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  • World War I and its Aftermath: Key Dates

    Article

    Explore a timeline of key events in the history of World War I and its aftermath. Learn about the conflict and its divisive peace.

    World War I and its Aftermath: Key Dates
  • Danuta Justyna

    ID Card

    Danuta was born to Roman Catholic parents in the small industrial town of Piotrkow Trybunalski in central Poland. Her father and mother were school teachers. She and her younger sister, Maria, became friends with two Jewish girls, Sabina and Helena Szwarc. Although their houses were more than a mile apart, the girls often played together. 1933-39: Danuta was planning on attending college in September 1939, but on September 1 Germany invaded Poland. Four days later, German soldiers streamed into Danuta's…

    Danuta Justyna
  • Kazimiera Banach Justynowa

    ID Card

    Kazimiera was born to Roman Catholic parents in the town of Mierzen. After graduating from a teacher's college in Staniatki, she married Wincenty Justyna, a secondary school teacher. The couple settled in the small industrial city of Piotrkow Trybunalski and raised three children, Jerzy (a boy), Danuta and Maria. Kazimiera worked as a school teacher. 1933-39: With their combined incomes the Justynas were able to buy a plot of land and build a house. The Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and…

    Kazimiera Banach Justynowa
  • Maria Justyna

    ID Card

    Maria was born to Roman Catholic parents in the industrial town of Piotrkow Trybunalski in central Poland. Her father and mother were school teachers. Maria attended grade school and secondary school in Piotrkow. She and her older sister, Danuta, became friends with two Jewish girls, Sabina and Helena Szwarc. Although their houses were more than a mile apart, the girls often played together. 1933-39: The Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and occupied Piotrkow four days later. Most schooling for…

    Maria Justyna
  • Yitzhak (Irving) Balsam

    ID Card

    Yitzhak was the second of four children born to religious Jewish parents. The family lived on the Polish-German border in Praszka, a small town where Yitzhak's father worked as a tailor. His work was not steady, and the family struggled to make ends meet. Yitzhak attended Polish public school in the mornings and Hebrew school in the afternoons. 1933-39: At 4 a.m. on September 1, 1939, the Balsams were awakened by an explosion. The Polish army had blown up the bridge over the Prosna River to impede the…

    Yitzhak (Irving) Balsam
  • Hinda Chilewicz

    ID Card

    Hinda was the eldest of three children in a comfortable middle class Jewish family. Her father owned a textile business in Sosnowiec and her mother attended to the home. Sosnowiec in southwestern Poland had a growing Jewish community of almost 30,000 people. There was a Jewish hospital as well as religious schools. 1933–39: Hinda was just 13 years old when German troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Three days later, they occupied Sosnowiec and terrorized the Jewish community, killing over a…

    Hinda Chilewicz
  • Moniek Rozen

    ID Card

    One of 12 children, Moniek grew up in Dabrowa Gornicza, an industrial town in western Poland. His father, Jacob, owned a general store, which he was forced to close in 1938 as the result of a boycott by local antisemites. Moniek attended both public and Jewish schools, and his father hoped that one day he would become a rabbi. 1933–39: On September 1, 1939, Moniek was awakened by the sounds of airplanes flying overhead as German forces invaded Poland. As the war drew closer, Moniek fled eastward, but…

    Moniek Rozen
  • Tania Marcus

    ID Card

    Tania grew up in Smorgonie, a Polish town where Jews constituted more than half of the population. Her father was a successful businessman who sold farming equipment and purchased flax for export. Her grandfather, an affluent merchant, traveled frequently and brought the first truck to Smorgonie. The Marcuses took part in the town's vibrant Jewish culture, attended the theater, and hosted discussions about art in their home. 1933–39: On September 1, 1939, German troops invaded Poland, triggering World…

    Tania Marcus
  • Regina Gutman

    ID Card

    Regina was born in Radom, a city that had 120,000 inhabitants. Her father worked as a leather cutter for a large shoe manufacturer and her mother took care of their six children. The Gutmans were very religious and Regina attended Hebrew school in the afternoons. Radom had a vibrant Jewish community of some 30,000 people, several Yiddish daily newspapers, and beautiful synagogues. 1933–39: On September 1, 1939, the German army invaded Poland, and seven days later, Radom was occupied. Soon afterward, the…

