Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust
Name: Chana Bebczuk Comins (1918 – 2003)
Birth Place: Stepan, Poland
Arrived in Wisconsin: 1949, Madison
When I escaped they start shooting, but they never hit me.
Chana Bebczuk Comins was born in Stepan, Poland, on June 5, 1918. Although she attended Polish schools, Chana also received a Jewish education, learning Hebrew in the afternoons. In 1940, she married Melvin Cominetsky (name changed to "Comins" upon their arrival in Madison). Their first daughter was born on the same day the Nazis entered their town in 1941.
The 22-year-old new mother and her baby, only a few hours old, were immediately separated from Melvin and taken to a forced labor camp. There she witnessed the execution of her family and friends. In 1943, Chana made a daring escape from a transport of inmates on their way to a mass execution. She hid in the forest with her baby until the end of the war.
After liberation, Chana worked in Munich until she was miraculously reunited with her husband. They lived at a displaced persons camp in Ulm, Germany, where two more daughters were born. In December 1949, resettlement officials sent them to Madison, Wisconsin, where they were given housing, food, and employment. They also had a son.
Chana worked for more than 25 years as a cook in several Madison restaurants. Melvin was employed at Oscar Mayer & Co. for 23 years until his death in 1971. Chana died in December 2003.
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 Chana's testimony and view transcript
- Chana's childhood
- Nazis invade Stepan, Poland, 1941
- Deportation to a forced labor camp with newborn daughter
- Life in the camp, executions and atrocities
- Escape and refuge in the forest among partisans
- Hiding in the forest with her baby, 1943-1945
- Generosity of Polish partisans and Gentiles
- Life in Poland and Germany after the war
- Miraculous reunion with her husband
- Immigrating to the U.S.
- Unfriendly treatment by the Madison Jewish community
- Finding work
- Support of neighbors
- Family life in Wisconsin
- Husband's death, 1971
- Attitudes of American-born Jews toward the Holocaust
- Reflections on Americans' ignorance about the Holocaust
- Travels and social life in Wisconsin
- Opinions on American politics and society
- More thoughts on maltreatment by Madison Jews when she first arrived
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