehrmacht’s trucks and troops roll through and destroy what was in their path. From there the Naymans managed to trace a path to the east, eventually making their way to the Soviet Union. Once in the USSR, they had to deal with the wartime conditions in that nation, and they were forced into the vast reaches of Siberia, where Sol’s parents toiled away for many years. As the war drew to a close, they made their way back to the west, to the Ukraine and eventually Germany itself, where they found themselves in the Wetzlar DP Camp. Here life slowly came back to a state of relative normalcy, and after several years the family managed to emigrate to Canada. Sol attended school, where he excelled, setting him on a path for success in later life.
Oral History Project May 16th, 2016
Hana Windwar was born in 1933 in Warsaw, Poland. She was six years old when the war began and she was the only child of her parents. She went to Russia with her parents. Her dad was taken to Russia, and forced into the army during the war. Her mom needed to work and Hana was put in a orphanage. Hana went back to Germany after the war but lost contact with her mom. She met her husband in 1948 when Hana and her mom were waiting emigrate to Israel. She was married in 1951, and moved to Canada in 1966. Crestwood students visited Hana at Baycrest in February 2016 to hear her story.
Oral History Project May 16th, 2016
Mila Dorchik was born on May 12, 1924 in Szydlowiec, Poland. After the Nazis came into her town, they imposed a curfew and forced citizens to work for them. They did various jobs, such as cleaning the streets, houses, offices, and washrooms. In 1942, she was taken to Skarzysko-Kamienna labour camp and forced to work in an ammunition factory, producing bullets and lethal gas. In 1944 she was transferred to Czestochowa where she continued to do the same work. Mila was liberated in Czestochowa, on January 16, 1945 by the Russians. After the war, she returned to her hometown and stayed there for a short time and then moved to Germany. She lived there in a DP camp until 1948, when she immigrated to Israel. In 1961, she immigrated to Canada. Crestwood students visited Mila in her room at Baycrest in February of 2016 to hear her story.
Oral History Project May 16th, 2016
On December 7th, 2015, six students from Crestwood Preparatory College went to the Baycrest Centre to interview Sam Weisberg, accompanied by his wife, Rosa.
Sam is a Holocaust survivor, born to a Jewish family in a German-speaking region of Poland called Silesia in 1927. He was taken to the Krakow ghetto, and later to multiple concentration camps including Plaszów (as featured in Schindler’s List) and Bergen Belsen. He lives in Toronto with his wife (also a survivor). They have a daughter, six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren!
Oral History Project March 18th, 2016
Chava Sloma was born in Otwock, Poland in 1925. Though she recalled incidents of anti-Semitism, she said her prewar life was for the most part good. All that changed dramatically in September 1939 though; the family initially fled to Warsaw, but as the German army advanced, the decision was made to separate, and Chava and her sister headed for the Russian border. After being smuggled across the border, Chava and her sister Frania were shipped to Siberia, where they spent most of the war, working in the gulags deep in the wilderness. While conditions were rough, Chava remembered the kindness of a few people who kept her going, through disease and deprivation. When the war came to an end, she made her way back to Poland, to discover that her family had been murdered in the gas chambers of Treblinka. Chava found the will to go on, and she married and began a family, soonafter heading to Canada, where she arrived at Pier 21.
Chava visited Crestwood in February 2016, where four generations of the Lerner family came together one afternoon to listen to and to document her story, and to become witnesses to their own family history in this difficult period of history.
Oral History Project March 6th, 2016
The Crestwood Oral History Project is in the midst of its busy season! The CHCs are completing their oral history interviews – all 80+ of them. In the last week, we have had 2 in class visitors, and done one in home visit. Students from Mr. Masters’ class went to visit Kelman Cohen in his home last week; Mr. Cohen is a Canadian army veteran who went overseas as a replacement soldier in 1944. He told Hartley Gelkopf (whose father is Kelman’s doctor), Harlan Rich, Willa Easton and Rory Peckham some unbelievable stories, first about growing up in prewar Toronto, and then about the experiences he survived in the Netherlands. The next day Israel Glassman – another patient of Dr. Gelkopf – came to Crestwood to share his stories with a large group of Grade 10s. Mr. Glassman served in the navy during WW2, doing trans-Atlantic convoy runs and D-Day support missions in the English Channel. Both men were able to add to the students’ understanding of the war, and to give them an emotional connection to events that shaped Canada 70 years ago. This week Pinchas Gutter came to Crestwood; Pinchas is a survivor of the Holocaust from Poland. He is a renowned speaker who has lectured extensively around the world, and he was chosen by the Shoah Foundation for the holographic initiative – please click here for his appearance on the Today show. Crestwood students were lucky to meet Pinchas in person and to hear how he survived. Stay tuned for an update on our visit to Baycrest!
