Saturday, September 29, 2007
survivors, part 2
The house where Sigmund Mandelbaum (of blessed memory) lived in Dzialoszyce, Poland is still standing, but it is locked and empty. Once, 5600 Jews lived in Dzialoszyce, more than 75 percent of the town’s population. In 1942, the Nazis took the elderly Jews of the town, including Sigmund’s father and stepmother, to a pit and shot them. The rest – Sigmund, his sister and brother-in-law and their children among them – were marched to trains and sent to concentration camps. Only Sigmund survived. He spent three years in the camps – Auschwitz, Stuttgart, Stutthof, Buchenwald and finally Theresienstadt, from which he was liberated. Sigmund came to Kansas City in 1946. Within two years, he married Helen and owned a grocery store. “I didn’t know the language; I didn’t know the goods,” he said, “but Helen told me: ‘Honey, I trust you. You’ll make it.’”
After the war began, Molly Nagel was in the synagogue with her family as the Nazis were searching for Jews. Her father covered everyone with a prayer shawl, preparing to die martyrs’ deaths for the sanctification of God’s name. Instead, a bomb exploded at a door near Molly, injuring her leg. The family was able to flee to Bialystock. So hungry that she ate grass, Molly was fortunate to eventually find a job sorting potatoes. She met and married her husband, Sam, in Siberia. “We put up a chuppah [bridal canopy],” she recalls. “My husband brought me two eggs, and I got a bit of flour and made cookies.” Released from Siberia, the Nagels returned to Poland, only to have rocks thrown at them. From there, they stayed in a displaced persons camp in Germany. They immigrated to Kansas City in 1949. Sam earned $40 a week, saving enough in 18 months to buy a house. Molly took a job with a toy company and later worked as a salesperson in Sam’s shoe shop. They have two children and three grandchildren.
Iser Cukier (of blessed memory) was born in Czestochowa, Poland. His parents employed eight people to run a bakery that produced pretzels and crackers. The bakery occupied the same building as the Cukier’s apartment. A live-in maid made it possible for Iser’s parents to work together. Iser was the seventh and youngest child. Iser became a men’s tailor. He had his own shop in Zawiercie and employed ten people. He married and took his new wife on a six-week honeymoon skiing. The Nazis appreciated Iser’s skills enough to let him live and supervise 300 people making uniforms. His wife and 18-month old child, having no such value to the Nazis, were murdered, as was the rest of his family except for two brothers. After liberation, Iser went to Paris. He worked for a designer and married Tola Gottlieb. They stayed in Paris for seven years; Iser taught design at the university. In 1952 they immigrated to the U.S. Iser thinks everything is relative. He didn’t suffer as much as his first wife, as Tola, or as his family, so in some ways he feels fortunate. Nevertheless, he says, “This is in our heart and mind. We live with it, we sleep with it, we think of it, and we pray that it won’t happen again.”