Prisoner at Dachau 1
This is a detail from a photograph of three men who were prisoners at Dachau, a concentration camp in Germany, established in 1933 by the Nazi government. At first most of the prisoners were political opponents of the Nazi regime. Over time, other groups were also interned there, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma, homosexuals and those considered "asocial," many of whom were mentally ill or disabled. When the persecution of Jewish people increased in 1938, the number of Jewish prisoners at Dachau rose.
After Kristallnacht, a night of widespread violence against Jewish people throughout Germany, Austria, and parts of Czechoslovakia, more than 10,000 Jewish men were imprisoned there. Dachau was a training center for SS concentration camp guards, and it became a model for all Nazi concentration camps. Prisoners at Dachau who were considered too sick or weak to work were killed by SS guards or sent to another camp to be killed. Others were subjected to horrific medical experiments. They were injected with deadly diseases, forced to drink saltwater that could kill them, and left in extreme cold conditions, which led to hypothermia. Hundreds of prisoners died or were permanently disabled as a result of these experiments.
American forces liberated Dachau on April 29, 1945. Near the camp, they found more than 30 railroad cars filled with bodies. The three men in the photo are standing in the barracks immediately after being liberated. We don't know any of their names.
Stefania Podgorska grew up on a farm with her large Catholic family. When she was 13, her father got sick and died. Stefania asked her mother if she could leave the farm and join her sister in the city of Przemysl. Stefania worked in a grocery store there that was owned by the Diamants, a Jewish family. They treated Stefania like family. When the Germans invaded Poland, she moved in with them.
In 1941, the Diamants were made to leave their homes and live in a Jewish ghetto. Stefania's mother was sent to Germany where she was forced to work. Stefania took care of her 6-year- old sister and found an apartment outside the ghetto. She traded clothes for food. A year later, she heard the news that all the Jewish people in the ghetto were going to be rounded up and sent away. She helped some of them escape and hide. Then she moved into a cottage so she could have more space. Eventually, 13 Jewish people were living in a secret space in Stefania's attic. All of them survived the war. In 1961, Stefania moved to the United States with her husband, Josef Diamant.
Shulamit Musia Perlmutter, called Musia, was part of a family who loved learning. Her father was a professor at the university in Lvov. Her parents were both civic leaders in their town of Horochow, in eastern Poland. Private tutors taught Shulamit when she was just 4 years old.
Three weeks after the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, the Soviet Union took over eastern Poland. Many people who were trying to escape the Germans passed through Horochow. But Shulamit's life didn't change much. Her father continued to teach at the university. Shulamit was now taught in Russian.
Two years later, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. They set up a ghetto, a part of the city where Jewish people were forced to live, in Horochow. Shulamit and her mother fled the ghetto when they heard rumors that the town was about to be destroyed. They hid at the river's edge, and soon heard shots. They stayed in the water all night, listening to the sound of machine guns blasting through the ghetto. In the morning, they saw that they were not the only ones hiding. Shulamit heard a guard scream, "I see you there Jews: come out!" Many people did, but she and her mother stayed hidden in the water for days. One day, Shulamit dozed off. When she woke up, her mother was gone. Shulamit never saw her mother again. She never found out what happened to her. She hid in the forests near Horochow until the war was over. She is the only member of her family to have survived.
Joseph Muscha Mueller
Life had challenges in store for Joseph Muscha Mueller from the very start. His parents were Romani, but Joseph was raised in a German orphanage, and later by a foster family. In school, Joseph was bullied and made fun of by classmates who were members of the Hitler Youth movement. Nazi law discriminated against many groups of people who were considered outsiders, including the people from the Roma and Sinti tribes. Because of these unfair laws, when Joseph was twelve he was taken from his classroom and forced to have an operation that would prevent him from ever having children. He was supposed to be sent to Belsen concentration camp after he recovered from the surgery. Fortunately, Joseph's foster father was able to get him smuggled out of the hospital before that happened. Joseph spent five months hiding in a garden shed until the war was over.
Gerard Horst Meyerfeld
Gerard Horst Meyerfeld was born in Germany but moved to France and lived with his aunt, uncle, and cousin Beatrice. In 1939, because they were foreigners, the uncle was sent to an internment camp near the city of Toulouse in southern France. The family moved to the south to be near him. Gerard's aunt sent him to work on a farm, hoping he would be well fed, but the farmer was collaborating with the Nazi occupiers and Gerard was barely given enough to eat. After a few months, Gerard left to work with the Jewish underground, people who were secretly fighting against the Nazis. He stayed with them until after liberation. Then he joined the French army.
During the war, Gerard's parents remained in Germany. They survived by moving around from place to place and finding work in factories. They most likely used fake names to avoid being captured by the Nazis. After the war ended, Gerard's parents came to the American zone, but it was a few months before Gerard was able to see them. Eventually, his parents moved to the United States and Gerard decided to remain in France. Beatrice and her parents returned to their hometown to look for members of their family, but they did not find anyone alive. Her grandparents, two aunts and uncles, and three cousins had been deported to Auschwitz, as were two other uncles and her other grandmother.
