Allan Firestone was born in Kolomea, Poland, in 1933. A couple of months after Allan’s parents and one of his sisters were murdered by Ukrainian auxiliary police in 1942, Allan and his remaining family members were forced into a ghetto. When conditions in the ghetto worsened, Allan and his one surviving sister hid in the apartment of a Gentile until liberation.
ALLAN FIRESTONE: My name is Allan Firestone.
I'm a Holocaust survivor and Museum volunteer.
I was born in Kolomea, Poland on January 31, 1933.
My parents ran a successful small grocery store and bar, providing a comfortable life for myself and my four older sisters.
When World War II began in 1939, Kolomea was first occupied by the Soviet Union.
My parents' store was taken away from them and my sisters now had to study Russian and Soviet history.
During the Soviet occupation, my older sister, Ruzhia got married and gave birth to a baby boy named Risio.
Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941.
For a short time, my town was occupied by Hungary, an ally of Nazi Germany.
The Hungarians forced the Jews to rebuild railway tracks to support the effort.
Soon thereafter, the Nazis took control of my town.
The Nazis ordered all adults to wear armbands showing that they were Jewish, and implemented other rules that excluded Jews from public life.
The real disaster struck on January 26, 1942.
That day, the Nazis, with the support of three Ukrainian auxiliary police, came to our home and arrested my father.
They returned some hours later and arrested my sister Ruzhia and her husband, Herman.
Before taking them away, two policemen forced my sister into another room and raped her.
Then they traded places, and the third policeman took his turn.
As she was leaving, my sister turned to my mother and asked her to take care of her little boy.
That same afternoon, the auxiliary police officers came back and arrested my mother.
We never found out what happened to them, but we assumed they were taken to the nearby Sheparowce forest and murdered.
My sisters Frima, Yula, Ginia, later called Freida, Julia, and Rachel, and I were left to take care of ourselves and my little nephew, Risio.
I was nine years old.
A few weeks later, we were forced into the ghetto in our town.
The five of us were given a single room to share.
My cousins, Herman, Jack, and Hilda Spiegel moved into a room next to ours.
My sisters were unable to take care of my little nephew and asked his paternal grandmother to take care of him.
Just a few weeks later, during Passover, there was another roundup of Jews.
My nephew's grandmother, and many others, were forced to march to the Sheparowce forest where she was murdered.
My nephew, just two and a half years old at the time, was used for target practice by the local SS.
Starvation was very pervasive.
Many mornings, I watched a man with a horse and buggy collect the corpses of people who had died of starvation.
My youngest sister, Ginia, got a job working outside the ghetto, harvesting beets.
She was able to smuggle beets into the ghetto a few times, and we ended up living on those for a while.
Eventually, Ginia was caught smuggling food into the ghetto and was arrested immediately.
We never saw her again.
By the fall of 1942, it became obvious that the Nazis were determined to murder all of us.
My sister Frima, along with her friend, tried to save herself by escaping the ghetto.
They took a train to Lvov, a large nearby city, where they hoped to blend in.
On the train she was recognized by a former neighbor, who denounced them to the police.
She and her friends were arrested and we never knew their fate.
That left just Yula and me.
Her boyfriend, Pawel Wermuth, made arrangements with his family's former maid, Frania Palyga, to hide him and my sister.
Before they were able to move to their new hiding place, Pawel and his entire work detail were killed in a mass shooting operation after reporting for work.
However, Yula was able to convince Frania to hide her, even though Pawel could no longer escape.
Yula escaped from the ghetto and moved in with Frania while I remained in the ghetto on my own.
After some persuading, Frania agreed to hide me as well.
Yula and I spent all of 1943 hidden by Frania and her daughter, Stasia.
We spent our time either in the attic of the building or in a wardrobe in Frania's apartment.
We sat in that wardrobe, not daring to breathe, when occasional guests came or when Stasia entertained her boyfriend, a German soldier.
In 1944, in February, we were liberated by the Soviet Army.
Immediately, we began to look for survivors.
After living with a group of survivors for a number of weeks in relative safety, we were forced to flee because of rumors of German military counteroffensive.
My sister Yula and I returned to Kolomea in late summer 1944,
but we stayed there only a short time.
