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Allan Firestone

Born: January 31, 1933, Kołomyja, Poland
Died: January 5, 2023, Silver Spring, MD

Allan Firestone was born Abraham Wiżnitzer on January 31, 1933 in Kołomyja, Poland (present-day Ukraine). His father, Azriel, and his mother, Clara, ran a small grocery store and bar. Allan had four older sisters: Rose, Frieda, Julia, and Rachel.

Before World War II began in September 1939, Allan attended both Polish public school and a Hebrew day school. In September 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union both invaded Poland. The Germans occupied western Poland, and the Soviets occupied eastern Poland, including Allan’s hometown. Under Soviet occupation, Allan’s public school was no longer taught in Polish, but in Russian. Jewish students could no longer learn Hebrew, which the Soviets objected to because it was a religious language. 

In June 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and occupied eastern Poland. The Nazis and their allies and collaborators targeted and persecuted Jewish families, including Allan’s. In Kołomyja, Jews were subjected to public humiliation and forced labor. They were required to wear an armband with the Star of David. Mass executions began in fall 1941.  In January 1942, three Ukrainian auxiliaries arrived at the Wiżnitzer’s home and arrested Azriel. A few hours later the auxiliaries returned  and took Rose and her husband, Herman. Later, that same day, Clara was also arrested. Azriel, Clara, Rose, and Herman were all murdered in the forest outside Kołomyja. Frieda, Julia, Rachel, nine-year-old Allan and Richard, Rose and Herman’s two and a half year old son, were left to fend for themselves.

In March 1942, the Jewish population of Kołomyja was forced into a ghetto. Allan lived in a house with his sisters, an aunt and uncle, Sali and Moses Spiegel, and their four children. Food was scarce. Each morning, Allan watched a man with a horse and wagon collect the corpses of starvation victims. Rachel was assigned to forced labor outside the ghetto harvesting beets. She often smuggled beets back to the ghetto. One day, she was caught and presumably killed. Allan never saw her again. Richard, who had been sent to live with his paternal grandmother, was caught in a roundup and brutally murdered in a massacre.

In spring 1942, the Germans began rounding up the ghetto’s residents and sending them to Belzec killing center. Allan’s family avoided several roundups by hiding in the cellar, but conditions in the ghetto quickly worsened. Frieda tried to escape Kołomyja using a false identity, but she was recognized by a classmate, denounced, and arrested. She never returned. To help Allan and Julia avoid the roundups, Julia’s boyfriend, Pawel, arranged a hiding place for them in the apartment of Frania Palyga, his family’s former maid. Allan and Julia hid in the building’s attic or in a wardrobe in the dining room for over a year. 

In early 1944, when the Soviet army drove the Germans from Kołomyja, Allan and Julia left the apartment and searched for other survivors. They learned that their aunt, uncle, and three of their cousins had survived. Julia also met another survivor, Edward “Eddie” Feuerstein (Firestone), who would become her husband.

After the July 1946 Kielce pogrom, Eddie and Julia were afraid to stay in Poland. Like many other Jews in postwar Poland, they decided to leave with Allan and their baby daughter Miriam. They traveled to the Zeilsheim displaced persons camp in Germany before immigrating to the United States in 1947. Julia and Eddie claimed that Allan was Eddie’s son from a previous marriage so that Allan would not have to apply for an American visa as an individual. Allan went to school in New York and later met his wife, Barbara. In 1962, the Firestones moved to the Washington, DC area. They had two children. Allan served as a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.