Biographies Of Holocaust Survivors
Office of the Premier
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty along with the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, today honoured 11 Holocaust survivors on the provincial day of remembrance, Yom ha-Shoah. These exceptional Ontarians were recognized for their courage, strength and commitment to their communities.
Abby Beker was born in 1927 in Josvaenae, Lithuania. Before the war, Abby moved to Kaunus with his mother and sisters. When the Nazis and their allies invaded Kaunas, Abby was herded into a ghetto. He and his family miraculously survived three deplorable and frightening years there. In 1944, when the ghetto was liquidated, the men were sent to Dachau and the women were sent to Stuthoff. In the winter of 1945, he survived the death march out of Dachau. Abby came to Canada in March 1948 and settled in Toronto where he met his wife, Simmie. Married in 1951, they have two sons, Ron and Steven, one daughter, Mina Schwartz, and four grandchildren. Abby owns a company that manufactures ladies' suits and dresses and employs over 200 people. He is on the international board of the Hebrew University and is also involved with many endowment funds.
Bronia Rohatiner Beker was born in Kozowa, a small town in what is now Ukraine. In July 1941, the Nazis arrived and created a ghetto, where they began to systematically kill people. In 1943, Bronia and her family escaped and hid in the family bunker. When Nazi soldiers entered the family home, they noticed some air shafts leading to the basement and closed them up. Hours later, neighbours discovered that all 10 family members had suffocated. Bronia was among them, but while the bodies were being removed Bronia moaned. She was revived and taken to the home of her friend Joseph Beker, the man she later married. A few months later, they went into hiding until the war ended. They immigrated to Canada in 1948. She worked in a factory for three years before becoming a full-time homemaker. Her husband Joseph died in 1988. Bronia has volunteered at Mount Sinai Hospital, Meals on Wheels and was president of her Hadassah chapter for four years. She also speaks to students for the Holocaust Centre.
Sam Brown was born in Vojislov, Poland in January 1924. During the Holocaust, he was interned in three labour camps in Poland and four concentration camps in Germany. After he was liberated from the last camp, Sam was hired by the British Army as a chef. In 1947, Sam married his wife, Yetta, in Germany and they came to Toronto in 1948. When Sam first arrived in Toronto, he worked for a furrier and then worked as a paper-hanger and painter. Eventually, he became a successful builder and land developer and still works today in Toronto. He has three children, Mel, Marilyn and Glennie, and 11 grandchildren. Sam has been involved with B'nai Brith, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, United Jewish Appeal, the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care and a number of Toronto hospitals.
Tovia Dwosh was born in Trebieszow, Poland in 1914. In 1942, in the Losice ghetto, Tovia was separated from his wife, Esther, and their two daughters. He never saw them again. While marching to a train heading for the Treblinka death camp, he escaped by jumping out of line and hiding in a corn field. Shortly after, he was recaptured and again escaped by jumping from a moving train. In 1943, Tovia returned to his hometown with his youngest sister, Helen, and two family friends, Pearl and Morris Greenbaum. Together, they hid in farmers' sheds and barns. In February, 1944, they hid in a bunker under horse stables for nine months until Poland was liberated in September 1944. That December, Tovia and Pearl Greenbaum were married and came to Canada in 1949. Tovia worked various jobs and opened an egg and poultry business in Kensington Market in 1955. Tovia has two children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Harry Goldlist was born in Chmielnik, Poland in 1926. During the Holocaust, Harry lived in a ghetto in Chmielnik. When the ghetto was liquidated in 1942, Harry went into hiding and protected his younger brother, sister, brother-in-law and several cousins. Before liquidation of the ghetto, Harry hid some dry goods with a few Polish locals. He later traded these goods for secure hiding places with several local farming families. Harry immigrated to Canada in 1948 and he worked as a shirt cutter and butcher. Eventually, Harry became a house builder, land developer and property manager. He has been actively involved with B'nai Brith for many years and was one of the founding members of the Raoul Wallenberg Yorkdale Lodge. He is also a fundraiser for several charities and Hebrew day schools, including Bialik and the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto.