We moved west, into Poland, settling in Breslau, formerly East Germany.
We lived an uneventful life until the summer of 1946 when Polish mobs attacked survivors and killed a large number of them.
The news of the pogrom spread like wildfire, and we decided there was no longer a life for us in Poland.
After some difficulties, we received visas and arrived in the U.S. in February, 1947.
Some 50 years after I left Kolomea, I decided to revisit my old town.
I managed to visit the Sheparowce forest, where thousands of Jews, including my family, were murdered.
There was a small monument in memory of the victims of the Holocaust in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ukrainian.
To my distress, I noticed human feces at the base of the monument.
Antisemitism was alive and well in Ukraine.
Antisemitic incidents were also on the rise in the United States at the time and continue today.
That's why I tell my story to warn people of the dangers of unchecked hatred and antisemitism.
It is up to all of us, Jews and non-Jews, to stop antisemitism at its root before it metastasizes into a much more serious situation.
Welcome thank you for joining us for First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors my name is Bill Benson. I have hosted the Museum's First Person Program since it began 22 years ago.
Each month we bring you firsthand accounts of survival of the Holocaust. We are honored to have Holocaust survivor Allan Firestone share his personal first-hand account of the Holocaust with us.
Allan thank you so much for agreeing to be our first person and to be with us today welcome.
Allan: Thank you Bill it's a pleasure to be with you.
Allan you have so much to share in our short time together so we'll start. Before you tell us what
happened to you and your family during World War II and the Holocaust, tell us about your parents
Azriel and Clara Wiznitzer and their life in Kołomyja, Poland before the war began.
Allan: Here we have a picture of my parents i think it's from 1916 so I assume thismight be their wedding picture.
My parents had two girls older than myself
my parents were fairly middle class relatively well off they had their own house a substantial house which
also served as a grocery store and bar which they operated before the war.
In addition to their own house they also had a couple of cottages which they rented out
across the street from their house and somewhere along the line when I was born I was the
boy together with four girls so this was quite an exciting time for my parents.
And I found out later on after the war from a cousin who also doubled as the
family gossip that when I was born my father was so happy he opened a bank account for me
in all of the places town and city in England, Liverpool why I have no idea and she of course
didn't have any idea of what bank that account was in you obviously know what account number so
I never pursued it and I have no idea how much it was but obviously there was some money there in
order to be able to do that. Bill: We can only hope thatit's still sitting there and someday somehow you
come across it i hope that's the case so i hope that Allan: I'm not going to hold my breath
Bill:You're not going to hold your breath for that okay Allan um asyou mentioned you had four sisters and they were
considerably older than you tell us about them and and about this picture and what the age range was.
Allan: This is a picture of my family without me in that picture so this was obviously taken
before I was born from left to right starts with my oldest sister Ruja or Rose.
She was by the time the war broke out I think she was in her mid-20s.
The next one to that is my youngest of all of the four sisters Rachel she was
probably about six or seven years older than I was so she must have been
a teenager. Next to her is my sister Julia she was the one that actually survived the war and
she was when in 1942 she was 20 years old. And next to her is the second oldest sister Frieda and she
was probably in her early twenties I don't know exactly how old she was. And of course standing
is my mother and next to her as my father in this very formal portrait. Bill: Allan there you are
born January 31, 1933 you've got four much older sisters uh with a your older sister being about
24 years older than you. What was it like for you as a young boy to have those older sisters?
Allan: Uh by the way this is me when I was approximately four years old
and to answer your question it was great I was the apple of the family's eye.
My parents doted on me and my sisters did too and if they didn't then all I had to do was
squawk and complain and every one bent over backwards to make me happy so that was a great
situation for a young boy to be in. I had a great time. Bill: I can only imagine that that was
the case for you. Will you tell us some can you tell us a little bit more about your family's life in Kołomyja at that time before the war began? Allan: My parents were what you would call
progressive Jews they although my parents my father attended services regularly.
Nevertheless they were they sent their older daughters to school to gymnasium, the gymnasium was
language of the lecturing was in Polish and we all spoke Polish at home so we were
again as I say fairly well often um well modern comfortable lot most comfortable life
Bill: Allan you were you had the opportunity before the war to start school um I believe kindergarten. What do you remember of what that was like for you?