Vanessa Wappel February 19th, 2016
For the past few months my grade 8 English class has been reading a book called, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. The novel takes place during the Holocaust, so on a related note, last Tuesday, our class had the honour of meeting Holocaust survivor Sally Wasserman, who came to talk to our class about her experience as a hidden child in Poland.
When Mrs. Wasserman was 6 years old, the Nazis occupied Poland, and she, along with her family and thousands of others, were herded from their homes and into a ghetto. She remained in the ghetto for 14 months, where she faced extreme hunger and deprivation. Sensing extreme danger, her mother had her smuggled out of the ghetto into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Turken, a Christian family who lived nearby. This couple took her in and gave her a home, food, clothing, and an education. Mr. and Mrs. Turken did this knowing that if caught, they could be sentenced to death for aiding a Jew: just one of the horrible laws that were put in place at the time. Tragically, Mrs. Wasserman was orphaned by war: the remainder of her immediate family were murdered in Auschwitz. At the age of 12, she travelled across war-torn Europe, and eventually made it to Toronto. She did not settle well into life in Toronto, but in March of that year, Mrs. Wasserman told us that luck struck her for the second time in her life: a teacher at Dewson Public School worked with her one-on-one, instilling in her a love of reading and English. This teacher remained Mrs. Wasserman’s mentor, teacher, and friend until she passed away.
Mrs. Wasserman explained to us that the Holocaust taught her that people have the capacity for unthinkable evil, but also for great kindness and goodness. She showed us how just one person can have a dramatic influence on the course of another’s life. Mr. and Mrs. Turken, her rescuers, were examples of two people who had an influence on her life. What is important is not that we strive to change the entire course of history, but that we strive to make a small, but profound, difference in the life of another human being.
Ms. Young’s grade 8 English class thanks Mrs. Wasserman for sharing her story with us. Her presentation was truly moving, and I am not alone in saying that we were inspired by her strength and perspective.
Vanessa Wappel January 22nd, 2016
Posted In: Upper School
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.
Vanessa Wappel January 15th, 2016
Rose Lipszyc was born in 1929 in Lublin, Poland. On October 14, 1942 Rose escaped forced deportation. She survived the war under a false identity, posing as a teenage Polish child worker in Germany. Rose’s mother, father and two brothers were murdered by the Nazis. After liberation, Rose and her future husband Jack immigrated to Israel in 1948, but the climate did not agree with her, so they chose to immigrate to Canada in 1952, where they built a new life together.
We were fortunate to meet Rose in September 2015, when a group of students met her at Baycrest. Guanghao, Victoria, Julian and Greg were impressed by Rose’s optimism and by her approach to Holocaust education.
Oral History Project October 30th, 2015
Amek Adler was born in Lublin, Poland, in 1928 and grew up in Lodz. After Nazi occupation in 1939, his family escaped to Warsaw and then to Radom. In 1943, Amek was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and from there was sent to a series of work camps and eventually shipped to Dachau, where his father and one brother perished. Amek was liberated on April 28, 1945. Amek worked with the Israeli Irgun Tzvai Leumi to help illegal immigrants into Palestine, and when he heard that his mother had survived he moved on to Sweden, where he married and started his own family. He immigrated to Canada in 1954, where he and his family built a new life for themselves.
We met Amek at Baycrest in September 2015, where he was interviewed for this project by Aaron Joshua, Jonah Patel, Charley Swartz, Rohan Narayanan, and Ted Kang.
