Ontario Newsroom

Biographies Of Holocaust Survivors

Archived Backgrounder

Biographies Of Holocaust Survivors

Office of the Premier

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty joined the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem today to honour 12 Holocaust survivors.

These exceptional Ontarians were recognized for their courage, strength and commitment to their communities.

Fay Goldlist was born in Chmielnik, Poland to a family of ten. She spent the Holocaust as a prisoner of the slave labour camps Skarzysko and Chenstochov. Fay was the only one to survive from her family. At the Displaced Persons camp Landsberg, Fay met and married her husband Eric Goldlist.

They moved their small family to Canada in 1948 with nothing more than $20 and a blanket. Eric opened Goldlist Poultry Market and Fay worked there with him. She studied to become fluent in English and became a Canadian citizen.

Today, she is an active contributor to Chmielniker newsletter and President of the Chmielniker Ladies' Association. For 60 years, she's volunteered for charities like Meals on Wheels, UJA, Haddasa, and JNF. She also established the endowment fund at Baycrest in Toronto to support its daycare. She has nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Jack Mudryk was born in the small town of Trovanuvka, Ukraine. When he was only six, his father was taken to serve in the Russian army. He and his mother hid in a cupboard at the school the Nazis were using to corral the townspeople while graves were being dug outside. A Polish friend took the pair into hiding, until they were forced to flee to the forest with Jack's grandfather. They lived in the forest until 1944.

Jack's father survived the war in Russia, and then reunited with his family in Ukraine. The Russians forced them out of Ukraine and they moved from Poland to Displaced Persons camps in Germany.

In 1949, Jack's family moved to Canada with nothing. Jack went to school to learn English, and took part time jobs to make money. In 1956 he married his wife, and in the same year took over business in a factory making ladies' hats. Jack is a proud Canadian and has three children and eight grandchildren.

Peter Jablonski was born in Lublin, Poland. Before the war, he completed high school and was taking accounting in night school while working in the family paper manufacturing factory. When the Germans came, he worked for them distributing food and other jobs to avoid being transported to a concentration camp. After his parents were murdered, Peter escaped the Lublin Ghetto, found his sister, and went in search of family in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Peter and his family were eventually transported to Trawniki camp. He assumed the identity of Leonard Strzalkowski after finding the Polish gentile's papers. He escaped Trawniki and made his way back to Lublin, posing as Strzalkowski. He joined the underground fighters and fought in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Peter constructed an underground shelter and collected food for his hiding place. When the city was evacuated of Jews, he remained there, hiding with a young boy named Wacek (Walter) and two older sick men. Peter took care of them all and went out looking for food at night. They hid there for five months, until Russian soldiers found them. Later, Peter and his wife Sabina found his cousin Jurek (George) and took care of him for two years.

In 1950, Peter and Sabina moved to Israel, and then to Canada in 1956. Since coming to Canada, Peter has been an active volunteer with the Red Cross, libraries and the Block Parents Society. Both George and Walter credit Peter for saving their lives during the Holocaust

Elly Gotz is a survivor of the Ghetto Kaunas in Lithuania, and the Dachau Concentration Camp. He was only 17 when he was liberated by the American Army. He came to Canada in 1964 with wife and three children.

Elly is an electrical engineer and he built a very successful business in Toronto. He was the President of his Synagogue and supported many causes. Elly has served on the boards of Miles for Millions and Holocaust Remembrance Committee of the Christian Jewish Dialogue, and he is very active at the Holocaust Center of Toronto. He is a regular speaker at schools and universities about his experience in the Holocaust and the need for tolerance in society.

Elly is transcribing and editing 450 recorded interviews with Holocaust survivors living in Toronto. They are an important piece of history describing the Holocaust as well as the way of life and customs of the Jewish communities in Europe, prior to the war.

