I was born in Karlovsky Chlumec, Slovakia on Feb 9th 1928. I was the youngest of 6 children (3 boys, 3 girls). My parents were well to do at that time, and owned a bar-restaurant. We were orthodox, went to public school and learned in “Cheder” after school. We did experience some antisemitism in school with the non Jewish kids calling us “dirty Jews”. At age 16 I was deported to concentration camp.
The beginning started when my family including myself were incarcerated into a ghetto in the nearest town called Saturajuhel in Hungary. The Ghetto was divided into four sections which eventually became four transports.
Transport number 1 and 2 departed the ghetto and we had no idea where they were taken. My family including myself were on the 3rd transport and taken on the last days of Passover. We were packed into cattle cars into the railway station without having any idea where they were going to take us. The train moved out from the above-mentioned city. By moving the train from one place to another, we noticed that we were moving northward from Slovakia. Eventually, we crossed the border into Nazi occupied Poland and eventually brought us to Nazi German Concentration and Extermination Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. As we were separated from our parents, we had no idea what happened to them. We spent 3 days in Auschwitz which were terrifying. This is where I met Dr. Mengele who separated my parents from us. (Dr. Mengele at first looked at my father’s hands and put him in the living line but then looked up and since he had a beard and looked older moved him to the other line) Later it was understood that the line my parents, sister and baby were in were sent to the gas chamber. (women were coming over to my sister, telling her to let go of her baby but she couldn’t make that choice) After three days, we were transported from Auschwitz to Warsaw where we were given the job of cleaning out the Warsaw ghetto after the uprising. From that point on we were in a number of concentration camps until our liberation by the Americans from Germany. My brother and I were together during our time in the camps and we helped one another pull through. Lastly before our liberation we were on the death march and made it.
As we were liberated by the American troops and transported back to our home country, we were hopeful that just as we returned home, so will our parents. As we found out, having been separated from them, they ended up in the gas chambers of Auschwitz where they met their brutal deaths.
It was a bitter pill to swallow- having to start to build up my life at a young age, without parents. Regardless, I had to pick up the pieces of my life as best I could. 4 out of our 6 siblings survived. 2 of us ended up in Montreal, and the other 2 in the United states.
After the war, I decided to follow my ambitions- I wanted to be a dentist so I started to study dentistry in 1945 in Kosice, Czechoslovakia.
Since Czechoslovakia was occupied by the Russians at some point in 1945, my siblings and I decided to move out as quickly as possible since we did not want to live under a dictatorship. This is when I had to give up my dream of dentistry.
We succeeded to get out of Czechoslovakia and settled temporarily in Paris, France. After being there for a year and learning French we were lucky enough to obtain immigration visas to Canada. This turned out to be the luckiest part of my life. We arrived to Montreal in 1949 and the rest of our lives were a happy story because Canada was and is a great country to settle in. I met my wife (a survivor) in Montreal and we built a life together. We have 2 daughters, 4 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. I never thought I would live to see any of this. I went into the manufacturing business, built a sock and sweater factory and became successful.
My wife and I have devoted the past 16 years to teaching students about the holocaust. We were on 14 “March of the living” trips, 2 mega missions and have participated in many speaking engagements in schools in Montreal (Jewish day schools as well as public schools). Our feeling is to educate the world to never forget what happened with the hope of this never happening again.
What does Auschwitz mean to you?
Auschwitz to me, represents a murderous slaughterhouse that was a huge part of the assassination of 6 million Jewish men, women and children. It was a horror that we can never forget.
My message for future generations is…
To never forget to prevent this from happening again. I feel that we need to continuously build up and support Israel, our homeland to the very best of their capacity. As a survivor, I feel that with Israel, the Jewish people are safer. Lastly, education is extremely important in our quest to never forget thus never having this happen again.
Who will be accompanying you on this journey?
Audrey Ehrmann – my youngest daughter. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter. Audrey is involved with 2nd and 3rd generation groups teaching all about the holocaust.