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Group portrait of a fourth or fifth grade class in Bielsko Biala. Among them are approximately eight Jewish orphans from a nearby children's home.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 27171

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    Group portrait of a fourth or fifth grade class in Bielsko Biala. Among them are approximately eight Jewish orphans from a nearby children's home.
    Group portrait of a fourth or fifth grade class in Bielsko Biala.  Among them are approximately eight Jewish orphans from a nearby children's home.

Among those pictured is Irena Ceder standing third from the right.


    Group portrait of a fourth or fifth grade class in Bielsko Biala. Among them are approximately eight Jewish orphans from a nearby children's home.

    Among those pictured is Irena Ceder standing third from the right.
    Circa 1945 - 5032
    Bielsko Biala, [Silesia] Poland
    Variant Locale
    Biala Bielsko
    Biala Bilits
    Biala Krakowska
    Bielitz Biala
    Byelsko Biala
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Irene Rogers

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Irene Rogers

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Irene Rogers (born Irena Irka Ceder) is the daughter of Sucher (Issachar) Ceder and Mania (Miriam) Zilberstein Ceder. She was born on May 19, 1935 in Warsaw Poland where her father was a merchant. The family lived on Zamenhof 4, Swientojerska in the Bielanska section of the city. Her father, the son of Mordechai (Mietek) was born in Komsk, and her mother, the daughter was of Chaim Yaakov Zilberstein and Yenta Kirshenblat. Irena had two older siblings, a sister Sara (now Sarah Schneck) and a brother Mordechai. On September 1, 1939, when Irena was only five years old, Germany invaded Poland. After intense bombardment of the city, German troops entered Warsaw on September 29 and forced the men to work in the local factories. One day Irena's father was beaten, and he decided to run away with Mordechai to the Russian side of the border and intended to bring his family to safety in Bialystok. He arranged with some gentiles to escort Sara over the border and bring her to him. Since Sara was blond and Aryan looking the Nazis allowed her to cross the border, but the escorts could not locate Sucher and so Sara had no alternative but to return home to Warsaw. Meanwhile, Sucher, who had come to Bialystok, sensed what was happening in Warsaw and finally arranged for his wife and daughters to escape with the help of some Poles. Had they remained at home in Warsaw two weeks later, they would have become trapped in the ghetto. Sucher hired gentiles to ferret the rest of the family to safety. They had to run through the forest and cross a river while eluding flood lights on the banks. Mania placed her hand over Irena's mouth to keep her quiet until they safely made it over the border. They managed to reunite with Sucher and Mordechai in Bialystok. However, life there was very difficult, and the synagogues were filled with starving refugees, so the Ceders went on to Baranowicz in Belarus and from there to Chelyabinsk, Krym, Nalchik and Simforopol in the Ukraine. There in Simforopol, Mania gave birth to another girl, Anna (Chana). Sucher supported his family by working in the steel mill. However, in June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviets wanted to conscript all men for the war effort. Sucher was permitted to remain with his family, but Mordechai had to enlist. The family did not hear from him again for eight years. Irena, her parents and two sisters fled again to escape German looting and killing. They boarded a train to Uzbekistan, overloaded with refugees. Sucher died on route at the age of 49 from possible malnutrition, dehydration and a heart attack. He was buried in unknown territory, possibly in a town called Osh in Uzbekistan. Mania and three girls arrived in Tashkent and went from there to Andizhan. The Uzbek people were very friendly and hospitable, but there was very little food available since most of it was sent to the Russian troops at front. The refugees suffered from disease including typhus and dysentary and malnutrition. The family lived in a one room mud house. Shortly after arrival, Irena's mother and two-year-old sister passed away. Mania was 42 years old. Sara, who was only 18, was left to care for Irena who also was suffering from malaria and undernourishment. The two sisters moved into another one room mud house belonging to a friend, Pola. Sara sold their few remaining possessions on the black marked to purchase food. She was arrested but released the next day. However, since the sisters still did not have enough to eat, Pola convinced Sara to place Irena in a nearby Jewish orphanage where she would be fed and have the companionship of children her own age. Though Sara was broken-hearted at being separated from Irena, she brought her to an orphanage at Pahta Abad Kolhoz, a farm where Muslim Uzbeks lived. They contributed the building and the orphanage was run by other Jewish refugees with the help of the Uzbeks. The orphanage also had inadequate food, but Sara managed to visit once a month and bring Irena extra food. After the war ended, Polish refugees were allowed to return to Poland. Sara took a train to a refugee camp in Munich from where she planned to immigrate to Palestine as soon as she reunited with Irena, and Irena boarded a train with the other children from the orphanage. It took them more than a month to return to Poland because so many bridges had been destroyed. When they finally arrived, the children were placed in an orphanage in Bielsko Biala along with child survivors of the ghettoes and camps. The orphanage was supported by CARE and UNRRA with the help of the Polish government and a few private individuals. For the first time she felt secure. Irena received an education, ballet , gymnastics and music, but she longed to reunite with Sara. While in the orphanage, Irena found a cousin, Mendel Ceder, who had survived in Russia with his wife and child. His father Shlomo (Irena's uncle) had immigrated to Palestine in 1934. When her Sara got in touch with him, she discovered where Irena was living. She wanted her to join her in Munich so they could go to Israel together. However, by then the Communists were in power in Poland and forbade emigration. With the help of the Zionist underground, Irena wore her entire wardrobe of three dresses and tried to escape. However, she was caught at the border and forced to return to the orphanage. Eventually in 1950 Mendel was able to arrange for Irena to leave the orphanage and accompany him and his family to Israel. Miraculously Irena's older brother Mordechai survived the war in the Russian army. He tried to enter Palestine, was intercepted by the British and interned in Cyprus for two years unaware that any other family members were alive. When Mordechai contacted his uncle in Israel, he learned that his sisters had survived. When Irena arrived in Israel with her cousin's family, she reunited with Sara who she and not seen for four years and Mordechai who she had not seen for eight years. After immigrating to Israel, Irena settled in Kibbutz Givat Chaim with other child survivors. She entered the Israeli army and later studied nursing. After a year of nursing school she was released form the army and became an operating room nurse in Tiberius, and eventually head nurse. In 1959 she came on an exchange visa to New York to work in Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx. She was greeted by her cousins Leon and Lilly Klein who had immigrated to Argentina before the war. Irene met and married Gerald Rogers. They have four children and eight grandchildren.
    Record last modified:
    2007-03-16 00:00:00
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