Simon Braitman

I was born in Maciejowice, Poland, on March 16, 1930. My family moved to Garbatka in 1933. I was nine years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939. In 1941, a ghetto was established in Garbatka, and in July 1942, Nazi stormtroopers invaded the ghetto murdering 76 older people. All able-bodied males sixteen years and older were taken to Auschwitz. One week later Garbatka was liquidated and all Jews marched to the Zwolen Ghetto.

In September 1942, the powder factory in the nearby town of Pionki needed laborers. My mother dressed me in riding pants and boots to make me look older, and I was selected as a worker. Within one week all the Jews remaining in Zwolen were sent to Treblinka and murdered. Among them were my mother, sister, brother and other family members.

I remained at the powder factory until August 1944 when the Germans dismantled the factory and transported the laborers to Auschwitz where I was tattooed and sent to the Sosnowitz munitions factory until January 1945. As the Russians advanced, the Germans force-marched the entire Sosnowitz Camp to Mauthausen. Many died of starvation, were shot, or froze to death on the ten-day death march.

Upon arrival, I was sent to Gunskirchen. I was liberated on May 5, 1945, by the United States Army’s 71st division. I was moved to a hospital and later sent to a displaced persons camp. One evening I was standing at the entrance gate when I recognized a voice asking for permission to stay the night. The familiar voice was that of my father. Together we returned to Poland, finding only two of my mother’s sisters and an uncle who  survived.

Poland was dangerous for Jews, so we crossed the border into Germany, finally settling in Stuttgart. In late fall 1945, I was sent to a school outside of Heidelberg, sponsored by the United Nations Relief Agency. There I met Bill Konar. Eventually, we emigrated to America and Rochester. I attended Franklin High School, Rochester Institute of Technology and fought in the Korean War. After the war, I worked at Bausch & Lomb for nine years before co-founding Simcona Electronics Corporation. The business employs over 100 people and is internationally recognized. I live in Rochester with my wife, Josephine, three children and four grandchildren.

Biography from the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Project, Monroe Community College
Photograph by Louis Ouzer