Oral History Project October 29th, 2015
Freda (Franka) Kon is from Lodz, Poland. Freda and her family had been a nice, normal life when the tragedy of the Holocaust descended upon them. They were put into the Lodz Ghetto, where they would stay for the next four year, condemned to slave labour and starvation. But as a young woman, in a community with so many other young Jews, Freda was resilient, and she recalled how they managed to find ways to bring at least some joy into their lives. Freda’s insights there are compelling, and they speak to the resistance that went on, even in the darkest moments. In 1944, the tragedy of the Shoah persisted, and Freda and her family were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau; Freda subsequently was sent to Stutthof, and was forced on a death march at the war’s end.
She attributes her survival to her mother’s spirit, as the two were together through the duration of the Shoah. At war’s end Freda married and had a child before emigrating to Canada. We first met her at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, and she was kind enough to invite us to her home, where Crestwood students Sy Greenberg, Alix Postan, Lindsey Swartzman, and Katherine Charness interviewed her in May 2011. In 2014 Freda and her daughter travelled to Lodz, where Freda participated in ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the ghetto. Savannah Yutman and Scott Masters visited Freda in July 2015, where she updated her interview and shared the story of her recent travels to Poland.
Oral History Project September 4th, 2015
Fela Schwemer is a Holocaust Survivor from Poland. Fela lost most of her family during the war, as she made her way through a series of camps, where she was used as a slave labourer. Fela is a powerful storyteller, and her memory for the little details – the bobby pin that she desperately wanted to hold on to – gives students deep insights into the nature of the Shoah, right down to the level of the individual. When the war came to an end, Fela struggled to put the pieces back together; she married, but lost her first baby. Time spent in Israel was also difficult, as her husband’s military service continued her anxiety. Canada would prove to be her salvation there, and she tells the story of her arrival in Montreal with great fondness.
We met Fela at the Baycrest terraces in February 2015, where she was interviewed by Siena deCuia, Isabella Pinto, Andrew Northey and Sidra Fisch.
Oral History Project May 6th, 2015
Sophie Krausz is a delightful 73yr. old woman who has been living at the Terraces of Baycrest since 2012. Sophie was born in Russia two months after the Holocaust commenced. She lived in Poland for 13 years. Sophie came to Canada in 1958. Sophie was the only child in her family. The family emigrated from Europe to Montreal.
Sophie is widowed. She has 2 daughters and one son. She is an educated woman who graduated from Concordia University (Montreal) in 1978. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and went to Teacher’s College and was a Public School Teacher who taught ESL and Special Ed. As well, Sophie spent 6 summers at a camp teaching arts and crafts. Sophie was interviewed for this project in March 2015 by Hannah Mirsky, Amy Cho, and Toby Chung.
Oral History Project March 30th, 2015
A survivor from Poland, Karol’s experience is different from many of the Polish Jews we have interviewed. When the war closed in, Karol and most of his immediate family made their way east, into the Soviet zone – his story reminds us of the Polish partition. From eastern Poland they entered the USSR, where they continued to push to the east, past Stalingrad. Most of the family ended up in Uzbekistan, but as military-age Karol fell under suspicion, the NKVD took him into custody, and he was sent to a gulag in Siberia, not too far from Omsk. There he survived the war, and at the edge of death, Karol attributes his survival to a kind doctor who kept him alive. When the end of the war came, Karol retraced his journey to the west, eventually making his way to Canada, where he and wife built a life in Montreal and Toronto.
Oral History Project March 24th, 2015
Mr. David Jacobs was born in Tomaszów, Poland. He grew up within the small town, and soon joined his father in working at their family tailoring shop. At age 18, when the war broke out, Mr. Jacobs was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, where he served as a slave labourer. Mr. Jacobs traveled across Europe to various concentration camps, including Blizyn and Auschwitz Birkenau, where he served as a cook for his fellow prisoners. After being liberated by Eisenhower and the American Armed Forces in 1945, Mr. Jacobs was soon given the opportunity to work. Soon after, he travelled to the Bergen-Belsen DP camp, where he and his brother were able to reunite with their sister. He began working for the American Joint Distribution Committee in order to help displaced Jews across Europe. Mr. Jacobs later moved to Toronto, Canada to continue working in the clothing industry, where he still resides today.
