Oral history interview with Aleksander Henryk Laks
Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
- Aleksander H. Laks
- Ms. Teresa A. Pollin
2005 January 24
3 videocassettes (MiniDV).
Aleksander Henryk Laks (né Chaim Benzion Cale), born in Lódz, Poland in 1927, describes taking his mother’s last name, Laks, after the war; being active in the Holocaust survivors community in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; growing up in a Jewish family in Lódz; his birth mother dying when he was a young child and being raised by his step-mother, Balcie; economic conditions in Poland; attending public school; the German invasion in 1939; the abuse his grandfather suffered and his disappearance; his school closing and being forced to wear a yellow star; the restrictions placed on Jews; the sealing of the ghetto in May 1940; life in the ghetto, including their apartment, food, and school; his bar mitzvah in 1940; the deportation of children from the ghetto; working 12 hour days in a metal workshop; hiding in August 1944 when the ghetto was being liquidated; being deported with his family to Auschwitz; his step-mother’s death in the camp; arriving in the camp and the selections; being shaved, beaten, and tattooed; being sent to the Gross-Rosen subcamp Kaltwasser; having several teeth forcibly removed; being sent to camp Lärche; being sent to Flossenbürg, where his father was killed by a Kapo; being sent with other inmates to Bodensee to be drowned; being sent by train to Offenburg, Germany to clean up the town after a bombing; being taken to Emmendingen, Germany, where he was liberated; his physical condition upon liberation; traveling to Emmendingen in 2004; and several photographs he has from the ghetto (he shows them to the camera).
Record last modified: 2018-01-22 10:39:17
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Also in Oral history interviews of the Give Me Your Children: Voices from the Lodz Ghetto collection
Interviews conducted for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's "Give Me Your Children: Voices from the Lodz Ghetto" exhibition.
Date: 2005 January 24-2005 March 29
Ruth Eldar, born in Lódz, Poland November 18, 1928, describes her older brother; her family home; attending school; learning Hebrew; her parents’ wholesale business; her grandparents; the beginning of the war and being sent to the ghetto; life in the ghetto, including food, hygiene, and education; working in a dressmaker’s workshop; starvation; hiding during a roundup of children in the ghetto; being afraid of the gunshots and dogs; her social activities in the ghetto, including discussions of literature, drawing, and starting a theater; Yiddish poetry; her family’s view of Chaim Rumkowski; and more details on her family (she also shows pictures to the camera).
Leon Kowner (né Kovner) describes his early life; living comfortably in a rented apartment in a good neighborhood in town; attending a private school (called Nasza Szkola) in Lódz, Poland; finishing elementary school in 1939; how all the teachers in the school, except the caretaker, were Jewish; growing up in a patriotic, Polish atmosphere at home because his father was an officer in the Polish Army; his family having social ties with German and Polish veterans, some of who were already members of the Nazi party at the beginning of the war; the Germans entering Lódz; Nazis coming to their home; being warned by friends to escape the ghetto; the roundups of Jews for forced labor; the restrictive laws; having to wear an armband on the left arm and the changes in the style of the band and badge; his father finding a house, which belonged to a railway worker and had a garden; the gymnasium for Jews; the first winter in the ghetto (1940-1941) and his mother rationing food; the death of his sister (Nina, born in 1935) in Auschwitz when she was nine years old and his guilt over her dying illiterate; being an avid reader; the custom in the ghetto to refuse food if it was offered to you during a social visit; making Jewish figurines and arranging scenes from Jewish life in show cases; meeting the poet and painter Melania Fogelbaum and how she influenced his life; reading poetry and living more as a bohemian; visiting Melania at the other end of the ghetto, on Marynarska Street; being among several of her admirers, including Hela Zymler (Helena Zymler-Svantesson); Melania’s illness; beginning to paint and write poetry because of Melanie; how creating art helped him distance himself from the reality of the ghetto; children being hidden in apartments; the deportation all of his mother’s family; spending little time at home when he was living in the ghetto and the tension he had with his parents; wanting to volunteer for labor to leave the ghetto; and deciding not to volunteer because of his father.
