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Biographies of Holocaust Survivors

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Biographies of Holocaust Survivors

Office of the Premier

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, along with the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, today honoured 14 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.

The Honourees

GEORGE BRADY was born in 1928 in the small town of Nove Mestoploca, Czechoslovakia. When the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia in 1942, his parents were arrested, and 14-year-old George and his 11-year-old sister Hana were deported to Terezin. Two years later, he and his sister were deported to Auschwitz. George worked in a railway factory in Gleiwitz, a satellite of Auschwitz, and was liberated by the Russian army in January 1945. When he returned home, he learned that his parents, Karel and Marketa, and his little sister Hana had all been murdered. George emigrated to Canada on a refugee boat, arriving in Halifax and then moving to Toronto. He founded a successful plumbing business with another Holocaust survivor that had more than 200 employees when he retired 40 years later. George has helped dozens of Czech refugees find jobs and start new lives in Canada. He is the vice-president and one of the founding members of the Canadian Czech Board of Commerce, an executive board member of the Weizmann Institute of Science and a supporter of the Canadian Opera, St. Lawrence Theatre and Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He is currently making a movie about a group of boys in the Terezin ghetto.

For the past five years, George has shared the story of a book about Hana and her suitcase with audiences around the world. It has been translated into 27 languages in over 30 countries. He lives with his wife, Teresa, and his daughter, Lara. He has three sons Douglas, Paul and David and seven grandchildren.

MORDECHAI (MAX) FEIG was born in Luh, Czechoslovakia, in 1921 to a family of four brothers and four sisters. In 1942, the Hungarian army took him to Nogbanyan, Hungary, to work as a slave labourer. Four months later, he was sent to Uzeged, Hungary, to make shooting ranges for the army. In 1943, he was taken to Bor, Yugoslavia, where he worked loading and driving trains at a copper mine. Accompanied by heavily armed guards, Max and 4,000 others were forced to march, without appropriate clothing, food or water in the frigid winter from Bor, Yugoslavia, to Ordruf, Germany -- a memory that still haunts him. Along the way, many died of hunger and thirst or were shot by soldiers. From Ordrof, Max was sent to Flossenbürg, Germany, and was forced to load bodies onto trucks. He survived by hiding in an outhouse. Critically ill with typhus, Max was sent to Buchenwald where he regained his health under his brother's care. He married his wife, Rose, in 1946, and lived in a Displaced Persons Camp (DPC) in Munich. In 1953, with only $7 in his pocket, they came to Canada with their two daughters, and had a third daughter here. In 1957, Max opened a bakery with three partners. The Open Window Bakery now has more than 250 employees. For over 40 years, he has belonged to the B'nai Brith, Raoul Wallenberg Yorkdale Lodge. He has also contributed to the Baycrest Centre and the City of Toronto. He has four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

ARON GERHARD was born in 1922 in Jasliska, Poland. Aron was the youngest of five children. In 1939, Aron risked freezing temperatures to smuggle goods to trade for food to feed his family and care for his ill father. In 1942, Aron was wounded with a rifle and separated from his family. His father and uncle were shot and his mother and sisters were deported to the Belzec death camp. Aron was forced to perform backbreaking physical labour in work camps with very little food. In January 1945, the Russians liberated the camp, and Aron and his two brothers returned home. In 1946, Aron married Ala in Stuttgart. In 1951, Aron, Ala and their daughter Rosine immigrated to Canada, arriving in Halifax and taking the train to Toronto. Aron opened Domino Used Furniture with a partner. After moving to and then back from California, Aron bought another store and invested in real estate. He is active in B'nai Brith and became president of his community Lodge.

NATHAN GODFREY was born in 1922 in Zbarasz, Poland. He was born to a family of five who owned a carpentry business. When Germany invaded Poland, the Soviet Union occupied his town. Though much of his father's equipment was confiscated, he and his brother began working in the shop, learning their father's trade. In 1941, they escaped from the Nazis, travelling east toward Russia and joined the Soviet army. Hoping to join the Polish army, but denied leave by the Soviets, they hid and then escaped. They became officers in separate units of the Polish army. Returning to their town, they learned their parents were dead and their sister was missing. In 1946, Nathan and his brother left the army and with the help of the Jewish Underground Railroad, made their way to Rivoli, where they found their sister in a DPC. In 1948, the siblings were reunited in Toronto. Nathan and his brother spent the rest of their working lives running construction companies. He married Mary Lucatch in 1953 and they have four children and six grandchildren. Nathan was one of the founders of Beth-El Synagogue in Don Mills and served on the board for 13 years. In 1974, he was elected president of Raoul Wallenberg Yorkdale Lodge, B'nai Brith. He was elected as president again in 2003 and continues in this position today.

