Use the smaller-sized text Use the larger-sized text Use the very large text

Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust

Pela Alpert.
Pela Alpert

Name: Pela Rosen Alpert (1920 – 2005)

Birth Place: Dobrzyn, Poland

Arrived in Wisconsin: Green Bay, 1949

We couldn't see our way out.

— Pela Alpert

Map of survivor's journey in Europe.

Biography

Pela Rosen Alpert was born in Dobrzyn, Poland, on October 26, 1920. She was the youngest of seven children in a well-to-do mercantile family. In the mid 1930s, her sister and brother-in-law, Rose and Jacob Fogel, left Poland to settle in Green Bay, Wisconsin. With the outbreak of World War II, Pela fled with her family to Warsaw when she was 19. She contracted typhus while in the Warsaw Ghetto and nearly died.

After her recuperation, her father convinced her to escape from the Ghetto by crawling through a hole in a wall. She never saw her family again. Pela was eventually rounded up for forced labor at the munitions factory at Skarzysko-Kamienna. After more than two years of grueling work, she was transferred first to a labor camp at Czestochowa and then to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck, Germany. She remained at Ravensbruck until late April 1945, when the camp's inmates were rescued by the Swedish Red Cross and transported to Sweden, where she remained for four years.

In February 1949, Pela arrived in Green Bay to live with her sister and brother-in-law. Within months, she was engaged to Richard Alpert, whom she met on a blind date. They were married on February 19, 1950, exactly one year after her arrival in Green Bay. After raising two daughters, Pela worked part-time at a pharmacy. Her husband, a former grocery store owner, was a salesman for a paper company. Pela died in 2005.

Audio and Transcript Information

Below are the highlights of each tape. They do not list all topics discussed. Recordings of only one tape side are marked: (no Side 2). Documents may be printed or downloaded at no cost. See Rights and Permissions


Listen to Pela's testimony and view transcript

Tape 1, Side 1 (no Side 2)
  • Childhood in Poland
  • German invasion in August 1939
  • Life in and escape from the Warsaw Ghetto
  • Deportation of her family members
  • Forced labor at the Skarzysko-Kamienna and Czestochowa concentration camps, 1940-1943
Download Audio (MP3, 28 minutes, 12.9 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 345 KB)
Tape 2, Side 1 (no Side 2)
  • Transfer to the camp at Ravensbruck, Germany
  • Brutality of life in the Ravensbruck concentration camp
  • Liberation in 1945
  • Journey through Denmark for resettlement in Sweden
  • Immigration to Wisconsin in February 1949
Download Audio (MP3, 32 minutes, 14.8 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 345 KB)
Tape 3, Side 1 (no Side 2)
  • Marriage and early family life in Green Bay
  • Childhood in Poland
  • The Warsaw Ghetto and Ravensbruck concentration camp
Download Audio (MP3, 16 minutes, 7.38 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 345 KB)
Tape 4, Side 1
  • Immigration to the U.S.
  • First impressions of America
  • Settling in Wisconsin
Download Audio (MP3, 25 minutes, 11.7 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 345 KB)
Tape 4, Side 2
  • Marriage and children
  • Reflections on life in Green Bay
  • Feelings about Green Bay's small Jewish community in the 1950s and 1960s
Download Audio (MP3, 28 minutes, 12.8 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 345 KB)
Tape 5, Side 1
  • Immigration to the U.S.
  • Attitudes toward American culture and politics
Download Audio (MP3, 25 minutes, 11.8 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 345 KB)
Tape 5, Side 2
  • Attitudes toward depiction of the Holocaust in books and films
  • Feelings toward Germany and Israel
Download Audio (MP3, 4 minutes, 1.90 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 345 KB)

About the Interview Process

  • At the time of the interview, Pela had never spoken about her experiences during the Holocaust. Her questioners, in turn, had never interviewed a Holocaust survivor.

    Her recollections are especially valuable for their description of life in the Warsaw Ghetto (from which few people escaped), of life in the Jewish community of Green Bay, and for being the catalyst that led to the other 23 survivor interviews available in this collection.

    Pela was interviewed three separate times. The first session was conducted by archivist Lindsay Nauen at the Alpert home on January 30, 1974. It lasted approximately 75 minutes. Unfortunately, the last 30 minutes of the interview were inadvertently deleted from the tape. It was not until 18 months later, on June 5, 1975, that archivist Peter Gordy visited Green Bay and re-taped the missing portion.

    Five years later Pela agreed to be interviewed about her experiences in Green Bay. Archivist Sara Leuchter interviewed Pela at her home on the evening of March 5, 1980.

    The recordings were later arranged and are presented here as a single chronology.


Audio and Transcript Details

  • Interview Dates: Jan 30, 1974; Jun 5, 1975; Mar 5, 1980
  • Interview Location: Alpert home, Green Bay, Wisconsin
  • Interviewers: Archivists Lindsay Nauen, Sara Leuchter and Peter Gordy
  • Original Sound Recordings: 5 qty. 60-minute audio cassette tapes
  • Length of Interviews: 3 interviews, total approximately 6 hours
  • Transcript Length: 54 pages
  • Rights and Permissions: Any document may be printed or downloaded to a computer or portable device at no cost for nonprofit educational use by teachers, students and researchers. Nothing may be reproduced in any format for commercial purposes without prior permission.

Pictures

select text size Use the smaller-sized textUse the larger-sized textUse the very large text