Oral History

Wilek (William) Loew describes refugees from western Poland after their arrival in Soviet-occupied Lvov

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.


But as they were coming, more, by thousands, the flat that we used to have at home, we have opened up, the saloon and the, and the, the special, uh, reception room. We gave it up for them to dwell on it, to, to, to live in there. We had, we had a large kitchen and we, we offered them everything that we had. They stayed with us. Some of them looked for work, and they found. Some of them moved out on their own. Mostly, they were not families, they were mostly single people, men and women, who came, who escaped, and, uh, tried a new life. Maybe this was a temporary because they still have left some other people back home, wherever their home was. There were quite a few from different, from Krakow, from Warsaw, from, uh, I don't recall the small towns from the western part of, of Poland. So, they stayed with us for a number of months until one day, one night, a knock at the door--we had a big house and we had a big gate. It was the Russians came in ,and they forced themselves in, into our flat, and they basically took all of these refugees away. That was probably, maybe 1940. That was the time when there was a major gathering, a major expulsion of the refugees from Lvov to Russia. And we befriended some people there, so, we were not far away from the main station. I ran into that, and they put them in, in the boxcars, in the cattle, uh, uh, trains, carts, and they were locked up over there--that's how they were going to transport them from Lvov east to Russia. We couldn't do anything about them, but I know they were crying, we were crying, because we didn't know what, what did they do wrong? It was terrible.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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