Our Holocaust Speakers Bureau includes eyewitnesses from a wide range of experiences including Concentration Camps and Ghettos, Hidden Children, Refugees, Kindertransport, Liberators and Resistors. We work closely with our speakers to ensure that their presentations are appropriate for 5th-12th students. Those eyewitnesses with an asterisk * are of blessed memory.
Concentration Camps and Ghettos
Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its allies established more than 42,000 camps and other incarceration sites (including ghettos). The perpetrators used these sites for a range of purposes, including forced labor, detention of people thought to be enemies of the state, and mass murder.
Erica Herz Van Adelsberg was born on October 2, 1928 in Munich, Germany. In 1933, she moved with her parents and brother to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where she started elementary school. Life was normal until May 1940 when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. When she was thirteen years old, the Nazis transported Erica and her family to Westerbork, a transit concentration camp.
Download Erica’s biography here (pdf).
Miriam Krugman Caine was born in 1933 in Bialystok, Poland near the border with the Soviet Union. Her father owned a textile factory and grain mill outside Bialystok and Miriam’s life was rich and full of family and friends. In September 1939, her life changed forever when the German army invaded Poland and the Soviets occupied her city. In July 1941, the occupying Soviets gave her family 15 minutes to pack their belongings and then deported them to labor camps in the Soviet Union.
Download Miriam’s biography here (pdf).
Marius Gherovici was born in 1927 in Bucharest, Romania. His mother was a dentist and his father was a physician. He had a sister, five years older than him, and a black Great Dane named Pick. When he was 14, in 1941, while enjoying a beautiful sunny day, a low-flying plane started shooting at him. Then the Romanian collaborators, with the support from the German SS units, swiftly and systematically murdered several thousand Jewish people. His family was lucky to survive this pogrom. Days later, under Nazi orders, the Romanians formed the Chisinau ghetto. Without medications or equipment, his father and two other doctors organized a rudimentary hospital in the ghetto where Marius also worked.
Download Marius’s biography here (pdf).
Paul Gidaly was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1925. He attended public and private schools and graduated high school in 1943. He then entered the family business, a retail-clothing store. In March 1944, the Germans invaded and occupied Hungary and forced the Jewish population to wear the yellow Star of David. Posters then appeared on the walls of buildings with strong anti-Semitic comments. One day in March 1944 while on his way work, the Nazis forcibly removed his father, along with all the other Jewish passengers from the trolley car, arrested them, and placed them in camps. Two months later Paul was deported to a labor camp.
Paul’s full biography is coming soon.
Ernie Gross was born in 1929 in Turt, Romania. His father was a salesman and his mother was a language tutor. He had five brothers and two sisters. In April 1944, when Ernie was 15 years old, the Hungarian occupiers deported him and his family to the Sevlus ghetto for several weeks into cramped and near starving conditions. Then they were deported to Auschwitz, arriving in late May 1944.
Download Ernie’s biography here (pdf).
Michael Herskovitz was born in Botfalva, Czechoslovakia in 1929. In March 1944 the Germans invaded his small town. Within weeks, his father lost his grocery store and then the Nazis forced them to wear yellow Jewish stars on their clothing. Shortly thereafter, the Nazis transported Michael, his parents, and four siblings to a ghetto.
Download Michael’s biography here.
Website: Michael Herskovitz
Joseph Kahn was born in a small town in Poland in 1922. He was 17-years-old when the Nazis occupied his hometown in September 1939. A week after the invasion, the Nazis burned the synagogue which was two blocks away from his home. Joseph and his family hid for three days listening to the constant screaming and shooting coming from outside. Joseph left the hiding place to survey the damage and found charred bodies lining the streets. In 1942 Joseph was arrested and transported to a labor camp.
Download Joe’s biography here (pdf).
Anneliese Winterberg Nossbaum was born in Guben, Germany. Her family moved to Bonn when she was 2 years old. By 1935 she became aware of her Jewishness when her family’s citizenship was revoked and she wasn’t allowed in the public swimming pool. She was also banned from attending pubic school. On November 9th-10th, 1938, Kristallnacht, the Nazis burned her synagogue. In July 1941, when Anneliese was 12 years old, the Nazis ordered her family to move to a cloister with a total of 474 people. In July 1942 the Nazis deported her family to Terezin in Czechoslovakia.
Download Anneliese’s biography here (pdf).
Manya Frydman Perel was born in 1924 in Radom, Poland, one of ten children. As a teenager she attended a public school and hoped to go to college. However these plans were obliterated in September 1939 when the Nazi army marched into the city and confiscated homes and businesses, and eventually imprisoned all the Jewish people. In April 1941 the Nazis imprisoned her in the Radom ghetto and then later deported her to several concentration and death camps including Ravensbrück, Plaszow, Rechlin, Gundelsdorf, and Auschwitz.