Allan: Well actually I started off two schools one was the Hebrew school the
which traditionally started when boys were four or five years old maybe younger if you
were a little bit more Orthodox, I suppose you started at three and the second one was
the regular kindergarten and the things that I remember about those experiences are two,
in the Hebrew school that's where I first met up with other boys of my age and we succeeded in
stealing cigarettes from my parents and were able to try our luck with that and that was
probably the most memorable experience. Bill, at age six, right?
Allan: Yes the other school again nothing um
of any significance other than the fact that my parents insisted that rather than going to school
on my own I would be taken in hand by the family maid and the only thing I remember of those days
is that I was awfully embarrassed to have somebody chaperone me.
Bill: Allan you were just six years old when World War II began in September 1939. Poland
was divided between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and your hometown being in eastern Poland
was occupied by the Soviets. what do you know of how the Soviets treated your family at that time?
Allan: Since my parents were middle class and my parents were operating a business
that did not stay well with the Soviet authorities so in short order my parents lost their
livelihood because that just was not the Soviet model
my oldest sisters the ones who were attending gymnasium uh had to adapt to the Soviet culture
and Soviet language or rather Russian language I should say. So when the original
language of instruction was Polish and the course of study was uh Polish authors and Polish poets
under the Soviet system they had to start learning about
Russian culture and Russian poetry and of course the language of instruction
became Russian so that was quite a bit of a change for them. For myself nothing much
was impact because I was too young to really
be impacted in some way. Bill: Yes it's trying to imagine Allan what it must have been like for your sisters
um you know almost overnight they're forced to essentially be taught and and
speak in a different language that they did not speak Russian and not only that then the entire
curriculum is different your point about different literature different culture that had to be just a
tremendous tremendously difficult transition they were going through. Allan: Yes they were and of course
my only memory of that was the constant whining and complaining by the girls
how things were changing and how they how much work they had to do in order to keep up.
Bill: With the Soviets forcing your parents to give up their business, how how were they able to make ends meet and feed the family under the Soviet occupation?
Allan: They did some work sort of up subrosa my parents are the big warehouse in back of their house and
I remember that one of the things that kept my mother occupied was raising geese which of course
eventually they had to be either sold or used for food. My father was busy
with a apple orchard where he was converting the apples to some jam or of some sort which again
was something that they were selling and presumably also there was some savings which
which they used to supplement whatever they could. Bill: Allan give given the age of your sisters at that
time did any of them have their own families of their own? Allan: At one point during the Soviet
regime, my older sister got married and her husband and she had a baby boy
who was probably about two and a half years old around sometime during 1942.
Bill: And we'll come back to Richard that was his name right? We'll come back to Richard in a little while.
Allan, in June 1941 Nazi Germany and its allies invaded the Soviet Union and
very quickly your town was occupied by the Hungarian army. That summer the Nazis took
control of your town and circumstances for Jews truly became horrific. Tell us about the Hungarian
occupation and then what new restrictions were imposed once the Nazis were fully in control.
Allan: The Hungarian occupation was rather benign although they did
enforce a requisition all the young males, Jewish males, to work on the railroad as you know the
railroad tracks are not the same size in Russia as they are in the Western Europe.
So the first objective of the occupation is to work on
equalizing the railroad tracks to supply the and German and Hungarian forces with supplies and whatever.
Bill: So just to enable them to be able to move into their assault on the Soviet Union, right?
Allan: That was the that lasted a couple of months soon after the German authorities took over and the
when I say authorities, it was the civil administration of police consisted of
German and Austrian assets. Once that started and of course the situation deteriorated.
At the minimum all Jews were forced to wear armbands identifying them as Jewish
then the laws started coming out thick and fast all we were all required to turn in
all of our jewelry and other currency and then the next thing was
a law that required us to turn in all of our furs. When I say we it was my parents, my older sisters
and all that was under the pain of death for not complying with the rules.
Again because of my young age I did not was not impacted directly
one of the things that the authorities did is to forbid all Jews from using the
public transportation and also they forbade them to attend
entertainment movies and for me that was a major problem no movies and more importantly
after the movies no visit to the local ice cream parlor because those things were now
off limits and forbidden. Bill: And it wasforbidden for Jews, that's that's Allan: Yes
Bill: In the fall of 1941 large roundups and mass executions of Jews in Kołomyja, your town
began. Tell us what happened to your family a few months later in January 1942.
