Biographies Of Honourees Of The Canadian Society Of Yad Vashem
Amek Adler was born on April 20, 1928, in Lublin, Poland. During the war, his family endured increasingly difficult conditions in the Warsaw ghetto.
After moving to the Radom ghetto, Amek worked in a munitions factory for 12 hours a day with little food. He was forced to walk to Auschwitz and was later sent to Dachau, where he remained until April 1945. Barely alive during the "death march" out of the camp, he escaped. Amek later helped in the illegal smuggling of young people to British-occupied Palestine (now Israel). Moving to Toronto in 1954, Amek became a top salesman, first in the fur industry and later in the jewellery business. Currently involved with the Jewish War Veterans of Canada, he was instrumental in having a monument erected to commemorate the thousands of Canadian Jewish war veterans who gave up their lives in both world wars. He is the proud father of two children and grandfather of four.
Andrew and Livia Eva Adler
Andrew Adler was born in 1924 in Pusztadobos, Hungary, the youngest of six children. At age 18, he left home to seek work in Budapest. It was the last time he ever saw his parents. In 1944, he worked as a forced labourer for the Nazis, building underground tunnels for Eichmann's headquarters. Andrew eventually found refuge with the Hungarian Red Cross, living in one of their safe houses.
Livia Eva Szenes was born in Budapest in 1935. During the war, she lived with her family in an apartment designated for Jews. She spent the final year of the war in the Budapest ghetto. After the war, Eva studied to become a chemist. Upon arrival in Canada, she found work in a lab.
Andrew immigrated to Canada in February 1951. After six months of working in a lumber camp, he had saved enough money to buy a truck to sell produce and collect scrap in Northern Ontario. His keen intuition led him into the scrap plastics business, which exists today as A & B Plastics. Andrew and Eva were married in 1960. They are blessed with three children and ten grandchildren.
Claire Friedberg was born in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1936. When, in 1942, Jews were systematically arrested in Holland, Claire's father found a Christian family to hide Claire and her sister. After a neighbour threatened to betray their cover, the sisters were placed in the Rotterdam home of a 28-year-old woman. The children's beloved caretaker encouraged them to write letters to their parents despite not knowing their whereabouts. After the war, Claire was joyously reunited with her family. Together, they moved to Toronto, where Claire married Seymour Baum. She worked for 25 years, alongside Seymour, to build a successful company, Armstrong-Baum Plumbing and Heating. Claire has spoken about her Holocaust experiences for numerous organizations and schools. A part of Claire's story is included in Whispers in Hiding, the last volume of a children's trilogy about the Holocaust. Claire is blessed with three children and eight grandchildren.
George Berman was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1923. During the war, he endured harsh conditions in the Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz and Görlitz concentration camps, working as a slave labourer. He survived severe beatings, a gunshot wound, an attack by dogs, and pneumonia. After escaping from the "death march," he became a walking skeleton, living on grass soup and sawdust bread. After the war, George studied electronics in Cardiff, Wales, and married Mona there. In 1956, they immigrated to Canada. In Toronto, George first worked in the warehouse at Canadian General Electric. He later worked there on communication systems for police and ambulance services, CN rail, telephone companies, and other industries. Some of his designs were early predecessors of today's cell-phone. For more than a decade, George has spoken about his Shoah experiences at schools and community events. He has four children, seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
George Fox was born in Ukraine in 1917. After his father was killed, George's family moved to Breziny, Poland. After being severely wounded while serving in the Polish army during the war, George returned to Breziny. In 1940, the Nazis forced the Breziny Jews into a ghetto, where they were systematically starved. Later, at Auschwitz, Dr. Mengele directed George one way and his mother the other way. The "other way" was directly to the gas chambers, where his mother was killed. In 1946, George married Fanny. They immigrated to Canada, where George held a series of jobs. He later owned and operated several stores. George has volunteered his time at several organizations and spoken to hundreds of students about his Shoah experiences. He did so again last year at the age of 95. George is blessed with two sons and six grandchildren.