Download Manya’s biography here (pdf).
Harry Scherzer was born in January 1942 in the Czernowitz Ghetto, Romania. Life in the Czernowitz Ghetto was extremely difficult. There was very little food, medicine, or heat in the wintertime and the majority of Jews confined in the ghetto died from starvation, deportation to the concentration camps or to Transnistria. A strict curfew confined bartering for food to during the day. At all times, Harry and his grandmother had to wear the Yellow Star. The small family survived because of his mother’s and grandmother’s seamstress skills and having found jobs making uniforms for the Romanian and German armies. All this time there was no word about whether Harry’s father was alive.
Download Harry’s biography here (pdf).
Peter Stern was born in Nuremberg, Germany in March 1936. His father was an auto mechanic and a vocational school instructor. His mother helped raise Peter and his younger brother. One of his first vivid memories was walking home with his father and stones were being thrown at them by a group of of young boys not much older than him. Peter couldn’t understand why this was happening nor why people stood by and watched it happen. In 1941, his family was deported from Germany to a holding camp in Latvia that was surrounded by frozen water, though no fences, guards patrolled the perimeter. In the spring of 1942 they were transferred to the Riga ghetto and were crammed into a room with other families.
Download Pete’s biography here (pdf).
Frieda Weinschenker Tabak was born in Lipcani, Romania. World War II became a reality when Soviet soldiers marched into their town in 1940 immediately after Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler agreed to divide Romania and Poland between them. Because her family had been members of a fairly comfortable middle class, the Soviets felt that they were too rich and confiscated all their property. She and her family had to flee from their hometown and Frieda’s uncle took her, her brother and their parents into his house in Chernowitz, Romania. One June 21, 1941 Adolph Hitler declared war on the Soviets. Within two weeks Chernowitz was overrun with Nazi soldiers remained under Nazi occupation until June 1944. Upon Nazi arrival the Jews were immediately rounded up, put in a ghetto, and then deported Transnistria where most perished from disease and starvation.
Download Frieda’s biography here (pdf).
David Tuck was born in Poland. His mother passed away six months after his birth, so his Orthodox Jewish grandparents took him in and insisted that he receive both a public and Hebrew education. Life drastically changed on September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. He was 10 years old. Radio broadcasts changed from Polish music to “Deutschland Über Alles,” “Germany Overall.” By December he was forced to wear an armband and then a yellow Star of David and he had to step off the sidewalk and into the street when German soldiers approached him. Within a few weeks David’s family was deported to the Lodz ghetto.
Download David’s biography here (pdf).
Klara Vinokur was born in Shpola, a small town in the Ukraine, in 1927. Her mother was a dressmaker, her father was a laborer and she had two siblings. She attended the local school with her non-Jewish Ukrainian friends. On June 22, 1941, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and her small town became occupied on July 30. On August 19 she was forced to wear an armband with the Star of David and forced to clean the streets and houses. In late September the Shpola ghetto was established and the entire local Jewish population was forced to live in cramped quarters with little food. Klara continued to clean houses and buildings for the Germans. On August 21 her father was murdered.
Download Klara’s biography here (pdf).
Stella Lewinsky Yollin was born in 1931 in Tczew, Poland. She had two brothers and her parents owned a small clothing store. In 1938, her family moved to Lodz, Poland. One of her earliest memories was at the school when other boys would taunt and yell at her, “Hey Jew, go back to Palestine!” On September 1, 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. Her father, being an ex-pilot, was drafted into the Polish air force. Within the week her whole family was forced out of their synagogue, forced out of their businesses, forced to wear yellow armbands, and then yellow Stars of David sewn onto their clothing. In February 1940, while they were living in Lodz, the Nazis formed the ghetto and they were forced to move out of their modest apartment and into an apartment that did not have running water or bathrooms.
Stella’s full biography is coming soon.
Itka Frajman Zygmuntowicz is a survivor of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. She moved to Philadelphia in 1953. Since 1970, she has shared her experiences at universities, schools, and religious organizations as a member of the speakers bureau of the Jewish Community Relations Council. Itka is a member of the Memorial Committee for the Six Million Jewish Martyrs and the Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. She has shared her story in documentaries: ”Eye On – The Lessons of the Holocaust: From Pain Comes Knowledge” (1978), and “From Out of the Ashes” (1981) filmed in Israel. Itka’s stories appeared in Four Generations of Jewish Women’s Spirituality (Beacon Press). She was filmed by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation in her hometown of Ciechanow, Poland during the March of the Living in 1996. Itka is a former fashion designer and resides in Philadelphia.