MENDEL GOOD was born in Nowy-Sacz, Poland in 1925. He had two brothers and one sister. His entire family perished in the Holocaust. He endured seven concentration camps and two ghettos between 1939 and 1946. At 14, he escaped death in the Nowy-Sacz ghetto because he was wearing a hat with earmuffs. When all the children in the ghetto were arrested and lined-up for execution, a soldier's bullet missed his head and hit his earmuff. He fell into an open grave, where a Jewish gravedigger found him. He was the only child to survive. He contracted tuberculosis in one of the camps and spent three years in Austrian hospitals after the war. In 1948, he immigrated to Canada and has lived in Ottawa for 52 years. He now resides in Toronto to be near his three children and eight grandchildren. Mendel married Valerie Blau, a Holocaust survivor from Hungary. Mendel was a tailor and owned a shop for 50 years in Ottawa. He chaired the Holocaust Committee in Ottawa for 12 years and was instrumental in planning a Holocaust Memorial in 1978. He also co-chaired the Canadian Holocaust Gathering in Ottawa in 1985. For 45 years, he has been a regular speaker at schools, churches, universities and the Toronto Holocaust Centre.

ANNE MANDELL was born in Wilno, Poland, in 1934. Her father was an industrialist and she had one brother, Samuel. A gang of local men shot her father on their family farm. Anne, Samuel and their mother were visiting a neighbour at the time. After his murder, a Polish woman hid Anne's remaining family in a basement, and they managed to escape Nazi searches on various occasions. In 1944, they fled to the woods, hiding with partisans. They stayed there until the liberation by the Russian army. After the war, they returned to Belarus, then traveled to a DPC in Germany and in 1948, arrived in Halifax. Anne worked as a medical secretary in various hospitals. In 1963, she joined her brother in his property management business in Toronto. After her brother's sudden death in 1970, Anne took over the business and retired in 2000. Anne has served as a board member of the Canadian Women's ORT, president of Hamilton Women's ORT, a board member of the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem. She has also received the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanities Medal from the State of Israel. Anne has one son and two grandchildren.

MARK MANDELL was born in Radom, Poland, in 1931. In 1942, his father was taken to Auschwitz and killed. In the same year, his mother and younger brother were taken to Treblinka and killed. Mark survived because his mother sent him to stay with an uncle, where he hid in a closet to avoid being shipped from the Radom ghetto to death camps. In 1943, he was detected and shipped to a labour camp. In 1944, he was moved to Auschwitz. With the number B904 tattooed on his arm, Mark stood in front of Dr. Joseph Mengele at Auschwitz. Dr. Mengele was deciding who should live and who should die. Mark was only 13, but told Dr. Mengele that he was 18. Mengele felt he could be useful and sent him to Gleiwic, a labour camp in Poland. In 1945, Mark commenced a death march for 28 days in the bitter winter to Gross Rossen, a concentration camp in Germany. Only 500 of the original 4,500 survived the march. From there, he was sent to Buchenwald and then Speichingen. When liberated in 1945, he learned that 47 members of his family had been killed. In 1947, Mark, together with other orphans, was sent to a kibbutz in Israel. In 1951, he immigrated to Canada and worked as a welder in Kapuskasing, and later operated a bakery. Mark has three sons and nine grandchildren. He has been married to Anne for 22 years.

ISRAEL (ERNIE) MARMUREK was born in 1927 in Opatow, Poland. Ernie was the youngest of six children. When war broke out, Ernie's family was put in the Opatow Ghetto, where his father died from starvation. His mother and his four sisters were transported to Treblinka where they were all killed. Ernie lost his entire family -- his grandparents, his uncles and aunts and all his cousins. Only Ernie and his brother, Saul, survived. Ernie and Saul were separated and sent to different concentration camps. Ernie was sent to Skarschesko and many other camps, including Buchenwald and Mauthaussen, where he was finally liberated. Ernie and Saul were reunited in Vienna in 1946. In 1947, Ernie arrived in Canada at age 20. In 1948, Ernie sponsored Saul and his family so they could come to Canada. After two years, he started his own general contracting business. He married Goldi in 1951, and they have five children and 10 grandchildren. Ernie retired in 2000 and is involved in the Apter Friendly Society and the Bathurst Lawn Memorial Park. He is the past president of Shaarei Tefillah Congregation and vice-president of Steeles Memorial Park.

When JOSEPH MORGAN is asked how he survived the horrors of the Holocaust, he answers that it wasn't because he was braver than the millions who perished, but because he had "mazel" -- luck. Joseph was born in 1920 in Miedzyrzec, Poland. He was one of four children. Miedzyrzec was turned into a ghetto, and Joseph and his family were crammed into a cattle car, bound for the death camp at Treblinka. Through his parents' effort, Joseph was able to survive by miraculously being pushed out of the small window of the train. He was the child his parents chose to survive -- an example of his enduring "mazel". His family all perished. Surviving on his own for a while, he was recaptured and shipped to Majdanek concentration camp, where he was one of only a few kept alive as a slave labourer. He volunteered as a mechanic, knowing nothing about it, and by bluffing on a test, ended up at the Skarzysko labour camp. At Skarzysko, and then later in Czenstochova, Poland, Joseph, with his "mazel," was able to survive beatings, starvation and disease. In 1945, he married Helen and they came to Canada with their daughter Ann, in 1949. They had twin daughters, Marilyn and Eleanor. He has 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He became a sweeper in a woodworking factory and worked hard to become owner of the factory. He also branched out into real estate. He has been a substantial supporter of the United Jewish Appeal, Israel Bonds and B'nai Brith and was one of the key organizers and fundraisers in the recent building of a new synagogue.