Lea Hochman (née Zimmerman) was born on December 25, 1921, in Pohorce, Poland. In 1941, the Nazis shot and killed Lea's brother Abraham and sent her family to the Kormano ghetto. Lea and her brother Israel escaped and found their brother Heresh and sister-in-law. They never saw other family members again. Disguising herself as a gentile, Lea worked at various farms. Living in constant fear, Lea survived bombs, hunger, bitter cold, and illness. She and Abraham Hochman married in 1947, moving to Montreal in 1959. When Abraham passed away in 1989, Lea moved to Toronto to be close to family. For nearly seven decades, she did not speak of the atrocities she had witnessed. In 2011, Lea shared her experiences publicly for the first time. At age 90, Lea continues to speak out about her Shoah experiences. She has three daughters, nine grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.
Chava Kwinta was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, in 1930. She survived the concentration camps Wienergraben, Gross-Rosen, and Bergen-Belsen. She then moved to Sweden for rehabilitation. Since the British rulers of Palestine would not allow Jewish immigration there, Chava obtained false documentation to land in Palestine. While working as a nurse there, she met and married Mike, an injured soldier. In 1963, the couple moved to Toronto. Chava worked at Baycrest as a registered nurse, caring for people with Alzheimer's disease. There she organized Mother's Day parties for women — mostly Shoah Survivors with no surviving children — to ensure they felt special. Chava attended night school to become a Jewish history teacher, graduating as the valedictorian of her class. She later wrote her autobiography, I'm Still Living, and has shared her story at many schools. Chava is blessed with three daughters and nine grandchildren.
Judy and George Lysy
Judy Lysy (née Singer) was born in Kosice, Czechoslovakia, in 1928. In March 1944, Judy's family was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she was a slave labourer. At age 16, Judy weighed a mere 65 pounds, was infested with lice and had typhoid fever.
George Lysy was born in 1916 on a farm near Nové Zámky, Czechoslovakia. After attending the college of agriculture, he joined the military. Applying for a farmer's visa to Canada in 1938, he was rejected because he was Jewish. George served 45 months of forced labour in the Hungarian army. The conditions under which the Jewish soldiers served — extremely limited food rations, beatings, proximity to land mines, exposure to harsh weather, lack of medical care — were such that only one in 10 survived. For the remainder of the war, George posed as a Catholic in Budapest.
Judy and George married in 1946, leaving Czechoslovakia a year later. The couple lived in Caracas, Venezuela, and moved to Canada in 1952. Judy was a clothing buyer for several stores; George owned and managed several tobacco farms.
Judy and George have visited schools throughout the GTA to share their Holocaust experiences. They are blessed with two daughters, three granddaughters, and five great-grandchildren.
Sara Marmurek (née Stopnicki) was born in Opatów, Poland, on November 12, 1922. She married her high-school sweetheart, Saul Marmurek in the Opatów ghetto in September 1939. Later, a pregnant Sara was taken to the labour camp in Sandomierz, Poland, sneaking out to a hospital to deliver a son, who died shortly thereafter from malnutrition. Sara worked in the Radom, Auschwitz and Ober-Altstadt camps. Miraculously, after two years of separation, Sara and Saul were reunited in July 1945. Immigrating to Canada in June 1948, they settled in Toronto. Sara worked with Saul to establish a successful construction business. She has volunteered her time for several organizations and charities. An inspirational film, Life of My Life, focussing on Sara's time at Radom, was produced and is distributed to schools to foster Holocaust education. Sara is blessed with a son and daughter, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Felix Opatowski was born on July 15, 1922, in Lodz, Poland. At 15, Felix smuggled goods out of the Lodz ghetto in exchange for food for his starving family and was later arrested. In Auschwitz, he maintained the fence wires and collected the bodies of prisoners who had electrocuted themselves on those wires. The camp's Polish Underground recruited Felix as a messenger. On October 7, 1944, Felix and other prisoners blew up the crematoria. After being caught by the SS, Felix endured having his fingernails pulled out. Currently, Felix works on real estate and mortgage transactions in Ontario. He also speaks at schools about his Holocaust experiences. The Azrieli Foundation recently published his autobiography, Gatehouse to Hell. His 2009 journey to the camps at which he had been detained is told in the documentary Following in the Footsteps of Felix Opatowski. Felix has four children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Morris Rosenberg was born in Transylvania, Romania, in 1930. After being captured in 1944 by the Nazis, Morris worked first in the Szilágysomlyó ghetto, which was a brick factory, then in several camps — Auschwitz, Nieder Salzbrun, Flossenbürg and Bergen-Belsen. In 1946 and 1947, Morris returned to Hungary and Romania to try to find some surviving family members but could not. A few years after immigrating to Canada, he started a company in Toronto, Artex Garments Ltd., which manufactured ladies' coats and suits. In 1968, Morris married Judy. After acquiring land in southwestern Ontario, Morris's company Ricenberg Developments developed numerous building lots and built many homes in Ontario. Morris then started Rostek Homes, which has built exclusive homes in Toronto for 12 years. He has supported many organizations and charities. Morris is blessed with two daughters and two grandchildren.