Download Itka’s biography here (pdf).
Among the small number of European Jewish children still alive at the end of the Holocaust, thousands had survived because they were hidden. With identities disguised, and often physically concealed from the outside world, these youngsters faced constant fear, dilemmas, and danger.
Larry Buchsbaum was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, the youngest of three boys. In 1941, Hungary (allies of Nazi Germany) occupied his hometown and, in 1942, his family luckily survived a pogrom. Hoping for a better chance of survival, his family then moved to Budapest, Hungary. In 1944, during the final stages of the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, he escaped from the designated “Jewish House”, and with nothing but a piece of paper, assumed a new identity to impersonate a 15 year old homeless, abandoned, street child.
Download Larry’s biography here (pdf).
Dr. George A. Frank was born in Budapest, Hungary in April 1938. In late 1943 his family was forced to move into a “yellow star” building with other Jewish families. In March 1944, German soldiers occupied Budapest and his family was ordered to wear yellow stars on their clothing. W, and his father was forced to work in labor camps. His father then befriended another man in the camps who arranged for George to hide from the Final Solution with a Catholic family.
Download George’s biography here (pdf).
Daniel Goldsmith was born in Antwerp, Belgium. His father was a plumber and his mother a homemaker. He was 8 years old when the German army invaded in May 1940. His family tried to flee to France but was forced to return to Antwerp. In August 1942 his father was placed in a forced labor camp and his mother was forced to sell some of his tools to buy food for Daniel and his sister, Lillian.
Download Danny’s biography here (pdf).
Ruth Kapp Hartz was a four year old, hidden child during the Holocaust in southern France. During that time she had to change her name to Renee to hide her Jewish identity. In addition to being sheltered by an ordinary French farm family, she spent six months in a small Catholic convent to avoid capture by both the Vichy French Police and the Gestapo. When informants told the authorities that the nuns were hiding Jewish children, the Mother Superior was forced to lie to keep Ruth and the other children safe. Only the Mother Superior knew that the children were Jewish. The other nuns thought they were just orphans.
Download Ruth’s biography here (pdf).
Website: Voices of Holocaust History.
Sarah Danon Meller was born in Split, Yugoslavia, in 1933, to hard-working, happy parents. She had 2 sisters and 1 brother. In April 1941, Germany invaded Yugoslavia and carved the country up, giving Croatia to Italy, their wartime ally. During the summer of 1942, on a Friday evening during services, Italian Fascists burst into the Split synagogue and forced everyone out into the nearby square. They then beat the people bloody and, at the same time, looted and burned religious texts, artifacts, and other records. They also smashed Jewish-owned businesses and looted the stores. Sarah, her father, and her brother, late because of a customer at her father’s store, watched in horror from across the square.
Download Sarah’s biography here (pdf).
Belle Lewkowiez Ostroff was born in Paris, France in 1925. Her parents, both Polish Jews, had moved the family to France for a better life. Eventually, Belle and her family moved to Reims, a city in northern France, where her father found work as a tailor to support his wife and seven children. In May 1940, Germany invaded northern France. Fourteen-year-old Belle and her family fled Reims and settled in southern France, the Free Zone, where they thought they were safe from Nazi persecution.
Download Belle’s biography here (pdf).
Alex Redner was born in Lvov, Poland. His father was a doctor and his mother attended university. He was 10 years old when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 and started World War II. Immediately, according to the Non-Aggression Pact, Lvov was occupied by the Soviet Union. Later in June 1941 the German army occupied Lvov. In November 1941 the Nazis established the Lvov ghetto and by March 1942 the Nazis began to deport the Jews to the Belzec death camp. The Redner family started their effort to escape murder using a variety of means.
Download Alex’s biography here (pdf).
Rita B. Ross was born in Vienna, Austria in 1936, two years before the Nazis annexed the country in March 1938. While coming home from work one day, her father witnessed a group of young Nazi boys beating a group of older Orthodox Jewish men. A crowd gathered but no one defended the older men. He then realized that his family needed to leave. Having acquired a travel visa to the US, he left Austria and began working on a way to bring his family to America. Unfortunately it did not work out as planned.
Download Rita’s biography here (pdf).
Charles Rojer was born in Brussels Belgium in 1934. His father was a successful leather goods maker and his mother took care of the children. They lived in a neighborhood with Catholic neighbors. In May 1940, the German army invaded Belgium and the family fled to France by train. German troops then seized the train and marched the passengers to Fortel, France. Charles’ family then found transport back to their home in Belgium and tried to resume a normal life. Charles and his two older sisters returned to school, which was located approximately three blocks from home behind the local Catholic Church. Conditions were deteriorating quickly though.