Allan: In January 1942 there was a big roundup um my parents and I lived sort of in
the suburb of the city or away from the center I should say right in the suburb
and the first day of the roundup we were not affected however the German authorities
were kind of quite efficient and they had lists of all the Jewish intellectuals. The
more substantial citizens of the town and the following day after the initial roundup the my
father was visited by three Ukrainian auxiliaries working with the Germans and they arrested
him and they returned and I don't know if it's the same three or different group of three
but they came back a few hours later and arrested my older sister and her husband.
My family was the substantial citizens of town my
brother-in-law and my sister's husband and this is my oldest sister Bill: Julia Allan: No Rose Bill: Rose Imean excuse me Rose yeah
Allan: Rose's husband was a university graduate he was an agronomist and so
being somebody who used to work working with peasants and their agricultural endeavors
he was certainly in suspect as a communist and so he was a prime suspect to be arrested and then
finally to make a long story short the following afternoon again same or a different group of
Ukrainian auxiliaries came back and arrested my mother so that by the end of the day
my three sisters, I and my then young nephew were left in the house.
Bill: Just to to make that clear so they the the the Nazis made three separate trips
to take your mom, your dad, uh your your oldest sister and her husband away separately Allan: Right
Bill: What happened to them? Allan: Well this wasjust the beginning of the roundups
so nobody was really quite sure what was happening uh my sisters got word somehow
that if they were to provide enough funds to pay the right people in a local jail
my parents and my sister would be released. That went on for a few days
and nothing ever happened. What we found out subsequent to that is that
they could not have been released from jail because they never were in jail. Once my
family was arrested they were immediately marched off to the local forest and they were executed.
Bill: How quickly did you learn that and and know that your parents had been killed?
Allan: It was probably a week or two sometime even like that it was we just eventually lost all hope and
words started getting around about people being marched off to the forest.
Bill: In March 1942 several months after your parents and Rose and her husband were taken by the Nazis
the remaining Jews of your town Kołomyja were forced to move into a ghetto. You
and your sisters were still with your nephew Richard. Tell us what happened to Richard
when you were forced to move into the ghetto. Allan: Once we moved into the ghetto, things were rather
beginning to get very dicey as far as uh food but once we got into the ghetto of course things got proportionately worse.
My sisters tried to take care of the little baby but couldn't and eventually they persuaded
the grand paternal grandmother to take over and
take care of him. After that a few weeks later there was another roundup and this time the paternal grandmother
was rounded up together with other Jews and marched off to the forest again
to be murdered uh since my little nephew was obviously not expected to march
he was used by the SS as for target practice and he was murdered right there on the spot
Bill: After that Richard I mean after that Allan you're now in the ghetto with your with your sisters your
three sisters and for a while Rachel who was the youngest of your three sisters took great risks
tried to bring food to the family. Tell us how she did that and then what happened to Rachel.
Allan: I'm not sure how it happened but she was ordered to go to the local farms to harvest
whatever was handy at that time it so happened to be sugar beets
My sister was working the fields and at the end of the day as the girls were marched back into the
ghetto she was smuggling these sugar beets so that my sisters, myself and our cousins had something
to eat. If you tried to eat raw sugar beets I can guarantee you you would not like it it wasn't it
wasn't very tasty but that was what we had to survive in and so like it or not that's what we ate.
This went on for several weeks but unfortunately one day as my sister was coming back into the
ghetto she was discovered to bring in contraband and she was arrested and we are not quite sure
what happened to her because we never saw her again. Great presumption we have is
that she was one of those that was taken to the local forest and murdered at that time
Bill: Allan now of course there you are with two remaining sisters at that point.
Bill: How did you as such a young boy how did you spend your time and survive in the ghetto? Allan: Well the prime preoccupation was to find some food somewhere or another but
absent that uh I together with other boys my age uh we just spent our time wandering around
um trying to keep ourselves occupied. One of the things that we were occupied with
I am embarrassed to admit was the highlight of our day when we would keep a lookout for the
local man with his horse and wagon who would be going through the ghetto collecting
the corpses of people who died of starvation the prior day and that was our main occupation
is to keep track of how many discs today as opposed to how many and the day before and so on.
