Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust
Name: Israel Wolnerman (1922 – )
Birth Place: Zawiercie, Poland
Arrived in Wisconsin: 1953, Milwaukee
We mostly existed by instinct, just to survive.
Israel Wolnerman was born in Zawiercie, Poland, on March 16, 1922, and orphaned at 13. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, 17-year-old Israel was in Zawiercie actively participating in Zionist activities.
In an attempt to spare his older brother, the head of the family, Israel volunteered to work for the Germans. What he expected to be a three-month period of labor became a five-and-a-half year odyssey through 10 German labor and concentration camps.
The last camp in which he was incarcerated was Staltach, a Dachau satellite camp. He was among thousands of prisoners from Staltach on their way to annihilation in the Austrian Tirol when the train was bombed by the Allies and the prisoners liberated by the U.S. Army.
Israel spent two years at the Feldafing displaced persons camp and married in 1949. The Wolnermans moved to Dorfenmarkt, near Munich, where Israel worked in a tailor shop. Then they immigrated to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1949. In 1953 they moved to Milwaukee, where they purchased Edgewood Tailors and Furriers and raised three children. Israel was deeply involved with the New American Club (NAC). It was established in 1950 as an organization for Holocaust survivors. The majority of NAC members are from Poland.
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 Israel's testimony and view transcript
- Family history, immigration to the U.S.
- Settling in St. Paul and Milwaukee
- Receiving help from local Jewish organizations
- Americans' attitudes toward the Holocaust
- Reception in St. Paul by Jewish Family Service
- American attitudes toward Nazis
- Organizations that helped survivors
- Israel's wife and children
- Being a survivor in the U.S.
- Milwaukee's New American Club (survivors' organization)
- Lives of the children of survivors he knows
- More on the New American Club (survivors' organization)
- American-born Jews
- Marches by American Nazis
- Anti-Semitism in Milwaukee
- Israel's children and family life
- Religious practices in Milwaukee
- Milwaukee's Jewish community
- Israel's reading habits
- Depictions of the Holocaust in U.S. media
- Reactions to Holocaust depictions in media
- Impressions of Wisconsin
- Milwaukee Jewish community and gratitude to U.S.
- More on Nazi marches
- Israel's attitudes about the political climate in Milwaukee
- Jews in America
- More on Jews in America
- American government and politics
- Thoughts on contemporary Germany
- Visits to Poland and Israel
- Israel's thoughts on the place of the Holocaust in American culture
- Israel's family and childhood in Poland
- Leaving home to work at age 13
- Life in the cities of Zawiercie and Lodz
- Israel's religious life and education as a young child
- Early Jewish immigration to Israel
- Traditional Jewish life in Poland
- Israel's siblings and early life
- Memories of growing anti-Semitism
- Jewish life in Poland in the 1930s
- 1939 German invasion
- Life under the Germans
- Israel's years in the Nazi labor camps: Auenrode, Johannsdorf, Grossmasselwitz, Neukirch, and Markstaedt
- The Funfteichen and Gross Rosen labor camps
- Transfers to Buchenwald, Bisingen and Staltach concentration camps
- Concentration camp living conditions, beatings, contact with women and guards
- Psychological effects of camp life
- Transport by train to extermination camp
- Rescue by Allied troops
- The Feldafing displaced persons camp
- Unpleasant visit to his hometown
- Postwar life in Germany
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