Born Irwin Jakob Schiffres on June 10, 1930 in the town of Cologne, Germany.
Irwin's father, Israel Schiffres born Aug. 4, 1898, was from Russia/Poland. He was a dentist. Irwin's mother was Lea Holstein, born April 21, 1899 in Cologne, Germany. The two met in Cologne at a Jewish Athletic Association. Before marriage, Lea was a secretary. In 1937, another son, Leo, was born. However he only lived a few days. Grandparents Judah and Sarah Kahn Holstein, Lea's parents, lived nearby.
Irwin lived a comfortable life in Cologne with his family doing all the things children do, hiking, games, holiday celebrations. Nuremburg laws were very much part of their lives during Irwins short life before Kristallnacht. One day while hiking with his mother, a German officer approached her and told her that she could not hike anymore.
Religion played an important part in the family's life. They belonged to an orthodox shul on Roonstrasse. There was a small chapel in the synagogue to accommodate reform Jews. It was at shul October 28,1938, that Israel heard about the Gestapo picking up Jews of Polish nationality. Since Israel had a Polish passport, this put him in grave danger. Devising a plan, he had his family doctor, a Christian, put him in the hospital inorder to avoid arrest.
November 9 and 10, 1938, Kristallnacht. The synagogue was severly damaged, Jewish stores were smashed, Jewish homes broken into, and many Jewish men were taken away to Dachau. Irwin's father's dental office was not harmed because it was in a buuilding owned by a Christian. Lea's 2 brothers, both physicians, were taken to Dachau. When her parents found out, Grandfather Holstein died. During the shiva, Irwin's parents decided to leave. Lea and Irwin would go first to Holland and then Belgium and then Irwin's father would follow them and meet in Belgium. So in December Mother and son departed Cologne for the last time.
Crossing over the Dutch border both Irwin and his mother were stripped and searched. They stayed for some time in Holland and then went to Belgium where they were reunited with Irwin's father.
Biography written by Jane Rushefsky