Harry Toporek

Harry Toporek

Born: April 20, 1923

Lask, Poland

Harry was one of eight children born to a large Jewish family in the Polish town of Lask, 18 miles southwest of Lodz. The Toporeks operated a tannery. Harry attended a public school in the mornings and a religious school in the afternoons. After graduating from secondary school, Harry helped his family in the tannery.

1933-39: On Friday, September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and by Sunday German planes began bombing Lask. Harry and his family couldn't fight the planes so they fled into the fields. The dive bombing was unnerving, like fire from the sky. His family ran to a nearby village. A few days later, Harry and his brothers, Efroim and Laib, made their way to Lodz but the Germans soon took the city, so they returned to Lask. By then, the Germans had occupied their town.

1940-44: In 1943 Harry and his brother Sam were deported to Yavoshna, a subcamp of Auschwitz, where they worked in coal mines. He also did extra work as a tanner, processing rabbit skins for a camp boss. This saved their lives. Sam and Harry were in the infirmary when an order came to send the sick to Auschwitz to be gassed. The boss recognized Harry as the tanner and took him off the truck. Harry went to the boss and pleaded with him to save Sam's life too. They were the only two prisoners the boss saved from the whole infirmary.

In January 1945, with the Red Army advancing, Harry was force-marched out of Yashnova with the rest of the camp. He was liberated by Soviet troops five months later on May 8, 1945.

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