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ALEXANDER KIMEL - HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR
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PORTRAITS OF SURVIVORS - CHAJA WEINWURZEL

by Alexander Kimel


I guess that it was my cooking that saved my life and the lives of my children. You know, I was 37 years old when my husband "Ulof Hasholem" (Shall He Rest in Peace) passed away and left me with seven small children, five girls and two boys. I had neither money nor a profession to survive, I started to cook at home. Soon I had my own restaurant business.

My restaurant specialized in fish and goose. When the war broke out and the Germans came to our town, I added German cooking, such as sauerbraten, dumplings, soups, and Wiener schnitzels. The Germans loved it. It reminded them of their mother's cooking.

Before the war two of my daughters, Esther and Shoshana, emigrated to Eretz Israel, then called Palestine, and I was left with five children. Before the liquidation of the ghetto of Ostrowiec I managed to send my oldest daughter Sarah and my daughter-in-law Pella to Warsaw. I obtained for them "Aryan" papers, with which they were able to pose as native Poles. They settled in Warsaw working as domestic help. My son Sam (Schmulek) was taken to a concentration camp. My youngest son, Baruch (Buchek) ran away to hide with his girl friend and the Germans killed them. We were told that this happened in Kielce, but we never knew for certain.

When the ghetto was liquidated, we were transferred to a labor camp for Jews. I was a cook for the workers, and my daughter Saba assisted me . After some time, we heard that the workers were being relocated to Auschwitz . Fearing the consequences, I ran off with Saba. At the edge of town (Ostrowiec), a Polish peasant hid us in a cellar. We stayed there for a few weeks until the peasant's neighbors denounced us to the Germans.

Resigned to my fate, being sure that we would be shot I said to my daughter: "At least there will be a "Zecher." from our family. Esther and Shoshana are in the Israel and they will survive. They will remember us."

Two Germans took us to a Gestapo office for retention. We were fearful that we would be shot. Through a window, we were able to see other people taken into a yard and killed. A third German appeared and took pity on us. He suggested that we be taken to the headquarters to do housekeeping. We were taken to a building at the edge of Ostrowiec and set to doing household chores - laundry, cleaning and general domestic duties.

We remained in this location for some months until January, 1945. We knew that the Russian front was approaching as we could hear the sounds of bombs and artillery, perhaps 20 or so miles away. We were sent to Czestochova, where we were liberated.

I belong to the lucky ones. All my children but one survived. My daughters and dughter in law survived in Warsaw.

Hall did you arrange your life after the war?

I was penniless. I remembered the feelings I had after my husband passed away. Then I said to myself "God will provide." "As you know I'm deeply religious person. I am a true believer. After the war in Poland I could not open a restaurant because nobody could afford to eat out. I went into the hotel business, in Lodz. There was a building of two or three stories. On the first floor there were stores. Above, the space was divided into small rooms that were rented out. I was making a living but my heart was not there.

I wanted to leave Poland and go to Israel to join my two daughters who had gone there before the war. In 1948 the Polish authorities allowed us to leave the country and we went to Israel.

People asked me, "Where are you going? There is a war there, there are shortages. You better stay put, at least for some time. I did not listen. I went anyhow. And I never regretted this move.

Did you have money? How did you manage there?

I did not have any money, but I believed in myself. I never expected anything either from my children, or from the government. I believed that God would provide. And provide he did. In a few years I had to an established business and a nice apartment in the center of Tel Aviv.

You will ask: How did I do it? I looked around and figured it out. Restaurants were not popular. Hotels they did not need. But Israel was a land of young and newcomers. "Olim Hadashim." as they called them. I saw the tremendous construction boom. Everywhere I saw new him buildings coming up.. "They all will need furniture. They can't sleep on bare floors. " I said to myself. And so, with a partner, I went into the furniture business. I now own a furniture store on Herzel Street, in the center of Tel Aviv.

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kimel@systec.com

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