Oral History

Wilek (William) Loew describes the Soviet occupation of Lvov in 1939

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.


The Russian occupied, uh, the eastern part of Poland, and Lvov was part of that, of that, uh, territory. I recall when, uh, the main column of, uh, of the tanks were rolling down Drokevska [ph], coming from north, and, uh, rolling down through Drokevska, and they were huge, huge, I have never seen in my life, uh, huge, uh, uh, tanks. And apparently they didn't, uh, have to fight anyone, because, uh, the Poles, the Polish army was not in our immediate area. If they were, they were somewhere else, uh, so there was no conquest, uh, to be bragged about. They kept on going, kept on moving, and they occupied Lvov. And our immediate, uh, uh, lifestyle has not changed, other than that in the next, uh, few weeks, uh, there was a proclamation of, uh--I think it was in a few weeks--uh, that, uh, all the major homes and businesses were, uh, were confiscated and, uh, we have a new regime and so on. And this was the Soviet, Soviet territory. So that means that our home, our house, no longer belonged to us. Uh, and, uh, and probably, uh, we did not have to pay any taxes anymore, because this was our main concern previous, because my mother always had to come out with money for the loans that we have incurred some years ago. So that was a relief in a way. Uh, the question was, uh, how do you, uh, how do you make a living?


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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