That was one of our prime preoccupations. Bill: Andand and and what a horrific thing for you to
remember after all these years. Allan one of your sisters in that quest for food one of your
sisters took you to a section of the ghetto and there I think there was three sections of the ghetto and she took you to one to get food for you but you only went once will you tell us about that?
Allan: Yes the ghetto was actually consisted of three sections with gates in between the sections. One
did not go across from one section to the other unless one had some urgent business because the
ghetto guards were not very nice to us so one never knew when you would be
hit, beaten up, humiliated or even arrested however
the section A was where some communal activities were carried on.
And one of the things was an orphanage that served at least one meal a day to the orphans.
My sister one of my sisters took me across from ghetto B section to ghetto A and convinced the
people who were running the orphanage that indeed I was also an orphan and certainly was qualified
to get some food which they proceeded to give me some sort of watered down uh
vegetable soup but certainly was much appreciated because that was the only thing I had that day
And of course once we had our meal my sister took me back to the other section of the ghetto um
Somewhere along the line the words started getting out I don't know how that the
authorities would focus on
the uh orphanage the orphans for the next roundup
and so i never went back for any more soup, it was my only experience there
Bill: Allan Germans began rounding up the ghetto residents and deporting them to the Belzec
killing center. They were liquidating the ghetto and with this liquidation of the ghetto happening, your your second oldest sister Frieda decided to try to escape.
Tell us about Frieda. Allan: This is Friedareally lovely young lady mm-hmm
It was as the summer started going into fall it became obvious that the
objective of the authorities was total liquidation of the ghetto my sister scraped up some money and together with one of her girlfriend friends decided they would
try to get some false papers identifying them as Christian and Jewish
and they would get on the train from the town Kołomyja to the next biggest city which was Lviv
or Lviv in Ukrainian and tried to find some way to survive there. Unfortunately for them
the girls were recognized by somebody as being Jewish, they were denounced to the local police
and arrested and we never heard from them although the expectation was that they were put on the next
available train to the Belzec concentration camp but we never actually heard from them.
Bill: And to this day you still don't know what happened Allan: No we never learned what happened to them
Bill: Allan by by late summer early fall of 1942 it's now just you and Julia, just your
only remaining sister and you're still in the ghetto. How were Julia and you able to find
a hiding place while in the ghetto to try to avoid the continuing roundups and deportations?
Allan: We found out just word of mouth or something that our neighbors
were building a hiding place in one of their cellars and were building some sort of a false
door behind which they hid. We had no nothing to do but being without any options we sort of
forced ourselves to join them. The neighbors were not very happy but the alternatives they
were feared that if we did not hide with them we would be arrested and would possibly
find to talk to the police about their hiding place so that's how we survived twice during these roundups but towards the end of the
summer things were becoming rather dire however my sister had a boyfriend Pawel ----
and that's a picture of her and the boyfriend and Pawel was part of a work detail that was marched
from the ghetto every day into the forest and their job was to go through the belongings of
the people who were murdered the day before and see which was suitable to be sent on to Germany
because it was a on a work detail he was getting some rations which he shared with my sister
He was marched into the forest one day with his detail but at that point instead of
being put to work he and his fellow workers were machine gunned
before he of course went on his last detail he told my sister that he arranged with
his former maid, Frania that she would hide him and her when the time came to leave the ghetto
he obviously didn't make it but my sister crawled over the ghetto wall and so went to visit Frania
and convinced that even though the boyfriend was no longer alive that Frania would hide her.
That left me in the ghetto for the next uh 10 days or so. Bill: And completely by yourself utterly
completely by yourself. Allan: Yes yes and it was a verydark uh situation at that point the ghetto was
pretty well depopulated so I never saw any of my former friends whom I could spend time with
and I basically spent my time going back wandering around and then going back to the
apartment that we shared at one time and just resting.
Before you ask me the next question I will tell you I have no recollection at this point of how
I survived what I ate if anything right but I survived. Bill: With your sister Julia now hiding with uh in the home of Frania um you also were able to get out of
the ghetto yourself. Tell us how you ended up hiding with Julia in Frania's apartment.
