Jewish survivors of the Holocaust

Finkelstein, Issac (1 of 2) The Living Memory of the Jewish Community

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  • Subjects

    Camp experiences

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  • Is part of (Collection)

    The Living Memory of the Jewish Community

  • Recording locations

    interviewee's home

  • Interviewees

    Finkelstein, Issac, 1914-(speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Antonis, Phyllis (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Isaac Finkelstein was born in a small village in Poland. He was the second in a family of five. Moved at age of 7 to the local regional town which had a population of 55,000, out of which 3,000 were Jews. Isaac's mother died when he was 8. Father married mother's youngest sister according to tradition. Isaac went to a Jewish gymnasium until the age of 17. Father was a timber merchant. Isaac worked in the business until the age of 20 when he did his National Service in the Polish army. This lasted 18 months during which he encountered anti-Semitism and strict discipline. Felt that the army turned him into a man. Returned to the business in 1938 and was called up when the Germans invaded in 1939. Wounded in the leg on September 4. Lay in a field as the Germans passed but sensing death he called to them and said he was a 'volk German'. Taken to a German hospital near Breslau. On the ward were four other Jewish Polish soldiers. He was well cared for and the local Jewish population brought prayer books. After several months he was sent to a prisoner-of-war camp and then back to the Ghetto in his home town. Whole family lived in one room in the Ghetto. Isaac classified as disabled and so exempt from work. In 1943 the Ghetto was cleared. The females were sent to Treblinka and the males to a labour camp. Until Nov. 1944 Isaac worked outside the labour camp where he makes contact with the Nationalist underground who rejected him because he was Jewish. 1944 sent to Buchenwald where he found his father and brother. Then sent to Colditz. 800 left Colditz in March for Theresienstadt and only 80 arrived. Isaac spent the rest of his time there until liberated by the Russians. Conditions in Buchenwald dreadful. Wake-up to find people dead. Beaten in Colditz for picking up a potato peel. They were starving, "living skeletons by liberation." Rations for a day: breakfast coffee, lunch 'stew with 2oz. of bread for two days. "Did not need to kill people, they starved to death".

  • Related links

    Voices of the Holocaust - link to learning materials based on the moving stories of Jewish Holocaust Survivors on the British Library Website

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