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.
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.
Martin Baranek was born in 1930 in Starachowice, Poland. His was a small family, just him, his mother, his father, and his younger brother. Martin was 9 when the war started in 1939. During those years, he was often bullied at school for being a Jew. As the reach of the Nazis grew deeper, he and his family were put into the Starachowice Ghetto in 1941. Sensing the danger, his grandmother told him to go with the group being sent to the factories, and he started working in the woodworking factory. After about 17 months of working in the factory, he and his fellow workers were eventually loaded onto cattle cars and sent off to the camps, where he stayed until the winter of 1944-5. He was then sent on a death march but was fortunate to be liberated from Gunskirchen camp in 1945 by the American army. After the war he immigrated to Canada in 1949. At first, he got a job working in a factory while taking night school to learn English. During this time he was working in the factory he met his wife Betty.
Martin was interviewed for this project by Crestwood student Adam Tytel, who knew Martin from the March of the Living. Martin returned to Crestwood in january 2017, when he shared his story with Ms. Winograd’s class, and did a second interview with Charlie Zhao, Jess Levitt and Max Dolman.
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.
Harry Bibla was born in 1930 in Miedzyrzec, Poland. As a 9 year-old boy, Harry witnessed the Nazi invasion and the immediate impact it had on his country. While Mr. Bibla initially was hidden with a Gentile family, when conditions became too dangerous he took to the forest to hide. When conditions in the forest became unbearable, Mr. Bibla surrendered and was placed in a ghetto. However, as he viewed the coming of the final solution, he again took to the forest for safety. Mr. Bibla’s safety was only guaranteed by the arrival of Russian troops in 1944. After liberation, Mr. Bibla left Poland- first for Israel, before arriving in Toronto. Mr. Bibla’s story offers a unique glimpse into the Polish experience of the Shoah.
He shared his story with Crestwood students Nesli Inan, Topaz Katzav, Sabrina Wasserman and Hannah Mirsky in 2014.
Shirley Blay is from Poland, but in the chaotic days at the start of the war she and her family found themselves in the Soviet side of Poland, and they were subsequently transported deep into the USSR, to Kazakstan and Uzbekistan. They endured many hardships but unlike many Polish Jews they were able to escape the horrors of the Nazi camps, though Shirley did lose much of her extended family. When the war concluded Shirley’s family headed west, to Poland and Germany, and subsequently Canada.
We met Shirley at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa in October 2013, when Shirley was interviewed by Kristen Stribopoulos and Amal Ismail-Ladak.
Reuven Blium survived the Holocaust in Lithuania, a country where as many as 95% of Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Reuven was born in 1930 in Kaunas, into a family of limited means. Reuven’s father passed away when Reuven was only 3, and his mother had no alternative but to put him in an orphanage. Reuven spent his early years there, and he was able to escape the Nazi onslaught due to the foresight of a teacher, Mr. Zundell. He had been concerned about the war’s coming to Lithuania for several months, and had been preparing the students for evacuation. When the Kaunas airfield was bombed, he took many of the boys to the train station, and they headed east into Russia. Many of the younger children at the orphanage did not make it, and many were murdered by Lithuanian collaborators at the orphanage’s summer camp. Reuven believes that he can give them a voice. For those who did escape, a harrowing journey ensued, where the train was repeatedly attacked by the Luftwaffe. On the way, Reuven was jostled about, but he arrived intact into deep Russia, in the area of Galich. There he spent time in an another orphanage, which he describes in very Darwinian terms. Reuven learned to survive there, and he was lucky to get out after a year, making his way to the Volga region, where another orphanage awaited. Along the way, Reuven attended school, and as he got into his teens, he began to work in war industries. With the war’s end, he made his way back to Lithuania, to reconstruct his life. With the end of the war, he ended up in the Red Army. Later he was able to make his way west, eventually settling in Canada. We interviewed Reuven at his home in Toronto, over several visits in the summer and fall of 2016.
Hedy Bohm grew up in prewar Romania, in a region that later came under Hungarian control. As the war escalated, she and her family increasingly came under the influence of the Nazis, and the family was deported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. Hedy was able to survive Auschwitz-Birkenau for three months; at that time she was relocated to a work camp, where she spent the remainder of the war as a forced labourer, producing military equipment for the Germans. After liberation by American troops, Hedy went home, where she was able to meet up with cousins, and where she married her husband Imre. They were able to escape to Prague, where an aid organization arranged for this group of Hungarian orphans to get visas to Canada, where she arrived in 1948.
Hedy has visited Crestwood many times now. She brought with her some remarkable photos, including an old school drawing book, where many of her friends made sketches. She has spoken to students from YARRD (Youth against Racial and Religious Discrimination) as part of their ongoing initiative to interview community members about human rights causes, and she also brought this message to our first Human Rights and Diversity Symposium in November 2012. For this project Hedy was interviewed by Jake Pascoe and Natalie Krause in the fall of 2012, with supplements added in 2016 based on an interview with History 8, 10 and 11 students.
We met Max Bornstein at Baycrest Geriatric Centre in Toronto, where he is a resident. We learned about him through the Azrieli Foundation, as they have published his memoirs. Crestwood students Emma Myers and Sarah Mainprize interviewed Max at Baycrest in February 2013.
Max’s story is remarkable, and a singular one in many ways. He and his family travelled back and forth across the Atlantic many times in the prewar years: much of Max’s early life was spent in an orphanage in Canada, but events in his family saw them reunited in France in the prewar years. As the war began, the family made their way to southern France, where Max was detained – a 17 year old by then, he was a potential military recruit. He did manage to escape to Spain, but there he was ensnared by Franco’s government, and he spent a considerable amount of time in a concentration camp. Eventually he made his way back to England, and later to Canada – a veritable odyssey that saw him settle in postwar Toronto.
George Brady was living a quiet and comfortable life in Czechoslovakia in the period before the war. With the arrival of the Nazis however, his circumstances changed dramatically. He and his family were subjected to the various degrees of Nazi brutality and they found themselves ostracized from their community. George’s mother and father were arrested and taken away; George and his sister Hana went to live with an uncle before they were themselves deported to the Terezin concentration camp. From there the children were sent to Auschwitz, where George survived the selection, slave labour, and the death march at the end of the war. George has since dedicated himself to the cause of Holocaust and human rights education, as seen in the well known story of his sister’s life, Hana’s Suitcase.
George was interviewed for this project in spring 2009 by Nick Marlowe.
Roma Buchman is the grandmother of Crestwood graduate Ashley Bitton. When Ashley was in Mr. Masters CHC2D class 2006-7, we invited Roma to speak to the class. Roma is from Galicia, in Poland. When the war began, she found herself in a ghetto with the rest of her family. Her parents made the difficult decision to smuggle her and her sister out of the ghetto and into the care of nuns at a local convent. When it was feared they would be turned in, the nuns told the sisters to leave. With great fortune on their side, the sisters were able to re-unite with their parents, and they spent the remainder of the war in hiding. After the war, Roma and her family left Poland, emigrating first to France and then finally to Canada.
Roma was first interviewed for the Oral History Project in November 2009 by Crestwood students Jordyn Letofsky and Madison Brown. She visited us again in October 2012, when she spoke to Stephanie Erdman and Jacob Hamblin. In October 2016 we were again privileged to sit down with Roma; this time Mr. Masters took Sarah Swartz, Samara Black, and Sam and Georgia Gardner to visit her at her home.
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.
Howard Chandler was born in December 1928, in Weirzbnik, Poland. He had three siblings, a sister, who was the oldest, and two brothers. He was the middle child and had a normal experience in school before the war. When the war started he was almost eleven years old, finishing grade three and moving onto grade four. When the creation of the ghetto was made in his town, he remembers the rounding up and kidnapping of Jews for forced labor and the constant search of houses. After a selection his column was marched away to a camp, that was about five kilometers away. In the summer of 1944, the Russian front was nearing and they started to dismantle the factory so they were then transferred to a nearby camp. In July 1944, they were gathered and put on a train and we were shipped off to another slave labor camp further west. In early September his brother was sent to another camp, and his father and he were sent to an adjoining camp, all within Auschwitz where they were given work. When he was liberated from Theresienstadt only his brother and he had survived. After recovering, in 1947, he was able to be included in a group to go to Canada, where he found his mothers’ two sisters, and lived with another sister. Howard was interviewed by Crestwood student Michael Hochberg in April 2011.
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.
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.
Israel Cohen is a Survivor from Poland. Mr. Cohen was born is Lodz, Poland. He had two sisters. One was killed in the camps, and the other was murdered by the Polish a few months after the war. At first he was in the Lodz Ghetto, then Auschwitz, and then Kaufering until liberation. After liberation he went to Switzerland, to a treatment center for TB. After meeting his wife in Switzerland, he came to Canada, where he lives now with his family. Mr. Cohen published a book called, Destined to Survive, where he recounts his story of survival.
