One of nine children, Shaul was raised in a Yiddish-speaking, religious Jewish family in Koprzewnica, a small town in southern Poland. He married his teenage sweetheart, Alta Koppff, and opened a grocery store in the front of his mother-in-law's house. The couple had three children. The store's busiest day was Thursday, when farmers and villagers would come to town for market day.
1933-39: On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Soon after, German troops entered Koprzewnica. While fighting between German and Polish forces could still be heard nearby, the Germans emptied the homes and ordered the terrified townspeople to assemble in the central square. After about five hours, the townspeople were allowed to return to their homes. The troops moved into the town's school, and kept their horses in the synagogue.
1940-42: For the next two years, the Germans regularly raided Shaul's store for supplies. Shaul was forced to cut his beard, which he wore as a sign of piety. Afraid to venture out, he mostly stayed at home or in the store. In February 1942 the Germans established a ghetto in Koprzewnica. Shaul's brother, a member of the town's German-appointed Jewish council, was pessimistic about German plans for Koprzewnica's Jews, and advised Shaul to let his son Wolf leave to work on a highway repair detail.
On October 31, 1942, the 1,800 Jews in the Koprzewnica ghetto were deported to the Treblinka killing center. Wolf was not deported to Treblinka. He was the only member of his family to survive.