Download Charles’ biography here (pdf).
Arnold Vanderhorst was born in 1935 in Arnhem, Holland. His family owned a bakery and delivered the loaves to customers on the weekends. Life was pleasant and in 1940 his sister Theodora was born. That same year, the Germans invaded Holland. In 1942, the Nazis ordered all Jews older than 6 years old to wear a Yellow Star with the word “Jood” on it. On his way to school, his former school friends taunted Arnold with “Rotten Jew!” Then one day, when the family returned home, they found their home sealed by the Nazis.
Download Arnold’s biography here (pdf).
Between the Nazi rise to power in 1933 and Nazi Germany’s surrender in 1945, more than 340,000 Jews emigrated from Germany and Austria. Tragically, nearly 100,000 of them found refuge in countries subsequently conquered by Germany. German authorities would deport and kill the vast majority of them. The search for refuge frames both the years before the Holocaust and its aftermath.
Ronnie Reutlinger Breslow, was born in Kircheim, Germany. She enjoyed collecting stamps, many of which were gifts from her Uncle Willy. Her parents owned a dry goods store located below their home but the Nazis passed a series of anti-Semitic laws between 1933 and 1939 that severely restricted Ronnie attending school and her parent’s business. They knew they had to leave Germany. Her father found passage to Cuba and then Ronnie and her mother purchased two tickets on the St. Louis.
Download Ronnie’s biography here (pdf).
Ralph Franklin was born in 1928 in Schlochau, Germany. His father worked in his family’s business as an office manager while his mother helped raise Ralph. Ralph attended both private and public schools up until 5th grade. During Kristallnacht, November 9-10, 1938, Ralph’s teacher told him to return home. When he arrived home the Gestapo was arresting his father and uncle and sent them to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. His father was released in February 1939 and 2 months later the German government forced his parents to sell the family business. His grandmother sewed their valuables into her clothes and the family moved to Berlin.
Download Ralph’s biography here (pdf).
Gunter Hauer was born in Berlin, Germany in 1919. His father fought in WWI and earned the Iron Cross and worked at a department store. His mother was a homemaker. In 1929, when Gunter was a teenager, he went to see Adolf Hitler speak at a rally for the Nazi Party and he could not believe what he was hearing. Then in January 1933, Hitler came to power and Gunter’s life began to change. Within a few short years, the Nazis banned him from sitting on a public park bench or going to the movies.
Download Gunter’s biography here (pdf).
Ruth Kurschner was born in Vienna, Austria on May 25, 1935. Her family were Orthodox Jews and highly observant throughout their lives. When Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938, her father wrote to his sister in New York City, begging her to help save his family. His sister fought the US State Department bureaucracy until finally visas were issued to Ruth and her mother. However, immigration quotas depended on where one was born and because her father was born in Poland and her mother and Ruth in Austria, the family was split up.
Download Ruth’s biography here (pdf).
Trudy Klein Gompers was born in Vienna, Austria in 1937. On March 12, 1938 the Nazis annexed Austria and life for her family immediately changed for the worse. The Nazis personally humiliated Trudy’s mother by demanding that she scrub the streets in preparation for a visit by Adolf Hitler. Three days before Kristallnacht, Trudy, along with her father, mother, and brother boarded a train and left Vienna for London, England. Her grandparents stayed behind, never to be seen again.
Download Trudy’s biography here (pdf).
Sid Moszer was born in Cologne, Germany in September 1925. He had four brothers and two sisters. During Kristallnacht he saw his synagogue burning. He was then Bar-Mitvahed and his father, soon after, was deported, though was later reunited with his family. In December Sid and his family migrated in small groups, with help from relatives already living there, to England on a temporary transit Visa. He was 13 years old. In the fall of 1940 his family’s quota number came up and they immigrated to the United States, arriving on October 3, 1940. He was 15 years old.
Download Sid’s biography here (pdf).
Kindertransport (Children’s Transport) was the informal name of a series of rescue efforts which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain and the United States from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940.
Anne Lehman Fox was born in Berlin, Germany in 1926. An international bank employed her father, who had lost his arm in WWI. In spring 1933 anti-Jewish legislations removed all Jews from banks the bank fired her father. Anne attended a public school in Berlin until she banned and her parents enrolled her in a Jewish school across the city. Shortly after Kristallnacht, England relaxed its strict immigration policies and her parents, having learned about the Kindertransport, registered Anne to go to England. She left by herself at the end of December 1938.
