Sarah Rottenberg and Schlomo Weissbrod {Grandparents of Alex Bonder}

bonder_schlomoweissbrodandsarahrottenbergweddingMy grandmother, Sarah Rottenberg, was born in Bistritza, Romania in 1923, but she spent most of her childhood in Chernovits, Romania.  She was the oldest of 5 siblings.  At age 17, Sarah was sent to Transnistria Concentration Camp.  Her parents and one of her brothers died during the war.  After the war, she tried to immigrate to Palestine (Israel was under the British Mandate), but she was sent by the British to a “Displaced Persons” Camp in Cyprus for 2 years.  She married my grandfather, Schlomo Weissbrod, while in Cyprus and they finally were able to immigrate to Israel where my mother and aunt were born.  In 1956, they decided to move to Caracas, Venezuela.  Finally, at the end of her life, she immigrated to Mexico City to live with her eldest daughter and family.  She died on November 26, 2008 in Mexico City, Mexico.

My grandfather, Schlomo Weissbrod, was born in Suceava, Romania in 1908.  He was the oldest of 6 siblings.  He went to law school in Romania prior to his entire family being sent to Transnistria Concentration Camp.  Amazingly all of his family members were able to survive the war.  He immigrated to Israel with his parents and some of his siblings.  His other siblings weren’t as lucky and stayed in Romania under the communist regime of Ceausescu.  In the late 1970s all of his family was finally able to immigrate to Israel.  My grandparents married in Cyprus and after living more than 8 years in Haifa, Israel, they moved to Caracas Venezuela.  My grandfather died on April 28, 1989 in Caracas, Venezuela.

Lenke and Solomon Zam {Grandparents of Rebecca, Joshua and Shelley Barron}

lenkeandsolomonzamOur mother’s parents were both shoah survivors. Our mother’s mother, Lenke Zam, was deported from her home in the Carpathian Mountains to Auschwitz; our mother’s father, Solomon Zam, for whom Shelley is named, led a troupe of 42 partisans in the forests of Poland.  We never knew our grandfather Shlomo — he died before we had a chance to meet him, a victim of cancer several decades ago.  But we were blessed to know our grandmother — “Bubbe Lily”– well. She was witty and bright, a pistol of a woman. And that energy, that intelligence, that chutzpah is what led her to survive the Holocaust. Her stories could fill a novel. There was the time she handed her mother a small, lost child when they were lining up for their initial inspection at Auschwitz, hoping that the Nazis would be sympathetic to a mother with a young child and spare her life (they didn’t). There was the time she avoided receiving her tattoo, her brand, by hiding with friends in different bunks at opportune moments. There was the time she worked at a labor camp manufacturing bullets for the German Army, and she sabotaged the production by spilling gun powder from the bullets, rendering them inoperable. There was the time she escaped her labor camp, following an allied bombing, but returned to her slavery — because she had nowhere to go, no family left. There was the time that she survived the death march, towards to end of the War, in part because of the kindness of righteous gentiles who brought the marching Jews cups of water. And then there was the time she met our grandfather in the Displaced Persons camps; almost at first sight, our grandfather was smitten and asked Lenke to be his partner in the next chapter of their lives.