Allan: Julia sent word to me through a friend of hers
that she wanted me to bring to her certain clothing that she had. I bundled up what I
thought was appropriate jumped over the fence and went to the apartment where Julia was staying.
And this was the building that I actually happened to be staying in and delivered my package which
she was not too happy with because I guess I was uh not very attuned to
women's clothing so however I did offer her that I would turn around and go back
to the ghetto and try to bring her some more more appropriate clothing.
She stopped me from going back and said as long as you're here wait a little while she then talked
to Frania and I don't know how but she convinced her that even though the boyfriend wasn't there
Frania would hide her and me in her apartment so that's how we I came to stay there
Bill: Allan from that photograph that we see which is a more contemporary photograph is it possible to point out where um where you were located where Frania's apartment was
Allan: Frania's apartment was on the second floor just below the eaves of the
building Bill: And there of course um you're there with your sister and I believe Frania
am I correct that she also had a child so? Allan: Yeah she had a teenage children starshine Bill: So thefour of you are in there and you
would spend with Julia you would spend the next year and a half hiding in her apartment.
Tell us what that hiding was like and how you were able to avoid detection over a year and a half?
Allan: If you've ever read a story called the Adventures of Narnia Bill: And I have
Allan: If you have, then you know that there is a English bunch of English
children who climb into a wardrobe and the wardrobe has this magic door in the back
they climb to that magic door and they have all sorts of adventures with talking animals, etc
unfortunately for me, I did not have this magic door but my sister and I spent our time
sitting in that wardrobe from morning till night trying to be as unobtrusive as quiet as possible.
When visitors came including the teenage daughter of Frania who had a German soldier as a boyfriend
and they would sit in the apartment and my sister and I were sitting in the
wardrobe trying not to breathe but survive. At the end of the day we would climb out of the wardrobe
stretch out on the floor of the apartment and then the following morning we would continue with the
same routine climbing into the wardrobe trying to be as quiet as possible to prevent anybody from
discovering us. Bill: Day after day after day. Allan: Yes. Bill: What did you do while hiding while you were in that wardrobe what did you do?
besides trying to just not breathe and avoid detection? Allan: Yes that was the primary purpose
however my sister was a student gymnasium student and so she had a lot more education than I had
so to occupy our time she was trying to teach me some of the basics about geography,
arithmetic and just to keep us occupied and try to teach me the uh
multiplication table that sort of thing.
Bill: Just just trying to picture probably speaking ever so softly to each other with her trying to
teach you a little bit of what she knew yeah Allan did did you and or Julia did you ever
go outside once during that year and a half? Allan: Nowe never did but we did get out of the wardrobe
when we were given advanced warning that guests would be coming to visit Frania at
which point we would climb out into the attic just below the roof ease and we would at
least be able to stretch out at that point but we never went outside or saw any light
Bill: You were liberated by the Soviet Army in early 1944, just shortly after your 11th birthday. Tell us
about your liberation. What how did you know and what did that mean for you? Allan: Towards the
end of March of 1944 there was the beginning of canon fire which we would begin to hear
so that gave us some hope that there was a battle going on and that the Russian forces were nearby.
However without any other option we kept continuing climbing into the wardrobe
until one day Frania opened the door of the wardrobe and said you can come out now there
are Russian tanks on the streets of the town and we knew at that point that we were liberated.
And so we left at that point. Bill: Once you so knewthat you were liberated the Soviets were there
um did you did you remain with Frania for any length of time? Allan: No we did not because uh my
sister had some inkling that there might be other people who were in hiding and so our her objective
in mind was to link up with any other survivors that we could possibly find. As it turned out
my aunt and uncle did survive with their children and a couple of hours after we left France he came
by looking for us and by that time we were already linking up with other survivors and we stayed
in a full house that we used to be owned by some doctor in town
we did not stay with her because the apartment was small very cramped and certainly we
did not want to impose any longer than we had to. Bill: At some point um after liberation at some
point while you were connecting with other people would also been in hiding your sister got married
at some point and tell us about her new husband Allan: Her new husband was a bit older than she was
but he was he was even a friend of our families before the Holocaust so he
took it upon himself sort of to take Julia and me under his wing and took care of us.