Download Anne’s biography here (pdf).
Kurt Herman was born in October 1929 in Vienna, Austria. He went to school across the street from his house with Jews and non-Jews and frequently played with his friends after school. After Germany’s annexation of Austria in March 1938, Kurt’s non-Jewish school friends began calling him names and wearing swastikas. The Nazis seized his family’s fabric business and tried to arrest his father multiple times during random house raids by Stormtroopers. After Kristallnacht, the Night of the Broken Glass on November 9-10, 1938, Kurt’s family tried to flee Austria.
Download Kurt’s biography here (pdf).
Ruth Fisch Kessler was born in Vienna, Austria in 1933 where she lived with her older sister and her parents. In 1939 her parents, forced to choose between Ruthie or her sister, chose Ruthie to escape to Great Britain as part of the Kindertransport, a rescue operation that saved 10,000 children from Nazi terror. In May, six-year-old Ruthie waved goodbye to her family at the train depot. With tears in her eyes, she shouted to them, “Will I see you soon”?
Download Ruthie’s biography here (pdf).
Ilse Engelbert Lindemeyer was born an only child in 1927 near Frankfurt Germany. She attended public school where she made friends with other children whether they were Jewish or not. After Hitler took power in January 1933 life changed drastically. A few days before Kristallnacht, her father received a call from a friend warning about the imminent action. On November 9-10, 1938, the Nazis arrested 30,000 Jews and burned 7,500 businesses and 200 synagogues. When the police were unable to find her father, they beat Ilse and her mother and destroyed their home.
Download Ilse’s biography here (pdf).
As Allied and Soviet troops moved across Europe against Nazi Germany, they encountered concentration camps, mass graves, and other sites of Nazi crimes. Though liberation of Nazi camps was not a primary objective of the Allied military campaign, US, British, Canadian, and Soviet troops freed prisoners from their SS guards, provided aid to survivors, and collected evidence.
Dr. Leon Bass is a former high school principal and veteran of World War II who has dedicated much of his life as a teacher, a school administrator, and a speaker, to fighting racism wherever it exists.
As a nineteen-year-old soldier serving in a segregated unit of the U.S. Army, Leon Bass participated in the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945. That moment changed his life. “I was an angry soldier,” says Bass. “I was being asked to fight for freedom while at the same time, as a black man, I was constantly being told in many ways that I wasn’t good enough to have that freedom.”
Download Leon’s biography here (pdf).
Don Greenbaum was born in Philadelphia and was one of three children. His father was a leather manufacturer in the Wynnefield neighborhood. In 1943, Don graduated from a military school in Georgia and joined the American Army. He was 18 years old. He served as a Forward Observer for the 283rd Field Artillery Battalion. On November 9th, 1944 he was wounded in Aachen, Germany and was awarded the Purple Heart. After he was released from the army hospital, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945. On April 29th, 1945, Don and other troops from the Third Army were on their way to seize a Germany army supply depot but stumbled across the Dachau concentration camp. They were not prepared for what they witnessed.
Download Don’s biography here (pdf).
Paul’s biography is coming soon.
Anthony Morrone was born in South Philadelphia in 1924 and was drafted into the US Army in 1943 into the 1st Army 518th Military Police battalion. On April 11th, 1945, at 20 years old, Anthony helped liberate Buchenwald, a Nazi slave labor camp. As Anthony describes the scene, “The smell was horrendous. It was an unbelievable sight. There were hundreds of bodies stacked up like lumber. This was a murder factory.”
Download Anthony’s biography here (pdf).
Art’s biography is coming soon.
Harry’s biography is coming soon.
Nazi-sponsored persecution and mass murder fueled resistance to the Germans in the Third Reich itself and throughout occupied Europe. A variety of groups offered resistance to the Nazi regime, both in Germany and in German-occupied territory. Jews also resisted resisted Nazi oppression in a variety of ways, both collectively and as individuals.
Fernande Keufgens Davis was 16 years old, one of eight children in a close-knit Belgian family living in the small town of Montzen, when the Germans invaded Belgium in May 1940. Her father remembered the horrors of World War I and, hoping to protect Fernande from deportation, sent her to Andenne to work in the household of a friend. But war exploded nevertheless on their doorstep. “I had all kinds of courage and guts; I don’t know where that came from,” says Fernande Keufgens Davis (“Freddie”) of the risks that she took as a teenager in the Belgian Resistance. After the shock of finding that her formerly occupied village had been annexed as part of Germany, Davis was drafted to work in a German munitions factory. Determined not to aid the enemy, she jumped from the train and went underground, to join the Maquis.
Download Fernande’s biography here (pdf).