He was interviewed by Amanda and Michael Lawee in December 2013.
Judy Cohen is a Holocaust survivor from Hungary. When Hungarian Jews were deported in 1944, she and many members of her family were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Judy became a slave labourer. She was later sent to other camps in the Nazi system and was fortunate to survive the death marches at the end of the war. Today, Judy is committed to Holocaust and human rights education, and she has set up a website “Women and the Holocaust” to further this end. She has spoken to classes at Crestwood and was interviewed for this project by student Megan Rudson in 2009, and again by Lauren Chris and Lauren Weingarten in 2010. In 2012 Judy invited Sarah Mainprize, Savannah Yutman and Kristin Stribopoulos into her home, and she spoke at Crestwood’s first Human Rights and Tolerance Symposium.
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.
Berthe Cygelfarb is a Holocaust Survivor with a compelling story to tell, and she tells it beautifully. When Berthe visited Crestwood in December 2015, she spoke to Mme Doherty’s French class, and they were entranced by Berthe’s charm and humour, as were the students in the subsequent interview. Berthe recounted to both groups the horrors of the Holocaust in France, of the deportations and complicity of the Vichy regime. She brought with her a host of photos, which tell the story of her family and of Berthe’s own recovery.
We thank the Azrieli Foundation and March of the Living for their role in referring Berthe to us.
Norma Dmitry is a Survivor who came to us courtesy of Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, where we met her in May 2012. Norma grew up in Vilna, where so much of the horror that makes up the Holocaust began. She remembers the restrictions of ghetto life as the walls closed in around them, and she compellingly remembers the killing fields of Ponary, not far from Vilna. Norma remembers the collaborators of the Nazis, and she reconstructs here the story of one life – and that of her family – as the Shoah escalated around them.
Norma was interviewed for this project by Katherine Charness, Ellen McPhadden and Alice Lee.
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.
Alex Eisen survived the Jewish Holocaust in Hungary at the end of the war. While he was not deported to the camps, he did witness the horrors inflicted upon the Jews of Budapest, which he was fortunate enough to escape. After the war came to an end, he left Europe and ended up in Palestine, where the British refused his ship entry. Interned for a time on Cyprus, he did eventually succeed in gaining entry into Israel, where he joined the air force. Today he and his wife make their home in Toronto, and we’re pleased that he agreed to become involved in this interview project, once in 2009 and in again in 2010. In 2012 he sat down for a third time, when he was interviewed by Julie Cho and Ryan Kroon.
Max Eisen is a Hungarian Jew who was deported along with his family in the summer of 1944. While the other members of his family were murdered, Max was able to survive slave labour at Auschwitz-Birkenau as well as other camps, as well as the death marches at the end of the war. He is a passionate speaker and educator who works through the Holocaust Center, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Center for Diversity. He has been coming to Crestwood for many years now, and his message of tolerance and respect has reached many Crestwood students. We were happy to host Max on two occasions in 2017; he spoke with Justin Soberman at his home, and he visited Mr. Masters’ classroom, where Alexa Gibson took the lead on his interview.
Jenny was born in Poland in 1927, where she had four siblings. She grew up in Bedzin, a city with a thriving Jewish community. As a young girl, she read and was active in many Jewish organizations. As she remembers, all that changed on Sept. 1, 1939, when the German invasion began. She and her family were sent into a ghetto, and eventually deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they experienced the full horror of the unfolding events. Jenny survived in part because of the resourcefulness of her mother, and she also remembers finding her faith in music, something which continued after the war. After her liberation, she immigrated first to Israel and later to Canada. Jenny was interviewed for this project by Sarah Mainprize and Cassie Wasserman.
Anita Helfgott was born in Lvov, Poland on July 18th 1934. Her parents were Edzia and Fischel Helfgott. Anita was an only child and was therefore slightly spoiled before the war. For the first 2 years of the war, Anita lived under Russian occupation. Life at this time changed very little. The only way that Anita felt the war was in the small shortages of food. Anita’s father was asked to go with the Russians when they retreated, but he declined, not knowing what was to come. After the German invasion, many things changed, especially for the Jews. Anita’s father lost her job and she was no longer allowed to go to school. Anita and her family were moved into a ghetto a couple kilometers away. After Anita’s mother was taken away in a random round up, Anita’s father became desperate. He asked a Polish man who he worked with if he would save his child. The Polish man carried Anita out of the ghetto at night in a sack. This family took an incredible risk as it was against the law to hide a Jew. If they were caught, the whole family would be killed. Once with the family, Anita was given a new name and a new story. After a close call with the police, it was decided that Anita could no longer stay with the Polish family. She was snuck into where her father was living at the time. The ghetto had been disbanded and the people sent to Belzec. During the day while Anita was living with her father, she had to hide in a wardrobe. The Polish man rescued her again and Anita said goodbye to her father for the last time.
This time he brought her a fake passport so that she could travel. Anita and this man took a train to where the man’s nephew was living near the Russian border. This nephew was a Priest who had agreed to hide Anita. She stayed with him until the end of the war. Anita had a surviving aunt who was living close by. This aunt had been saved by Oskar Schindler. This aunt came to get Anita on April 1, 1946. They left Poland in 1946 with the intention of heading to the U.S. In 1948, Canada opened its doors and Anita’s aunt in NY found someone to sponsor them. Anita and her aunt moved to Toronto and began their new life.
Anita is now actively involved in Holocaust education, and she participates annually in the March of the Living. She was interviewed for this project by Meghan Kates.
In 1942, after the Vichy regime started arresting Jews, the Engels attempted to escape France by going to Switzerland. On the border, they were caught, and shipped to a temporary prison. They would then be shipped to the Rivesaltes interment camp. At this time, the Vichy government had a policy of releasing children. While Julien, 9, and George, 5, would be released, their parents would be shipped to Drancy and then to Auschwitz. Julien and George would never see their parents again. Both brothers eventually made their way to North America, after being rescued.
When Esther Fairbloom’s mother was pregnant she went to a ghetto in Tarnopol to deliver Esther. Her mother knew the Germans would come after them, so she sat down with her sister and made the choice to have her two children hidden. She had known the people at the local church and they agreed to hide 2 month old Esther. Esther was kept in the church for five years. She was living on very little food and water. As a result of this she became very weak and ill. The nuns treated her extremely well and cared for her, but whenever the Nazis would come into the town she had to stay in the basement hiding.
After the war was over her aunt and uncle came to the church and adopted her as their own. By this time she was very weak and needed to be hospitalized and taught to eat again. Her aunt and uncle were there everyday helping her and truly took her in as their own child, after they lost theirs.
After she got out of the hospital in Poland, her aunt and her uncle moved to Germany for three years. After Germany they were allowed to come to Canada as farmers. They moved to just outside of Ottawa and began a new life for themselves. Eventually, they made their way to Toronto and Esther is still there to this day.
After the war her sister was picked up by her uncle who was a doctor. He decided to send her to Israel to live with their relatives. When she was eleven years old she went to Israel and she did not know she had a sister and neither did Esther.
After finding the picture, Esther sent a letter to her sister. After communicating with each other, Esther was finally able to go to Israel and meet her. They eventually met and now they speak regularly and Esther travels once a year to Israel to see her and her family.
Esther was interviewed for this project in early 20114 by Kory White. She returned tio Crestwood in December 2014, when she spoke to Mrs. Winograd’s class.
Renee Fiszman is a child survivor of the Shoah from France. Her father joined the French military at the war’s outset, and this would prove to be a crucial decision for the rest of the family; he was taken as a POW early in the war, and would not rejoin the family until 1945. When the July 16 round-ups began in Paris, Renee and her mother and brother were taken out of the line since her father was a soldier; as Renee says, they were minutes away from deportation to Drancy, and Auschwitz itself. Her mother saw events closing in, and she moved to put her children in hiding. Renee and her brother stayed with a family away from her beloved Marais district, and she went through the motions, attending school and church and hoping the family would be together again. Her mother was tragically deported to Auschwitz, where she was murdered, and while her father did return, family life did not resume as it had been. Renee remembered many difficult days coming to grips with loss and her new reality after the war. She did marry, and did find solace there, moving to Canada with her husband Charles in the 1950s.
Renee visited with Crestwood students twice in 2016; first Arielle, Guanghao and Alexander visited her at her home, and she subsequently did an interview in French with Arielle and Daven.
George Fox was born in Berdichev, Russia (later Poland) in 1917, where he lived with his family. The Nazis forced his family into the Brzeziny Ghetto, where they remained until its liquidation in 1942. George was sent to the Lodz Ghetto until 1944, and then to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was liberated by the US Army after a death march to Flossenburg, Gross Rosen and Pocking, in Bavaria. The only survivor of his family, George immigrated to Canada in 1948. He has since dedicated himself to Holocaust and tolerance education, and he has been sharing his story for twenty years.
