Helen was born in Lithuania, in 1932. In 1944, after the Kovno Ghetto was liquidated, Helen and her mother were shipped to the Stutthof concentration camp. The men were separated, including Helen’s father Yitzhak, who was taken to Dachau and killed. In January of 1945, Helen and her mother were left behind while the Jews of the camp went on a death march. Nazi soldiers then entered their tent and injected them with a poisonous substance. While several others died, miraculously, Helen and her mother survived. In 1948, Helen came to Canada where she has made it her life’s work to teach Canadian students about the terrible consequences of hatred and intolerance. Helen married Aaron Yermus in 1952, and Helen and Aaron have three children and nine grandchildren.
Helen visited us at Crestwood in January 2018, when she spoke to English 8 students. Arielle Meyer and senior students edited her interview for this webpage.
Oral History Project March 26th, 2018
Oral History Project August 24th, 2016
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
Faigie Libman was born in Kaunas in 1934, an only child. Her mother was a nurse and her father owned a successful bookstore. They lived an affluent lifestyle. In 1941, when Germany invaded and bombed Lithuania, more than 3,500 Jews were murdered. They were humiliated, abused, tortured and murdered. After the invasion, a ghetto was established in Slobodka, where Lithuanian Jews were sent and forced to wear yellow stars. Faigie was hungry all the time. During the next three years, her family lived in turmoil. In 1944, the Jews of Kaunas were transported in cattle cars to concentration camps. Her father was sent to and later died in Dachau. She and her mother were shipped to Stutthof. Her mother dressed her to look older and told the Nazis she was 12, so that she could work and not be taken away to slaughter with the other children. After leaving Stutthof, they lived in three small labour camps. In 1945, the Russians liberated their camp. Faigie and her mother were the only surviving members of their family. Her father died the same week they were liberated. After living in a Displaced Persons camp in Austria, her mother located her sister in Montreal and they emigrated to a new life in 1948. In 1972, she and her husband moved to Toronto, where she taught Junior Kindergarten for more than 30 years. Today Faigie continues to speak about the Holocaust, racism and hatred at schools, synagogues, churches and assemblies. She visited Crestwood in December 2013, where she spoke to Mrs. Pagano’s English 8 class and to Hailey Friedrichsen and Liam Mayer for this project.
Oral History Project January 3rd, 2014
On Thursday, December 12th, Crestwood invited Faigie Libman to come speak to Mrs. Pagano’s grade 8 English class about her experience in the Holocaust.
Faigie Libman was born in Kaunas in 1934, an only child. Her mother was a nurse and her father owned a successful bookstore. In 1941, when Germany invaded and bombed Lithuania, more than 3,500 Jews were murdered. After the invasion, a ghetto was established in Slobodka, where Lithuanian Jews were sent and forced to wear yellow stars. Ms. Libman recalls being hungry all the time. During the next three years, her family lived in turmoil. In 1944, the Jews of Kaunas were transported in cattle cars to concentration camps. Her father was sent and later died in Dachau. She and her mother were shipped to Stutthof. Her mother dressed her to look older and told the Nazis she was 12, so that she could work and not be taken away to slaughter with the other children. After leaving Stutthof, they lived in three small labour camps. In 1945, the Russians liberated their camp. Ms. Libman and her mother were the only surviving members of their family. Her father died the same week they were liberated. After living in a Displaced Persons camp in Austria, her mother located her sister in Montreal and they emigrated to a new life in 1948. Ms. Libman married Benny Libman, also a Holocaust survivor.
Edith Pagelson’s personal story of survival began in Germany. She and her family were victims of Hitler’s Nazi regime well before the war began, feeling the sting of the Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht all through the 1930s. She and her family were deported from Duisberg to the Terezin Ghetto, where Edith’s father died. After spending some time, she and her mother were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they spent a few months before being selected as labourers and sent to Stutthof, on the eastern front. They laboured as the Soviet Red Army closed in and the end of the war drew near. After liberation, Edith fought to regain her health, and she and her mother managed to get back to Germany, from where they later emigrated to the United States, where she settled in Brooklyn.
Edith was interviewed by Scott Masters in her home in Portland, Maine, along with Chuck Sanford and David Astor, both of whom appear in the Military Veterans section of the Oral History Project.
admin July 9th, 2012
Irene Csillag was born in 1925 in Satu Mare, Romania. Irene was living a good life, but when the Germans occupied Hungary in 1944, everything changed. In April 1944 Hungarian Jews were moved into ghettoes. The Hungarian authorities worked with the SS and began deporting Jews starting in the middle of May. 440,000 Jews were deported from Hungary, most going to Auschwitz. After four weeks of living in the ghetto, Irene’s family was deported . When the train finally stopped, they had arrived at a place that no one recognized. The gate read “Arbeit Macht Frei” . After being sent to the right, Irene, her sister and her mother had their hair shaved off, and their belongings and clothes were taken away and replaced with uniforms. Next, they were marched to their barracks in camp “C” . They stayed there for around 6 weeks, later shipped off to another camp called Stutthof. After liberation, Irene met her husband Teddy at a DP camp and they got married in January. They joined a Zionist group and ended up in Austria, then in Budapest They lived in Budapest for ten years, and had their daughter Judy there. Because of the Hungarian revolution starting in 1956, they moved to Canada.
Irene was interviewed for this project by Katherine Charness and Emma Myers in January 2012.
admin July 9th, 2012