Minia Wasilkowski was born on May 26, 1926, in Ozorkow, Poland, to Jonah and Pesa Szulc Wasilkowski. Jonah was born in 1900 and Pesa in 1902, both in Ozorkow, where they had a large extended family. Jonah owned a jewelry and watch repair business. Minia was the third of five children: Hanka, born 1920; Eska, born 1923; Cela, born 1933; and Joseph, born 1937. Ozorkow had a thriving Jewish population and two synagogues. The Wasilkowski family were Orthodox and observant and attended services weekly. Minia and her siblings attended public school but also had religious education. Although Minia experienced anti-Semitism regularly, they lived a comfortable and happy life.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Ozorkow was bombed on September 5 and the Wasilkowski home was destroyed. Twenty four Jews were shot on the street on the first day of the invasion of Ozorkow. Both synagogues were burned to the ground and the Jewish population was forced to clean the sites. Minia and her family stayed with family and friends until they found a room at a Jewish school. Life gradually became more restricted. They were forced to wear of Star David badges on their clothes and were no longer allowed to walk on the main streets of the town. Jews were evicted from their homes and their belongings were stolen. Hanka, a teacher, escaped to Soviet occupied Bialystok and married Aaron Dawidowicz. She sent them packages of food, but they never heard from her again after 1940. Eska became ill with typhus and was taken away and murdered at a hospital in the summer of 1940. Minia and her family were evicted multiple times and were being moved toward the outskirts of town. Jonah worked in a factory and Minia made clothes for Germans to help support the family. In 1941, the Jews were moved into a small ghetto surrounded by barbed wire and German soldiers. Jonah, Pesa and Minia worked in a factory that made uniforms and hats for the Germans. Cela and Joseph were never able to attend school. The Germans decided to liquidate the ghetto in spring 1942. In April, everyone was rounded up and escorted to the school, where they were forced to disrobe and were beaten. Minia was stamped with the letter A, while her family was stamped with the letter B. Two weeks later, they were rounded up again and sent to the school, where Minia was separated from her family. She, her paternal aunt Ruzia, and cousin Moniek, along with 800 others stamped with A, were sent back to the ghetto. Minia’s family and 2000 others stamped with B were sent to Chelmno extermination camp.
In August, the Ozorkow ghetto was closed and Minia, Ruzia, and Moniek were sent to Łódź Ghetto. They narrowly escaped being sent to an extermination camp two weeks after their arrival. Conditions in Łódź were terrible. It was very cold and cramped and they were given insufficient food rations. Minia worked in an office that gave an allotment of clothes to new arrivals, clothing left behind by those who had been deported. Ruzia got her a position at a factory that produced clothing and uniforms for the Germans. The Judenrat was required to create lists of people that needed to report in for deportation. Minia was selected because she had just started at the factory. Ruzia would not let her report so Minia hid in the ghetto for ten weeks. She no longer had any rations and became very weak. In May 1944, they ran out of food so they reported in, but were not selected.
In August 1944, Minia, Ruzia, and Moniek were among the last to be deported. They were sent to Auschwitz in a cattle car. Upon arrival, Ruzia and Moniek were sent to be killed. Minia was assigned prisoner number 38888 and remained in Auschwitz II-Birkenau for ten days before being sent to Bergen-Belsen in September, where she was subjected to freezing weather and starvation. She was selected to sew tents for them to sleep in because there were no barracks. They spent hours a day standing outside and being counted. She became close friends with three other girls from Łódź, which helped keep her alive. In December, Minia and her friends were transferred to Geislingen an der Steige work camp, a subcamp of Natzweiler concentration camp. Minia was selected to work in the kitchen and began stealing potatoes to give to her friends at night. She was caught and beaten. She was then forced to work at the weapons factory in town. They were marched three miles a day to the factory in the snow with no shoes. As they were marched through the town, people watched them and laughed. Minia asked the SS commander for shoes and was kicked and beaten so severely that her right foot was permanently damaged. At the end of March as the Allied forces began to close in, Minia was sent to Allach concentration camp, a subcamp of Dachau in Germany, in April 1945. She was liberated at Allach on April 29, 1945, by the US Army 222 Infantry Regiment.
Minia was sent to Landsberg displaced persons camp. She was very malnourished at only 75 pounds and was moved to St. Ottilien Convent Hospital in May, where she was cared for by German and American doctors. When she regained her strength, she was sent to Feldafing displaced persons camp, where she worked in the kitchen. She met Leon Moszenberg at Feldafing. Leon was born on March 23, 1923, in Breslau, Germany. They were married on August 10, 1946, and moved to Traunstein. In March 1949, Minia gave birth to a daughter. Minia’s great uncle Henry in the US sponsored their visa and in May 1951, they sailed on the General Stewart to New York. In January 1952, Minia gave birth to a second daughter. Leon, age 69, died in December 1992.