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George Saltzberg, Walter's son


Saltzberg family in Poland 1932, Walter as infant


Passover 2011 (R to L) Walter Saltzberg, George Saltzberg, Tim Swift, Peter Jablonski


Yad Vashem ceremony 2008 honouring Peter (L to R) Peter Jablonski, George Saltzberg, Walter Saltzberg, George Mandlebaum

 


EDITOR'S PICK: GEORGE SALTZBERG, THE SON OF A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, CARES FOR HIS FATHER'S RESCUER: I HOPE MY STORY INSPIRES OTHERS TO FIND THEIR OWN LINKS WITH THE PAST

by Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng., June 22, 2011

 In loving memory of Peter Jablonski (Nachman Fryszberg) z'l who passed away July 17, 2011.

This is a true story about survival, kindness, inspiration and hope.

As a  boy Walter Saltzberg was able to survive the Holocaust with the help of a young man, Peter Jablonski. During a desperate time, Peter unselfishly went out of his way to ensure Walter’s safety, good health and survival. After the war, each went their separate way.

Walter was able to come to Canada because of the generousity of a family friend in New York who recognized Walter in a Yiddish newspaper article about children in a Polish orphanage. Walter had a family and today lives comfortably in Winnipeg.

Many years later after coming to Canada and re-building his life in Winnipeg, Walter found the man who saved his life - Peter. It turned out that Peter and his wife, who now live in Toronto, did not have any children.  Never forgetting what Peter did to save him, Walter and his family seized the opportunity to repay Peter’s kindness a generation later. Walter’s son George and his partner who live in Toronto take care of the now aged Peter and his wife, treating them like honoured and respected family.

This story is also about George's search for links to his past. For years, George had  wanted to find  the Yiddish newspaper article he had heard about that brought about Walter’s emigration to Canada. George contacted the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York and asked their help in the monumental task of locating this article. As luck would have it, he was put in touch with the one person who recognized that article and knew exactly where it could be found. This YIVO archivist had just seen this article months before and saved a copy of it because she thought it might be important, and because her grandmother had worked at the orphanage that Walter had lived at. George now has a small piece of his father’s past. He hopes his story will inspire others to look for links to their own past.

PART ONE – SURVIVAL BY KINDNESS

George Saltzberg, son of  Holocaust survivor Walter Saltzberg  has found the last piece of information he was searching for regarding his father’s past. He wants everyone to know how satisfying it is to finally have this information and how relatively easy it was to find.

I first wrote about Walter Saltzberg’s experience during the Holocaust in the Winnipeg Jewish Review last April 2010, but this  article will present more in depth details of this fascinating case of generousity, compassion, and human kindness in the middle of the war and how it lead to the opportunity to repay this kindness a generation later..

While his parents and brother perished in the Holocaust, Walter Saltzberg managed to evade death repeatedly.

Walter (Wacek, in Polish) lived in Warsaw, Poland with his parents and his brother who was six years older than him in a nice large apartment before the onset of the Second World War.

When the war broke out on September 1, 1939, Walter was eight years old. When the Warsaw ghetto was built in November 1940, the Saltzberg apartment was just inside on Leszno Street which was the largest street in the ghetto, so they didn’t have to move. The family was obliged to take in people from other parts of Poland. The once spacious apartment now housed three separate families in each of the bedrooms.

His parents and brother had papers which allowed them to “work” as slave labourers in a German factory that made typewriters and adding machines such that they were considered to be useful to the German war machine. They were concerned about Walter’s well-being as the Germans had begun to deport the elderly and the young from the ghetto to the camps. Walter was forced to spend his days hiding behind a wall while his family went to work.

A Polish family friend, Dr. Kazimierz Weckowski, then smuggled Walter out of the ghetto and took him into his home and hid him for two years. Walter did not have any books, radio, or TV. Walter last saw his parents and brother in the spring of 1942 when he was 11 years old.

After the building where he was hiding was bombed, Walter walked two blocks to find another place to hide - another apartment building where the Polish Underground were hiding Jewish people in the basement and they took him in.

Here, during the Warsaw uprising of August 1944, Walter met a young man about ten years older than himself, named Peter Jablonski, who began taking care of him. Without knowing it at the time, Peter Jablonski  would end up playing an extremely vital role in Walter’s life.

Peter was born Nachman Fryszberg, but changed his name with the help of the Polish Underground to pass as a gentile.

This second building Walter was living in was bombed in the fall of 1944 and Walter was one of the only survivors. He was buried up to his head under rubble with a cut and broken leg. As Walter begged for help, Peter and others dug him out and carried him to safety to another building. Peter agreed to hide Walter if he could remain quiet. So with a broken leg that Peter tied off with part of his shirt, Peter led Walter through a trap door in the floor. Walter traversed down a ladder by himself with a broken and bleeding leg. They proceeded down a narrow twisted hallway into a small hiding space. Walter lived there for five months with Peter and three others. Two of them were Jews and the third’s family had converted to Christianity two generations before, but Hitler went back several generations when he determined who was a Jew and who was not.

Peter used urine to disinfect Walter’s wound and was the only one of the five in hiding that left every couple of nights to look for food. They survived on a meager ration of food that Peter was able to find in an abandoned building (a sack of rotten onions). Walter received no medical attention for his leg and was barely able to move. The break and wound eventually healed, although his leg was twisted and shortened.

He relied on Peter for food and for protection from the others they were hiding with. The others did not welcome the young boy with a broken leg because they worried that he would cry out at night and alert the Germans. One night Peter returned from looking for food and found them choking Walter. He told them if they harmed him they would never eat again as he would no longer look for food for them. The agreement reached was that the rations would be split 4 ways instead of 5 and that Peter would share his portion with Walter.

Recalling that time in hiding, Walter says, “During the five months that we were hiding, I was dreaming about having a full glass of water. Every day was daily terror. Every single day, we anticipated that we would be found. We lived by night. During the day, we lay there silently trembling expecting to be discovered. But, somehow we were not.”

Walter was 14 years old when he came out of hiding with Peter in January 1945.  After the war, with Peter’s help, Walter ended up in a Jewish orphanage outside of Wa

 
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