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Gaerber family papers

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2003.460.1

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    The papers consist of 17 false documents that enabled the Gaerber family of Lvov, Poland (Lʹviv, Ukraine) to survive the Holocaust.
    inclusive:  1937-1944
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ed Gaerber
    Collection Creator
    Ed Gaerber
    Edgar (Ed) Gaerber was born on August 28, 1929, in Lvov, Poland (Lʹviv, Ukraine) to Dr. Bernard and Fanka Rosenmann Gaerber. The family lived in Zloczow, about forty miles from Lvov, where Dr. Gaerber practiced medicine. He had met Fanka in Vienna while studying medicine. The Jewish population of the town numbered 6000, a majority of the population. The family was well off and Edgar’s father owned one of only four cars in town. In 1938, Fanka’s mother came to live with the family.

    On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. In two weeks Lvov was surrounded and, a week later, the Soviet Union invaded from the east. The family left for Zaleszczyki planning to cross the border into Romania. At the crossing they met Jan Kwapinski, a Socialist and former mayor of Łódź, Poland. He convinced them not to flee Poland and that the Soviets would protect them. They returned to Lvov where the Soviets immediately confiscated Dr. Gaerber’s automobile. His medical practice was closed and he had to work at a clinic. Most businesses were nationalized and Jewish organizations were closed. Edgar attended a Russian school. Kwapinski stayed with the Gaerber family for a few months, then was deported to Siberia.

    In June 1941, Germany retook the region when it invaded the Soviet Union. Edgar and his mother were in nearby Kalusz during the German invasion. They went to Lvov but later made their way back to Zloczow. The German occupation was brutal. Immediately after German troops entered Zloczow, the local Ukrainians organized a pogrom, during which 2000 Jews were murdered. Labor camps were set up and Jews were taken for forced labor. The Gaerber family had to leave their home and moved to an apartment above a drugstore. Edgar’s father prepared a hiding place between the floor of their apartment and the ceiling of the store and the four hid there during a roundup. In the spring 1942, Dr. Gaerber wrote to the daughter of Jan Kwapinski in Warsaw and asked for help. Her husband Jerzy Strzalkowski came to Zloczow and arranged to have photographs taken to make false identity documents for the family. Edgar’s maternal grandmother was placed in hiding near Zloczow. Jerzy drove to Zloczow in a truck to pick up Edgar and his parents, along with Hela Kitaj, Fanka’s friend, whose husband was murdered in the pogrom, and take them to Warsaw. They stayed for 3 or 4 nights in Belzec where a horrible smell permeated the air. They assumed identities as Roman Catholics, Dr Gaerber was Wladyslaw Sobieraj, a bookkeeper, Fanka was Zofia, a kindergarten teacher, and Edgar was now Wiktor, but called Garus by his parents. After a while, they moved to a nearby village, Jastrzeb. In spring1944, they found a place in Milanowek on the outskirts of Warsaw. They were discovered by the Germans and Edgar had to jump out a window. They hid elsewhere and their former Polish landlord robbed them of all valuables and they were now penniless. A Polish acquaintance gave them a key to his factory in Warsaw and they hid there. Dr. Gaerber was very sick with jaundice and even contemplated suicide. They moved to a village on the outskirts of the city, where Edgar, called Garus by his parents, stole fruit and vegetables from the neighboring farms to feed himself and his parents. Dr. Gaerber, who was a redhead, had to dye his hair black, since Polish stereotypes identified any redhead as a Jew. When they ran out of dye and could not afford more, he had to shave his head. There was a German military post on the farm where they were hiding and patrols were frequent. Dr. Gaerber had Strychnine pills ready in case they were discovered as Jews. A few weeks later, circa fall 1944, they moved again to a village near Lowicz. Edgar sold cigarettes to support the family.

    In January 1945, the Soviet Army liberated the area. Edgar, his parents, and Hela Kitaj went to Warsaw, and then to Łódź. Dr. Gaerber set up a medical practice. Edgar began high school in Łódź. He traveled on his own to Warsaw and on one trip, passengers who recognized that he was Jewish threatened to throw him out the moving train. This and news of virulent anti-semitism in Poland made it clear to the family that they could not stay in Poland. In the fall 1946, they went to Paris, France. In 1949, they immigrated to Canada and settled in Regina, Saskatchewan. His father changed his specialization to psychiatry. Ed completed high school, then obtained a degree from McGill University. In 1961, Ed married Marilyn Jacobson, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia. They settled in Vancouver, Canada, and had three sons. Ed was deeply involved with the local Jewish community. Ed, 83, passed away on December 28, 2012.

    Physical Details

    1 folder
    System of Arrangement
    The collection is arranged as a single series.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    L'viv (Ukraine)

    Administrative Notes

    The papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2003 by Ed Gaerber.
    Record last modified:
    2023-12-01 14:56:16
    This page:

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