Camilla Maas was born Camilla Tidor to Bertha (Greiver) and Chaskel (Tydor) Tidor on December 11, 1930, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Her brother, Manfred, was born fifteen months later. Both parents were raised by Orthodox families in Bochnia, a salt mining town in southeastern Poland. Bertha and Chaskel were introduced by a matchmaker, Chaskel came from Frankfurt to Bochnia to meet her and they were married in Bochnia in February, 1930.
Her father spoke several languages. In 1923 he was employed as a bookkeeper, and later a metallurgist, at Feuchtwanger and Company, a metal refinery in Frankfurt. By 1929 he was its owner. The family lived comfortably in a spacious apartment with beautiful furnishings.
When Hitler came to power in 1933, Camilla remembers their life becoming more and more restricted as they could no longer take swimming lessons or even get their hair cut at the local shop. She remembers seeing the Nazi storm troopers in the streets. By 1936 her father decided to emigrate to England. He liquidated his assets and sent his valuables to trusted friends in Holland and Switzerland for safekeeping. By 1938 he succeeded in obtaining the necessary papers for the family, including Camilla’s maternal grandparents, to leave. His in-laws refused to leave home and their successful textile factory in Poland. Bertha refused to move to England without her parents, and so Camilla and her family remained in Frankfurt.
In October 1938, when she was seven years old, Camilla’s father was deported to Poland as a Polish citizen. He returned to Germany in August 1939 to pick up his immigration papers to England, but the war broke out the next week and he was arrested by the Gestapo. They confiscated his business and imprisoned him in Buchenwald, and in 1942 he was sent from there to Auschwitz-Buna-Monowitz, also known as Auschwitz III Camp. In late January 1945 he was sent back to Buchenwald where he remained until April 11, 1945 when he was liberated.
While in Poland, her father encouraged his wife to get the children out of Germany. By March 1939, Bertha sent Camilla and Manfred on a kindertransport to Brussels, Belgium, where the children were separated. Manfred was placed in a children’s group home and Camilla lived with a Catholic family who operated a Catholic day school within their town house.
When the Nazis invaded and occupied Belgium in May, 1940, her foster family fled to the south of France. Even though her presence as a Jew posed an extra danger, the family took her with them. She remembers the arduous journey, how they drove and pushed the car on the highway jammed with people. When the Germans started strafing, they left the highway and hid in ditches along the road. The last part of the trip to the French border was made on foot under cover of night. Reaching the border, they abandoned the car and took a train to the French interior.
They placed Camilla under the care of the OSE (Oeuve de Secours aux Enfants, a French children’s aid society) who sent her to Chateau de Masgelier, a castle in southern France which had been converted into a children’s shelter. After a year she was placed on a list of children to be evacuated and brought to the United States. Arrangements were made under the auspices of the OSE, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the United States Committee for the Care of Refugee Children (USC). Camilla refused to leave, however, until they found her brother who by this time was living at the Chateau de La Hille, another shelter in southern France for refugee children. They both left on August 1941, as part of the last major transport of children organized by the USC to be sent to the United States. After receiving the necessary inoculations and vaccinations and affidavits to secure their travel, they went by train to Lisbon, Portugal, and boarded the SS Serpa Pinto on September 9th for travel to the U.S.
They arrived in NY Harbor on September 24, 1941 and were taken to Pleasantville Cottage School in Pleasantville, NY. Camilla requested that the caseworkers place her in a foster home together with her brother from whom she had been separated for over two years. Camilla and Manfred traveled by train to Rochester, NY on October 5, 1941 and were greeted by social workers from the Rochester Jewish Social Service Bureau (now the Jewish Family Service). Shirley and Sol Lapides and their eight year old daughter Marjorie, realizing the plight of European Jews, agreed to open their home on Bonnie Brae Avenue in Brighton, to Camilla, who by this time was ten years old, and Manny, who was nine. They were immediately enrolled in the Brighton School District, Camilla in 5th grade and Manfred in 4th. Their challenge was learning English.
During the summers of 1942 and 1943, Manfred and Camilla were sent to Camp Seneca Lake, organized by what was then the Jewish Young Men’s and Women’s Association (now the Jewish Community Center) and for a month to a farm in Spencerport, NY. Camilla loved the camp and continued attending as a camper and CIT until the summer of 1948. Manfred enjoyed the farm so much that he lived there summers and, eventually, during the winter of 1944, attending school in Spencerport until his Bar Mitzvah in the spring of 1945 when the Lapides family moved to the city of Rochester where Camilla and Manny attended Monroe High School. There Camilla excelled in sports and was awarded membership in the National Honor Society for her academic achievements.
In April 1945 the United States forces liberated Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Her father Chaskel was one of the survivors. The chaplain, Captain Herschel Schacter, helped him find his children and other family members who had survived. By May 1945 the Tidor children learned that their father was alive. Through correspondence Camilla learned of the ordeals that her father had suffered at the hands of the Nazis for over six years and that his strong religious belief helped him survive. Mr.Tydor had managed to organize secret religious observances and gatherings for camp prisoners. After liberation he led a group of refugees to what was then Palestine where he established a kibbutz known as Kibbutz Buchenwald. He lived with his wife’s brother and wife, Joseph and Yaffa Greiver, and found work at a publishing company. His hope was to bring the children to live with him once he was settled.
The children also learned of their mother’s fate. In 1941 she had moved to Poland to join her parents. Although the Nazis had confiscated their textile factory, they were forced to work, managing the factory and making Nazi uniforms. By 1942 she had the necessary papers to emigrate to the US and was awaiting the funds to purchase her ticket when she was arrested. She was living in the Bochnia Ghetto under the name Tidor. When the Nazis came to take away her parents and brother, listed under the name Greiver, she came out of the house to help them and was taken with them to be killed.
In June 1946 their father, now Haskell, was finally able to visit his children in Rochester, hoping they would settle in Israel. When after much anguish, they informed him that they wanted to remain in the United States where they were settled and comfortable, he made arrangements to obtain extended business visas allowing him to stay in the US. Regretfully, in 1947, he returned to Israel. After Camilla graduated from Monroe High School in 1949, she took an extended trip to Israel for six weeks, more sure than ever, however, that she wanted to become a US citizen when she turned 21.
In 1951 Camilla’s father was able to get a permanent visa to the United States. He settled in New York City, established a travel agency, General Tours, eventually married and had a daughter, Judith, named for his beloved younger sister who was killed by the Germans in Poland in 1942. In 1974 Haskell, his wife Shirley, and daughter Judy made aliyah to Israel where he lived until his death in 1993.
Camilla married and became the mother of four children, Brian, Curtis, Ken and Lisa. All are married with children and Camilla’s greatest joy is traveling to visit them. Her brother
Manfred married and is the father of three children, Laurie, Bruce and Janice, who are parents to his beloved grandchildren. Camilla and her children remained close to Sol and Shirley Lapides. Today their daughter Marjorie, her husband Robert, their sons, David and Andrew, and their families are one family with Camilla and Manfred’s families.
Biography dapted from For the Next Generation: Uprooted During the Holocaust
by Camilla Tidor Maas with Sarah Cudzillo Spoto