Florence Creson was born Fajga Chaskiel in Czestochowa, Poland in 1919. As a child, Florence’s mother, Rajzla Chaskiel, looked after her and her five siblings while her father worked as a tailor. In Wielun Poland, Florence attended a Polish school and regularly went to shul (synagogue) services. Florence grew up surrounded by a large and happy family.
In 1939, Florence and her family awoke at 5:00 AM to the sound of sirens as German soldiers invaded Poland. For about a week, her family fled through the woods, before eventually returning home to Wielun to find a segregated city. Florence and her family were forced to move into the Jewish ghetto, where they lived and worked for two years. A mix of luck and resourcefulness allowed Florence and her family to avoid the first few deportations of residents to Auschwitz. But in September of 1942, the Nazis took Florence’s parents away to Auschwitz, and Florence was transferred via a cattle train to the Lodz Ghetto. Once there, Florence lived with her two brothers, and eventually her sister and sister’s baby after her husband had died of starvation. The ghetto was organized by a Judenräte, and residents were forced to work for the army.
After one year, Florence’s brothers were taken away to a different camp before she had a chance to say goodbye. Soon after, Florence, her brother, sister, and sister’s baby were taken by wagon to Aushwitz, where she was separated from her family. After ten days at Auschwitz, Florence was transported to Berlin-Neukölln, where she worked in a factory. In the spring of 1945, and after six weeks living in Ravensbrück, Germany, Florence and her friend, with whom she had survived since they were in the Lodz ghetto, were rescued by Swedish soldiers. Just two weeks before the end of the war, they were moved to a refugee camp in Sweden where the Jewish Federation looked after them.
After only a few months, a local Jewish family befriended Florence and eventually adopted her to become part of their family. It was while living with them that Florence fell in love and married her husband, Hermon Creson. They lived together in Sweden from 1945 to 1947 before they pursued Florence’s dream of moving to the United States. They settled in Rochester near some of her extended family. Upon arrival, she worked tirelessly to learn English and build a home for her new family. She began working right away as a tailor, and she continued to work for 28 years, all while raising her two wonderful children, Roselyn and Steven. Florence and Hermon lived together for thirty-eight wonderful years. Florence now has many grandchildren, and extended family surrounding her in Florida and other US places as well as in Sweden.
Biography written by: Anna Philibert, Hobart and William Smith Colleges