Wilek was the son of Jewish parents living in Lvov, a large city in southeastern Poland. His family owned and operated a honeywine winery. Although they lived amongst Poles and Ukrainians, Wilek's family spoke Hebrew, German and Polish at home and were among Lvov's Jewish intelligentsia. When Wilek was 4, his father died of a heart attack.
1933-39: Jews were often discriminated against in Poland. We found it hard to gain access to schools and jobs. In 1939 I managed to pass the entrance exam and entered the Lvov secondary school. Soon after I began school, war broke out; the Soviets and Germans divided Poland. The Soviets annexed Lvov, taking over our home and business. However, Soviet rule spared us from the Nazis' brutality. I continued my schooling.
1940-44: The German army seized Lvov in 1941, moving the Jews into a ghetto. I was among 40 who crossed daily to the Polish side to make roofing paper for the German army; this work saved me from deportation. In 1943, just before the Germans destroyed the ghetto, I got false papers, assumed the name of a Christian coworker, and fled to Hungary. I became a courier for the resistance in Budapest and was arrested as a Polish spy. Unaware of my Jewish identity, they sent me to Auschwitz on October 29, 1944. It was my 19th birthday.