    Regina Gutman
  • Sam Spiegel

    ID Card

    Sam was the eldest of five children born to Jewish parents in Kozienice, a town in east central Poland. His father owned a shoe factory and his mother cared for the children and the home. Kozienice had a thriving Jewish community that made up about half of the town's population. 1933–39: On September 1, 1939, German troops invaded Poland. That morning the Spiegels heard an air raid siren blaring and quickly left their house. Fifteen minutes later a bomb struck the building. Sam was just 17 years old.…

    Sam Spiegel
  • Elzbieta Lusthaus

    ID Card

    Elzbieta grew up in Iwonicz, a resort town in southwestern Poland noted for its mineral water. Her father, Edmund, was a respected physician and Helena, her mother, had studied pharmacology. At home, they spoke Polish and were among the few Jewish families who lived in Iwonicz. 1933–39: When German troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Elzbieta's father was drafted into the Polish army. Seventeen days later, the Soviet army drove in from the east and Edmund was captured. He was transported to a…

    Elzbieta Lusthaus
  • Lisa Nussbaum

    ID Card

    Lisa was born to a Jewish family who lived in a town about three miles from the German border. Her family had lived there for generations. Lisa's father exported geese to Germany, and her mother owned a fabric store. The family lived with Lisa's grandmother in a large, single-level, gray stucco house. Lisa attended a small Hebrew school in Raczki. 1933-39: In 1937 Lisa transferred to a public school. One day, in fifth grade during recess, some boys grabbed her long blonde hair. Others joined in and pinned…

    Lisa Nussbaum
  • Urszula Kaczmarek

    ID Card

    Urszula was one of four children born to Franciszek and Jadwiga Kaczmarek, who lived in the industrial city of Poznan in western Poland. The family lived at 11 Smolnej Street. Like their parents, the Kaczmarek children were baptized in the Roman Catholic faith. 1933-39: As one of the older children in the family, Urszula helped her mother with the housework. She was 10 years old when the Germans invaded Poland on Friday, September 1, 1939. German planes bombed Poznan that same day, and German troops…

    Urszula Kaczmarek
  • Aaron Lejzerowicz

    ID Card

    Aaron was one of four children born to a Jewish family in the northeastern Polish town of Zdzieciol. His father was a shoemaker and, along with a business partner, he also ran a shoe store in the town. Aaron attended a private Jewish school, where he studied the Polish language and history as well as Jewish history and Hebrew. 1933-39: On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Three weeks later, Poland was partitioned between Germany and the Soviet Union [under the German-Soviet Pact]. Aaron and his…

    Aaron Lejzerowicz
  • Paula Wajcman

    ID Card

    Paula was raised in a religious Jewish family in Kielce, a city in the southeast of Poland. Her family lived in a modern two-story apartment complex. Paula's father owned the only trucking company in the district. Her older brother, Herman, attended religious school, while Paula attended public kindergarten in the morning and religious school in the afternoon. 1933-39: Paula's school uniform was a navy blazer with a white blouse and pleated skirt. At age 9, she did the "Krakowiak" dance at school. Boys…

    Paula Wajcman
  • Jakob Frenkiel

    ID Card

    Jakob was one of seven boys in a religious Jewish family. They lived in a town 50 miles west of Warsaw called Gabin, where Jakob's father worked as a cap maker. Gabin had one of Poland's oldest synagogues, built of wood in 1710. Like most of Gabin's Jews, Jakob's family lived close to the synagogue. The family of nine occupied a one-room apartment on the top floor of a three-story building. 1933-39: On September 1, 1939, just a few months before Jakob turned 10, the Germans started a war with Poland.…

    Tags: Auschwitz
    Jakob Frenkiel
  • Peter Somogyi

    ID Card

    Peter and his twin brother, Thomas, were the youngest of three children born to an observant Jewish family. They lived in Pecs, an industrial center where goods such as bricks and ceramics were produced. Peter's father owned a prosperous business selling accessories and parts for cars, motorcycles and bicycles. He was also a regional sales representative for Ford automobiles. 1933-39: A German nanny took care of Peter, Thomas, and their older sister. She taught them German and they became quite fluent.…

