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

Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust

Walter Peltz. Walter Peltz.
Walter Peltz

Name: Walter Wolf Peltz (born Welwel Peltz) (1919 – 2003 )

Birth Place: Warsaw, Poland

Arrived in Wisconsin: 1949, Milwaukee

She ran after him, pulled out his own gun and killed him.

— Walter Peltz

Map of survivor's journey in Europe.

Biography

Walter Wolf Peltz was born into a working-class family in Warsaw, Poland, on May 12, 1919. His area of the city later became the Warsaw Ghetto. Walter quit school at the age of 10 to help support his family. When war broke out in 1939, his home was destroyed and his family left starving.

To avoid arrest by the Gestapo, Walter fled to central Poland, near Lublin, where he was hidden by a Christian family for more than a year. Taken into custody in 1941, Walter survived four years in the concentration camps of Majdanek, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, and Dachau before being liberated by U.S. troops in May 1945.

Shortly after liberation, Walter married Rose Abraham, a Hungarian survivor of Dachau. They settled in Memmingen, Germany, opened a clothing store and, in 1946, had a son.

The family left Germany in April 1949, arriving in Milwaukee a month later where Walter quickly found work as a tailor. A daughter was born in 1952. Walter's wife died in 1968 and he remarried in 1972. Walter lectured frequently about the Holocaust until his death in 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 Walter's testimony and view transcript

Tape 1, Side 1
  • Family background
  • Life in Warsaw in the 1920s and 1930s
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 24.2 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 1, Side 2
  • Warsaw's Jewish community
  • Family religious life
  • Widespread anti-Semitism
Download Audio (MP3, 28 minutes, 24.8 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 2, Side 1
  • Walter's school and friends
  • Learning the tailor's trade
  • Rise of Hitler and anti-Semitism
Download Audio (MP3, 28 minutes, 24.8 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 2, Side 2
  • Germans invade Poland in 1939
  • Warsaw under Nazi occupation
  • Walter's escape from Warsaw
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 26.0 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 3, Side 1
  • Hiding in the Underground
  • Persecution of host families that helped him
  • Walter kills a Nazi collaborator
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 25.3 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 3, Side 2
  • Life with the Polish Underground
  • Walter and comrades execute other collaborators
  • Walter surrenders and is sent to Majdanek concentration camp
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 24.4 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 4, Side 1
  • Descriptions of gas chambers
  • Nazi sadism against prisoners
  • Transfer to Auschwitz; brutalities and resistance there
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 23.6 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 4, Side 2
  • Murders at Auschwitz
  • Resistance at Auschwitz
  • Attitudes toward life during these years
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 26.1 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 5, Side 1
  • Solitary confinement
  • Relations with German guards
  • Smuggling
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 23.6 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 5, Side 2
  • The nearby women's camp at Birkenau
  • Attitudes toward death and survival
  • Resistance at Birkenau
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 24.5 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 6, Side 1
  • Escape attempts and resistance at Auschwitz
  • Sachsenhausen and Dachau
  • Walter's learns the fate of his family
  • Thoughts on the Warsaw Uprising of 1944
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 23.6 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 6, Side 2
  • Meeting his future wife at Dachau
  • Walter's liberation
  • Postwar Nazi hunting
  • Resettlement at Memmingen, Germany
Download Audio (MP3, 26 minutes, 22.6 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 7, Side 1
  • Displaced persons camps in Germany
  • Leaving Germany
  • Immigrating to the U.S.
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 25.2 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 7, Side 2
  • First impression of the U.S.
  • Early years in Milwaukee
  • Family life
Download Audio (MP3, 26 minutes, 22.7 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 8, Side 1
  • Life as a new immigrant in Milwaukee
  • Walter opens his own businesses
Download Audio (MP3, 29 minutes, 25.1 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 8, Side 2
  • Family life
  • Starting a scrap metal business
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 24.4 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 9, Side 1
  • Children and family life
  • Involvement in anti-Nazi organizations
  • The New American Club (survivors' organization)
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 24.5 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 9, Side 2
  • Walter's religious views
  • Milwaukee's Jewish community
  • Speaking about the Holocaust
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 23.2 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)
Tape 10, Side 1 (no Side 2)
  • Attitudes toward American culture
  • Traveling home to Poland
  • Trips to Israel
  • Attitudes toward the depictions of the Holocaust at Auschwitz
Download Audio (MP3, 25 minutes, 22.6 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 802 KB)

About the Interview Process

  • The interview was conducted by archivist Sara Leuchter on February 26-27 and March 10, 1980 in the Peltz living room. The three sessions totaled more than 10 hours.

    During the conversations, Walter paced back and forth, often gesturing enthusiastically and providing compelling details. Walter was able to relate his experiences in minute detail. His memory for names and events was extraordinary. His interview is particularly vivid.

    Teachers should note that this interview contains many graphic accounts of horrifying cruelty and violence that may not be suitable for younger students.


Audio and Transcript Details

  • Interview Dates: Feb 26, 1980; Feb 27, 1980; Mar 10, 1980
  • Interview Location: Peltz home, Mequon, Wisconsin
  • Interviewer: Archivist Sara Leuchter
  • Original Sound Recording Format: 10 qty. 60-minute audio cassette tapes
  • Length of Interviews: 3 interviews, total approximately 10 hours
  • Transcript Length: 180 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