PHILIP RECHTSMAN was born in 1919 in Kielce, Poland. He had two brothers and two sisters. When the Nazis invaded Poland, Philip had to give up his trade as a portrait maker to work in his brother-in-law's wood shop in the Kielce Ghetto. In 1943, most of his family had been sent away -- only his brother, Sam, survived. Philip was sent to Pionki labour camp, the first of many where he survived by using the skills he learned in his father's machine shop. He was then transported to Auschwitz/Birkenau and Buchenwald. It was in Auschwitz that he received the tattoo B-846 on his forearm. In Buchenwald, he became ill, and survived by living on coffee grinds stolen and given to him by a close friend. At Spaichengen, the final camp he was at, the prisoners were taken on a death march. Philip managed to run away one night and hid in the forest for days, then in a farmer's barn until the American liberation. In 1947, he married Rene and a year later, immigrated to Canada, where they had three children. He worked as a machinist and started a machine shop business. Later, with a cousin and a young Italian friend, he bought a building lot and built a house. Today, the same three families are still building homes in the GTA under the name, Greenpark Homes. Philip and Rene have nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.


BERNARD SLIWIN was born in 1930, ALBERT was born in 1931 and ELISE was born in 1938 in Poland. Between 1940 and 1942, the Sliwin family lived in the ghetto "Rava Mazowiecki". From 1942 until 1945, the family ran and tried to find places to hide from the Nazis. They hid in barns and haylofts, on top of stables, in fields and forests. A few days before liberation, the Sliwin family was forced to undress by so-called Polish "friends". They were taken from their hiding spot and made to lie naked in the snow. Their father was shot in the head in front of his wife and the three children. After liberation, the family returned to their hometown in Poland and were attacked by Poles. They fled to Lodz to reunite with an uncle who survived and then moved to Germany. Albert and Bernard moved to France, where Bernard met his future wife, Paulette. In 1947, Elise and her mother joined Albert and Bernard in Paris. In 1951, the family immigrated to Canada. Bernard and Albert owned a menswear store on Bloor Street and later established their own businesses in the sporting goods industry.

In 1954, Bernard married Paulette. They have one son and three grandchildren. Bernard established Bernard Athletic Knit, one of the largest manufacturers of team wear in Canada. Bernard supports numerous charitable organizations as well as individuals in need.

Albert married Cecile and they have two daughters and five grandchildren. He owns Avon Sportswear and Victory Cap, companies that manufacture team and corporate outerwear and caps. Albert also is involved in property management and commercial leasing. Albert has contributed to the Reena Foundation, Chabad Lubavitch, The Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care, Bialik Hebrew Day School and Adath Israel Synagogue. He is also known for his soft spot for the homeless.

In 1959, Elise married Harvey Kalles. They have three children and eight grandchildren. While busy at home raising her young family, Elise launched her first business venture. She designed, created and sold exclusive maternity wear from her home. She eventually joined her husband in their successful real estate business and today she is ranked as one of Canada's most accomplished real estate brokers, specializing in the sale of carriage trade homes. Elise and Harvey support the United Jewish Appeal, the Koffler Centre of the Arts, Shaarei Tzedek Hospital, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Princess Margaret Hospital, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Starlight Foundation, Mount Sinai Hospital, Sick Children's Hospital, ICRF, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the Gerry & Nancy Brain Trust and the Jewish National Fund.

ETTY ZIGLER was born and raised in Bukovina, Romania. In 1941, Etty and her family were deported in cattle cars to Transnistria, a territory in western Ukraine given to the Romanians by Hitler as a reward for their alliance. Etty's grandmother died of dysenteric disease, her father of typhoid fever and her younger sister of tuberculosis. Etty emerged ravaged by a skin disease called lupus tuberculosis, which engulfed her nose, most of her face and left her horribly disfigured. In 1944, when the Soviets liberated camps, Etty learned that 90 per cent of her family had perished. In desperate need of medical help, Etty traveled to Czernowitz, where she received some help that halted the disease, but did not cure it. In 1945, she was reunited with her mother and received proper treatment in Bucharest. Her face critically deformed, she was encouraged to seek help in the U.S. In 1951, she had reconstructive surgery in New York, rejoined her family in Cuba and in 1961, immigrated to Canada with her husband and three children. It took more than 20 surgical procedures to reconstruct her face. Etty volunteered for ORT, helping and educating underprivileged children all over the world. She joined the Toronto Board of Education to educate students about the Holocaust and became a resource person by speaking about her personal ordeal. Later, she mentored children with behavioural problems.

In 1986, Etty became a member of the Holocaust Education and Memorial Centre's Speakers' Bureau. Etty is currently the president of the Transnistria Survivors Association.