Miriam Schlanger (née Aaron) was born in Latvia in 1919. In June 1941, with news of the Germans' approach, Miriam packed a pillowcase with her best hand-sewn work and, with her infant niece in her arms, ran to the Russian border. Living in Siberia during the war, Miriam met her future husband, Janus. After the war, Miriam risked her life by crossing military zones with improper documents to successfully rescue her brother. Since immigrating to Canada, Miriam has raised funds for various charities, sponsored many children in Israel, and raised money annually to support a kindergarten there for orphans. Each week, she bakes and sells challah to raise money for a charity that feeds underprivileged seniors and provides schoolchildren with meals. She was a nominee for Woman of the Year in 2011 in Chatelaine magazine for her charitable work. Miriam is blessed with four daughters and four grandchildren.
Gerta Solan was born on December 6, 1929, in Prague, Czechoslovakia. When she was in Auschwitz in 1944, Dr. Mengele sent a group, including her, to the gas chambers. During the panic in the "undressing room," Gerta, then an emaciated 57 pounds, squeezed between the window bars and hid in a nearby barrack. The only survivors of the Holocaust in Gerta's family were her uncle and aunt, who took her in. In 1947, Gerta married Paul Solan. Gerta and her family moved to Toronto in 1968, where she worked in a bakery. Later, as a coordinator for the Canadian Red Cross, Gerta helped look for missing people who disappeared during wartime and at times of natural disasters. Gerta's autobiography, As I Remember, will be published by the Azrieli Foundation. Gerta continues to pass on her legacy by speaking to students about her Shoah experiences. She is blessed with a son and three grandchildren.
Gena and Joe Tenenbaum
Joe Tenenbaum was born in 1927 in Dzialoszyce, Poland. In 1942, his family was deported from their hometown; it was the last time he saw his mother. He worked in various camps in Poland and Austria. After the war, Joe helped organize the transport of Survivors to Palestine.
Gena was born in Sambor, Poland. She survived the Holocaust by hiding for 18 months in a warehouse cellar. After the war, Gena studied medicine at the University of Munich and sculpture in New York.
Gena and Joe came to Ontario in 1958, where he built a successful construction business. As his way of giving back to Ontario, Joe has supported hospitals, charities, individuals and built affordable housing for low-income people. He has volunteered for various organizations, lectured about the Holocaust in schools, and assisted Ontario's prosecutor in a case against a Holocaust denier. Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem, recently published Joe's book Legacy and Redemption in Hebrew. One of Gena's most meaningful achievements was having her sculpture The Holocaust accepted as part of the permanent collection at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. Joe and Gena have been blessed with three children and eight grandchildren.
Emma and Erich Weisz
Born in Brussels, Belgium, at the end of 1930, Emma van Dijk moved to Amsterdam at age 3. In 1941 in the Netherlands, all Jews were forced to wear a yellow star. This led to others taunting and even hurling mud at Emma. Emma survived the Holocaust by hiding in various places, which included sharing a bed temporarily with an elderly lady in a mental institution. After the war, Emma completed several degrees.
Erich Weisz was born in 1925 in Vienna, Austria. He and his father entered the Netherlands illegally, in a car trunk. In 1940, Erich's family was deported to Westerbork concentration camp. After the war, Erich studied flute, piano and conducting.
Emma and Erich were married in 1954 in Amsterdam and shortly after immigrated to Canada. In Hamilton, after completing her Master's, Emma began practising social work and psychotherapy. Erich earned degrees in History, German, and Music. He has taught high school in Ontario and woodwinds at McMaster University and Mohawk College. Emma has been credited with founding the Alzheimer Society of Halton-Wentworth. She participates annually in Holocaust education and remembrance.
Emma and Erich have two sons, Mischa (deceased) and Guido, and are blessed with four grandchildren.