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Isaac Kraicer papers

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2000.363

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    Consists of twenty-one photographs depicting Isaac Kraicer in the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp and during his work for the "Bricha" in Berlin as well as one certificate issued by ORT to Rachel Kraicer, Isaac's wife, in the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp.
    inclusive:  1946-1947
    Collection Creator
    Isaac Kraicer
    Icek (Icus) Krajcer was born on May 22, 1925, in Gostynin, Poland, to Lejzor ben Aharon and Golda Rywka Korn Krajcer. Golda was originally from a nearby town, Zychlin, where her two brothers, Jakub and Mendel Korn, had a barbershop. Lejzor had two brothers: Itche, born in 1917, and Moshe, born in 1912, and a sister Rywa, who was married to Chaim Boruch Trojanowski. Together, the four men operated a wholesale poultry business. Icek had two younger brothers: Michal, born in 1926, and Szyja Fajwel, born in 1931. The family resided in a rented apartment. Upon completion of his education, Icek was sent to Zychlin to apprentice as a barber. He participated in Poaley Zion, a Zionist youth organization.

    On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded and occupied Poland. Icek remained in Zychlin with his maternal relatives until 1940, when he returned to his family. Immediately after German forces entered the town in September, there were mass arrests and attacks on Jews, as well as looting and the requisitioning of Jewish property. Jews were ordered to destroy the old wooden synagogue by cutting it into pieces and distributing the wood for German inhabitants to use as fuel. The Germans set up a Jewish ghetto which was soon sealed and surrounded by barbed wire. The Krajcer family was forced to move in with Fajga Krajcer Unger, with five families living in the same house. Life was very hard in the ghetto and disease and hunger were common. Itche and Icek smuggled food in from outside the ghetto.

    The Germans began rounding up men for service in a forced labor camp. Icek was caught, but managed to escape. He fled to Zychlin, but his grandparents convinced him to return to Gostynin. In June 1941, Itche, Icek, and Lejzor were rounded up in a search for forced laborers. Itche escaped, but Lejzor was put on a truck for transport to a labor camp. Icek begged a German officer to let him take his father’s place. The German beat him, but then agreed to the exchange and released Lejzor. Icek escaped from the heavily guarded truck a little later and returned to the ghetto. In August, Lejzor and his brother-in-law, Szyje Unger, were caught and deported to a labor camp. In February 1942, Icek and his uncle Itche escaped from the ghetto and fled to Strzegowo, where they worked digging peat. That April 16-17, the Germans liquidated the Gostynin ghetto and sent the remaining residents, nearly 2,000 people, including Icek's mother and youngest brother, to Chelmno death camp. His other brother, Michal, was deported to Konin in the final transport from Gostynin. In the fall of 1942, the Germans liquidated the Strzegowo ghetto, but Icek and Itche managed to escape again. Itche went back to Gostynin. Icek went to Warsaw, but could not get into the Jewish ghetto, so he decided to return to Gostynin. He stopped along the way in Lowicz, where, for a fee, a Polish youth let him assume his identity, Stanislaw Goralczyk, and take his place on a transport of young Polish men being sent to Germany as forced labor. Icek first worked at a railyard in Porta, Westphalia, Germany. After he received a labor identity card, he went to work at the railyard in Minden where he had to undergo a medical examination. At his first examination, the doctor announced that he was circumcised and therefore Jewish, but Icek denied it. So the doctor sent him to the health department. The doctor there, a Nazi Party member, shouted at him “Get undressed, you Polish pig.” He pulled his pants down, took blood samples, did others tests, and kicked Icek out. Weeks later, Icek was called in by his supervisor who asked what was wrong with him. Icek said the doctors had asked him, but he did not know. The supervisor put the papers aside, told him to get to work, and never asked him about it again. Every day, there were railroad cars coming in from the east with used clothing for a nearby factory. Icek remembers seeing cars from Bendzin, Poland, filled with household belongings and Hebrew prayer books from deported Jews. His best friend at the time talked to him of how he would throw rocks at any Jew who walked near him. During the years he worked in Germany, Icek never met a Jew; he thought of himself as the only Jew alive.

    When the region was liberated in April 1945, Icek resumed his true identity. Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. He went to the British Military government and got an id with his own name on it. In July, he went to Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp, where he became active as a courier for Haganah, an underground military organization for Palestine. They sent him to work for Bricha, an organization that illegally smuggled Jews out of Eastern Europe. Icek was sent to work in Berlin, where he led Jews from Szczecin to Berlin-Hannover. He had always been very active in sports and participated in athletic competitions organized in the DP camp by the Jewish Brigade, a Palestinian unit within the British Army.

    No other members of his mother’s or father’s family survived. Icek learned that his mother, Golda, and youngest brother, Szyja Falwel, had been murdered in Chelmno and his other brother, Michal, in Konin. After his return to Gostynin, his uncle Itche had been betrayed by a Polish family in 1943 and shot by the Germans. His father, Lejzor, and his uncle, Szyje Unger, perished in a labor camp.

    At some point, Icek changed his name to Isaac Kraicer. While in Bergen, he met his future wife, Rachel Struczanski, a survivor from Smorgon, Lithuania. Isaac and Rachel emigrated to Palestine in 1947. They married that year on October 28 in Kiriat Chaim and went to Hachsara Hityashvut. Isaac joined the Israeli Defense Forces and fought in the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 and in the Suez war in 1956. They had two children while in Israel. In 1958, the family immigrated to the United States. They settled in Newton, MA, where the couple had a third child and Isaac opened his own barbershop.

    Physical Details

    English Hebrew
    1 folder

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    Administrative Notes

    Isaac Kraicer donated this collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2000.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-24 15:12:59
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