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, making 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.
Pappapol was located on Zólkiewska Street. The main entrance was from Drokevska Street, which was the main thorough between north and south. And it was the area which, within couple blocks where my home used to be, couple blocks from my uncle's used to be, and so on. There was a time that I recall that was that akcya [Aktion/action] came about, was the shayni [second] ghetto and it was close to evening. And somebody rushed in into the factory, one of our workers. "They're moving them now through the street." We moved out. I moved out immediately to, to the gate to see what we wanted to see. And we, that's what we didn't want to see, thousands and thousands and thousands of ghetto people were moving, going, going to Drokevska Street. And I looked and I saw some of my friends. My friends, dear friends, that I used to play with. Uh, some acquaintances. I was looking for my mother. I didn't see her, didn't find her. It was maybe 20 rows, and with, and miles of people. They were slowly marching. They were guarded by, by Ukrainian militia. I didn't see any Germans. Maybe in the back, but I didn't see them. Mostly Ukrainian on each side. I didn't see the front either. I came right in the middle. I didn't see the, the, the beginning of the march, I didn't see the end of the march. I just kept on seeing the area where, where it was visible to me from that narrow gate. We were not, I didn't, they didn't see me, I saw them, because the gate was actually locked, the Pappapol, uh, gate. And it was going on for hours and hours because there was a slow march. Finally it ended. People were looking from the windows, uh, because that whole Drokevska was all inhabited by Ukrainians and Poles, second, third stories, they're all look at them. It was a very grim sight.
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.