We met him at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa in October 2013, when he sat down with Savannah Yutman, Jessica Seger, and Meghan Kates.
Miriam Frankel was born in Dunajska Streda, Czechoslovakia, in 1927, and raised in Italy. After expulsion from her childhood home in Italy, she was trapped in Hungarian-occupied Czechoslovakia for the next four years. Her father was taken to a forced labour camp; the family was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in May 1944. Surviving two additional concentration camps, Miriam was liberated in Germany in April 1945. The sole survivor of her family, Miriam immigrated to Canada in 1948.
Miriam was interviewed for this project by Sabrina Wasserman and Scott Masters, who visited her in her home in July 2015.
John Freund came to us courtesy of the Azrieli Centre in January 2013. John is from Czechoslovakia, where he was living a “golden life” with family and friends. When the Germans invaded, that situation changed quickly. John survived the Terezin camp with his family. From there, John and his family were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were held for a time in the family camp. As the Soviets neared, John was sent to Flossenburg, where he was ultimately liberated by the Americans.
John was interviewed for this project by Sabrina Wasserman, Zach Freedman, Steph Erdman, Suzanne Eisentraut, Anna Wallace, Cassie Wasserman, Bennett Harris, and Patrick Helou. In April 2016, John came back to Crestwood, when he sat down to do a presentation for Mr. Hawkins’ class.
Gerda Frieberg was born in Upper Silesia, Poland in 1925. In October 1939, her father was taken away. In 1940, Gerda, her mother, and sister were deported to the Jaworzno Ghetto. In 1942, she was sent to the Oberaltstadt concentration camp,where her sister was interned. Her mother joined them in 1943. Gerda worked in the machine shop of a spinning mill until liberation on May 9, 1945. After immigrating to Canada, Gerda dedicated herself to Holocaust education, and to a host of human rights causes.
She visited us at Crestwood in October 2013, when she was interviewed by Jake Pascoe, Alex Hobart, and Sifana Jalal. We were again fortunate to host Gerda in February 2017, when she spoke to the Mr. Birrell’s English 8 class, and did a follow up interview where Michael Steinberg, Jonas Weissland and Arielle Meyer took the lead.
Arnold Friedman was born in the Carpathian region of the Ukraine. When the prewar border adjustment known as the Anschluss occurred, he and his family suddenly found themselves living in Hungary. As such, they were offered a temporary respite from the Holocaust. While Polish and Ukrainian Jews were confronted by the Nazi onslaught in 1939-40, Hungarian Jews did not experience deportations until 1944. Arnold’s own story tells of the build-up to this, as well as his own experiences as an inmate and slave labourer.
Arnold has spoken at Crestwood several times now. He was interviewed for the Oral History project in 2009 and 2010 by members of Crestwood’s YARRD club, and he sat down for this interview with Emma Myers and Katherine Charness in the fall of 2012. He came to us courtesy of Crestwood grandparent Roma Buchman, whose own wartime story is told on another page of this project.
Henry Friedman, a Holocaust survivor, was born on October 22, 1931. Henry was born in a small town in Hungary called Nyireghaza. He went to English and Hebrew school and spent his time with his friends and family. Henry was the youngest of two brothers and a sister. He lived as normal of a life that a Jew in Eastern Europe could live with his parents and siblings. When the German occupation of Hungary began in 1944, the situation changed quickly; Henry and family were deported to Auschwitz, where most of his family was murdered on arrival. Henry and his father were selected out for the work camps, and Henry passed through a succession of them in 1944-45, until his liberation. With the end of the war, Henry first went to Sweden, before crossing the Atlantic to the U.S. and Canada, where he made his new life.
Henry was interviewed for this project in February 2015; we met him at Baycrest, courtesy of the Azrieli Foundation. The students who had the privilege of sitting down with Henry were Taylor Frankfort, Mehmet Hocaoglu, Topaz Katsav, and Dana Dubovsky.
Reny Friedman is a child survivor from the Netherlands. She and her twin brother were born in 1937, just as prewar tensions were building up. Reny’s mother was from germany, and sensing what was to come, she looked for ways to protect her family. The family managed to secure the help of the underground, going into hiding in the countryside, in the Ardennes region, as well as in Brussels. In both cases they were discovered and forced to run, but not all family members escaped. Reny’s mother was deported to Auschwitz, where she was able to survive the brutality of slave labour at the hands of the Nazis. She returned at the end of the war, and Reny poignantly described her mother’s emotional state in the months and years after the war. Reny’s father knew he had to get his children to safety when his wife was taken away, so her turned to the underground, who took Reny’s brother to a monastery and Reny to a convent. Reny passed the remainder of the war there, where she learned how to live in this new, alien environment. As time passed, she began to enjoy the rituals and trappings of the Catholic faith. When her father came to get her at the end of the war, Reny remembers that he allowed her time and was patient with her return to her Jewish roots. Reny made her way to Canada in the 1950s, where she married Henry Friedman, also a Holocaust Survivor, whose story appears in this project as well. Reny was interviewed in her home in July 2016 by Scott Masters and Savannah Yutman.
Leah Frimerman is from Poland. After her nation was partitioned she and her family found themselves under Soviet control and she ended up in Siberia, where she spent most of the war in labour camps. She suffered several injuries during that time but was able to head west following the war, ending up in a DP camp and eventually making her way to Canada. She was interviewed at Baycrest in May 2011 by Crestwood students Savannah Yutman, Jenny Wilson, and Scott Kinnaird.
Born in Hungary in 1926, Ignatz Fulop lived on a 1000 acre ranch with his parents, his nine sisters and his brother. In 1940 most of the land was confiscated and the Fulop family was left only with their home. To Ignatz, it seemed like yesterday when he and his family were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was seventeen when he was thrown aboard the cattle train to endure a horrific journey that would stay with him forever. He was forced into labour by the S.S. Officers and managed to survive. After the war, Ignatz along with his ten siblings emigrated to North America and Israel. Unfortunately his parents were not as blessed and will be remembered with the six million others who perished.
Ignatz was interviewed for this project by his grand-daughter Eden Wine.
Ala Gamulka is a Holocaust Survivor from Bucharest, Romania. She and her family were fortunate to escape the city as the German invasion closed in around them, making their way to a boat which took them on a harrowing journey through the Adriatic Sea. Like many wartime refugees, they were intercepted and placed in a detention camp before making their way to Israel.
Ala was interviewed for this project by Jasmin Katz in the winter of 2013.
Edith Gelbard was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1932. She lived with her parents, sister and grandmother. After the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, her family fled to Belgium and then to France. In 1942, her father was murdered in Auschwitz. Edith and her brother were hidden in an orphanage. She was liberated in 1945 and reunited with rest of her family. After the war, she lived in Paris and immigrated to Canada in 1958.
We first interviewed Edith at Baycrest in October 2016, and she came to visit us at Crestwood in January 2017, when Arielle Meyer, Zoe Shen and Sally Li spoke to her..
In April, 1944, Bill was deported along with his entire family from his home town of Subotica, Serbia to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In June 1944, he was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany where he worked as a slave labourer, building the infamous Ringeltaube. He was liberated by the US Army on April 29, 1945. Bill came to Canada as an orphan in 1947. He has spoken at Crestwood several times now, including to his grandson Josh’s Grade 9 class. He also participated in our 2012 Human Rights Symposium. Since, he visited the school in February 2014, when he sat down with Asli Inan and Sabrina Wise, and again in 2017, when he was interviewed by Jonah Eichler, Jordy Lax and Sam Frigerio.
Mel Goldberg was born in the summer of 1942, in Baila Rawska, Warsaw. He had two brothers and one sister, but no one survived the war. His town was liquidated in 1942 , and the family went to Treblinka which is a death camp located in Poland. Mel’s father had given Mel to the local cobbler to protect him. The cobbler bought a piece of land and built a one room house where he lived with Mel. When the war was over, Mel spent two years in Otwoch orphanage. The cobbler found Mel on a Red Cross list and adopted him without question. Mel was able several years later to move to Toronto, where he began a new life in Canada.
Mel was interviewed for this project in the February 2014 by Josh Weisbrod.
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.
Elly Gotz was born in 1928 in Kovno, Lithuania. His war started in 1941 when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union – he was about 13 when the war broke out. Elly and his family were put into a ghetto that same year. When the ghetto was liquidated, Elly was taken to Dachau, where he worked in a factory for a German company called Moll. His job was to build a giant underground factory. He was fortunate to be liberated when the war concluded in 1945. After the war, Elly first lived in Germany, then in Norway, and finally he went to South Africa to live with some distant relatives in order to get a good education. He and his wife are now making it their mission to collect 400 Holocaust survivor stories in order to educate and to make sure that an event as terrible as this will never happen again.
