Manya Zwas

I was born in Poland in 1926, the youngest of six children. My father owned a grocery store and made a comfortable living. My family was close and very loving. The memories of anti-Semitism before the war are very painful.
My non-Jewish schoolmates used to taunt me by saying, “Jew leave Poland; Jew go to Palestine where you belong.”

My nightmare began in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland.
Immediately after the invasion and occupation life began to change for the Jews. We were not allowed to return to public school. Restrictions were imposed against doing business with Jews. Conditions deteriorated, and we eventually lost my father’s business, and later our home.

Several months later my family and I, along with other Jews of my hometown, were ordered into a ghetto. I was separated from my mother and father in the selection lines just after entering the ghetto. A soldier shouted out “Right” or “Left” as he inspected the prisoners. I watched helplessly as my parents were sent to the “left” line along with those who were sick and elderly. They were both killed that same day, leaving me an orphan at age 13.

I spent the war in several concentration camps doing slave labor. I was moved from camp to camp and finally ended up in the Buchenwald concentration camp where I was liberated in 1945.

After the war, I lived in a displaced-persons camp in Austria where I met and married another Holocaust survivor. In 1949, I emigrated to the United States. I raised two sons, and I’m the proud grandmother of four grandchildren. I worked for thirty years in various manufacturing plants, and now I am retired.

Sixty years after the war, I am still haunted by the scenes from my horrifying past. Looking back, I think Hitler did not kill six million Jews by himself. He had a lot of help from willing perpetrators in the occupied countries.

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