Pinchas Gutter was born in Lodz, Poland. He was only seven years old when war broke out. His family went to Warsaw because they thought it would be safer but ended up being incarcerated in the Warsaw Ghetto for more than three years. His family was deported to Majdanek. The day they arrived after their horrible journey, his entire family was murdered at the camp. Pinchas was taken to labour camps, including Buchenwald where he was forced to load and unload weights of iron. Pinchas barely survived the death march to Theresienstad.

He was liberated in 1945 and taken to Britain with other children for rehabilitation. Pinchas lived many years in South Africa, then immigrated to Canada in 1985. Since arriving in Canada, Pinchas has dedicated his spare time to caring for the aged, helping the disadvantaged and lecturing on the Holocaust. He served as the Honorary Jewish Chaplain at Toronto Jail and Chaplain at St. Elizabeth Hospital and still serves at the Harold and Grace Baker Home for the Aged. Pinchas was the President of Baycrest Men's Service Group and was honoured as Man of the Year by Baycrest in 2001. He lectures on the Holocaust in Toronto, the United States and South Africa and has participated in the March of the Living. He is a member of the committee overseeing help for Holocaust survivors in need at the Jewish Child and Family Services and he is the honourary Cantor in Kiever Synagogue.

Shoshana Rotenberg was born in Stazow, Poland. Shoshana was in hiding in forests throughout the entire war. When it ended, she made her way on an illegal boat carrying Jewish refugees to Palestine. She married her husband in Israel and both fought in the War of Independence. The couple had 2 children and moved to Canada.

Despite being in a new country with a new language and culture, Shoshana raised her three small children, worked alongside her husband and eventually obtained her Hebrew teaching degree. She taught at United Synagogue Day School for 30 years. She passed on her love for Israel and their Jewish heritage and traditions, as well as the Hebrew language. She is certainly responsible for helping to raise a generation of children who later went on to be doctors, teachers and CEOs of major corporations. She was loved by her students and is still in contact with them.

Wolf (Bill) Rotman was born in Lodz, Poland in 1919. When Poland was invaded in 1939 he, his parents and four brothers were moved to the Lodz Ghetto. His immediate family perished in the Ghetto when it was liquidated, and only Wolf and one brother Harold, survived. Wolf was sent to work in munitions labour camp and Harold to Auschwitz.

When the war ended, he was reunited with Harold. Wolf married Sarah (also a survivor who had lost her entire family) and the couple moved to Germany where their daughter was born. They immigrated to London, Ontario in 1948, and a son was added to their family. There, Wolf (known as Bill) became a successful retailer and property investor. The family became active in the London Jewish community.

Bill was named Israel Bonds chair in 1967 and also devoted his time to volunteering and fundraising for the UJA, JNF, Hillel and B'Nai Brith. They were members of Or shalom Synagogue and strong supporters of Israel. In 1998, Bill and his wife moved to Toronto to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Bill is a proud Ontarian and is active at the Bathurst Y. He is a generous supporter of many Jewish organizations, Mount Sinai Hospital and various cancer research organizations.

Edith Weiss was sent to Auschwitz at the age of 16. She survived two rounds of selection at Auschwitz and was one of only 43 survivors of the 5,000 people sent with her to Auschwitz. After being liberated, she met her husband, who had lost his first wife and two sons, in Germany. The couple had their first daughter, Aniko, in Germany and then moved to build a new life in Canada.

They arrived in Canada in 1952 with nothing. They worked hard to learn the language, become self-sufficient and provide a good education and home for their two daughters. When Edith's husband died, she honoured his first wife and children who had been murdered by the Nazis. Edith has been active in charity work for 50 years in Windsor. She worked at Hotel Dieu Hospital in Windsor in the children's ward. For 50 years, she has been the top fundraiser for Emunah Women across Canada, providing funds for schools, health and nurseries in Israel.

Ernst Weiss is the author of a historical novel called Bar Kochba about his experiences in the Holocaust and in Israel's War of Independence. He and his sister are the sole survivors of a family of nine.