Nina Grey survived the Holocaust in wartime Poland. Her family was on the move, hiding in and out of Warsaw and fortunately always able to stay just one step of the Germans. She shared her story at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa in the fall of 2012, when she sat down with Jake Borinsky, Jessie Cooke, and Steph Erdman.
Tova Grifeld is a child survivor of the Holocaust. She grew up in Romania, and she shared with us her memories of the restrictions of the ghetto and of the increasing weight of the Nazi persecution. Tova was able after the war to make her way to Italy and then to Israel, where the survivors from her family were able to reunite. We met Tova at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, where she sat down with Hailey Friedrichsen and Jessica Seger for this interview in May 2012.
Edith Grosman was born in eastern Czechoslovakia in the year 1924. Her life and family were all good, until the German invasion and the onslaught of the Nazis. With that, restrictions began to be put in place, and Edith soon found herself deportated to Auschwitz, and after that a series of labour camps. With the edn of the war, Edith was able to reunite with her mother, and to build her life once again. She went to university and married, and her husband enjoyed great success as a writer. In 1968 though, revolution came to Czechoslovakia, and Edith and her family made the decision to head west, eventually making their way to Canada.
Edith was interviewed for this project in the winter of 2014, by Molly Wilder-Karabus on one occasion, and subsequently at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa by Cassie Wasserman, Sidra Fisch, Vincent Salvatore, Madeleine Leftwick, and Meghan Massad.
Riva was born in 1926 in current day Belarus, but at the time it was Poland. Riva had three sisters and her Mom and Dad. Her family was in the upper class and her father was a lumber merchant; since she was in an upper class family Riva and her sisters went to private school. At the beginning ofWW2, Riva and her family were transported to the Osmeana ghetto, where they began to feel the harshness of the impending Shoah. From there, Riva was transported to several camps, including Bergen Belsen, where she was liberated by the British. After the War Riva got married in1947 and then left to go to Israel at the beginning of 1948. Riva and her husband had their children in Israel, two girls, and then in 1958 came to Canada.
We met Riva at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, where she was interviewed by Sydney Swartz, Sabrina Wasserman, and Hailey Friedrichsen in October 2013.
Pinchas Gutter was born in Lodz and was 7 years old when the war broke out. After his father was brutally beaten by Nazis in Lodz, he fled with his family to what they thought was safety in Warsaw. From there, Pinchas and his family were incarcerated in the Warsaw Ghetto for three and a half years – until April 1943, the time of the ghetto uprising. After three weeks the family was deported to the death camp, Majdanek. Pinchas was sent to a work camp where people were beaten, shot or worked to death. Towards the end of the war he was forced on a death march, which he barely survived. He was liberated by the Russians on May 8,1945 and was later taken to Britain with other children for rehabilitation. He spoke at Crestwood for the first time in our Holocaust Conference in 2008. He has since visited classes and spoken to students on many occasions, including our 2012 Human Rights Symposium. In February 2014 Josh Zweig visited Pinchas in his home for this interview, and in 2016 Pinchas returned to visit Mr. Masters’ History 10 class.
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.
Denise Hans was born June 21, 1938. She is the 4th of 6 children. Her father, Michel, and mother, Perla, came from Poland in the early 1920’s. When the war broke out, the round up of Jews first affected her family when her father received a “Billet Vert” asking him to go to the police station. But because of the birth of Denise’s sister Monique, her father was given a pass. When it was time to go back, he stayed hidden, until the Gestapo found him and several other family members, shipping them to Auschwitz. Denise’s mom went to the OSE to look for a place for all the children to stay. At first, all 8 kids were together on a farm, then they were separated into different families and eventually the 6 girls were sent to live in a convent. They lived there until their mother was able to take them back home in 1948. Denise’s story exposes the powerful emotions of an eloquent Child Survivor. She spoke to Crestwood students Katherine Charness, Lindsey Swartzman, and So Hee Pyo in early 2011, and in 2012 she visited us again, sitting down with Antony Cook and Sarah Mainprize. In 2017 Denise again came to Crestwood, speaking with Ms. Winograd;s Grade 8 class, and then doing an interview with Michael Zhang, Daniel Lax, Arielle Meyer and Julie Xiao.
Paul Heimann was born in Austria in 1923. When the Anschluss took place, Paul and his parents found themselves at the centre of Hitler’s ambitions, and they felt the full weight of Nazism with the Kristallnacht. Their synagogue was burned, and the stormtroopers prevented the fire department from taking action. Paul’s parents saw the writing on the wall, and they arranged to have Paul evacuated, and Paul was fortunate to join the kindertransport. He and thousands of other Jewish children made their way to Britain, where he spent the war years. Paul worked in wartime industry, and he developed his skill as a musician, emerging as a wartime bandleader and keeping the troops entertained. With the end of the war, he settled in Canada, moving to Parry Sound and later Toronto, all the while keeping his interest in music and bandleading skills in top form.
Paul was interviewed by a group of students at Baycrest in September 2016, where he shared his story, and even played a few tunes for them.
Magda Hilf was born in Maly Kevesd, Czechoslovakia, in 1921. Her early years consist of many fond memories, with family and friends and books, all in a rural setting. After 1938’s Munich Accord, the situation changed: when the Hungarians took over her region, the restrictions began. Her father lost his business, and he and so many other men were conscripted into the labour battalions, with many dying on the eastern front. Even so, Magda and her family lived in their village; life had become more harsh, but they could endure. After Nazi occupation in 1944, not even that was possible anymore: her family was driven to the nearby ghetto in Sátoraljaújhely, Hungary. Shortly after, they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where all were killed except for Magda, who was sent for slave labour in a succession of camps. Magda survived that terrible time, but in April 1945, she was forced onto a death march, where she and four friends managed to escape. One month later, they were liberated. Magda made her way back home to Czechoslovakia; she married and had a daughter, and later immigrated to Israel, and then Canada in 1953.
Magda was interviewed for this project by Scott Masters, who visited her at her home in July 2015.
Lea Hochman comes from a small town in Poland where she grew up with her family in a farming area. Life changed after the 1939 German invasion, though it was not until 1942 that the Germans decided to get rid of her family. They were 1 of 9 Jewish families in the town, and they were all sent to a ghetto. As the family was sleeping in a small attic Lea experienced a nightmare that changed her life forever. Lea and her brother ran away, escaping the ghetto. From this time she was no longer Lea Hochman. She had to hide her identity and she became Eva, spending most of her time inside and hiding. She was afraid to go out and be found, though she had to t times and did succeed in keeping her secret. After the war she worked for the Germans for a short period and ended up in a DPC camp in Hofgeismar, Germany. That was where she met her future husband, marrying him in the camp. From there she moved to Israel and stayed there for about 10 years. The country was new so life was hard. She had her first child there and then moved to Canada. Lea spoke at Crestwood in January 2011 as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day, and it was a featured story in the Canadian Jewish News.
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.
In 1944 when the Germans came into Hungary they slowly took away everything Malka Karpati’s family had and they made them wear a yellow star on their clothes. In 1944 they were sent to Auschwitz on an open train, where Doctor Mengele separated them – mom went to the left and Malka and her sisters went to the right side. Unfortunately her mom and dad were sent to the gas chambers when they arrived. In the camps they had no kind of food – they got one piece of bread to split 3 ways. The Germans looked for sick people every day and they would immediately send them to the gas chambers so when Malka’s sister had a fever Polish Jews helped hide her to avoid being sent to the chambers. After Auschwitz Malka was sent to work in a ammo factory for 10 weeks. On April 18, 1945 the British freed them; Malka says if they would have showed up 2 weeks later that all of the people would have been dead in the camps. It took 2 months to get home from the camp they went on a train with Canadian soldiers to Nuremburg and then from there they were sent home. In 1946 she got married and in 1947 had her first child. On her child’s second birthday they moved to Israel, later emigrating to Canada.
Malka was interviewed at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa by Savannah Yutman, Jenny Wilson, and Alex Lupke.
Sylvia Katz is a Holocaust Survivor from Poland. She was living an ideal life, with a great family, when the war broke out; she was 13 at the time. Sylvia was placed in her first camp in 1941, where she was selected to work. She spent the remainder of the war as a slave labourer moving from one work camp to the next. Her memories and stories from that period are compelling and tragic. After liberation, Sylvia headed back to Poland, hoping to find family and to start over. She did not, however, and she was urged to move on by a neighbour who feared for Sylvia’s life. Sylvia returned to Germany, and then eventually made her way to Canada.
We met Sylvia at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, where she sat for an interview with Stephanie Erdman, Sarah Mainprize, Caroline Birkenshaw, and Emma Myers.
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.
Mr. and Mrs. Kleinberg are survivors of the Holocaust. They have witnessed the terror, the tears, pain; emotions that are inexplicable. They lost their friends, their family and have opened their hearts to each other.
