Born: Sokolow Podlaski, Poland
April 24, 1917
One of seven children, Mendel was raised in a Yiddish-speaking, religious Jewish home in Sokolow Podlaski, a manufacturing town in central Poland with a large Jewish population of about 5,000. Mendel's parents ran a grain business. As a teenager, Mendel liked to play chess, and he completed his public schooling in Sokolow Podlaski in 1931.
1933-39: After finishing middle school, I went to work in my parents' business. When I was 18, I fell in love with Frieda Altman who was in the same Zionist organization as I, and we became engaged. On September 1, 1939, the Germans invaded Poland and entered our town on September 20. That November, I fled with Frieda and her family to the city of Bialystok in the Soviet-occupied part of Poland. There, Frieda and I got married.
1940-44: In January 1940 the Soviets sent us, along with many other Jewish refugees in Bialystok, east to work camps in Siberia. I was assigned to cut trees in the Ural Mountains. Then Frieda and I were sent to the Crimea to work on a collective farm where I became a tractor driver. But the Germans invaded the USSR in June 1941 and reached the Crimea by September. Knowing what the Nazis were doing to Jews, the Soviets evacuated the Jews to the Caucasus, first to Azerbaijan and then to Armenia.
Mendel and his family returned to the Crimea after the Germans retreated in 1944. After the war, the Felmans returned to Poland, and then emigrated to the United States in 1949.