Alec Mutz was born Elec Naftali Mutz in Tarnobrzeg, Poland, on June 18, 1930, the youngest of three children. His brother Yitzchak was five years older; his sister Channah was two years older. His parents, Samuel and Necha, were Orthodox Jews, who raised their children according to the precepts of the religion. Alec attended both public and Hebrew school, observed the Sabbath, savoring the aroma and ambience of that special day. His father was an accomplished woman’s tailor.
When the Nazis entered Tarnobrzeg on September 17, 1939, Alec was nine years old. As a Jew he was forced to leave public school. By October 1939, all Jews were ordered to appear in the market square where the Germans confiscated their belongings and marched them to the small town of Rodomysl, a two and a half days’ walk. There the family struggled to find lodging and work for three months. Believing they would be safer in Mielec, a city where his cousin Froyem Kornbluth lived, Samuel smuggled the family into the Mielec Ghetto, remaining there until February 1941 when the Germans allowed the family to return to Tarnobrzeg where Samuel could continue working as a tailor for the Germans.
During the summer of 1942, all Jews remaining in Tarnobrzeg were transported by boxcar to a field outside of Debica, Poland. A selection was made, separating families into two groups. Alec’s father and brother Yitzhak were loaded onto separate trucks with other Jewish men considered capable of work. Women with young children, such as Alec and Channah, were placed on another truck headed for what he later learned was Belzec Extermination Camp. Seeing his father on the first truck, Alec jumped on it to be with this father. This was the last time Alec saw either his mother or Channah.
The men were taken back to Tarnobrzeg and interned in a camp with 99 other Jews. The camp, on the grounds of what had been the synagogue, was now filthy and infested with lice, vermin leading to many cases of typhoid fever. The men worked long hours building roads. Alec helped in the kitchen and took care of the pigs while witnessing many executions by the Nazis. Alec escaped being shot on a number of occasions. The first time was when they discovered that he had illegally changed trucks.
In June 1943 Alec and his father were transported to the Mielec
Concentration Camp, a Satellite Camp of Auschwitz, overseen by SS Commandant Schwammberger. They were housed in a disease-infested compound next to an airplane factory where both Samuel and Alec, still a child, worked in the factory from 6am until 6pm putting slits into screws, often engaging in sabotage by making the screws useless. They remained in Mielec for one year during which time Alec almost died from a needle infection after receiving a KL tattoo on his wrist. Samuel hid Alec under a pile of clothes until he recovered.
In July 1944 Samuel and Alec were transferred first to Wieliczka and later in August to Flossenburg Concentration Camp located in Floss, Germany where Samuel was worked to exhaustion in a stone quarry. In April 1945 Alec’s briefly reunited with his brother when Yitzhak, arrived in Flossenberg, gravely wounded by a kapo. He died before Samuel could see him.
As the Americans begin bombing the area, Alec and Samuel were evacuated and forced to join a death march of survivors to Mauthausen Concentration Camp that culminated near a barn. The Nazis locked Alec and what was left of the other marchers in the barn, intending to set it on fire. As the American Army approached, a local boy ran to the Nazi captors and shouted, “The Americans are coming.”The Nazis ran away and Alec was liberated from the barn in April, 1945 at the age of 15. He was rescued by two American soldiers and taken to a hospital in Nurnberg, Germany where he and his father remained in recovery for eleven months.
Alec arrived in the United States in 1949 and settled in New York City. Later his father joined him and went to work as a tailor in the garment industry. In 1952 Alec was drafted into the United States Army and was sent to Stuttgart, Germany. After his discharge he returned to New York where he met his wife, Phyllis. They moved to Rochester in 1955 so that Alec could attend the Rochester Institute of Technology receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in1958. Subsequently he did graduate work at the University of Rochester and found work at Kodak in a research lab where he remained for 35 very successful years. He retired in 1993 as a Senior Research Assistant. While at Kodak, Alex achieved 15 patents and wrote many scientific and technological papers.
Alec Mutz passed away in 2010 leaving his wife and three children, Andrew, Mitchell and Nancy and seven grandchildren.
Alec felt strongly that Holocaust studies be included in every high school and college curriculum. When he retired, he visited a great many schools to tell the of story how he endured and survived that horrendous time in his life.
Biography written by: Phyllis Kasdin