Esther Bluma Krakowski was born in Sulmierzyce, Poland in 1918. In 1934, at the age of 16, Esther moved to Lodz. With the invasion of Poland in 1939, she was forced to work in a Nazi soldiers' canteen, cleaning the barracks and toilets. At the end of 1939, Esther, along with her husband-to-be, Leon Krakowski, and his brother, fled Lodz and found safety in a Russian-occupied part of Poland. In February, 1940, Esther and Leon were married and in July were arrested by the Russian secret police, suspected of being spies. They were sent to a labour camp.
The labour camp prisoners were freed in September, 1941 and Esther and Leon began traveling south. In the summer of 1943, Leon was compelled to rejoin the war, fighting with other Polish nationals under Soviet Army command. Esther and Leon were reunited in 1946 in Walbrzych, Poland. In May 1954, they immigrated to Canada. Esther worked at Simpson's in Yorkdale Shopping Centre for 20 years until she retired in 1983. Leon passed away in 1996. Esther's volunteer work in the community includes membership in the Borochov and Lodzer Centres and assisting housebound elderly people in the Toronto community.
Maria Rabinovici Leib was born in the city of Dorohoi, Romania in 1923. Maria was 18 when soldiers arrived on army trucks, stealing money and valuables and killing families. In June 1941, Jews from the surrounding villages were rounded up. Two convoys of Jewish families, including Maria's, were deported. They were forced into cattle cars and sent to Moghilev in Transnistria. In 1942, Moghilev became a ghetto. In December 1943, the Jewish survivors from Dorohoi were allowed to return home but their property had all been stolen. Maria and her husband, Manes, moved to Canada in 1983. Through her work on many projects, Maria feels a great sense of accomplishment on building the future of Canada.
Irving Milchberg was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1930. Every day he and his father went out of the Warsaw Ghetto to work. Irving, who was a member of the Jewish Resistance Fighters, smuggled weapons, food and money into the ghetto. During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which began on April 19, 1943, Irving and many others were taken to Treblinka. He escaped and managed to get to the Polish side of Warsaw through the sewers. He fought in the Polish Underground Resistance until Poland was liberated by the Russian Army. In June 1948, Irving came to Canada and married his wife, Renée, in 1955. Irving has been involved in many charitable causes, including volunteering at the Ontario Hospital Association in Niagara Falls. He is a member of B'nai Brith and a community elder.
Helen Schwartz was born in Bialiastock, Poland. She lived through two years in the Bialiastock ghetto and survived several concentration camps including Bergen-Belsen, where she was finally liberated in April 1945. Helen married fellow Holocaust survivor Eric Schwartz in Germany in 1945 and moved to Canada in 1948. Helen has volunteered at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue and the Chai Shalom for over 15 years. She is also on the board of the Sisterhood at Beth Emeth Synagogue and Chai Shalom. She is a spokesperson for the Holocaust Centre and travels to schools across Toronto speaking to children and teens about her experiences. She has touched many young lives with the story of her own life. With the help of her granddaughters, Marnie and Rena, as well as her daughter, Susan, Helen wrote a book documenting her experiences in the ghetto and concentration camps.
Gaby Weisz was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1942. In the fall of 1944, Gaby, his mother and brother, moved into the Budapest ghetto. They escaped and fled to the provinces, where a priest supplied them with false documents. His name was changed from Weisz to Kiss and Gaby became a Catholic. When it became dangerous to be in the provinces, even for Jews with very good false documents, they returned to Budapest and were placed back in the ghetto. When news reached them that Jews were being taken from the ghetto and shot, Gaby's aunt bribed guards at the ghetto, who took them into hiding. They were liberated in April 1945. Gaby moved to Canada in 1957. He has been self-employed in the graphic communication and printing industry since 1965. He is active with the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association and Operation Herbie at The Hospital for Sick Children Foundation.
Maryka Weisz was born in Budapest in 1941. When the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944, Maryka and her two sisters were placed in an International Red Cross shelter. Her father was taken to a labour camp and her mother was taken on a forced march. The children were later retrieved from the shelter by a relative. Each of the sisters was hidden in the home of a different family in Budapest. Maryka's mother and father both managed to escape and the family was reunited in the spring of 1945 when the Russians entered Hungary. In 1957, they immigrated to Canada. In 1960, Maryka married Jakob Weisz in Toronto. Together, they established a successful building and real estate development business. Maryka is actively involved with a number of community organizations. She has chaired several committees of the United Jewish Appeal Federation, as well as events for the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies and Emunah Women of Toronto.