Bella was the daughter of Baruch and Miriam Elencwajg, and had three sisters and a brother, Moishe. Bella’s mother died in 1939. Soon after the Germans invaded Poland and started persecuting the Jews. The Jews were moved into the Radom Ghetto, where her father and three sisters died in 1942. Bella was put on forced labor.
Bella survived multiple concentration camps, when, towards the end of World War II, she was sent to Auschwitz. With the approach of the Allied Forces, the Germans tried to obliterate any signs of the camp’s extermination program and the camp inmates were put into cattle cars for transportation elsewhere. Bella was on the last transport of some 700 inmates out of Auschwitz. She and about 40 people were put in the last car of the cattle train. The train was bombed and Bella was one of the three survivors in the car.
After liberation, Bella was taken to a Displaced Persons Camp (DP Camp) in Germany. There she met Icek Zysman, another survivor from Radom, whose wife and children had perished in the camps. Bella and Icek were married in 1945 in a large communal wedding ceremony of Holocaust survivors in Stuttgart, Germany. General Dwight Eisenhower was a witness to the ceremony. The young couple remained at the DP Camp for a total of four years. Their first child, Miriam was born there in 1946. Bella’s brother Moishe also survived the camps.
In February 1949, the family left for America. Bella was pregnant at the time. Once they arrived in the US, they traveled up to Bella’s uncle in Toronto, Canada, where son, Bernie was born. They returned to the US and settled in Rochester, NY. Icek, a highly skilled shoe maker, found work making orthopedic shoes for patience of Strong Memorial Hospital (mostly polio victims), and high-end shoes produced at a local factory. In 1951, a third child, Charlie was born. Bella stayed home to care for their three children until the youngest was five years old. She was then employed at Gerber Baby Foods until her retirement. Icek died in 1968 at the age of 62.
She loved cooking and baking year round, and to this day nobody has been able to replicate her sponge cake or chopped liver. But most of all, we will all miss her pearls of wisdom.
Biography written by her family