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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Josef 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, Josef was interrogated and deported to the Terezin camp, where he managed to survive the Holocaust. After the war he remained in Czecholslovakia, until the failed 1968 uprising convinced him and his family that it was time to leave. He ended up coming to Canada, where he brought a powerful message of tolerance to Crestwood students Stephanie Tanz, Kaily Wise, and Natalie Krause.
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.
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.
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 Centreand 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.
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.
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.
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.
She visited us at Crestwood in October 2013, when she was interviewed by Jake Pascoe, Alex Hobart, and Sifana Jalal.
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.
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.
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. 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, recently to his grandson Josh’s Grade 9 class.
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.
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 . 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 8th May 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.
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.
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.
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.
Fay 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, Fay was laying railway ties in a labour camp and returned home to find that her family had disappeared. Now on her own, Fay 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. Fay’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, Fay miraculously survived.
After liberation by the Russians in 1944, Fay 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.
Fay arrived to 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 Fay at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa, where she has twice told her story to Crestwood students. In December 2013 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 Kon is from Lodz, Poland. She experienced the tragedies so many Polish Jews suffered during the Holocaust, surviving the ghetto, deportations to a number of camps, slave labour, and 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 mer 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 loacted 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.
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.
Gershon Willinger was only three when the Holocaust happened. He was born in 1942. He was born and raised in Holland. His father, Guido, was born in 1908 and his mother, Edith, was born in 1909. Gershon’s parents were both German Jews and were murdered in the Holocaust. He had a sister who was older and was also a victim of the Holocaust. Gershon’s experience in the Holocaust is a very different story because he was a very young boy who was unaware of his environment, and did not know what to do. He was interviewed for this project at Baycrest by Crestwood students Stephanie Tanz and Noah Soberano.
“Look out for people regardless their race, religion, you accept everybody…”
- Gershon Willinger
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, most recently in the fall of 2012, when he was interviewed by Savannah Yutman and Kristen Stribopoulos..
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.