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Identification papers issued to Natan Slepian, director of the Wasseralfingen displaced persons' camp.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 65555

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    Identification papers issued to Natan Slepian, director of the Wasseralfingen displaced persons' camp.
    Identification papers issued to Natan Slepian, director of the Wasseralfingen displaced persons' camp.


    Identification papers issued to Natan Slepian, director of the Wasseralfingen displaced persons' camp.
    1949 March 23
    Wasseralfingen, [Baden-Wuerttemberg; Aalen] Germany
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Rita Slepian Sloane

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Rita Slepian Sloane
    Source Record ID: Collections: 2004.138.1

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Rita Sloan (born Rita Slepian) is the daughter of Natan Slepian and Marysia (nee Tomkiewicz). Natan was born in 1910 in Warsaw to Itzhak and Rojza (Ryterbrand) Slepian. Itzhak was a bookkeeper for a fashion bookstore. At the start of World War I, his family fled to Odessa 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 continued to worsen under the Bolsheviks. The government nationalized Itzhak's store, making it increasingly difficult for him to support his family. Therefore together 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 began 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 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. 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 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 there. Their parents and much of their other extended family had perished under the Nazis. After discovering that Marysia's cousin, Jerzy (Zvi) Tomkiewicz, was working for Jewish Agency in Lodz they joined him there. He arranged for them to go to Germany, by way of Czechoslovakia, through the Bricha. Marysia was at that time eight months pregnant. Her second daughter, Pauline, was born after they arrived in Munich. From there they were settled in a displaced persons' camp, Wasseralfingen. The town's German population had been resettled to make way for the DPs. Owing to his linguistic skills, the American army sent Natan to a training center in Bad Wiessee to learn about the American administrative system. They later appointed him 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 became a physician's assistant. In the spring of 1949 the Slepians immigrated to the United States on board the cargo vessel, the 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.
    Record last modified:
    2010-03-24 00:00:00
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