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.
They took me back to Budapest and they put me in a political prison on Gyorskocsi Utca. That's, there was the political prison in Budapest, and I stayed there for a number of weeks or months almost--I'm not quite sure how long. It was there that I met other, some of my acquaintances from Budapest. I met, uh, Miklosi Ferdinand, Ferdinand Miklosi, who was the ambassador of Hungary to Poland, who spoke a perfect Polish language. I also, uh, met across the court a lady named Szenes, which later on I found out that she was Hannah Szenes. She was very, uh, resourceful to convey her name one letter after another. And that was a time probably that I recall because we were saying Avinu Malkenu [a Jewish prayer] at one point in time. It was a period probably it was Yom Kippur. It was at that time that if I want to tag a point, it was at that time it must have, must have been Yom Kippur of 1944. Hannah Szenes was still alive. Miklosi was definitely alive, Ferdinand Miklosi, because I corresponded with him later on after the liberation.
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