Wilek was the son of Jewish parents living in the southeastern Polish town of Lvov. His family owned and operated a winery that had been in family hands since 1870. Wilek's father died of a heart attack in 1929. Wilek entered secondary school in 1939. Soon after he began school, World War II began with the German invasion of Poland. Lvov was in the part of eastern Poland annexed by the Soviet Union. Although the Soviets took over Wilek's home and the family business, Wilek was able to continue his schooling. On June 22, 1941, German forces invaded the Soviet Union. The Germans occupied Lvov and established a ghetto there. Wilek was among a small group of Jews who left the ghetto daily to work. He helped make roofing paper for the German army. In 1943, shortly before the Germans destroyed the Lvov ghetto, Wilek obtained false papers, assumed the name of a Christian coworker, and fled to Hungary. He became a courier for the resistance in Budapest and was eventually arrested by the Germans as a Polish spy. He was sent to the Auschwitz camp in October 1944. Wilek was among thousands of prisoners sent on a death march to the German interior as Allied forces advanced. He was liberated by US forces in April 1945, and immigrated to the United States in 1949.
We got in, into Budapest maybe within a week or so. I don't remember that, that period very well, but I remember that we were in Budapest and the question was, uh, we were not occupied at that time, so we were free, and I, um, uh, um, identified myself with the Polish, uh, Polish organization, with all, there were, uh, different refugee, uh, uh, camps, not camps but, um, uh, offices and you reported yourself that you are one of them. And whether they helped us or not I don't recall; it was immaterial to me. But what I wanted to do, to identify myself that I am a Polish emigre or a Polish refugee, and, and to be on their books. From there on it was just a matter of, uh, finding out your level of survival. Where do you go from there? The trigger point was the time when the Germans again invaded Hungary. That was the trigger point--be on the run. We had to run again.
We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.