David Levi works in an internment camp in Sossano, Italy.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 54999
- Photo Designation
LABOR CAMPS/MINOR CAMPS -- Italy -- General
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ruth Levy Folkman
David Levi works in an internment camp in Sossano, Italy.
- Clara and David Levy are the parents of the donor. Clara was born as Kreindl Klara Kupersztajn on March 18, 1921, in Bilgoraj, Poland. She was the youngest of seven children of Salomon Sholom Kupersztajn, a musician and Chana Szwarcberg Kupersztajn. The oldest was Israel (Sruel), followed by Hinda, Efraim (Froim), Wolf, Leib and Shaye. In 1933 the Kupersztajn family moved to Warsaw and settled in the Wola section of the city. Klara started to attend school and graduated in June 1939. While Klara attended school in the evening, she worked during the day in a dental lab. Her brother Wolf worked in a "Majde" soap factory. In August 1939 Klara visited with her sister Hinda and her family in a small town Zwierzyniec, some 10 miles east of Bilgoraj. Wolf Kupersztajn, who was married to Sura and had a little boy Marek, was paid by the owners of the soap factory with soap and candles.
Klara returned to Warsaw and joined her parents and brother and together they survived the month of bombing and hunger until the city surrendered. They exchanged the soap and candles for food. After the German Army entered the city, the anti-Jewish repressions started immediately. In October 1940 the German authorities announced the formation of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. The Kupersztajn family had to move into a room in a crowded apartment at Nowolipie Street in the ghetto. Klara would take off her armband marking her as a Jew, and leave the perimeter of the crowded and starving ghetto. She sold the remnants of soap and candles on the so-called Aryan side of Warsaw and purchased food for her family. Klara was able to get false documents in the name of Klara Dulman, identifying her as a Polish Catholic girl. Together with other young Jews, they formed a group with a goal of leaving occupied Poland and reaching the Soviet zone. The journey was long and arduous, but they were able to cross the border only to be arrested by the Soviets. At first they were sent to Gomel in Belarus and from there Klara and her friends were deported to a forced labor camp on the Volga River in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia. The prisoners, and Klara among them, worked in extreme cold, cutting trees and building roads. They were treated as enemies of the Soviet State. Klara was transferred many times to other camps in Siberia where conditions were just as miserable. Many of the prisoners died of hunger, disease and exposure. Klara found out after the war that two of her brothers: Israel Sroel and Leib died in Russia. Shaye was killed while trying to cross the border from occupied Poland into the Russian territory. Only her brother Efraim Froim with his wife Chana, survived the ordeal, but their two small children died.
In 1946 Klara returned to Poland to search for her family, but it became clear that none survived. Leib Kupersztajn with his wife Ryfka and baby daughter Henia perished. Klara's parents and her brother Wolf with his wife Sura and son Marek, all were murdered either in the Warsaw ghetto or in the Treblinka death camp. Her sister Hinda Kupersztajn Biberman with three little girls: Roni, Dobi and Sara, found a hiding place in Maniewicze with a Polish woman, Mrs. Lidia Potocka, but her neighbor denounced them to the Gestapo and all, including Mrs. Potocka, were executed. She found out that Hinda's husband, Leib Biberman perished in a forced labor camp. Klara was able to locate a cousin who survived on false papers, and even though the war was over, he continued to live as a Catholic.
Klara decided to leave Poland. With the help of the Jewish illegal organization "Bricha," she escaped first to Austria and then Italy. Klara located cousins and decided to stay in the Bagnoli displaced persons camp in Naples There she met a survivor from Banja Luka in Yugoslavia (Bosnia).
David Levi was born on February 12, 1912 in Banja Luka. He was one of ten children of Moses Levi and Rachel Montiljo Levi. Upon graduating from elementary school David started his vocational training in plumbing, heating and metalwork. David served in the Yugoslav Army and later opened his own business. The Germans and their allies invaded Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941. At that time David served in the Yugoslav Air Force and was taken as a POW, but managed to escape to his parents' home. They urged him to escape. David Levi reached Split and found work in a cement factory. This area was under Italian occupation and the Jews were interned in Sossano, Italy, about 90 km west of Venice. In September 1943 the Germans seized control of northern Italy and Rome. David Levi escaped from the internment camp and hid in a backyard of a woman for whom he worked. Despite urging of the local priest and the woman who hid him to convert to Christianity, David refused. He continued to stay at the farm until the liberation by the US Army in April 1945.
David found out after the liberation that only one sister and one brother from his family survived and the rest of this big family were murdered probably in the Jasenovac camp in Croatia.
David reached Venice where he was reunited with the Jewish community and became deeply involved with the activities of the "Jewish Brigade." These activities involved smuggling survivors into Italy and later recruiting them into the "Hagana" in preparation for the War of Independence in Palestine. At the same time David started to teach plumbing in the DP camps in Italy, so the survivors arriving in Palestine would have a profession.
David and Klara met in the Bagnoli DP camp in Naples. They were married in 1949 in Bari, Italy by Rabbi Alberto Altaras, originally from Banja Luka. Klara's brother Froim and his wife and two children born in Italy, immigrated to Israel. The conditions in the new country were very difficult and Froim wrote to Klara not to come to Israel. Klara, now Clara Levy and David Levy boarded the ship SS "General Hershey" and arrived in New York on September 12, 1950, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). They settled in Passaic, NJ. They established a plumbing and heating business. Their three children were born in New Jersey: Ruth Levy Folkman was born in 1953; Mark Levy was born in 1955 and Helene Levy Diamond was born in 1960.
David Levy passed away on December 29, 2000 and Clara died on August 14, 2011.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Ruth Levy FolkmanSource Record ID: Collections: 2012.30.1
Record last modified: 2016-04-12 00:00:00
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