Isaac G.

A Survivor of Buchenwald
Holocaust Education Symposium 2001 "I WILL NOT BE SILENT IN THE FACE OF INTOLERANCE"

Isaac G. was born in 1925, in Chestochova, Poland. His father was a cabinetmaker, and in 1931, facing poverty and growing anti-Semitism, he took his family to a larger community, where they lived in a neighbourhood with other Jewish families, and where Isaac and his older brother Brunard attended a public school for Jewish boys. Isaac’s parents had lived through the First World War, and had found the Germans to be polite, decent people. They did not run away from the encroaching war in Poland, as they could not envisage such civilized people committing such atrocities. When the German Army occupied Poland in 1939, Isaac was forced to clean the streets and shovel snow in work details of Polish Jews, after priests, rabbis and union leaders were lined up and shot.

At 15, he took a cabinet making job, and, one day while at work, was taken from the factory to a slave labour camp. He lived in camps surrounded by electrified barbed wire, guarded by soldiers with rifles and dogs. Prisoners from the Jewish barracks wore uniforms and were forbidden packages from home. Their food consisted of thin soup, barely enough to keep them alive, and sometimes Isaac managed to steal potatoes from the fields. In 1945, he was sent to Buchenwald, a concentration camp, in cattle cars packed with people. When the Russians approached eastern Germany, the inmates were marched out. His attempts to escape by hiding in straw and heading into the forest were thwarted, but eventually he managed to fool the SS officers on the long march. He was picked up by French soldiers, and it is them who he considers to be his liberators.

Isaac had no news of his family until after the war. His father, mother and sisters were gassed at Auschwitz, but, after meeting a Jewish couple on a train who told him his brother was still alive, they were reunited. Isaac testified in the trials against the SS officers of Buchenwald. In 1947, he and his brother came to Winnipeg under the sponsorship of an aunt in Manitoba, as the Canadian government refused to accept immigrants that did not have close relatives in the country. In 1951, he married his wife Hilda, beginning his new and happy life. They have 4 daughters and 6 grandchildren. Since retiring from life insurance sales, Isaac has taken time for volunteer work, and to speak at high schools about Holocaust issues, both of what happened to the Jews, and what can happen in places like Bosnia and South America.

HOLOCAUST EDUCATION SYMPOSIUM

Offered by the

Victoria Holocaust Remembrance and Education Society