Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust
Each oral history presents a vivid eyewitness account of an odyssey through the Holocaust of World War II. Roll your cursor over a photo or name to see a brief biography. Click on a photo or name to access the full biography, transcript, audio recordings and pictures.
Pela Alpert was 19 when she was confined in the Warsaw Ghetto. She was later sent to camps in Poland and Ravensbruck, Germany. Her interview is especially valuable for its descriptions of the Warsaw Ghetto and of post-war Jewish life in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
William Applegate was a 25-year-old American soldier who arrived at Dachau 72 hours after its liberation. His interview, with its graphic description of conditions at Dachau in 1945, provides valuable background for the testimonies of the survivors.
Flora Bader went into hiding in Amsterdam in 1943 and spent the war secreted in the homes of Dutch Underground members. Her interview recounts the activities of the Dutch Underground and, like the Diary of Anne Frank, the perpetual threat of discovery and death.
Lucy Baras was 28 when Nazi troops invaded her hometown in the Ukraine, killed 400 Jewish men, and confined remaining Jews in a ghetto. Her interview also describes life in a forced labor camp and hiding in the wilderness. In 1950 she came to Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Sylvia Blasberg was just 16 when the Germans invaded her Ukrainian town in 1939. She escaped east into the Soviet Union and moved from collective to collective as the Germans advanced. Her interview describes her Russian odyssey and being a new immigrant in Milwaukee.
Manny Chulew was 15 when he fled from Poland into the Soviet Union to escape the advancing Nazis. After confinement in work camps in Siberia, his family made their way to Kazakhstan, where they lived until 1946. He came to Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1952.
Chana Comins was a new mother when the Nazis invaded her Polish town in 1941. She and her baby were sent to a forced labor camp, made a daring escape while en route to a Nazi death camp, and survived to immigrate to Madison, Wisconsin, after the war.
Herb DeLevie was a toddler when his family fled Germany for Holland to escape the Nazis. His interview describes his childhood years spent hiding in one room of a farmhouse on the outskirts of Stadtskanaal, and his later life in the U.S.
Eva Deutschkron survived the war as a teenager in Berlin, where she performed forced labor until escaping underground in 1943. Her interview describes Kristallnacht and other anti-Semitic persecution in the very heart of the Third Reich. She settled in Madison in 1946.
Karola Epstein was a girl in Bavaria when, in 1937, her parents sent her to Chicago to escape growing Nazi persecution. Her interview describes German Jewish life, being a refugee in the U.S., and building a business in Green Bay during the 1950s and 1960s.
Henry Golde was only 10 when the Nazis imprisoned his family in the Jewish ghetto in Plock, Poland. He spent the war moving from camp to camp, including time at Buchenwald. He immigrated to Milwaukee in 1954, eventually settling in Merrill, Wisconsin.
Susanne Goldfarb was a six-year-old Viennese girl when her family joined more than 20,000 European Jewish exiles in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, China, in 1939. They went to Israel in 1949 and came to the U.S. in 1953. She lived in Madison from 1969 until her death in 1987.
Harry Gordon was 16 when the Nazis invaded his hometown in Lithuania. He spent the next three years in forced labor camps, escaped from Dachau in 1945, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1949. His interview describes both the Soviet occupation and Nazi persecutions in Lithuania.
Magda Herzberger was 18 when the Nazis occupied her hometown of Cluj, Romania, in 1944. She was sent to Auschwitz, performed forced labor in Bremen, and was left for dead at the Bergen-Belsen extermination camp. She came to the U.S. in 1957 and settled in Monroe, Wisconsin.
Rosa Katz was 15 when she was crowded into the ghetto at Lodz, Poland. She was later confined in Auschwitz, did forced labor in Berlin, and sent to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck. She came to the U.S. in 1948 and settled in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Louis Koplin was 21 when he was confined to forced labor in his native Czechoslovakia. In 1944 he was sent to an Austrian death camp, but he escaped liquidation and settled in Milwaukee in 1957. His interview also describes traditional Jewish life in Eastern Europe.
Salvator Moshe was a 28-year-old Greek shoemaker when the Nazis sent his family to Auschwitz. He later performed forced labor in the destroyed Warsaw Ghetto and survived Dachau. He immigrated to Milwaukee in 1949.
Walter Peltz was a 20-year-old Polish tailor when he was confined in the Warsaw Ghetto. He went on to survive the concentration camps of Majdanek, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, and Dachau. He arrived in Milwaukee in 1949, where he became a leader of the anti-Nazi movement in the Midwest.
Fred Platner was 22 when the Nazis invaded his Polish town in 1939. He escaped into Russia, only to be shipped to forced labor camps in Siberia. He spent the war working for the Soviet Army in Uzbekistan. In 1951, he immigrated to Wisconsin, eventually settling in Wausau.
Rabbi Mayer Relles
Mayer Relles grew up in Poland but attended rabbinical seminary in Rome during the 1930s. When the Germans took over Italy in 1943, Relles went underground and in 1944 escaped into Switzerland. He came to the U.S. in 1951 and held rabbinical posts in Superior and Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Saul Sorrin was an administrator in displaced persons camps in Germany from 1945 to 1950, when he helped thousands of Holocaust survivors start new lives in Israel and the U.S. His colorful interview provides an outsider's perspective on the difficulties survivors faced after the war.
Cyla Stundel had just turned 21 when the Nazis murdered all the Jews in her hometown in the Polish Ukraine. She escaped by fleeing into the forest, where she lived for more than two years. She arrived in Milwaukee in 1949, settling in its orthodox Jewish community.
Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky
Manfred Swarsensky was a young rabbi in Berlin who spoke out against the Nazi regime. After Kristallnacht, in November 1938, he was sent to a concentration camp and then deported. He arrived in Madison in 1939 and became one of Wisconsin's most highly respected religious leaders.
Israel Wolnerman was a 13-year-old Polish orphan when Germany invaded his town in 1939. His teenage years were spent in a long odyssey through 10 German labor and concentration camps, including Buchenwald. He settled in Milwaukee in 1953, where he became active in survivors' organizations.