Paula Garfinkel

Paula Garfinkel

Born: December 3, 1920

Lodz, Poland

Paula was one of four children born to a religious Jewish family in Lodz, an industrial city with a large Jewish population. As a child, Paula attended public schools and was tutored at home in Jewish studies three times a week. Her father owned a furniture store.

1933-39: Paula, her brothers, and sisters spent a lot of time at the clubhouse of their Zionist group, Gordonia. Their group believed in humanistic values, Jewish self-labor, and in building a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Paula liked to work with her hands and did a lot of knitting, crocheting, and sewing. In September 1939, when she was in secondary school, her studies were cut short when Germany invaded Poland and seized Lodz on September 8th.

1940-44: In early 1940 Paula's family was forcibly relocated to the Lodz ghetto, where they were assigned one room for all six of them. Food was the main problem. At the women's clothing factory where Paula worked, she at least got some soup for lunch. But her family desperately needed to find more food for her younger brother, who was very sick and bleeding internally. From the window at her factory she looked out at a potato field. Knowing that if she was caught, she'd be shot, she crept out one night to the field, dug up as many potatoes as she could, and ran home.

In 1944 Paula was deported to Bremen, Germany, as a forced laborer. She was freed in the Bergen-Belsen camp in 1945. After the war, she immigrated to the United States.

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