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Survivors, WWII Liberators and Second Generation

To schedule a speaker please contact Lara Carignano at lara@hmtcli.org or (516) 571-8040 ext. 103

STEPHEN BERGER

SteveBerger-BWSteve was born and raised in Debrecin, Hungary, where he attended elementary school and Jewish Gymnasium. After the German occupation of Hungary he was forced into the city ghetto. From there, he was sent to Strasshof concentration camp and then to a slave labor camp in Austria. After the liberation by Allied Forces, he briefly returned to Hungary, where he discovered the Germans and their Hungarian collaborators had murdered 26 members of his family. He joined the Zionist movement and left Hungary. He worked to help Europe and Jews emigrate to Palestine and contributed to Israel’s war for independence.

ANNIE BLEIBERG

AnnieBleiberg-BWAnnie was born in Oleszye, Poland. Soon after the Germans occupied Poland in1939, they established ghettos and forced Jews, including Annie and her family, into them. When the ghetto was liquidated, the Jewish inhabitants were crammed into a train and sent to Belzec, an annihilation camp in the Lublin District in the General Gouvernement. Annie escaped from the moving train and began a brief life in hiding. She was betrayed, however, by a classmate and ultimately was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

After the war, Annie came to the United States and settled in the Bronx, where she was active in a variety of Jewish organizations. She relocated to Woodbury and continues her activities there.

BORIS CHARTAN

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Boris Chartan was born in Podkamien, Poland. When the Nazis occupied the region of Poland in which he lived in 1941, Boris was sent to the Sasow labor camp, where he remained until the end of 1942. At that time, he escaped from the camp into the forest. A Polish family saved him and helped to reunite him with his family. After the war, Boris and his parents lived in a Displaced Persons Camp after which they came to the United States. Ultimately, Boris became the Nassau County Commissioner of General Services, a position from which he resigned in 2002. Boris established the Holocaust Center with several friends and served as its President for a number of years.

HERBERT COOPER

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Vienna, Austria was home to Herb Cooper during his childhood. His life changed forever in 1938, when the Nazis annexed Austria. In that same year, in the aftermath of the November Pogrom ( 9-10 November, also known as Kristallnacht), Jews were prohibited to attend non-Jewish schools and eventually even Jewish schools were closed. While the majority of Herb’s extended family perished in the Holocaust, his immediate family escaped to the United States in 1939. In America, Herb studied to become an engineer and contributed to the success of the US space program.

LILLIAN GEWIRTZMAN

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Lillian was born in Grabowiec, located in a region of Poland occupied by the Soviets until 1941. She and her family fled farther into the USSR in front the German invasion, escaping the worst horrors of the Holocaust. They spent various amounts of time in Siberia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. Between 1946 and 1951, Lillian lived in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany. This experience prompted her to curate the Center’s Displaced Persons Exhibit, which is available for display and which has been shown throughout the US and internationally. Lillian and David met after arriving in the US, where they owned several pharmacies in succession.

CHARLOTTE GILLMAN

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Antwerp, Belgium was the birthplace and home of Charlotte Gilman until the end of World War II. During the war, she and her two sisters were hidden in a series of Catholic convents. The vast majority of Charlotte’s family however (over 200 people), were interned briefly at Malines/Mechelin (the major transit camp in Belgium) and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were murdered. Charlotte, her sisters, and their mother (who had been hiding in various places nearby) reunited with Charlotte’s father in the United States after 8 ½ years of separation. Charlotte has kept in touch with some of her rescuers over the years since the war.

GLORIA GLANTZ

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Gloria Glantz was born in Wegrow Poland, in 1939. She had a very loving, large family which included many uncles aunts, cousins, 2 older brothers, and grandparents. To save her life, her parents enlisted the help of a simple, righteous Christian family. 
In her lifetime Gloria has lived in 4 countries, on two continents, so her journey to America was a very circuitous and unusual one.

In her professional life as a teacher she has made it a mission to see that the Shoah is not forgotten. She is the winner of a fellowship from the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, American Federation of Teachers, and Jewish Labor Committee to study the Holocaust and Resistance. She is also the 2002 recipient of The Spirit of Anne Frank Outstanding Educator Award.

WERNER HESS

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Werner was born and raised in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. His whole life changed when Hitler came to power. His best friend, a gentile, could no longer play with or even talk to him and he was thrown off of his soccer team. In 1936, when Werner realized he would not be able to attend college and that he wanted to leave Germany, he dropped out of school and began studying a trade. During the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht), Werner’s parents’ fish store was destroyed. The following day, the Nazis came for his father, who was dying of cancer, and attempted to take Werner instead. He reported to the collection point the next day, but was never sent away. Werner escaped to England in 1939, and arrived in the United States in 1940. He was drafted a few years later and served in the Pacific until 1946. He married that same year.

