Elias Feinzilberg, Halocaust Survivor

Look at this photo taken in 1934 of the Feinzilbergs, just 6 years before the Nazis arrived in Lodz. Elias had five sisters and one younger brother. Lodz, located in central Poland, held one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe, second only to Warsaw. When the Nazis attacked, Poles and Jews worked frantically to dig ditches to defend their city. Only seven days after the attack on Poland began, Lodz was occupied. Within days of Lodz's occupation, the Jews of the city became targets for beatings, robberies, and seizure of property. The Feinzilberg family and 204,000 Jews from various countries were first sent to Lodz Ghetto. The Holocaust refers to the systematic murder of more than six million Jews orchestrated by Adolph Hitler and the National Socialist (Nazi) Party in Europe during World War II. Eliaz Feinzilberg, now age 98, came to the Jerusalem Center to share his experiences with the students. A few days after the Nazis arrived in Lodz, his family was forced to leave their home. His mother, sisters, and younger brother were deported to the death camp of Chelmno and his father was one of 43,500 who died of starvation. Elias spent a few months living in horrible conditions. Lack of food and daily essentials were a way of life and thousands died of disease and starvation. For the next 5 years Elias escaped death when he volunteered for slave labor in Auschwitz, it's sub-camps, and various other concentration camps throughout Germany. He said, "Later on, after the SS took my shoes and left me barefoot, a group of us were sent to another concentration camp, Dachau, in Germany. I saw a mountain of dead people and I took the shoes from a dead person. About 10 days later, 5,000 of us were placed in closed train wagons with about 50 people inside each wagon. The Soviet soldiers gave each person a large sack, the purpose of the sack we learned later, was for the person to climb into for the Soviet Soldier to seal and then throw into the river where we would drown. When the Americans had liberated Dachau May 1, 1945, Americans came in with tanks and liberated us." (He amazingly escaped and was one of 10,000 out of 204,000 who survived.) He said that later American soldiers in army trucks took him to Feldafing, an American displaced persons camp. In Feldafing, he worked in the kitchen serving food and that is where he met his wife, which he married in the camp on July 3, 1946. They traveled to Guatemala and for the next 22 years raised a family of 2 boys and 1 girl. In 1969, he and his wife moved to Jerusalem where he currently presides. He said, "I've been blessed with 7 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren." Photo of Elias today. He is the cutest little man and came to a concert at the JC Sunday night.