Survivor Stories

Coming of Age features twelve stories of Holocaust survivors and one story of an individual who grew up in the Mandate of Palestine during the same period. Below are summaries of those stories, with important topics noted. When choosing stories we recommend taking into account the following:

  • The historical events you would like your class to study
  • The level of knowledge your students have about the Holocaust
  • The stories that are recommended for your
    type of school
  • If your students will be able to follow testimonies with
    English subtitles

As with all curricula, you are urged to examine all materials fully before using them. Please read stories and watch the associated testimonies before deciding which stories are appropriate for your students. If instructors in public schools have time for one or two stories, we recommend “Elli” and “Pawel.” If instructors in Jewish schools have time for one or two stories, we recommend “Elli” and “Moshe.” If instructors in Christian schools have time for one or two stories, we recommend “Yvonne” and “Pawel.”

  • Elli

    Elli’s Story

    Elli was born in 1931 in Samorin, Czechoslovakia, which was later occupied by Hungary. When the Nazis invaded Hungary, they forced the Jews to live in ghettos. From the ghetto, Elli’s father was taken to a labor camp, while Elli and the rest of her family were deported to Auschwitz. Elli, her mother, and her brother survived the war. Elli ultimately became a professor at the City University of New York, and also spent much time living in Israel. (Testimony recorded in 1995.)
    English testimony; Highly recommended for all schools

    Topics: Czechoslovakia, ghettos, labor camp, Auschwitz

  • Pawel

    Pawel’s Story

    Pawel was born in 1930 in Lodz, Poland. With the outbreak of war, Pawel and his extended family were forced into the Lodz Ghetto, where Pawel celebrated his bar mitzvah. During the Holocaust, Pawel’s family was deported to Auschwitz, and Pawel was then taken to various labor camps. He survived, though his family did not. After the war, he came to the United States and became a successful lawyer. (Testimony recorded in 1996.)
    English testimony; Highly recommended for all schools

    Topics: Poland, Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz, labor camps

  • Marek

    Marek’s Story

    Marek was born in 1927 in Lvov, Poland. Respecting the traditions of his grandfather, Marek agreed to have a bar mitzvah when he came of age. Soon after, Lvov was occupied by the Nazis. During the war, Marek refused to wear the Jewish armband and relied on his “Aryan” looks to get food for his family. After his family was deported, Italian soldiers took in Marek along with several other orphans and brought them to Italy, where Marek joined the partisans. After the war, Marek was a founding member of the Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz. (Testimony recorded in 1995.)
    Hebrew testimony with English subtitles; Highly recommended for all schools

    Topics: Poland, Nazi occupation, Italy, partisans

  • Inge

    Inge’s Story

    Inge was born in 1929 in Kassel, Germany, and then moved to Cologne. On Kristallnacht the synagogue she attended was burned. With the outbreak of war, Inge and her family were deported to the Terezin Ghetto in Czechoslovakia. Inge was later taken to Auschwitz, and then selected for transport to work in a munitions factory in Germany. Toward the end of the war, Inge was sent back to Terezin and reunited with her parents. After the war, the family returned to Cologne, but Inge later came to the United States and became a school librarian. (Testimony recorded in 1996.)
    English testimony; Highly recommended for all schools

    Topics: Germany, Kristallnacht, Terezin Ghetto, Auschwitz

  • Yvonne

    Yvonne’s Story

    Yvonne was born in 1929 in Paris, France. Her family fled to southern France after the Nazi invasion. Yvonne and her younger sister, Renée, were placed in hiding in a convent. During the war, the Nazis deported their parents to Auschwitz. After the war, the entire family was reunited, and soon came to the United States. As an adult, Yvonne became an elementary school teacher. (Testimony recorded in 1997.)
    English testimony; Highly recommended for all schools, with special relevance for Catholic schools

    Topics: France, southern France, hidden child, Auschwitz

  • Moshe

    Moshe’s Story

    Moshe was born in 1927 in Brzeziny, Poland. With the Nazi occupation, Moshe’s father fled to Russia, leaving young Moshe responsible for supporting the family. While living in the ghetto, Moshe had a secret bar mitzvah ceremony before the entire family was deported to Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, Moshe was separated from his mother and sister, and clung to his brother, with whom he managed to survive the war. Tragically, Moshe’s brother was murdered immediately after the war. Moshe came to the United States alone, where he became a successful businessman. (Testimony recorded in 1993.)
    English testimony; Highly recommended for all schools