ETHEL KATZ

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Ethel was born and grew up in Buczacz, Poland, which is now part of Ukraine. Her family was large and close-knit. The German Army entered the town in 1941 followed closely by mobile killing squads who murdered her twin brother and other young Jewish men in a forest near the town. The rest of her family escaped immediate destruction by hiding in barns and fields for several years, reliant upon their non-Jewish neighbors for food. Later Ethel’s family members were murdered in their hiding place. Ethel narrowly escaped and survived that last few months of the war on her own. The Soviet Army liberated her town in 1944. After the war, Ethel immigrated to the United States, where she raised a family. She has written a memoir of her experiences during the Holocaust, Our Tomorrows Never Came.

Seymour Kaplan

At 17-years old, Seymour Kaplan, enlisted in the American Army and left Brooklyn to fight against Nazi Germany. He became a machine gunner with the 692 Tank Destroyer Battalion attached to the 42nd Infantry Division. At the end of the war, he was one of the first American soldiers to enter Dachau concentration camp in April 1945. As a Yiddish speaker, Mr. Kaplan served as a translator for the camp Survivors. The shock of what he witnessed traumatized him for the rest of his life. When he returned home to New York, he established a garment manufacturing company, eventually retired, and then began a second career as a teacher. He is a mental health advocate and has been honored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

ALEX KONSTANTYN

Alex was born in 1937 in Varenz Poland. The fear of the Nazis forced the family out of their home, seeking refuge in the countryside. The year was 1941. The father of the family was poisoned by a farmer, and the burden of survival was assumed by the mother. She had to contend with two powerful enemies, the Nazis and hunger. The last two years of the German occupation mother and son were sheltered by a kind Polish landowner in a small underground bunker. After the war, Alex’s mother remarried, and the family moved to Israel. Alex completed high school and spend 2 ½ years in the Israeli army. He joined the family in the U.S. after his army service. Following graduation from college and the Jewish Theological Seminary, Alex dedicated his life to Jewish education. He retired in 2009 from his position as Principal of the East Meadow Jewish Center. He and his wife Susan presently reside on Long Island, and are blessed with 2 children and 8 grandchildren.

ASHER MATATHIAS

Asher’s parents were residents of Volos, Greece when the Germans began to target the Jews of that city in 1943. Non-Jewish Greek friends of the family were instrumental in their survival. They convinced Asher’s parents that the Nazi threat was serious and that they should leave. The family fled to the hills, where his mother gave birth to Asher. They survived in a cave for two years relying on the assistance and generosity of non-Jewish friends, who brought food and provided protection. Nazis frequently patrolled the area and on one occasion they found Asher and his mother. Fortunately, the soldier in charge had a baby at home in Germany and let them be. Following the war, Asher and his family returned to Volos and rebuilt a life there, but after a series of earthquakes in the early 1950s, they decided to relocate to the United States. In this country, Asher has pursued a career in education, married, and raised a family.

RUTH MERMELSTEIN

Ruth was born in Sighet, part of northern Transylvania in Romania, and was one of six siblings. In 1940 this area of Romania was given to Hungary, Germany’s ally. Soon after, racial laws were imposed stripping Jews of civil rights.

Jewish men were sent into forced labor and her father was sent to the Russian border. When the SS felt that these laborers were no longer useful, hundreds were locked into a building and it was set on fire. Ruth’s father escaped and made his way back to Sighet.

Ruth’s family was forced into a ghetto until they were sent to Auschwitz. She and her sister, Elisabeth, were the only family members to survive. Together they worked as slave laborers in Auschwitz and were then transported to another camp working at an ammunition factory in IG Farben. As the Russian army approached, Ruth was sent on a 5-week death march to Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. On April 18, 1945 Ruth was liberated by British troops. Suffering from Tuberculosis, Ruth and her sister were transported to Sweden by the Red Cross. After several years in Sweden she met her husband, a survivor who lived in the U.S. They married and moved to the U.S.