Howard was born in Poland, in 1926 and was the youngest brother of ten. in 1941 his entire family had to back up their things and move into the ghetto. They had to leave everything behind. Every Jew within the perimeter of the Ghettos was marched in and this became their home for the next few months. From there Howard was used as a slave labourer and was moved through a succession of camps, ending up in Bergen Belsen – it was there that nancy saved his life. They reconnected and married after the war and built a life in Canada. They came to us courtesy of the Holocaust Centre of Toronto, and their inspirational story received great attention this year when they appeared on the Regis and Kelly show.
Mr. and Mrs. Kleinberg are survivors of the Holocaust. They have witnessed the terror, the tears, pain; emotions that are inexplicable. They lost their friends, their family and have opened their hearts to each other.
Nancy comes from a small town in Poland where she grew up with five brothers and two loving parents as well as her large extended family. She lived a wonderful childhood where she would play in the parks and every summer visit her Grandparents on the farm. Nancy’s parents owned a shoe store; however as time passed, one afternoon Nazi soldiers stomped into their store and told them they had no more rights as owners. Her parents life long business, and most shocking, their freedom was taken away. Nancy’s family was forced into the ghettos. Her entire family had to leave everything behind; their house, their store, their belongings. They had to back up a small bag with as little things as possible. When the ghetto was liquidated, nancy was separated from much of her family. She was deported to Auschwitz and became a slave labourer. As the war ended she found herself in Bergen Belsen, where she saved a teenaged boy on the verge of death.
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.
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.
Ella Kuritski is from Lithuania. After the German invasion in 1941, her father was taken and murdered by the Nazis, and she and her family were relocated to the Kovno ghetto. She was fortunate to survive the deportations and ultimate liquidation of the ghetto and was sent instead to a work camp, where she forced into slave labour. As the Soviet Army advanced, she and many other camp survivors were sent further west into other camps, where she was able to survive further selections. When the war was at its conclusion, she and many others were forced onto ships which the Germans intended to sink; fortunately for Ella, the liberation occurred just as this was about to take place. After the war Ella went to Israel and later emigrated to Canada.
She was interviewed for this project by Lauren Engeland and Emma Myers, as part of our Bayycrest Cafe Europa series.
Irene Kurtz is a Survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, where she witnessed the fateful uprising of 1943. From there she was deported to several of the camps, including Madjanek and Skarzysko. After her liberation by Soviet troops she worked in a hospital before she was able to leave Poland and eventually emigrate to Canada.
Irene was interviewed at Baycrest by Crestwood students So Hee Pyo, Jenny Son, Lauren Engeland, and Emma Myers.
We were fortunate to meet Fania Landsman in October 2013 at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, where she graciously took time out of her day to come and share her story. Mrs. Landsman was born in Belarus, Poland in 1941. She spent the war years in Russia with her mother. In the postwar years, Mrs. Landsman moved to Israel, and then to Canada, where she started her new life.
Mark Lane was born in 1929 in eastern Czechoslovakia, in the village of Olenovo. In 1939, with the division of the country, the area was ceded to Hungary. The family began to struggle, dealing with the rising anti-Semitism and the restrictions that began to be imposed on their daily lives. In the spring of 1944, when Hungary came under direct fascist rule and Nazi occupation, he and his family were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where his mother, two brothers and sister were murdered. He remained in Birkenau until January 1945 when he was taken on a death march to Mauthausen and in Austria. He was finally liberated by the Americans in May 1945 from Günskirchen. Mark immigrated to Canada in 1951, where he began a new life with his wife Ruth, who also appears as part of this project in the Community Members section.
Both were interviewed by Scott Masters in July 2015.
Eva Lang is a child survivor from Belgium. When the war began she and her family found themselves in southern France, soon arrested under the Vichy regime. While her parents succeeded in getting most of their children to safety through the OSE, her parents and many family members were deported to Auschwitz. Eva spent most of the war on the run and in hiding. After the war she made her way to Israel and Canada, where she divides her time. We were fortunate to hear her words of tolerance courtesy of Baycrest, where she spoke to Amanda Lee, Jenny Son, Benji Baker, and Noah Levin in May 2011.
Nate Leipciger was born in 1928, in Chorzow, Poland. He survived the Sosnowiec Ghetto and the camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Fünfteichen, GrossRosen, Flossenberg, Leonberg, and Dachau. Nate and his father were liberated in May 1945, and immigrated to Canada in 1948.
Nate came to speak at Crestwood in November 2013, when he was interviewed by Danielle Gionnas, Nasir Jamali, and Brooklynn Hamilton.
We met Alex Levin courtesy of the Memory Project and the Azrieli Foundation, where he is a keynote speaker and author. Alex’s story is one of the most compelling ones we have heard; his family was from Poland, and they experienced the full weight of the war’s early years, invaded first by the USSR and then later by Nazi Germany. Much of Alex’s family was murdered when the Nazi killing squads began the “Holocaust by bullets”, and Alex was only able to survive when he and a few others escaped into the forests. They stayed there for years, surviving off the land, until they heard about the arrival of the Russians. Alex made his way out of the forest and entered the Red Army, following a Russian unit as they made their way into Germany and the war reached its conclusion. Alex stayed in the USSR after the war, where he rebuilt his life as a military man over the next decades. He emigrated to Canada with his wife in the late 1960s.
Alex visited us at Crestwood in April 2012, where he joined us for our Veterans’ Breakfast and then sat down with Michael Lawee, Natalie Krause, Victor Minkov and Antony Cook.
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.
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.
Before WW2, George Lysy was a Jewish officer in the Czechoslovakian Army. He did not face any discrimination until the late 1930’s, when the army started to make changes to their policies. Eventually, things got worse for George. George was demoted to private in the army reserves where he was eventually called upon to serve. When the Second World War started, Bill was sent to the Russian front. The Jewish group George was in was purposely placed there so that they could tahe the brunt of the landmines and barbed wire. George suffered some terrible conditions at the front, including hunger. After a long journey home, George obtained a fake birth certificate and passport from his brother that worked, and he was able to survive the rest of the war.
George and his wife Judy were interviewed for this project by Crestwood students Zack Martin, Kyle Seigel, and Chase Farbstein.
Judy Lysy came to Crestwood with her husband George. Both are Hungarian Survivors of the Shoah, and they shared their stories with Chase Farbstein, Kyle Seigel, and Zack Martin in a dual interview. Judy grew up in wartime Hungary, and when many Jewish men were taken to the Russian front, she and other women fended for themselves in the ghettoes, and later in the camps. Judy was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she survived several months before being relocated to a work camp. At that time, she finished out the war as a slave labourer, at which time she was liberated by American troops. Soon after she met her husband George and came to Canada to begin a new life.
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.
Joe Mandel is a Holocaust survivor from the central European region of Ruthenia. When Joe was born in 1924, Ruthenia was part of Czechoslovakia, but following Chamberlain’s failed “Peace in our time” bid and the following wartime border changes, Joe’s town was ceded to Hungary (it has also at various times been part of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ukraine). When Czechoslovakia was taken over by Hitler, Joe and his family had started to feel the weight of the Nazis’ anti-Jewish laws, but absorption into Hungary insulated them from the harshest realities of the Holocaust, at least for a few years.
During this time, Joe was often apart from his family, working a succession of jobs in Budapest. His older brother had been conscripted into the forced labour battalions of the Hungarian army, and this same fate awaited Joe as the war reached its midpoint. But in 1944, the Germans invaded and directly occupied Hungary, and the fate of Hungarian Jews became much more dire. As Joe was in Budapest, he was apart from most of his family, and he was taken as a forced labourer, working in a number of different situations in and around Budapest. Joe would later learn that much of his family was deported to Auschwitz during this time. As the Soviets closed in from the east, Joe was himself transported to a number of camps, including Mauthausen, Dachau, and Gunskirchen, where he was liberated by the Americans. After a period of recovery, Joe went to look for his family, and he managed to find several of his siblings. They stayed in Budapest and began to rebuild their lives, but Joe chafed under communism, and he made the decision to leave Hungary, escaping in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian revolution. With the help of a friend he found in Vienna, Joe came to Canada, where he started over, first in Regina.
Joe was interviewed for this project by Scott Masters, courtesy of March of the Living. We met in Joe’s home in June 2015.
Eva Meisels was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1939, an only child. After her father was taken to a forced labour camp in 1942, Eva and her mother were sent to the Budapest Ghetto and eventually, a safe house. They obtained false papers from Raoul Wallenberg and were liberated by the Soviet Army. After the war, Eva went back to school and immigrated to Canada in 1956. She and her husband Leslie, whose story follows this one, came to visit us at Crestwood in October 2013, when Eva was interviewed by Meghan Kates, Sabrina Wasserman, and Sydney Swartz.
Leslie Meisels was born in Nádudvar, Hungary in1927. He lived with his parents, two brothers, and both sets of grandparents. He survived the ghetto in Debrecen, slave labour and eventual deportation to Bergen-Belsen. He was liberated in April1945 by the US Army. His mother, father and both brothers also survived. Leslie immigrated to Canada in 1967.
