Survivors' Stories

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

David Wisnia

  • From: Poland (Sochaczew)
  • Liberated from: Germany (Dachau)
  • Deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau from: Poland (Warsaw)
  • Current Location: USA (Pennsylvania)
  • Year of birth: 1926

Brief Bio

Cantor David S. Wisnia has a remarkable voice, and he uses it to tell his remarkable story. Before Germany occupied Poland in the 1930s, David was a young singing star and child prodigy in his native Poland, having studied with renown Cantors Sirota and Koussevitsky, performing in synagogues and in theaters and on Polish radio. When he was just a teenager, his entire family was murdered in the Warsaw ghetto. David was soon taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp, where he was held prisoner for nearly 3 years. After experiencing several horrors in Auschwitz, David discovered that his singing voice would ultimately save his life by entertaining the Nazi guards. A death march and a daring escape lead him into the path of U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne who adopted “Little Davey,” taking him with them on their campaign of liberation through Europe. With US army’s help, David Wisnia was able to immigrate to the United States after the war. He created a new life and a beautiful family, and continued singing, serving as Cantor of Temple Shalom in Levittown, PA for 28 years, and recently retiring after 23 years as Cantor of Har Sinai Congregation of Trenton, NJ. David Wisnia is a member of the American Conference of Cantors within the UAHC, and continues to be an active vocalist, educator, and congregational community leader. David’s recently published memoir “One Voice Two Lives” chronicles his journey as both a Holocaust Survivor and a WWII Liberator.

What does Auschwitz mean to you?

Auschwitz meant the end of life, the end of the world.

My message for future generations is…

Do away with hatred. Hatred leads to death. There is a saying in the Torah: God tells Abraham “You shall be a Blessing” and that is my message, that each and every one of us should “be a blessing.” We should do good in this world, and be good to one another. Live a life with meaning and purpose, and leave this world a better place than when you entered it.

Who will be accompanying you on this journey? 

My grandson Avi Wisnia, as well as my granddaughter Sara Wisnia, my son Rabbi Eric Wisnia and my daugher-in-law Judy Wisnia, and my friend Professor Doug Cervi.

Avi Wisnia is an award-winning composer, singer, performer and educator. Avi tours in support of his debut album, “Something New,” performing in prestigious venues around the world – from the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City to The Kennedy Center in Washington DC to concerts in Poland, Brazil, and Japan. In addition to being a performing songwriter, Avi has also given a TED talk and performed with The Moth storytellers. His most recent project, My Polish Wisnia, explores the power of music and history passed down through the generations as he travels and performs with his grandfather Cantor David Wisnia.