    Topics: Poland, ghetto, Auschwitz

  • Meir

    Meir’s Story

    Meir was born in 1928 in Korets, Poland. During the war, Meir watched his father struggle as head of the Judenrat in Korets. Meir had to confront his own moral dilemmas while working in the local Nazi headquarters. Ultimately, Meir’s family members were murdered, and his father defiantly committed suicide. After the death of his family, Meir fled to the forest and hid with a kind non-Jewish family through the end of the war. After the war, he helped found the Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz. (Testimony recorded in 1999.)
    Hebrew testimony with English subtitles; Recommended for all schools

    Topics: Poland, Judenrat, hiding

  • Rachel

    Rachel’s Story

    Rachel was born in 1928 in Limanowa, Poland. She was the second in a family of four girls. With her father and two of her sisters, she was taken to Siberia during the war. After moving to Uzbekistan, their father died, and the sisters wandered from orphanage to orphanage. At the end of the war, the sisters were on the famous “Exodus” ship making its way to the Jewish homeland. The ship was captured and sent back to German soil. Later, Rachel and her sisters reached Israel and were among the founders of the Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz. (Testimony recorded in 1999.)
    Hebrew testimony with English subtitles; Recommended for all schools

    Topics: Poland, Siberia, orphanage, “Exodus”

  • Esther

    Esther’s Story

    Esther was born in 1928 in the town of Drujsk, Poland. During the war, Esther and her family were sent to the Vilna Ghetto and then taken to Estonia, where they were in a forced labor camp. Later, Esther was sent alone to a brutal camp called Stutthof, and at the very end of the war was part of a death march. In the midst of the death march she was liberated by the Soviet Army. After the war, she was among the founders of the Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz. (Testimony recorded in 1996.)
    Hebrew testimony with English subtitles; Recommended for all schools

    Topics: Poland, Vilna Ghetto, forced labor camp, Stutthof, death march, Soviet Army

  • Albert

    Albert’s Story

    Albert was born in 1927 in Berlin, Germany. After the terror of Kristallnacht, Albert’s parents obtained visas for his family to leave for Cuba, and eventually, Albert and his siblings came to the United States and lived with foster families in the South. After the war, the children were reunited with their parents. As an adult, Albert became a rabbi and led various congregations in the United States and England. (Testimony recorded in 2001.)
    English testimony; Highly recommended for Jewish schools

    Topics: Germany, Kristallnacht, Cuba, United States

  • Anna

    Anna’s Story

    Anna was born in 1928 in Rome, Italy. Her family had roots in Italy going back seven generations. Upon the Nazi invasion of Rome, Anna’s father took the family into hiding in a mountain village where no one knew they were Jewish, but Anna always remembered and treasured her Jewish background. After the war, the family returned to Rome and Anna met and married an American serviceman. She and her husband moved to the United States. At age 60, Anna had a bat mitzvah ceremony. (Testimony recorded in 1991.)
    English testimony; Recommended for all schools

    Topics: Italy, hiding

  • Yisrael

    Yisrael’s Story

    Yisrael was born in 1927 in Gora Kalwaria, Poland, and was the second oldest of five brothers. With the establishment of a ghetto in their hometown, they still managed to maintain their traditions, and Yisrael even had a bar mitzvah. But faith alone could not sustain them, and soon almost everyone in the family perished of hunger and disease. Yisrael escaped the ghetto and began to wander from village to village, and joined a partisan unit at the end of the war. Upon liberation, Yisrael joined those who fought to establish a Jewish homeland, and helped found the Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz. (Testimony recorded in 1997.)
    Hebrew testimony with English subtitles; Recommended for Jewish schools

    Topics: Poland, ghetto, partisan

  • Aza

    Aza’s Story

    Aza was born in 1928 and grew up on Kibbutz Ein Harod, in the Mandate for Palestine. The members of the kibbutz felt a strong connection to the events of the war as they unfolded. Many kibbutz members had family in Europe. The kibbutz took in Jewish refugees before and during the war, and welcomed survivors after the war. The kibbutz also had an important connection to Dr. Janusz Korczak and Ms. Stefa Wilczynska. These compassionate educators visited the kibbutz from Warsaw, Poland on various occasions before the war, and were later murdered by the Nazis. After the war, Aza established an annual commemoration in honor of Dr. Korczak and his work with children. (Testimony recorded in 2001.)
    Hebrew testimony with English subtitles; Recommended for Jewish schools

    Topics: Mandate for Palestine, Jewish refugees, Dr. Janusz Korczak, commemoration


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