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Studio portrait of a Jewish family who survived the war in Slovakia.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 74916

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    Studio portrait of a Jewish family who survived the war in Slovakia.
    Studio portrait of a Jewish family who survived the war in Slovakia.

Seated are Czarna, Bronia and Simon Spielman.  Standing are Arthur and Henia.


    Studio portrait of a Jewish family who survived the war in Slovakia.

    Seated are Czarna, Bronia and Simon Spielman. Standing are Arthur and Henia.
    Bratislava, [Slovakia] Czechoslovakia
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Arthur Spielman

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Arthur Spielman
    Source Record ID: Collections: 2005.359.1

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Arthur (Menachem) Spielman is the son of Shimon and Czarna (Stiel) Spielman. He was born on December 10, 1928 in Krakow, Poland where his father was in the shoe business. He had two younger sisters. Henia (later Helen) was born January 22, 1931, and Bronia (later Barbara) was born February 14, 1939. His father had five siblings, his mother had four, and their extended family numbered approximately 200 people. Arthur attended Heder and Polish elementary school. After failing second grade because he was Jewish, he transferred to the Jewish Yesodei Torah School. At the start of the war Shimon fled East, but the rapid German advance stopped him, and he returned home. Since Shimon was born in Slovakia, he was considered a foreign national and exempt from many anti-Jewish regulations. However, the family felt safer living among Jews and therefore voluntarily moved to the ghetto after it was constructed in March 1941. They shared an apartment with Arthur's grandparents, and Shimon ran a small shoe workshop. In June 1942, the Germans rounded-up some 5,000 Jews from the ghetto, including Arthur's grandparents, and sent them to Belzec where they were murdered. After this event, Shimon decided that the family should leave the ghetto, and they escaped to a nearby town, Wola Duchatska, (adjacent to Plaszow) with the help of a Christian acquaintance. As foreign nationals, the Spielmans lived in an isolated farmhouse in a potato field, and Arthur and his father walked to work every day past a railroad track construction site that used Jewish forced labor. They always left food behind for the other Jews to retrieve. The family heard that the Wieliczka ghetto where they had many relatives was about to be liquidated. Arthur walked 12 kilometers there to try to rescue his family and succeeded in bringing two younger cousins back with him; the rest of the family was taken away. During this period they also sheltered for several weeks the wife and children of the Bobover rebbe, who had succeeded in fleeing the Bochnia ghetto. In the summer of 1943 three robbers wielding guns broke into their house and stole almost everything except the clothing they were wearing. Soon thereafter, their situation deteriorated further, and they heard that foreign Jews would no longer be exempt from deportation. Arthur's family decided to flee to Hungary via Slovakia. Arthur left first in a group with twelve others, including one cousin. They boarded a train headed to the Tatra Mountains where they were met by two men in the woods. After three days their guides disappeared, but they continued walking in the same direction. Eventually the Slovak border police caught them. Though the Slovak police imprisoned them, they also fed them and treated them well. A few days later, the police sent the group to Liptovsky Svaty Mikulas where a Jewish organization sent the individuals to private homes for a few days. Arthur then stayed with a Jewish family in Preshov, on the Hungarian border. After the end of the Sukkoth holiday, Arthur was smuggled into Hungary and was left in a synagogue in the town of Joshiva. The people in the synagogue had no desire to help Arthur and told him to go to the police who incarcerated Arthur and his cousin for four days before releasing them into the custody of a Jewish orphanage. Other children from Krakow found their way to the orphanage as well.

    Henia was the next member of the family to flee Poland, followed by her parents and younger sister. Like Arthur, she was caught at the border, sent to jail and from there transferred to a Jewish orphanage, where she met her cousin Miriam. Miriam told her that Arthur had been brought there as well. Their parents also were arrested after crossing the border. After their release, Czarna and Shimon managed to obtain false papers under the name of Nieczkowski and moved to Miskolc. There, they befriended a Polish officer who told them what had had happened to their children and offered to help get them out of the orphanage. However, he could only release one child at a time. Miriam left first followed by Arthur. By the time it was Henia's turn, the Germans had occupied Hungary, and the opportunity for escape had been closed off. In April 1944, on the day the Jewish population of Miskolc was deported, the Polish officer found Henia and told her to follow him. They hid in a restaurant belonging to a friend for one day and early the next morning reached Henia's parents. While in Miskolc the family went to church and hung a large cross in their house, but Shimon secretly put on tefillin (phylacteries) and prayed as a Jew every day. After their liberation by the Soviet army on December 3, 1944, Shimon bought whiskey for the soldiers. As it turned out, some of it was bad and some soldiers became ill as a result. Shimon was arrested for sabotage and jailed for three weeks. After his release, he returned with Arthur to Krakow to try to find other relatives. After a pogrom broke out and survivors were attacked in the synagogue, they returned to Budapest, and then the family moved to Bratislava, where they stayed for six months before making their way to Germany. From there they stayed in Gabersee DP camp for three years until they were able to immigrate to the U.S. in May 1949.
    Record last modified:
    2005-09-14 00:00:00
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