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Yecheskel Gastwirth (Roth) writes at his desk.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 81663

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    Yecheskel Gastwirth (Roth) writes at his desk.
    Yecheskel Gastwirth (Roth) writes at his desk.

    Overview

    Caption
    Yecheskel Gastwirth (Roth) writes at his desk.
    Date
    1939
    Locale
    Bochnia, [Krakow] Poland ?
    Variant Locale
    Salzberg
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Anne Wolfe

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Anne Wolfe
    Source Record ID: Collections: 2015.356.1

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Biography
    Anna Roth (later Anne Wolfe) is the daughter of Yecheskel Gastwirth (b. 9/15/03, New York) and Rywa Roth. Yecheskel's parents moved to New York at the turn of the century, but his mother was physically handicapped and could not navigate the steps of New York tenement houses; and so they returned to Poland a few years later. Anna was born in Krakow on June 22, 1936. Her older sister Mina was also born in Krakow on June 24, 1931. The family lived in Bochnia with Yecheskel's mother, Chaya Roth and his younger brother. In 1941 German authorities established a ghetto in Bochnia surrounded by a wall. Anna's mother escaped at night to barter food for the family. The family remained in the ghetto for over a year. Yecheskel and other neighbors, hearing about the German actions elsewhere in Poland, built a false roof under the roof of a two story building, perhaps the Ghetto's synagogue and school. In 1942, Germans began the liquidation of the ghetto. Anna's immediate family hid beneath the ceiling, but Yecheskel's mother could not climb up to the attic. She and her other son were captured and shot. Anna, peeking between some boards in the stifling hiding place, traumatically recalls seeing her grandmother and uncle dragged from their home and shot, along with other old and infirm residents of the ghetto. After the Aktion, Anna and her family hid in the attic of non-Jewish friends; the entrance was hidden behind a linen closet. Meanwhile, they heard rumors that the Germans were seeking foreign nationals to exchange for German civilians in Allied countries. Since Yecheskel was born in the States, the family decided to register with the Gestapo. In January 1943 they were sent away by train. However instead of death camps, they were brought to special transit camps. Rywa and the two girls were sent separately to Libenau and then to Vittel. Yechezkel faced worse conditions. He spent time in the Titmonning internment camp but possibly also at Auschwitz. He eventually reunited with the rest of his family in Vittel having lost considerable weight. In Vittel, girls attended school, participated in cultural activities and Yechezkel, (himself a published Yiddish author), befriended the famous Yiddish poet, Yitzchak Katzneleson. After about a year, the family were taken from Vittel to the Spanish border and transited to Lisbon where they boarded the Gripsholm, the Swedish repatriation ship. In February 1944 they arrived in New York but were denied entry and sent to Ellis Island. There they remained for some three weeks as immigration authorities could find no proof of her father's American birth. After three weeks on Ellis Island they were paroled into the country while the State Dept. continued to investigate. Immigration authorities never found proof of Yecheskel's American birth and threatened to deport the family up until 1950. The family also had to repay the State Department for their passage on the Gripsholm in regular monthly money orders. Soon after arriving in New York, Yecheskel Gastwirth wrote for the Yiddish newspaper "The Forward," describing the desperate situation of Jews in Poland. In 1947 he self-published these articles in a book entitled, "Ich Hob Gelebt oyn Polin."
    Record last modified:
    2015-04-08 00:00:00
    This page:
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