He and his wife Eva, whose story is also featured here, visited Crestwood in October 2013, where Leslie was interviewed by Cassie Wasserman, Alex Hobart, and Sifana Jalal.
Ernie Meister was separated fom his family and sent to a work camp for the majority of World War Two, first in Transylvania and later in the Ukraine. He was forced into slave labour, digging ditches and other defenses for the German military. In late 1944 he escaped the camp and made his way back to Romania, where he was able to survive the final months of the war. From there and following his recovery, he returned to his athletic roots and worked for the Romanian Olympic Federation. He did the same for Canada after his emigration.
We interviewed Ernie as part of the Baycrest Cafe Europa series in February 2011. Crestwood students Gabi Sandler and Jackie Herschenhorn took the lead on Ernie’s interview. We were able to visit Ernie again in February 2014, when he sat down with Isabel Cravit, Jade Assaraf, Stephanie Erdman, and Steven Feng.
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.
Jack was born in a small and impoverished village in Poland on the White Russian boarder. The name of this town was Sharkazhena.
He attended a Polish public school until 1939, when the Russians came in and occupied Jack’s small village.
Despite undergoing the horrors of the Holocaust, Jack is now living a happy and healthy life. He is happily married to his wife Charlotte, and he has one son, Lyle, and one daughter, Candice. As well, he also has 6 grandchildren .
Upon arriving in Canada life was not easy, but it was much better than his life back at home. However, Jack often dreams about those that he misses and those that have died as a result of the Holocaust. While he is now living a happy life, his memories of what happened during the Holocaust will never fade.
Jack was interviewed for this project by Crestwood student Jenna Calderone.
Bernard’s family originally came from Poland, but Bernard grew up in France not far from the Luxembourg border. When his father became concerned about the state of affairs in Germany, the family moved to southern France, in what would become the Vichy zone. When the family learned that the Gestapo was looking for Bernard’s father, they separated and went into hiding. Taken into a Catholic school, a young Bernard took on the identity Jacques Cardinal and became a messenger for the Resistance, a job he maintained through his early teens and most of the war. When that Resistance cell was discovered, he went back into hiding and re-emerged as Jacques Maurin. At this time Bernard was recruited by the Maquis, the armed branch of the French Resistance. He participated in several missions as the Allies began the D-Day landings to the north. After France was liberated, Bernard was fortunate to be re-united with his family members, all of whom had survived the war and the Jewish deportations out of Vichy. They made their way to the United States in 1949.
I met Bernard Mussmand, through my father George Masters. I was able to interview him at his home in Portland, Maine in December 2008.
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.
Anna was born in Poland.; she is a survivor of the Holocaust. She spent three years in concentration camps, being sent there when she was only 22 years old. She was in Auschwitz-Birkenau for much of this time. When the war was over, she got married and moved to the United States where she had children and started a family. She was interviewed for this project at Baycrest by Crestwood student Sammy Steiman.
Erica Nirenberg was born in 1931 in a small town in Romania. She had 3 siblings but they passed away at a young age. When she was 12 years old, her father was rounded up by the Russian Army and never returned. She and her mother fled to a large Romanian city called Czernovitz to escape capture. A close family friend was instrumental in ensuring her survival during the war.
Mrs. Nirenberg immigrated to Toronto when she was 18 years old. She attended a business program and eventually found work as a bookkeeper. She later worked with her husband in their clothing store. At the age of fifty, she decided to go back to school and earned a degree in bookkeeping from George Brown College.
Mrs. Nirenberg was married to her husband Arnold (Adash) for 52 years until he passed away. She has two sons –Joel who lives in Florida and David who lives in Toronto. She has five grandchildren. She is very close to her family.
Mrs. Nirenberg enjoys knitting and reading and is very interested in history and politics. She likes to keep physically active and enjoys chair exercise, swimming and walking. She loves to spend time with family and friends.
She was interviewed for this project in March 2015 by Marina Morris, Liam Mayer, and Blair Gwartzman.
Aaron Nussbaum was born in Sandomierz in Poland. He stayed here until he could not hide from the Nazis anymore. He spent 8 months in Bergen Belsen where he was rescued by American troops. Aaron was sent to Palestine at the age of 13, until he joined his mother and brother in Canada. He fought in the Palmach for the independence of Israel. He fought in the Negev Brigade. He later moved to Canada to be with his mother and brother in Toronto.
He was interviewed for this project by Crestwood students Adam Orenstein and Mitchell Ber.
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.
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.
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.
Margaret Perl is a Holocaust Survivor who went through the full horros of the Nazi onslaught, surviving the deportations, the ghetto, starvation, Auschwitz, and a death march at the end of the war. She shared her thoughts at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, sitting down with Crestwood students Kaily Wise, Steph Tanz, and Madi Brown in February 2011.
- George Preger is a Holocaust survivor, and a Crestwood grandparent. He was born in 1936, in Vienna, Austria, an only child. George moved from city to city during the war but primarily lived in bunkers in Budapest to avoid being captured in the war. Remarkably he and his family were able to stay one step ahead of the Nazis; George learned a false identity and even evaded the SS close up. He is 80 years old now, and he currently lives in Toronto, Ontario. This interview happened in December of 2016, at Crestwood Preparatory College, where George was interviewed by Aaron Little, Tristan Agensky, Rylie Tishler, and Yurina Kobayashi, and by his grandsons Levi and Reuben.
The Reesers were born in what is now Czech Republic, formerly known as the Czechoslovakia, in a small town provincial town of about 30,000 people, located about 60 km west of Prague. Karl’s life in Rakovnik was very pleasant and luxurious. He and his family lived in a very large house facing the pretty main square, called Husovo namesti.
When the German invasion happened, things changed quickly though; and with the implementation of the Nuremberg Laws, the Reesers made their way from Prague to Paris.
In Paris, life for the Reeser family consisted largely of meeting with members of the small Czech community and pursing arrangement to emigrate to Canada. After a week or so, they received word that their visas to Canada were ready to be picked up; at the Canadian Consulate they received all documents required to Enter Canada as permanent immigrants. Moving to Canada was a very difficult process for the Reeser family because of the barriers encountered by European Jews, but they made it, and Karl remains thankful for that.
Karl was interviewed for this project in January 2014 by Crestwood student Joanna Estey.
Paul-Henri Rips was born on October 23, 1929 in Antwerp, Belgium. He lived with his father Isadore, mother Faja and sister Sina. Paul described his years before the war as his “golden childhood”. There were mutterings of what was to come but his childhood was pleasant. On May 10th 1940 Belgium was invaded by Germany. Paul was woken up by anti-aircraft guns. Paul’s first thought was that there would be no school. Paul and his family, along with thousands of others of refugees fled into France. They reached the River Somme where German soldiers were stationed. These soldiers were young and kind. They told them to go home and that the war was over for them. New regulations and rules were passed for Jews. A curfew was enforced and Jews were forbidden to walk on sidewalks and had to wear a yellow star. From there, Paul and his family experienced the escalating severity of Nazi policies, as they ended up in jail, in the Malines and Pithviers camps, and ultimately were fortunate enough to go into hiding, where they awaited the end of the war.
Paul-Henri Rips came to us courtesy of the Azrieli Foundation, who published his memoirs a few years ago. He was interviewed for this project by Sydney Swartz, Lili Mancini, Sarah Mainprize, Lara Franklin, and Tristan Lim.
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.
Helen Rosenbaum was just under two years old when her family decided to escape the brutality of anti-Semitism in Poland by fleeing to the Soviet Union. Her family’s decision to flee would spare Helen the horrors of the death camps, but it wasn’t without struggles and terror. From the horrors of Nazi-occupied Poland, to the harsh conditions of Siberia, Helen’s story is a unique glimpse into one family’s struggle to survive.
Helen was interviewed by grade 10 student Hannah White, in early 2014.
Fay Rosenberg lived in Poland before the Second World War, and as she says, she and her family were living a good life. But when the war began, Fay says that as the parents began to show their fears, the children did as well. Fay and her family found themselves in eastern Poland at the war deepened, and as they were in the Soviet zone, they ended up being resettled in Siberia, where they lived a harsh life during the war years. Fay’s story reminds us that the Holocaust was experienced in many ways.
We met Fay at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa in February 2012, where she sat down for an interview with Jake Borinsky, Eric Freedman, Savannah Yutman, and Kendra Casey.
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.
Helen Roth was born towards the end of the Great Depression. Helen was only in elementary school when World War 2 began. She had 2 sisters and four brothers and out of all of them only her and her brother are still alive today. Helen’s father passed away when she was 3, so he did not have to go through the Holocaust, but her mother and siblings did. They were first sent to a ghetto, and later to the camps. Right away when Helen arrived in Auschwitz, she was separated from all of her family except her sister. Helen went through everything from working so long in the winters she would get frostbite to physically watching people be shot right in front of her on the death marches at war’s end. She was resilient, and made a life for herself after the war, getting married and having a child. When the communist grip settled over Romania, she and her husband escaped, making their way to Israel and eventually Canada.
