Rita Sloan collection
The collection documents the pre-war, wartime, and post-war experiences of the Slepian family of Warsaw, Poland. Included are documents, photographs, and a photograph album related to the Wasseralfingen displaced persons camp where Nathan Slepian was the director.
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Rita Sloan
- Document Creator
- Rita Sloan
Rita Slepian Sloan is the daughter of Natan Slepian. Natan was born in 1910 in Warsaw, Poland, to Itzhak and Rojza (Ryterbrand) Slepian. His father was a bookkeeper for a fashion bookstore. At the start of World War I, his family fled to Odessa, Ukraine, in advance of the German Army to join Rojza's sister and her husband, Genia and Aron Mandel, who were already living there. Itzhak opened a new bookstore, and Natan went to Russian school where he became fluent in Russian. Natan's younger brother, Harry, was born in Odessa in September 1919. At the end of the war, his father was mobilized and sent to the Western front. By then living conditions had deteriorated. Shortly thereafter, Rojza died of influenza, and Itzhak was left to care for his two young sons alone. Their life grew difficult under the Bolsheviks, and the government nationalized Itzhak's store making it increasingly difficult for him to support his family. Therefore, along with the Mandels, they fled across the Dniester River into Romania. From there they returned to Warsaw.
Itzhak opened another successful store and hired a nanny to take care of his two sons. Natan graduated from high school in 1928 and began college where he met his future wife, Marysia Tomkiewicz. Natan started working for an Italian insurance company and married Marysia on December 25, 1933. Itzhak also remarried. Though Itzhak had nine siblings who had immigrated to the New York area, he refused to leave Poland. Following the outbreak of World War II, Natan heeded the call of the Polish government to report for mobilization in Bialystok. After a long journey by foot, he arrived there to discover the city under Soviet occupation. Natan stayed with Marysia's uncle, Lezer Tomkiewicz, and found a job as a bookkeeper. Natan contacted Marysia, and she left her family in Warsaw to join him in Bialystok. In spring 1940 after Natan and Marysia refused to relinquish their Polish passports, the NKVD arrested them and deported them to a labor camp in the Republic of Komi in the Soviet Union near the Arctic Circle.
The men in the gulag worked as lumberjacks, and the women did household chores and foraged for wild berries. Each five-person brigade had to fulfill a quota in order to get the full food ration. Natan became a supervisor because of his language skills. Natan received one letter from his father in Warsaw. After Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, four men, including Natan, were taken to the local prison and interrogated as spies. He was imprisoned and sentenced to an additional ten years in the gulag. About two months later, the Polish government-in-exile struck a deal with the Soviet Union, and the prisoners were released. Natan and Marysia remained in Syktykar in Komi. Natan worked as a bookkeeper in a meat factory and later as a road controller, and they lived in the home of a widow, Maria Vesilievna. Marysia gave birth to Rita on December 30, 1943.
Finally, in the spring of 1944, the Soviet government allowed the deportees to go west, and the Slepians moved near Kiev, Ukraine, where Natan worked as a bookkeeper for a local state farm. They returned to Warsaw in the spring of 1946 to find that almost no Jews were living there. Their parents and almost all of their family had perished under the Nazis. However, they discovered that Marysia's cousin, Jerzy (Zvi) Tomkiewicz, was working for a Jewish agency in Łódź, Poland, and joined him there. He arranged for them to go to Germany by way of Czechoslovakia through Bricha (Berihah). Marysia was eight months pregnant at that time. Her second daughter, Pauline, was born after they arrived in Munich, Germany.
From Munich, they were settled in the Wasseralfingen DP camp. The town's German population had been resettled to make way for the displaced persons. Because of his linguistic skills, Natan was sent to a training center in Bad Wiessee, Germany, to learn about the American administrative system. The American authorities later appointed him to be the leader of Wasseralfingen, a camp of some 1900 people. After some time, Natan's brother, Harry, and his wife and two children arrived at the camp. Harry had attended medical school before the war and had become a physician's assistant. In the spring of 1949 the Slepians immigrated to the United States on board the cargo vessel, Marine Jumper. With the help of Marysia's cousin, Jerzy Tomkiewicz, who had come to the United States two years earlier, they settled in Detroit, Michigan.
- 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 Rita Sloan.
- Conditions on Access
- No restrictions on access
- Conditions on Use
- No restrictions on use
Record last modified: 2020-10-02 09:52:27
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn521835