Mr, Jacobs was interviewed for this project in January 2015 by Sabrina Wasserman and Blair Gwartzmann.
Oral History Project February 25th, 2015
Susan Pasternak, born Sissi Friedman was 7 months old when the war broke out in September of 1939. She was born on February 1st, 1939 in Zambriow, which is in northeastern Poland. Her parent’s names were Mordechai and Sarah Friedman and Susan was their first and only child. Her father had his own bakery shop and they lived a good life, until one day the Nazis took all the Jews to the ghetto. Susan was fortunate enough to never see an extermination camp as her birth mother arranged for a Polish woman to hide the family, though not her father, who unfortunately was killed in the ghetto. Susan and her mother managed to sneak out of the ghetto and arrive at a Polish woman’s apartment. They lived there for three and a half years, under a table. It was covered however with a black cloth that covered the entire table and went all the way down to the floor so that they could not be seen by anybody. After those three and a half years, Susan’s mother wrote to her sister, Rosa Weinstein, who lived in Canada. Her sister then gave passage for them to come to Canada. On the way her mother had a heart attack and died, and Susan was then sent to an orphanage in France, and from there to Germany, where she stayed for two years. Her mother’s sister wondered what had happened to them, so she enlisted help from the international Red Cross. In May 1947, two years after the war had ended, her aunt sent passage to England; Susan then went from England to Halifax. She then met her in Halifax, making Susan one of the first children to cross the Atlantic after the war ended.
Susan spoke at Crestwood in December 2014, when she presented her story to Mrs. Pagano’s English 8 class.
Oral History Project January 21st, 2015
Paula Goldhar is a survivor from Poland. In December 2014 she shared her very compelling story with Mrs. Winograd’s English 8 class. Paula recounted the painful memories that made up her childhood in a very precise way, from the deprivations of the ghetto and the camps to the memories that still are with her every day.
We thank Paula for visiting us, and for making the decision to tell her story.
Oral History Project January 19th, 2015
Freda Rosenberg is a Holocaust Survivor from Radom, Poland. She survived the full weight of the war years, passing through a number of ghettoes and camps, including Auschwitz Birkenau. When the Red Army was approaching, she was forced on a death march, which she recounts in detail here. Surviving that ordeal too, Freda was liberated by the Russians. She returned to Poland, only to discover that she was not welcome in her homeland. Fortunately she was able to emigrate, and she eventually made her way to Canada, where she rebuilt her life.
Freda Rosenberg was interviewed for this project in September 2014 at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, by Crestwood students Akib Shahjahan and Ahmed Izzeldin.
Oral History Project January 12th, 2015
Norma Orlan is a Holocaust Survivor from Jaworsno, Poland. A child when the German invasion began, she managed to survive a succession of labour camps during the war, including Gross Rosen. With the conclusion of the war she found herself in the Fohrenwald DP camp. She and new group of friends made their way out of Europe; she and her husband would eventually settle in Canada. From there she started her family, including Tammy Ross, an educator in Toronto, with whom Crestwood has shared some ties in recent years.
Norma was interviewed for this project at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa by Sabrina Wasserman, Erika Thomazi and Madeleine Leftwick.
Oral History Project January 12th, 2015
Rachel Shtibel, nee Milbauer, a vivacious and outgoing music lover, lay hidden and silent in an underground bunker in Nazi-occupied Poland for nearly two years. A young child, she managed to survive the war, through her determination and good fortune. After the war, a recovered violin, case and photos hidden away by Rachel’s beloved Uncle Velvel became cherished symbols of survival and continuity. With the darkest days behind her, Rachel met Adam Shtibel and fell in love, and they both set about building a new life together. Half a century later, Rachel decided to explore her memories and author her memoirs.
Rachel and her husband Adam shared their memories with us in September 2014, at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa. Rachel was interviewed by Crestwood students Danielle Gionnas, Izabella Osme and Viki Tao. We would like to thank Baycrest and the Azrieli Foundation for their ongoing support of Crestwood’s Oral History Project.
Oral History Project January 11th, 2015