Helen Roth was referred to us by the Azrieli Foundation, and she was interviewed in February 2015 at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa by Maddie Elman, Sam Katz, Rachael Pape, and Alex Sanders.
David Rybowski is a survivor from Lodz, Poland. He experienced the full weight of the Holocaust, living in the ghetto before being deported to a series of camps and subjected to slave labour before surviving death marches at the war’s end. He spoke to Crestwood students Gabi Sandler, Sam Wasserman, So Hee Pyo, and Dov Houle at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa in May 2011. In February 2013, he agreed to a second interview, this time with Isabelle Pinto, Sidra Fisch, and Gabi Sandler.
Simon Saks was born in Poland in 1932. He was taken by the Nazis from his home at the age of 7, and was imprisoned until his liberation at the age of 13. He had one year of education at a public school before that time. Simon at first was in the Warsaw Ghetto; there he worked in a factory. When the deportations began, Simon passed through five labour camps, including Buchenwald and Gross Rosen. With the conclusion of the war he was able to make his way to England, and then to Canada.
Simon was interviewed for this project in February 2014 by Daniel Rokin.
Kitty Salsberg was born in Budapest, Hungary, on November 14, 1932. Orphaned after the war, Kitty and her younger sister, Ellen, immigrated to Canada in 1948 through the Canadian Jewish Congress’s War Orphans Project.
Kitty graduated from teachers’ college in 1954 and enjoyed a long and fulfilling career, eventually earning her master’s in education. Kitty raised six children and fostered six teenagers.
Vera Schiff was born in 1926, in Prague, Czechoslovakia, to a middle class family. After the Nazi invasion of the country in 1939, her family became marginalized at home until 1942, when they were deported to the concentration camp, Theresienstadt. She would be the lone survivor from her family. Theresienstadt is also where she met her future husband, Arthur Schiff. They both survived the camp and eventually moved to Israel for 12 years, before settling in Toronto, Canada. She has 2 sons, 6 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.
Vera came to visit us at Crestwood in December 2013, when she shared her story with Ms. Winograd’s class, followed by an oral history interview with Sifana Jalal and Hailey Friedrichsen.
Rabbi Erwin Schild was born in Mulheim, Germany in 1920. His family, consisting of his parents and two siblings, owned a local store and considered themselves part of the larger community. Erwin went to public school until age 16, when he was forced out of the public system as Nazi restrictions began to increase. At the time he continued his education in Hebrew/rabbinical studies. When Kristallnacht made that impossible, Erwin was taken to Dachau. After a period of detention, he was fortunate to get out of Germany, making his way to Holland, Britain, and eventually Canada, where his internment continued. Upon release, he was able to recommence his life, going on to get married and to have a family, and to begin his career as a rabbi at Adeth Israel.
Rabbi Schild visited us in December 2013, when he spoke to Mr. Hawkins’ World Religions class, which he followed up with an oral history interview with Sabrina and Cassie Wasserman and Jarryd Firestone.
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.
George Scott was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1930. He had a relatively big and nice family. “Everything should be okay, but experience changes people, “ he said. The Holocaust turned him into a reflective, quiet boy, puzzled by many things. He recorded that in 1943, his life started to change. All Jews in Hungary were disenfranchised, their properties taken away and restrictions imposed on them. His grandfather’s little house was no longer safe for him. People came to Budapest to escape the Germans. Finally, when Germany occupied Hungary in 1944, several restrictions were placed to against Jews. George could not bear those stringent restrictions, so he and his friend decided to run away. They got rid of the star and got on a train. After this, all the nightmares started.
Unfortunately, the situation was the same after he escaped, and was even worse now that he wasn’t under his family’s protection. Then, he arrived at the Gypsy camp in Auschwitz, where most of his memories were. George was selected through the third selection. His uncle, who was an influential man in the Gypsy camp saved George’s life by tossing a young boy into his place. “It is not a comfortable feeling to know that somebody had to die so that you could be there. It is not easy to ingest to live with, but it was beyond my control” he said. It was hard for him to live with this memory, but he didn’t have time to think that much. The same uncle helped him to go to another camp called Kaufering. There, George reached the highlight of his camp experience. He peeled potatoes in the SS kitchen. “You know, there was a lot, lot to eat, and I feel much better.” He recorded. At that time, people were easy to satisfy just by more food. After several transfers, George was tortured both mentally and physically. Finally, in a huge camp, the Americans came to release them. That morning, George lost consciousness, not only because of his weak body but also the excitement of long-awaited freedom. It was hard for him to believe that things just melted away. The first thing he chose to do was went back to the orphanage in Budapest to check his family, learning that only his Aunt Bertha, Uncle Henrik, and two cousins survived.
George visited us at Crestwood in October 2015, when he spoke to the American History class. He was interviewed for this project by Amy Zhu, Owen Salter, and David McCall.
Leah Segalowitz survived the Nazi invasion and occupation of the Netherlands. She went into hiding, working as a nurse, though she was an active member of the Dutch Resistance. When the war concluded, she emigrated to Palestine, spending a number of years in British detention camps and working in a hospital in Cyprus before arriving in Israel in 1948. She and her husband began their lives together there but emigrated to Canada in 1955, where they raised a family.
Leah was interviewed at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa by Crestwood students Alice Lee and Helia Laridashti in Fenruary 2011.
Zuzana Sermer was born in in the town of Humenné, Slovakia on August 29, 1924. Zuzana had a happy childhood. The war would change that though. In the spring of 1942 all single women who were 16 and older were told to go the police station. All the other women packed their things but Zuzana packed nothing. She spent the whole day telling the police about her sick mother. She was begging and crying. At the end of the day the police had meet the quota of how many women they needed: Zuzana’s life was spared. She went into hiding. The hiding places were “both her refuge and her private hell”. From there Zuzana’s journey began, as she and her parents, and her friends and eventual fiancé Arthur Sermer, sought ways to avoid to avoid the Nazi killing machine. Zuzana lost her parents, and she credits Arthur’s resourcefulness, along with a few miracles, with saving her.
Zuzana was interviewed for this project at her home in Toronto in January 2013 by Charley Swartz, Abby Seigel, Natalie Krause, and Katherine Charness. This interview was facilitated by the Azrieli Foundation, which has published Zuzana’s memoirs under the title Survival Kit. Azrieli also organized a Twitter book club in early 2013, in which Crestwood participated. We at Crestwood thank both the Azrieli Foundation and Zuzana Sermer for including us in their endeavours.
Adam Shtibel was born in the small Polish town of Komarow. Early in the war his town was occupied by the USSR, and later by the Germans. At that time, he served as herdsmen for a local farmer. With the death of his father, Adam continued as labourer for a Polish farmer. Adam saw the the round-up of the Jewish population and their being loaded onto cattle cars. The farmer told him that he must leave because of German regulations. Adam met a group of boys and girls from his home town; they wandered over the countryside begging for food from the peasants. Adam was eventually arrested and brought to a camp where he was sheltered by the Red Cross. Selected by farming family to work in the village of Borki. he described meeting with invading Russian troops. In 1947 Adam learned about the war’s end. Accompanied by the farmer’s wife he traveled to Warsaw and was cared for by the Jewish Committee. Sent to an orphanage, Adam came to realize that he was the sole survivor of his family. At this time, he met Rachel Milbauer, and the two married and moved to Israel, where Adam worked in the aircraft industry and served in the IDF. In 1968 they made their way to Canada.
We met both Adam and Rachel at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa in September 2014, where Adam was interviewed by Steven Feng, Abhishek Chandaria, and Meghan Massad.
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.
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.
Eileen Silberzweig is a Holocaust Survivor from Poland. Though she was only child and her specific memories are limited, she was able to tell Jessica Kelly, Jessica Seger, Katherine Charness, and Ellen McPhadden about the German invasion and about how she and many family members escaped the ghetto and made it into the woods. This was the first time that Eileen told her story, so we are grateful for her brave decision to do so. We would like to thank Anne Max and Shoshonna Yaakobi at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa for helping to set up this interview.
Elisabeth Silverberg is a Holocaust Survivor we met at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa. Before the war she was living an ideal life, with family, and going to school. As the war and the Holocaust began, she was deported to a number of camps, including Auschwitz, where she was a forced labourer. She speaks compellingly of her memories of the camp, including her memory of Anne Frank’s arrival, and what it was like coming of age in that circumstance.
Elisabeth was interviewed by Savannah Yutman and Stephanie Erdman for this project in May 2012.
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.
Max Sitzer is a Holocaust Survivor from Poland who has a family connection at Crestwood; he was interviewed by his young cousin Mara Bowman here at the school in March 2013.