Jacob Lapides, born on November 11, 1928, describes growing up on Brzezinska Street in Lodz, Poland; his father, who was a tailor; attending school; living in a Jewish orphanage with his siblings; his father’s death in 1938; living in the ghetto; education in the ghetto; being moved to a much bigger building on Franciszkanska 76; Chaim Rumkowski asking members of the Beitar to adopt children; his sister, Sarah, being adopted by a family; his bar mitzvah in the ghetto in 1941; the deportation in September 1942 and hiding with two others in the cemetery; going to his Aunt Lola’s house; Jewish police coming to his aunt’s house to take his grandmother; being a member of a Zionist organization; rations in the ghetto; being taken to the Czestochowa camp in March 1944; doing leatherwork in the camp; and the food in the camp.
Juta Bergman, born in 1927 in Germany; describes being Bratslav Hasidic; being deported in 1933 to Poland with her Polish-born parents; her father’s death in 1934; attending a public school; life in Lódz, Poland; the German invasion in September 1939; having to wear the yellow badge indicating she was a Jew; her education in the ghetto; rations in the ghetto; life in the ghetto as a child; working with other children in a workshop; learning about sex from an older friend; how it was forbidden to gather more than three or five people and disobeying this restriction; being involved in a Zionist organization and distancing herself from her home; her mother’s belief that the war would end soon; attending Rumkowski’s speech in the big square and feeling disdain for him; her brother informing her about the deportation of their mother and grandmother; witnessing the murder of a young girl; her mother escaping from a camp and returning to the ghetto; surviving several camps, including Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen; liberation; returning to Lódz; and getting married to a Lódz ghetto survivor.
Henryk Bergman describes his family, including his parents, older brother (Pinchas), and younger sister (Ruth); attending school; the Zionist movement in Lódz, Poland; training with a military youth group in 1938; the German invasion; the creation of the ghetto; the Zionist youth movement in the ghetto and the leader, Rafael Zelver; the Jewish policemen coming to get him one night in 1944 and avoiding deportation; going to a work camp; being transported to Auschwitz with his sister and mother, who were killed; stealing food from the kitchens and sharing with other inmates; injuring his foot and going to the hospital in the camp; and being shipped by train from camp to camp towards the end of the war.
Karolina Ciesla, born in Lódz, Poland in December 1927, discusses her childhood and family life; the order that Jews must wear the Star of David; her family’s forced relocation to the Lódz ghetto; the miserable conditions in the ghetto; attending school and then vocational training in the ghetto; the death of her father in July 1942 which symbolized the end of her childhood; going into hiding with her mother Sonia and sister Teresa during an Aktion; the local youth organization to which she belonged; her deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau along with her sister, mother, and aunt in August 1944; the murder of her mother upon arrival to the camp; being sent with her sister and aunt to a series of slave labor camps; liberation on May 9, 1945 by Russian forces from a camp in Halbstadt (Meziměstí, Czech Republic); returning to Lódz and being reunited with her sister; and immigrating to Brazil with her husband and daughters in 1957; and finally settling close to her sister in Israel in 1961.
Esther Eisen (Ester Aizen, née Ester "Tusia" Cygielberg), born in Poland in 1929, discusses growing up in Lódz, Poland; her father, mother, and older brother; the beginning of the war; her enjoyment of writing essays and songs as a child; her family being kicked out of their home and sent to the ghetto; conditions in the ghetto; the typhus epidemic and her mother and cousin getting sick; being deported to Auschwitz and being separated from her father during the selection; being sent to Germany near the Elbe; being transferred to a camp near Potsdam, Germany; liberation and returning to Poland; getting married; and going to Israel.
Chaim Kozienicki, born in Lódz, Poland in 1928, describes having three brothers; his father, who was a carpenter; attending school; his Polish pride and the development of his Jewish identity; his interest in Zionism; planning to travel to Israel in late 1939 but being thwarted by the German invasion in September 1939; the restrictions placed on Jews; the beating of his father and the effect this had on him as a child; moving to the ghetto; his education in the ghetto; the library in the ghetto; his struggle with having fun as a youth and dealing with the terrible conditions in the ghetto; work in the ghetto; his bar mitzvah; the selections for deportation; his family’s final meal before being deported; his first love in the ghetto; and writing in a diary while he lived in the ghetto and keeping it until he arrive in Auschwitz.