I was born on September 7th, 1938 in Gdynia, Poland, a suburb of Danzig. My family came from Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Poland and we returned there as soon as the war broke out. My father recalled that he was shocked at the devastation. The 15 thousand Jews were cramped into six 4-story buildings unable to leave without special permission. We lived with our grandparents and other people in tight quarters with the children sleeping and eating under the table. Starvation, shootings and deportation soon decreased the population. Those that managed to survive were packed into trains and shipped off to Nazi labor camps. A handful of us were kept as the cleanup squad. I held my mother’s hand as she and my father picked up the corpses and brought them to the communal grave. Our next destination was Starachowice where my parents worked at an ammunition factory while the children roamed the streets careful not to get shot by the armed soldiers in the 4 towns surrounding the camp. When the children’s selections came, I watched from my hiding place as all remaining children disappeared. Our next destination was Nazi German Concentration and Extermination Camp Auschwitz Birkenau. At 5-1/2 years old my head was shaven and I was tattooed. I survived hunger, disease and a trip to the gas chamber. My mother’s ingenuity saved me when instead of going on the death march we both hid ourselves with corpses and lived to experience the liberation of Auschwitz, by the Russians on January 27, 1945.
I have been sharing my story with students and audiences at public and private schools, at colleges and places of worship, as well as prisons. I came to the US with my parents at age 12. I received my Bachelors of Arts degree in psychology from Brooklyn College, a Master of Arts in Black literature from City College of New York and her Master of Arts in social work from Rutgers University. I taught at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and was Director of Jewish Family Service of Somerset and Warren Counties for over 20 years and I still work there as a therapist. I have been married for 59-1/2 years and have 4 children and 8 grandchildren.
What does Auschwitz mean to you?
The darkest period in human history.
My message for future generations is…
Educate yourself about the darkest period in human history when fire consumed men, women and children and turned millions into ashes. Educate yourself and teach others lest the world forgets and lets it happen again.
Who will be accompanying you on this journey?
Sarah Lehrich, my wonderful daughter-in-law and mother of 2 special grandchildren, Giv and Abegail, will be accompanying me. She is intelligent, compassionate, and a good human being.