Zelig Appel relaxes on a patio in Italy.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 63058
Circa 1945 - 1949
- Photo Designation
DISPLACED PERSONS/RETURN TO LIFE -- DP Camps/Postwar Communities -- Italy -- Other
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Nathan Appel
Zelig Appel relaxes on a patio in Italy.
- Stanley Appel (born Zelig Zygmunt Appel) was the youngest child of Nathan Michal Appel (b.1889) and Mariem Mindel nee Kornhauser (b.1898). Zelig was born on November 12, 1924 in Stary Sacz, Poland where his father was a fruit merchant. He had three brothers and three sisters: Aron (b.1916), Zacharia (b.1919) and Harry Chaim (b.1912), Roza (b. 1914), Berta (b.1918), and Cesia (b.1921). Aron was born with a club foot, and the family spent what little money they had taking him forunsuccessful corrective surgery. As a result they were quite poor and all shared a small apartment in a home owned by a Polish woman next door to the church. Zelig attended a Polish elementary school and in the afternoons he attended cheder, where he learned the basis of the Jewish religion. He missed classes often when he had to help support his family. Nathan's sister had moved to the United States at the turn of the century and had hoped her brother would follow. However, he feared that the familiy would not be able to live a religious lifestyle in America and turned down the offer. On the Jewish New Year, September 1939 the first Germans entered Stary Sacz. Soon after, an SS man shot one Jewish man who was chopping wood; Zelig recovered his body for burial. 1940 the Germans forced the Jews into a ghetto in town. Jews had to wear identifying armbands and abide by a restrictive curfew. Zelig shined the shoes of German soilders in exchange for food. One day, the Germans arrested seven Jewish men and held them hostage until the community ransomed them with whatever remaining valuables they still had. Zelig's father was among the seven. Two of Zeilg's brothers Zacharia Samek and Chaim (Chamek) managed to run away; their family had not contact with them for the remainder of the war. Zeilg's third brother, Aron remained with his parents as did his sisters. In 1941, Zelig was sent from the ghetto to work in Tegoborze forced labor camp. He worked there for several months but was allowed to return to Stary Sacz once a month to visit his parents. In June 1940, he was sent to Rabka, an SS training camp with an attached concentration camp. A sadistic SS officer Wilhelm Rosenbaum oversaw the Jewish prisoners. On one occasion he shot and killed a Jewish prisoner for the crime of also being named Rosenbaum. He randomly whipped Jewish prisoners with a steel tipped whip and then shot the prisoners marked with the scar on the following day. Another time, he assembled 350 prisoners for execution. Though Zelig initally was amonth them, at the last minute, Rosenbaum removed him from the group and told him he was responsible for burying the victims. Zelig remained in Rabka till August 1942. At that time, the Jewish prisoners were allowed to return home to bid farewell to their parents in advance of the liquidation of the ghetto. Zelig's brother, Aron was shot the day before the liquidation. Most of the other Jews were sent to the Balzec death camp and murdered on arrival. Zelig was transferred to the Krakow ghetto, wehre he declared that he was a carpenter. As a result, he was sent to Plaszow to build barracks for the new concentration camp. Zelig worked there for several months and in November 1943 he was transferred to Ostrowiec forced labor camp where he worked as a carpenter in the "Hermann Goering" works. His German supervisor was a decent man who provided better conditions and food than in the other camps. In the summer of 1944, the supervisor warned Zelig of an impending deportation to Auschwitz. He offered him the chance to escape, but Zelig did not take him up on the offer since he did not know anyone in the area and had nowhere to go. The following day Zelig was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, where he was tattooed with the number B-3964. He was sent to work as a carpenter in the IG Farben plant in the Buna camp, building underground cables. Zelig remained in Auschwitz until the January 1945 evacuation. He was then sent on a death march to Gleiwitz. The prisoners had to march in deep snow and freezing temperatures. Later they boarded trains for Buchenwald. By this time, Zelig experienced extreme frostbhite in all of his fingers. When he arrived in Buchemwald a prisoner approached and said, "Don't you recognize me? I am your cousin Murray Goldfinger." This was the first contact Zelig had with any family members since the liquidation of the Stary Sacz ghetto. After arriving in Buchenwald on January 26, 1945, the prisoners were sent to disinfection and then issued new uniforms. He was marked as prisoner number 123367. Zelig was issued pants that were much too large for him, and his fingers could not hold up the pants as a result of his frost bite. However, he noticed that a Russian prisoner had a leather belt. Zelig traded a piece of bread for the belt which was also much too large for him, in part owing to the amount of weight he had lost since his initial incarceration. Zelig punctured an additional hole with the sharp end of the spoon and wore the belt throughout the rest of his incarceration. (In 2012 his son, Nathan donated the belt to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.) Zelig was also given one large shoe and one small shoe. He traded shoes with another man so that they each had a pair the proper size. In 1949 he met the man with whom he had traded shoes after immigrating to the United States. Zelig was liberated on April 11, 1945. He was surprised to hear a rabbi address the survivors over the loudspeaker. The U.S. chaplain, Rabbi Hershel Schecter, organized a transport of young survivors to Switzerland. According to his arrangements with the Red Cross, participants had to have been born in 1928 or later. Zelig and his cousin Murray both joined the transport and went first to a hostel in Basel. From Switzerland Zelig traveled to Italy in the hope of immigration to Israel. However, he contracted typhus and could not complete the voyage. In the meantime, his cousin Louis Korn from America contacted him and sponsored his immigration to the States. He arrived September 9, 1949 and changed his name from Zelig to Stanley. Stanley Appel's brothers Zacharia and Chaim managed to survive and to get to Israel. Stanley and Zacharia (Samek) were reunited in the 1960s. Their parents Nathan and Miriam Appel, and their sisters Bella and Cesia were deported to the Belzec death camp where they were murdered. Their third sister Roza survived the war only to be killed by members of the Polish Armia Krajowa a few days after liberation.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Nathan Appel
Record last modified: 2015-01-29 00:00:00
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