    Peter Somogyi
  • Rachel Lejzerowicz Rechnitz

    ID Card

    Rachel, or Ruchla as she was called, was raised by Jewish parents in the small southwestern Polish town of Bedzin. In 1930 she moved with her husband, Bernard, to the nearby city of Katowice, where Bernard had a wholesale leather business. The couple lived with their two children, Moses and Genia, in a three-bedroom, upper-floor apartment on Jordana Street. 1933-39: Ruchla was active in Hadassah, a women's Zionist organization, and in 1939 she and her husband prepared to immigrate to Palestine [Aliyah…

    Rachel Lejzerowicz Rechnitz
  • Feige Schwarzfink

    ID Card

    Feige was born to a religious Jewish family in the small village of Szydlowiec [in Poland]. She lived with her parents, six brothers and sisters, and elderly grandparents in a small house which, like many homes in the village, had no running water, indoor plumbing, or electricity. Feige's father was a shoemaker. 1933-39: In the afternoons after public school Feige studied at a Jewish religious school. Although her parents didn't know it, she attended meetings of the Bund, the Jewish Socialist party. Feige…

    Feige Schwarzfink
  • Helena Manaster

    ID Card

    Helena was the eighth of 10 children born to a Jewish family in the town of Lesko. Her father was a landowner. When Helena was a young girl the family moved to nearby Orelec, where they had a summer home. As there were no schools in Orelec, Helena and her siblings continued attending school in Lesko. Later, Helena traveled three hours by train daily to attend the nearest high school, which was in Przemysl. 1933-39: The German army invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. By the beginning of October the…

    Helena Manaster
  • Celia Petranker

    ID Card

    Celia was the youngest of three daughters born to Jewish parents living in Stanislav [Stanislawow], Poland. Her father was an ardent Zionist, and dreamed of moving his family to Palestine to help build a Jewish homeland. Celia and her sisters attended private Hebrew primary and secondary schools to help prepare them for their eventual immigration to Palestine. 1933-39: Celia's oldest sister, Pepka, left for Palestine one week after the Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Pepka's departure was…

    Celia Petranker
  • Bernard Rechnitz

    ID Card

    Bernard was raised by Jewish parents in the small southwestern Polish town of Bedzin. In 1930 Bernard moved with his wife, Ruchla, to the nearby city of Katowice, where he owned a wholesale leather business. The couple lived with their two children, Moses and Genia, in a three-bedroom, upper-floor apartment on Jordana Street. 1933-39: In 1939 Bernard, who was a Zionist, decided the family should emigrate to Palestine [the Yishuv]. His son, Moses, had been the target of antisemitic taunts at school.…

    Tags: Buchenwald
    Bernard Rechnitz
  • Norbert Yasharoff

    ID Card

    Norbert was born to a Jewish family in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. His father, a prominent lawyer, was also active in the Jewish community, heading relief efforts for the city's Jewish orphans. Sofia was home to approximately half of Bulgaria's estimated 50,000 Jews during the mid-1930s. 1933-39: On September 1, 1939, while on a family vacation the Yasharoffs heard over the radio that war [World War II] had begun. Norbert's parents exchanged worried glances; what would happen to them now? Bulgaria had…

    Norbert Yasharoff
  • Feliks Bruks

    ID Card

    Feliks was the only child of Catholic parents living in Czarnkow, a town close to the German border, some 40 miles north of Poznan. Czarnkow was situated on the Notec River. Feliks' parents owned a mineral water, soda and beer factory. They delivered their goods by horse and wagon to towns throughout the area. His parents also owned a restaurant and 120 acres of farmland. 1933-39: In 1937 Feliks entered the University of Poznan to study pharmacy. His education was cut short when the German army invaded…

    Feliks Bruks
  • Jozef Rapaport

    ID Card

    Jozef was raised in a religious Jewish family. When he was a baby, his father died and his mother was left to care for him and his three older sisters. The family was poor, but Jozef was determined to have a good education. He put himself through university in Prague, and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in economics in Vienna. In 1931 he married Leah Kohl, and the couple settled in Warsaw. 1933-39: The Rapaports lived in the suburbs, and Jozef worked as a banker. His daughter, Zofia, was born in 1933. Jozef…

    Jozef Rapaport

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