Over the past 20 years, Ernst has spent time volunteering for Baycrest Hospital and leading Friday night prayer services at various Old Age Homes. Ernst speaks about his experiences during the Holocaust to schools and children across the city. He is married and has four daughters, sons-in-law and 10 grandchildren.

Helen Sonshine was born in Poland in 1922. Her childhood was happily spent in the midst of a large and loving family. In 1941, the Nazis arrived and forced all the young people to work at hard labour around the town and in the countryside. Often these young people were shot after completing their work, so when Helen was able to hide, she spent time in a dark, cold hole that her mother had dug under her bed.

In 1942, her mother and two youngest siblings were sent to Treblinka. Helen never saw them again. Helen and her two brothers were taken to work as slave labour in a munitions factory. She then spent a year in Auschwitz and eight months in an airplane factory in Czechoslovakia where the prisoners were never allowed outdoors. Helen and her fellow inmates knew the war was coming to an end because very little food was being given out.

They were liberated by Czech partisans and Russian soldiers. She spent four weeks in Czechoslovakia and, after travelling across Europe, was reunited with her two surviving brothers in Lodz, Poland. The small family were taken to Bergen-Belsen, a Displaced Persons camp in Germany. In 1946 she met and married her husband, Ben and their son, Eddie was born at the camp.

In 1949, they moved to Canada and settled in Toronto, where her husband became a prosperous builder. Helen has two children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Frida Lebovici was born in Romania in 1923. She grew up in a large, loving and well respected family. When the war broke out, her education ended and life became very restricted. In 1944, she and her family were sent to Auschwitz where her parents, older siblings, two- and four-year-old niece and nephew were killed. She and her three remaining sisters were able to stay together.

Frida was put to work in a number of factories and because of her command of German she was recruited as the personal maid to a female officer. In this capacity, she had access to food from the German kitchens, and was able to secretly feed the many people in her barracks. At the end of the war, she and her fellow inmates were liberated by the Russians.

Frida and her sisters walked from Czechoslovakia to Budapest and eventually back to their home to Romania. After discovering that their home had been taken over by neighbours who would not allow them back in, Frida and her sisters left for a Displaced Persons camp in Salzburg, Austria. There she met and married her husband, Irving and they decided to go to Israel. They travelled through the Italian Alps, boarded an illegal ship, crossed the Mediterranean, only to be turned back by the British and sent to an internment camp on the island of Cyprus, where she gave birth to a daughter. After three months, Frida and her small family made it to Israel.

In 1952, she reunited with her sisters in Canada and the family settled in Toronto. Frida has three children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Zelda Rosenfeld was born in 1925 in Parczew, Poland. Before the war, Zelda's family owned a store and a large fruit orchard. In 1939, they were forced from their home and into the Lublin ghetto. Zelda was 14-years-old at the time. The family was not able to take any of their belongings, which were confiscated by their Polish neighbours.

After eight months in Lublin, they were forced to move to Miedsyrzec Podlaski. While enroute, Zelda escaped and ran to the forests where she hid for 6 weeks. She made her way back to the ghetto and reunited with her mother and 3 siblings. In September of 1940, the family was taken to Majdanek concentration camp, where they were split up. Zelda was the only member of her family to survive. By chance, Zelda was recognized by her former school principal who yanked her from the selection line. Zelda grabbed her friend, and both were saved. She survived the rest of the war by working in two other camps, and was liberated by the Russian army in 1945.

In September 1945, Zelda, then 20, moved to Waldenburg to search for her family and met her future husband Lazar. The couple settled in Rosenheim, Germany where their first son was born. Looking for safety, the family moved to Canada in 1951, and began to build their new lives in Canada. They had two more sons and worked tirelessly in numerous business endeavours. Lazar passed away in 2008, after 62 years of marriage. Zelda has three sons, three daughters-in-law and 10 grandchildren.



Home and Community