Bill: Allan during during that at that time uh the Soviets were implementing a number of border
changes in Eastern Europe. Kołomyja became part of the Ukraine. You and your family as Polish citizens
were encouraged to move across the border into another part of post-war Poland. After some time
Julia and her husband Eddie I believe decided you were no longer safe there. Tell us why
you and Julia and Eddie left Poland in 1946.
the Ukrainian authorities were very happy to get rid of Polish citizens and encouraged
us that's perhaps a mild world word but sure enough we ended up going to Poland
and eventually ended up in a territory that used to be German and now became Polish territory
with the city of Breslau now becoming a city of Wrocław
we lived in a fairly comfortable life for about a year and a half or so from 1945
and I attended the local gymnasium doing my best to catch up on all the studies they missed that
I missed over the years but in the summer of 1945 in a city called Kielce there was a pogrom because
some kid went off wandering and never came back in time to his family and everybody
panicked and decided that the Jews must have killed him and done something to him so the pogrom
was a full blown one about 40 some odd people were killed and others injured. Bill: And these
were people who just survived the Holocaust? Allan: Yes yes they were also living in one house
planning to emigrate to Palestine but that didn't make any difference
they were killed, the word spread out like wildfire about what happened in Kielce and
that finally convinced my sister and her husband who then already had a baby girl, Miriam that
life in Poland was probably not for them and so we ended up
uh in the American zone of occupation of Germany Bill: And that and that's where you ended up in the
Zeilsheim Displaced Persons Camp there in Germany I think Allan and you were there for a few months
until you and Julia, Eddie and their baby daughter, Miriam immigrated to the United States in February
1947. Tell us how you were able to get to the United States at the age of 14.
When Julia and Eddie first applied for visas, the local consulate in Frankfurt
uh told them that I could not travel with them because I was not part of the immediate family.
That put them in a quandary either to leave me in the DP camp in Zeilsheim where I
would have hoped that eventually I was going to find my way to Palestine or alternatively
they prepared papers or Eddie prepared papers showing that I was adopted by him and since he was
quite a bit older than Julia and that seemed normal at that time and they
reapplied for visas and at that point we all came to the United States. That's our picture and
I guess that's the visa showing the happy family Julia, Eddie, their little girl Miriam and myself.
Bill: Allan I want to dwell on that for just a moment so you and Julia survive the war and the Holocaust
she is your only family member but you were not able to get a visa because you were not considered
part of the immediate family and so Julia's husband turns around and adopts you
and now he's your stepfather and he's your brother-in-law and and because of that you're able
to get the visa and make it to the United States Allan: I don't know if he formally adopted me or simply
stated on the papers that I was adopted Bill: But he declared so and so that's what happened so
you did make it to the United States you didn't go to Palestine you came here.
Tell us about your adjustment to the United States you're a teenager now young teenager and
after all you've been through what was it like for you to start a new life in the US
Allan: Well I guess I have to go back a little bit to my life in ----- where I attended school and the
children that I would go to students that I was working with I'm going to school with were about as antisemitic as possible
I don't know whether they were inculcated by the Germans or whether their families
expressed their feelings to them but I was the only Jew or at least the only
official Jew in the class and so I was harassed,
fought, attacked all the time every day possible during recess before classes after classes there was one other
girl there a bit older than myself who to always try to defend me and I suspect she
was Jewish but she never admitted to it. Anyhow to get back to your question what was it like.
How should I describe it? Even now I kind of get teared up because it was like a totally different
world, the students that I went to school with embraced me with open arms they gave me friendship
they helped me with my studies. They helped me with my English it was a totally different world
I had no trouble adjusting to a new environment I wanted to forget those kids that I worked with
that I went to school with. Bill: That gives me goosebumpsjust to hear you describe it that way Allan.
I have one more question for you in in the face of rising global antisemitism please tell us why
you continue to share your first-hand account of what you experienced during the Holocaust.
Allan: I do that because I realize that there are people who are now beginning to
question the truth of what happened they're the Holocaust deniers
and I want to let everybody know as much as I can as often as I can that indeed yes this did happen
and this is my story this is what happened to me and I don't want anybody to ever forget this.
This conversation has been edited in length for educational and classroom use. View the full First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors program here.