Channah Mazansky-Zaidel was one of six children born to a Jewish family. In 1914, a year after her father died, the family fled during World War I to Russia. After the war they returned to Lithuania and settled in the village of Pampenai in a house owned by Channah's grandparents. When Channah's three oldest siblings moved to South Africa in the 1920s, Channah helped support the family by sewing.
1933-39: Channah was working as a seamstress in Pampenai when, in the mid 1930s, she met and married Channoch Zaidel. The couple, who continued to live in Pampenai, had one child. In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. At the time, Lithuania was still a free nation.
1940-41: Within days of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, German troops had overrun the area around Pampenai. In late summer 1941, German troops approached the village, in an action that was part of a Nazi plan to eliminate Lithuania's Jews. Before the troops arrived, however, groups of armed Lithuanian collaborators herded Pampenai's Jews to a nearby forest and then forced them to dig trenches and strip naked. The Jews were then ordered to climb into the trenches and were machine-gunned.
Channah, Channoch, and their child were killed, along with Channa's mother, Sara Rachel, her twin brother, Moishe, and her younger brother, Chaim. Channah was 33. (Copyright by the United States Holocaust Memorial Council)
For 150 years, the Jewish family of Henry Maslowicz lived in harmony with their Christian neighbors. That changed when the Germans occupied their hometown in 1939. Henry's father owned an iron and coal factory. Many Jews left, but Henry's parents stayed. A year later, the Nazis created a ghetto, a part of the city where Jewish people were forced to live. Henry was born there. In 1942, upon hearing that the Nazis were going to take everyone out of the ghetto, Henry's father sent his young son to be hidden in a Catholic convent. He was left out on the street instead and picked up by a woman. She took him to an attic, fed him, and kept him hidden. He didn't even know his own name.
A Jewish social worker discovered Henry there and took him to Israel. He eventually reunited with his father and moved first to Ecuador, then the United States.
Fryderyka Mangel met her future husband Edmund Kessler in Rzeszow, when he moved to her home city after attending law school. They were married in 1937. Four years later, the young couple had to move into a ghetto, a part of the city where Jewish people were forced to live. They were separated in the summer of 1942, when Edmund was sent to the Janowska concentration camp. There he was beaten into unconsciousness several times and given hardly anything to eat. He escaped after three months, and was able to join Fryderyka. They first hid in the attic of a Pole who was sympathetic to their plight. Then a Ukrainian neighbor threatened to denounce them, and they had to move to a farm that had an underground bunker. The farm belonged to Wojciech and Katarzyna Kalwinski. Though their bunker measured only 5 by 7 meters, and the Kalwinskis were already hiding many people, they agreed to take in Fryderyka and Edmund. The Kesslers stayed there until they were liberated by the Soviet army on July 27, 1944.
In early 1945, the Kesslers returned to Rzeszow. They were forced to leave Fryderyka's hometown a few months later when a pogrom, an organized massacre of helpless Jewish people, broke out. They fled to Krakow, but left Poland for good after being threatened with another pogrom. This time, Fryderyka was seven months pregnant. The couple welcomed their daughter Renata to the family in Vienna, Austria. Edmund worked as administrator at the Rothschild Hospital in Vienna, which served as a way station for Jewish displaced persons. He later served as Chairman of the International Committee for Jewish Refugees. In 1952, the family immigrated to the United States. The Kalwinski family was honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among Nations in 1967.
Aleksander Kuliseiwicz studied the law, but his real passion was music. A student when the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939, Aleksander expressed his antifascist opinions through his writing, and he suffered for them. The Gestapo arrested Aleksander and sent him to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. Though they were able to lock Aleksander up, they couldn't keep him silent. During his six years of imprisonment, Aleksander wrote 54 songs, mostly about the horrendous treatment of prisoners at the camp. he songs helped the prisoners cope with inhuman conditions. They also helped to document the conditions at the camp. After the camp was liberated, Aleksander remembered his songs, as well as the songs of his fellow prisoners. He dictated hundreds of pages of lyrics to the nurse that took care of him at a Polish infirmary.
After the war, Aleksander became a collector, gathering music, poetry, and artwork of camp prisoners. He played his camp songs at recitals in the 1960s, and issued recordings of them as well. He embarked on a monumental study of culture in the concentration camps, and the role of music as a survival tool for the prisoners. His music lives on today, part of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archive.
Adam Kahane and his family lived in Lodz where his father ran a pharmacy. Adam was five years old when his parents got divorced. After the divorce, Adam lived with his mother and her family in Jaslo, the town where he was born. He visited his father once a year. In 1939, they fled to eastern Poland, hoping to avoid the advancing German troops.
Shortly after they moved to Lvov. Soviet authorities relocated Adam and his cousins to a settlement in the Soviet Union. In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Polish citizens were released as part of the agreement between the Soviet and Polish governments. Adam was drafted into the Polish Army, but when he reported for duty, he found out that they did not want any Jewish soldiers. Adam began nursing school in 1942 and graduated with honors in 1945.
Adam's father Jakub had died of a heart attack on the cattle car to the concentration camp Auschwitz. When the war ended Adam went back to Lodz and ran his father's pharmacy. Three years later, Adam moved to the United States, where he studied business at Columbia University and got married.