An account of the liquidation of the Olyka Ghetto written by Solomon Zam:
“And now we will give you what Solomon Zam from Chelsea, MA… writes: Tuesday, August 12, 1942 there arrived to Olyka 10 heavy closed (autos)cars with a lot of Nazi soldiers. Early in the morning they went to the Judenrat from(of) the Ghetto and announced that all the Jews must work. The Nazis went from house to house to search for/ to catch some hidden Jews. That lasted from 8 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon. Some Jews were hiding in bunkers and wherever they could. The Jews that the Nazis caught they took to Prince Radzewil’s Palace. Caught also was the Loyker Rabbi Alter Joseph David. At 11 o’clock the Nazi murderers picked 60 men and ordered them to march and ordered them to sing Russian songs “Kapushaja Mogushaja.”   If we didn’t sing loud, they beat us terribly.  Marching we arrived at the cemetery. There we were divided into 2 groups. 30 shovels were waiting for us. 30 had to dig fast our brothers’ graves and 30 were waiting. Then the other 30 dug. Then after many switchings a few times we saw that our minutes were counted. Near me stood a Hebrew teacher Mr. Apsajtik digging. He murmured in Hebrew, “We should spread out to escape and run away as we came out from our brothers’ graves that we ourselves dug. So about 5 or 6 of us started to run away, then started a commotion and shooting and running. I fell and my hand was bleeding. I bloodied my face so the Nazis that chased me thought that I was dead and started to chase the others. In between I crawled away in berry bushes. I lay still and watched how the big brothers’ grave is being finished. Then the Nazis gave an order that we should all go in the big grave and all were immediately shot. A few minutes later the (first) last heavy Auto arrived from Prince Radzevil’s Palace(Sehos Zamek). The heavy lock was released and the Ukrainian militia started to toss out bodies- dead corpses- into the grave. Watching that from the bushes where I lay I saw it was not just an auto but a wandering gas chamber. The Jews were taken out from the palace. They were tossed into the Auto. They thought they are taken to work but when the doors closed a deadly gas started to come out and all the Jews were gassed. I saw immediately another, a second Auto came and a third and a fourth. Altogether there were 10 and so did the Germans in that day gas 800 souls and buried them in that brothers’ grave. The Germans with the help of the Ukrainians and the Judenrat fooled the Jews of the Ghetto. They said that they were taking only men and that they will take them to Trachenbrot 22 miles from Olyka. The women believed them and they started to bring whatever they had. So the Olyka Rabbi’s daughter Malkah brought her father’s (the Rabbi’s) praying shawl (tallis) and the tefillim and also a piece of bread. The Rabbi said ,”Thank you and be well my dear child.” And the daughter said,”Go in good health(gesunterheit) and come back well. She didn’t know that she is saying to the Rabbi her father the last goodbye. The Nazis were in a good mood and allowed the women to bring food and clothing to the men. That is how they they tried to fool the people so they should be calm to take them to their bitter end. Together with the same crowd of Jews in the same day they also snatched the Olyka 82 year old Chief Rabbi Moshe Rotenberg.

I lay in the bushes all day. Late at night the skies started to cry- it started to pour. The same night I gave the terrible truthful news to the Representative from the Judenrat. He  answered me with bloody tears,” I know everything better than you! Choke this secret till your last breath because if tomorrow I will not send out 9 divisions to work so will the Ghetto of 7000 be liquidated. Then my wound healed a little so I started to give out the bloody secrets. And when they came to arrest me, they could not find me. I was already a leader of 42 Partisan fighters in the forests. And so ends the letter from Partisan and anti-Nazi fighter Solomon Zam.”

Barbara Marton {Grandmother of Liana Mitman}

nanaWritten by Liana Mitman, in the voice of her grandmother Barbara, a Holocaust survivor:
“One morning in March of 1944, armed German soldiers invaded my town of Oradea, Romania. Before I heard any screams of fright, I could sense the terror brooding in the streets. My father’s grocery store was closed, and not a face could be seen outside. One night, my whole neighborhood was rounded up and forced into trains. We were like cattle, being deported to what I would later know to be Auschwitz. On that cramped, putrid train car, all I could think of was one blazing fact. My parents had moved from the town of Beliu to Oradea, just so I could receive a better education. If we had not moved, we never would have been deported. The sentiment of guilt seethed through my mind. As I arrived to the appalling camp, I could smell the rotten stench of dead bodies. As we waited in line, I clung to my mother’s soft hand, and my father’s wool jacket. His scent always calmed me. But this time, nothing could ease my fright. A Nazi named Mendele eyed me up and down. I was only twenty year olds- strong and healthy. I felt a rough hand push me to the left side, while my parents were ushered to the right. My eyes welled up, and my eyes met my mother’s for the last time.  The time came when I heard the wonderful sound of helicopters above. “I am almost free!” I thought. It had been a full year, and the Swedish Red Cross liberated us. Mixed with my feeling of utter glee was a sentiment of solitude. I knew in my gut that my family was obliterated by those awful Nazis. I did not know where I would go, or whom I could find. I returned to Romania, and attempted to start over.”

Please click here for more information on Barbara Marton

Hanka Goodman Sukiennik {Grandmother of Laura Goodman}

Please click the tracks below for an audio story of Laura’s grandmother, Hanka Goodman Sukiennik and another survivor, Ben Edelbaum (who authored a book called Growing Up In the Holocaust) being interviewed on a Kansas City public radio program called the Walt Bodine Show.  The recording is believed to have been done in 1978.