Max lived in eastern Poland and was under Soviet rule for the first part of the war, but with the German invasion in 1941 he and his family fell into the hands of the Nazis. Max and his father were lucky enough to survive, when they were able to use connections to go into hiding. Much of the rest of the family was not fortunate however, and most were murdered in Belzec. As the Soviets liberated Max from his hiding place, he joined the Red Army on their march to the east, and Max had the distinction of being an interpreter in war crimes trials, so he was able to assist in bringing to justice those who had killed his family and so many others.
Gerda Sless was born in Brussels and in her young life was raised by her mom, dad and her brother, along with her grandparents. Gerda and her brother shared a great bond and as siblings they had a positive relationship. One morning everything took a turn though – the war intruded upon their idyllic lives. Gerda managed to escape the grip of the Nazis; she went into hiding in a convent, while her brother was taken to Auschwitz. Gerda’s story is the story of a teenaged girl on the run, trying to live her life against a backdrop of upheaval. She was interviewed for this project in November 2016 by Amir Rafati, Arielle Meyer, Serena Iannucci, and Julian Silver.
Eddie Sterk lived in Holland at the beginning of the war. As his father worked in a hospital, Eddie and his family were able to evade the early deportations, which slowly saw Amsterdam’s Jews transported “to the east”. Eddie’s siblings were eventually taken, and soonafter Eddie and his parents were rounded up as well. Eddie was placed into several prison camps, including Westerbork and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Eddie was lucky to survive an injury he suffered while performing forced labour near Birkenau. He also survived the death marches in the winter of 1944-45, as the camp was evacuated as the Red Army drew near. Eddie was later liberated by the Americans and he returned to Holland, where he was fortunate to be reunited with his parents.
Eddie was interviewed at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa by Crestwood student Matt Laramie in 2009; in 2010, Eddie again welcomed us and sat down with Sam Wasserman and Madi Brown. And in 2012, Eddie agreed to be interviewed again, this ime by Emma Myers, Brandon Lee, and Thomas Yanovski.
George Stern survived the Holocaust in Hungary. A teenage boy at the time, George lost most of his family, but he was fortunate to go into hiding in the countryside. He remembers that he lost his Barmitzvah to the war. When the conflict was over, he emigrated to Israel and later to Canada, where he built a successful life and raised a family which includes his grandson Josh, a Crestwood alumnus. George was interviewed for this project by Natalie Krause and Kristen Stribopoulos.
Harry was born in a small town known as Sernike, in Pinsk, Poland on May 10, 1935. He was the youngest of his ten siblings. His father was an owner of a lumber business and his mother was a busy home maker. Harry was 4 years old at the outbreak of World War Two. When Harry’s parents realized it was only a matter of time before the Nazis took over their village they planned to escape. Harry’s parents owned a farm on the side of town and sent word to about 50 people, mostly family members to meet during the day. That night they escaped into the forest. My grandfather spent 4 years in the forest hiding with his family. All of Harry’s family survived except for one older brother and his father who passed away right after the war. The goal was to once again escape from Poland. They traveled from Pinsk, deep into Poland, to Austria, to Italy and spent 3 years there and finally moved to Canada.
Leonard Vis was born in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1930. After the Germans occupied the Netherlands, his family went into hiding. They all survived and were liberated in 1945. Leonard After the war, Leonard served two years in the Dutch Army before moving to New York. In 1967, Leonard came to Canada for a job posting. Leonard came to visit us at Crestwood early in 2016. He was interviewed for this project by Marina Nevison and Aren Karshafian, along with students from Mr. Masters’ Grade 12 history class.
Mia Frank survived the war as a hidden child in Belgium. Her stepmother’s quick thinking did save Mia, but both her stepmother and father were killed during the Holocaust. Mia was interviewed by Crestwood student Hayley Goldsand on a Baycrest field trip in early 2009.
Sally Wasserman is the only child survivor of the Dambrowa ghetto, which was located in southern Poland, not too far from Auschwitz-Birkenau. When her family was forced into the ghetto, her mother encountered Mr. Turken, a man who did work for the authorities in the ghetto. He and his wife agreed to take Sally in as a hidden child, and they kept her safe for the duration of the war, as the ghetto was being liquidated. Sally’s immediate family did not survive the Holocaust. After the war, Sally left the Turkens and Poland; she ended up in the Belsen DP camp before she made her way to New York City and eventually to her aunt in Toronto.
Sally is an entrancing speaker who works with both the Holocaust center and the Center for Diversity. She has shared her story with many Crestwood students over the years, including at our Human Rights and Diversity Symposium in November 2012. She was interviewed for this project by Stephanie Tanz and Kaily Wise. In 2015 Sally again visited us, speaking to Miss Young’s class and then doing an interview with Amanda, Minami and Tomer.
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!
Allen Weiss was born in Romania in 1929. Allen had loving parents along with two sisters and a brother. He grew up in a small village where his family owned a grocery store. Allen was 14 years old when the Nazis forced him out of his village. Allen was taken to Auschwitz – Birkenau with his father . In 1945, he was sent on a death march. Lucky to escape, Allen and his friends were walking when they came across the Russian army. They accidentally shot him! He was immediately sent to a Russian hospital where he remained for six months. After the war, he moved to Canada where he met his wife, Grace. He and his wife had four children, and he now has six grand children. Allen has been involved in numerous Holocaust remembrance projects, including this one where he was interviewed by Crestwood student Tiffany Tanz.
Rachel Weisz was living in Budapest when the war began. Both Rachel’s mother and father were originally from Poland. Her father and uncles owned a textile factory, though Rachel’s family was the only one with Hungarian citizenship. When Rachel was in grade 6 her family hit hard times. Her father and uncles were arrested because the Hungarian wanted to take control of their textile factory. He was eventually released just as the war was becoming a reality in Hungary.
Rachel’s parents were aware of what was happening in other parts of Europe through people escaping from Poland to Budapest . Rachel ended up with another family hiding in a truck that was supposed to take them to Prague, but they were caught. Rachel was taken to a camp, from which she was fortunate to be released. She went home to her parents, who sent her to work in another factory so she wouldn’t have to go to a ghetto.
Rachel ended up working in a Swiss consulate . There she would make fake papers and certificates so that other Jews could escape persecution . She joined a Zionist organization and wanted to go to Israel, but eventually she moved to Canada to join her family .
Rachel spoke to Crestwood students Madison Brown and Sam Wasserman in May 2010. This was Rachel’s very first time sharing her story with an audience and we’d like to thank her for choosing us and taking her time to tell us about her experiences during WW2.
Lenka Weksberg was born in Tacovo, Czechoslovakia, in 1926. In 1944, the entire family was deported to the Mathesalka Ghetto in Hungary and then to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where her mother and brother were murdered. Lenka survived a slave labour camp in Geislingen, and Alach, as well as a death march. Lenka was liberated by the US Army in April 1945. After the war, Lenka returned to Czechoslovakia, then moved to Israel, and finally immigrated to Canada in 1953. She is the grandmother of Crestwood alumnus Jamie Weksberg. Lenka visited us in 2012, sharing her story with Mr. Masters’ history class.
Ann Wigoda was born in Berlin, Germany on August 23, 1932. Growing up in the 1930s, she was too young to understand many of the political changes, but as a child she does remember the increasing tensions, in the house and especially with the other children in the neighbourhood. By the middle of the decade the situation deteriorated further, and her father went to Belgium, making arrangements for the family to follow. The family adapted, but the hatred followed them, and with the start of the war once again life was precarious. Her father was taken away, eventually dying in the final days of the war. Ann’s mother was able to get Ann into hiding, and Ann spent most of the war in a convent, protected by the nuns. With the end of the war Ann lived in an orphanage, run by the Tiefenbruner family, while her mother dealt with the emotional impacts of the Shoah and the loss of her husband.
Ann Wigoda came to us courtesy of the Azrieli Foundation. She was interviewed at her home by Scott Masters and Savannah Yutman in July 2015.
“Look out for people regardless their race, religion, you accept everybody…”
– Gershon Willinger
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.
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.
Helen Zeller grew up in Poland. She was living a very comfortable life with her family when the war began, quickly changing everything. While most of her family was lost, Helen and a few others were fortunate to escape the liquidation. She was able to survive in a bunker and the forest, dependent on a few Righteous Poles to stay alive.
Helen came to us courtesy of Baycrest, where we interviewed her at a Cafe Europa in February 2013.
Rose Zimmerman comes from Poland, where she and her family were living a normal life before 1939. The advent of the war saw all of that turned upside down; she and her family experienced the full weight of the Shoah, and Rose herself ended up a slave labourer in Auschwitz, before ending the war in the Bergen Belsen death camp.
We met Rose at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa in February 2012, where she sat down with Jenny Wilson, Cathy Kim, Ryan Seigel, and Cam Teboekhurst for a interview about her experiences.