Adam and Irena Gilert photograph collection
The collection consists of photographs of friends and family of Adam and Irena Gilert from Warsaw, Poland, and photographs documenting the Gilerts' escape from German-occupied Poland. The photographs also depict memorial services commemorating the Warsaw ghetto uprising and Jewish members of a Communist youth organization called the "Young Pioneers."
- Document Creator
- Irena Gilert
Adam Gilert was born Abram Gilert in Warsaw, Poland, on January 16, 1919. He was the middle son of Szmuel Gilert and Nechama Szychman Gilert. His older brother, Bernard (Beniek), was born in 1914, and his younger brother, Izaak, was born on May 1, 1920. Both Yiddish and Polish were spoken at home. The Gilert family lived at 46 Stawki Street in Warsaw. Szmuel Gilert was a baker. He was employed in his family’s bakery; however, after the death of his father, he worked in other bakeries. Eventually he could only obtain work two or three days a week. Szmuel planned to emigrate from Poland to America, but Nechama objected to this plan, hoping to join her brother in London, England. Szmuel was a member of the Jewish Labor Bund (Ogólny Zydowski Zwiazek Robotniczy "Bund" w Polsce) and was active in the bakers’ association, but the financial situation of the Gilert family was very difficult at times. Bernard, Adam’s older brother became a dental technician, and Izaak, after finishing his education, worked in sales.
Adam, after graduating from high school, continued his education at the Free University of Poland and at the Warsaw branch of YIVO (Yidisher visnshaftlekher institute). Adam took literature and psychology courses. In order to earn a living, Adam found employment in a small metal factory and later in a fountain pen factory “Tosca” and “Syrena,” where he earned 15 zloty per week.
From an early age Adam was involved in the Communist organization, “Young Pioneers,” and during the summers he participated in illegal summer camps for youth. In 1936 as a teenager Adam joined the Communist organization “KZMP” (Communist Organization of Polish Youth/ Komunistyczny Zwiazek Mlodziezy Polski.). Adam was active mainly in the metal workers’ association, where he was in charge of leaflet distribution etc.
Irena Ida Gilert was born Ida Cukierman in Warsaw, Poland, on December 31, 1921. She was the youngest daughter of Rachel Rozka Jagodowicz and Szlomo Cukierman, a sculptor. Ida had three siblings: Niutka, b. 1910; Chaim (Heniek) b. 1911, and Josef Jozek, b. 1914. The Cukierman family resided on 24 Muranowska Street.
In elementary school Irena joined the communist “Young Pioneers” organization for children. After finishing elementary school Irena started to attend a ballet school affiliated with the Warsaw Opera. She was mistreated in the school, and after a short while Irena left and started to work in a textile factory.
After the German attack on Poland on September 1, 1939, Adam, his brother, Izaak, and a group of friends left Warsaw and walked eastwards. Their father accompanied them as far as the bridge across the Vistula River. That was the last time the brothers saw their father. They reached L´vov, Poland, (now L´viv, Ukraine) on September 17, 1939. Irena Cukierman arrived in L´vov shortly afterwards. They decided to continue their journey eastwards, and on November 7, 1939, they reached Gomel´ (Homel´) in Byelorussia (Belarus). Adam found employment in a machine factory, and Irena worked in a textile factory.
In June 1941, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the factory was evacuated to Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg), Russia, but as Polish citizens the group from L´vov was not allowed to stay in the district capital. They moved to Chelabinsk where Adam worked as a metal operator in a machine factory.
The winter of 1941/1942 was unusually cold, and Izaak became ill with pneumonia. The temperatures plummeted to -40F. Adam and Irena and two other couples (Nachman & Lola Gliksztajn and Blimka & Jasza Lichtensztajn) were expelled from Chelabinsk, leaving Izaak to stay there alone.
Adam got a job in an electrical power building company (“Energoremtrust”) and at first worked in Novo Troick, near Frunze (now Bishkek) in Kyrgyzstan, overhauling the power station of a sugar factory. In January 1944 Adam was drafted into the Red Army, but after six months he was released. On March 13, 1944, Irena gave birth to Edward, their first child. Irena was alone during this difficult period and even had to sell her coat to buy food. On October 3, 1945, their daughter, Liliana, was born in Khantagi in Kazakhstan while Adam was working in a sugar factory there.
In May 1946 the Gilert family repatriated to Szczecin, Poland. They discovered that none of their family members in Warsaw had survived. Irena’s parents and three siblings and Adam’s parents and oldest brother with his wife and baby daughter had all perished.
Irena developed tuberculosis and had to be hospitalized in a sanatorium in Otwock, Poland, near Warsaw. Adam took a job as a guard in a Jewish children’s home. He later got a job as an administrator of a Jewish youth home in Warsaw and finished a bookkeeping course.
In 1948 Adam was employed in the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and for the next three years he was posted to Paris, France. A few years later Adam took advantage of a special educational program, and in 1961 he graduated with a degree in International Organizations. For the next five years Adam Gilert worked for the Polish Academy of Sciences in the area of Polish-Soviet relations. During the same time Adam worked for the Jewish Committee organizing summer camps for Jewish youth in Poland. During the last year of his residence in Poland, Adam worked for the Polish-Jewish newspaper “Folks Sztyme” (Our Voice.)
Izaak Gilert, his wife, Rachel, and their four children were able to leave the Soviet Union with the help of Adam and come to Poland in 1956. In 1969 they immigrated to Israel. Izaak died in 1998.
Irena and Adam Gilert left Poland in October 1969 and settled in Jerusalem, Israel. After a short while Adam became the head of the interlibrary loan department of the National Library at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since his retirement in 1984, Adam volunteers his services in the same area.
As of May 2004, their son, Edward, a psychologist, his wife, Elzbieta, a microbiologist, and their daughter, a ballet dancer, live in Gothenburg (Göteborg), Sweden. Their daughter, Liliana, a microbiologist, her husband, Igor, and their three children live in Jerusalem, Israel.
- System of Arrangement
- The collection is arranged as a single series.
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- The collection was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Adam and Irena Gilert.
- Conditions on Access
- No restrictions on access
- Conditions on Use
- No restrictions on use
Record last modified: 2021-05-25 15:07:04
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