Barbara Murray – Second Generation

Barbara is the only child of Polish-Jewish parents who survived the Holocaust by escaping Poland to the Soviet Union in 1939.  Her parents, Liba and Leib Kupfer, were sent to labor camps in Siberia and they lived there until 1943 when they were allowed to leave.  They immigrated to Uzbekistan where Barbara was born in 1945.  About a year after the war ended, they were illegally transported in freight trains back to Lodz, Poland where they discovered that family members were gassed and cremated in Auschwitz and Treblinka.  These family members included their parents, sisters, brothers, nephews and other extended family members.  Barbara’s parents never recovered from these atrocities and had survivors’ guilt for the rest of their lives.

Barbara’s mother’s three brothers who had relocated to Belgium and Cuba survived the war.  Barbara’s father’s sole surviving brother, Joseph, survived the war with her parents and immigrated to Israel in 1946.

WERNER REICH

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Werner and his family were residents of Berlin, Germany when the Nazis came to power in 1933. His father, an electrical and mechanical engineer lost his job thereafter, prompting the family to move to Zagreb, Yugoslavia. His father died in 1940 and in 1941, the Nazis occupied Yugoslavia. Werner’s mother placed him in hiding with several families. The last one worked for the resistance movement and Werner helped them in this work. In 1943 he was arrested by the Gestapo, beaten up and jailed for 7 weeks and then sent to Theresienstadt and then Auschwitz II where he went through, in one day, three selections by Dr. Mengele. He was one of 89 who were chosen out of 60000 – the others did not survive. He was then sent to Auschwitz I. In January 1945, after a 7 day death march, he ended in Mauthausen, Austria. After liberation in May 1945, he returned to Yugoslavia and after two years he escaped to England where he worked as a laborer and later became a tool and die maker. In 1955 he married a girl who had been saved by Sir Nicholas Winton. They immigrated to the USA where he eventually became an engineer. He has two sons and four grandchildren. Werner is a frequent speaker and founding member of the LI Multi-faith Forum.

KARL SCHAPIRO

When Karl and his parents were thrown out of Germany, they became refugees for 2 years, eventually settling in the Town of Kalusz in Eastern Poland. In 1941, three Germans occupied Kalusz. All Jews were forced into a Ghetto. Karl’s childhood came to a stop. He lived as a hidden child in the ghetto, in a forced labor camp and for 1.5 years in a hole dug under a barn. When Karl and his parents were liberated, they returned to Kalusz looking for survivors. Of the town’s 5,500 Jews (which included 1200 children) only about 20 have survived with Karl being the only child. They left the town, never to return. They immigrated to the USA where Karl started his first normal education at the age of 14. He graduated from The Cooper Union and from Columbia. He pursued a career in engineering management, married, and raised a family. Now he devotes his time to teaching about tolerance, enjoying his grandchildren and doing volunteer work in Israel.

HELGA SHEPARD

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Helga’s parents were Polish, but she was born in Germany. Following the violence and terror of the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht), her parents sent her on a Kindertransport to England. Her father, Jakob, was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp at the outbreak of the war but her mother, Kajla, obtained his release by buying a steamship ticket for him to go to China. She was not able to join him and was arrested several times in Italy and France ending up in the French detention camp de Gurs. Eight years had passed before Helga and her parents reunited in France after the end of the war.

MIREILLE TAUB

Mireille Taub is a Holocaust survivor, volunteering as an Educator/Docent in the Holocaust and Anti-Bullying and Tolerance programs for the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center. A retired literacy specialist, Mireille taught at Dodd Junior High School in Freeport for twenty-four years, Leo F. Giblyn Elementary School for ten years, and as an adjunct in the Basic Education Department at Nassau Community College. Since her retirement, she has worked in various Long Island educational communities as a literacy consultant for the Long Island Writing Project and Molloy College Advisory Board.

Mireille was born in Paris, France and was lucky enough to take the last train out before France surrendered to the Nazis. Her train was bombed; she and her family walked to safety, traveled across the Pyrenees and passing through Spain and Portugal, arrived in New York on August 11, 1940. She was not quite two years old. She grew up hearing stories about how her family made preparations to leave (as of 1936) if the Nazis were victorious.

Mireille has a professional diploma in special education and a Master’s Degree in reading. She attended both the Sorbonne undergraduate and graduate programs at the Ecole Du Louvre. At Brooklyn College, she was an Art, English and Classics major.

ANITA WEISBORD

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Anita was born in Vienna, Austria. Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 and Austrian Jews immediately became subject to German anti-Jewish measures. The situation for Jews intensified in the wake of the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht). That event touched Anita’s family directly. Her father was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp. Soon thereafter, Anita’s mother sent her on a Kindertransport to England. She remained there for the duration of the war and eventually reunited with her family. After the war, she came to the United States, where she has lived ever since.

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