 

Eva Bobrow {Grandmother of Liz Bobrow}

lizbobrowgrandparents My Grandma Eva was born in Czestochowa, Poland in 1926.  She was the youngest of three  children. Her father Nussen, a woodcarver, worked in a small factory that made children’s toys.  On  September 3rd, 1939, the Germans invaded Czestochowa; my grandma was 13 years old.  A ghetto  was built up around the apartment building where her family lived.  The Germans would often take  her older brother Seymour to work outside the city, for weeks at a time.  My grandma’s mother,  Zelda, constantly worried that her son wouldn’t return and she soon became very ill.  My great  grandmother Zelda passed away while living in the ghetto.

On September 22, 1942, leaving their belongings behind, my grandma and her family were forced out of the ghetto into a smaller ghetto where they were all required to work.  On many occasions my grandma was beaten, and in one instance she suffered a broken nose.  In July of 1943 my grandma Eva woke up and went to look for her father.  Unable to find him, she asked if anyone had seen him.  She was told that during the night 300 men had been put up against a wall and shot, her father was one of them.

In January of 1945 everyone in the ghetto was packed onto trains.  When the train stopped, they were at Bergen Belsen and my grandma and her sister Rose were separated from their brother.  Life was harder in Bergen Belsen than my grandma could have ever imagined.  At one point my grandma fainted, from lack of food.  The German Soldiers assumed she was dead and threw her in a pile of corpses.  When she finally woke up, confused and horrified, she ran away as fast as se could.  My grandma and her sister also contracted typhus, which blinded my grandma for a period of time.  While she was able to recover from the disease, her sister Rose was not as lucky.  On April 1st Rose’s condition worsened and she passed away during the night.  Two weeks later, the British and French soldiers arrived at Bergen Belsen, liberating the Jews.

My grandma eventually arrived at a displaced persons camp in Munich, Germany.  Shortly after she arrived she was reunited with her brother Seymour, who had also miraculously survived the camps, and had been searching for his sisters.  My grandma and my uncle were the only survivors of their family.  On Saturday July 27, 1946, with the help of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, they arrived in America, at Pier 96 in New York City.

Eva Reisner {Grandmother of Lisa Einstein}

lisaeinsteingrandmaIn 1942, my Savta Eva was 19 yrs old and living in Szerenc, Hungary with her parents and 6 other siblings.  As conditions deteriorated, the Nazis raided her home, seized her family’s business, and took her father to a labor camp.  In 1944, Savta and her family were deported by cattle train to Poland, to a concentration camp, Auschwitz.  Torn from her family, Savta was forced to work digging deep trenches in the forest to hide Nazi tanks in the frigid cold.  After many long weeks alone, Savta found an old family friend in the mess hall who informed her that her sisters were on the other side.  Her sisters schemed and devised a plot to bring Savta to their side of the camp.  It was a success and renewed all of their strength, giving them hope.

In 1945, the Russian army was on their way to help the Jewish prisoners, so the Nazis were ordered to kill the remaining Jews and then face the Russians themselves.  Savta knew a woman who had befriended a Nazi officer.  They convinced the officer to abandon them all at a nearby farm. After a few days and a close call, they emerged from the cellar and walked into town.  They were found by the Russians and taken to a shelter to rest and eat.  When they returned to Szerenc, they learned that their three younger brothers and parents had not survived, yet a few close family friends had.  Those who survived married off and began repopulating the Jewish people.  A few years later, my family packed up their bags and made aliyah to Israel.

Eva Selymes Reisner’s full story can be found at www.hereisherstory.wordpress.com.

Esther and Sidney Bratt {Grandparents of Michele Leisawitz, Aaron Wernick, Stacy Seltzer and Brian Wernick}

BrattGrandparentsOur Papap Sid was born in 1928 in Guttstadt, Germany.  At the age of 10, he was sent to England with Kinder Transport.  He was raised in an orthodox hostel run by a husband and wife who had also emigrated from Europe.  In 1942, he was sent to a training camp for Israel called Hachshara located in Edinburgh, Scotland.  In 1945, our grandfather moved to be near his father who had been interned by the British as an enemy alien and transported to the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.  It was then that they realized that they were the sole survivors of their immediate family.

Our Mamam Esther was born in Vilna, Poland in 1929.  She and her parents were placed in the Vilna Ghetto as well as a Labor Camp called Hakapeh.  In both places they were able to escape death on various occasions.  Our grandmother and her parents were able to escape the camp when a guard was drunk.  They hid in a Polish man’s cellar (4 feet long by 6 feet wide) for two weeks before being liberated.

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