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by Rhonda Spivak, July 24, 2017

Walter Saltzberg  (born  Wacek Zalcberg) received "The Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers " on July 23, 2017 from Her Honour, Janice Filmon the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba. Filmon presented the award to Walter on behalf of His Excellency , David Johnston the Governor General of Canada. She graciously came to the hospital to present it to Walter after learning about the deteriorating situation with his heath. 


Walter, who became a well respected Bridge Engineer in Winnipeg , survived the Holocaust and arrived in Canada at Pier 21 in Halifax on Dec 2, 1947 at age 17 with only a grade two education.  


As his son George Saltzberg of Toronto says, "Dad has been recognized for his volunteerism in so many areas. Dad was very active in both the Manitoba and Canadian Associations of Professional Engineers, and the  Manitoba Association and Canadian Association of Schizophrenia.He also gave  talks across Manitoba and Saskatchewan about his life experience as a Holocaust survivor, teaching students to speak out against racism and inspiring them about perseverance. He has always been grateful that Canada gave him a home after the horrors he witnessed as a child. He has lived his life giving back. My dad is my life's 



Walter who is now age 86 and a half was born in Warsaw, Poland, in  1931, and was was the second son of Mauryce and Anna (Chudak) Zalcberg. While his parents and older brother Jerzyk perished in the Holocaust, Walter managed to evade death repeatedly.

A Christian Polish family friend Dr Kazimierz  Weckowski smuggled Walter out of the Warsaw ghetto and took him into his home and hid him for two years. (As George notes "Dr. Weckowski was recognized as a Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem after his death. He also smuggled out my grandparents' best friend and her two daughters.")


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

During the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944, Walter met a young man about ten years older than himself, named Peter Jablonski ( born Nachman Fryszberg  ), a Jew who passed as a Gentile,who would end up playing an extremely vital role in saving Walter’s life.


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. With a broken leg that Peter tied off with part of his shirt, Peter led Walter through a trap door in the floor, where he built a small hiding space. Walter lived in this "hole" for five months with Peter and three others. "It was Peter that saved Dad's leg by urinating in the wound," George Saltzberg explains. Peter found a sack of rotten onions and they used that as their main source of food.


Walter 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 told the Winnipeg Jewish Review in 2011, “During the five months 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 Warsaw in Otwock, Poland and went through an unsuccessful operation on his leg in a Russian military hospital in Otwock. He was later sent to Sweden to undergo another operation on his leg, this one somewhat successful.

While he was living in the Jewish orphanage in Otwock, Poland, American reporters had arrived at the orphanage after the war to interview the children about their experiences.  After a story about Walter and other orphans appeared in a New York Jewish newspaper, a friend of his parents recognized Walter’s name and arranged for him to come to Winnipeg in 1947, where he had distant relatives. 


Walter arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax onDec 2, 1947  at the age of 17 with only a grade two education. He graduated high school from St. John's School, and his post-secondary education was occasionally interrupted in order for him to earn enough money to continue with his education. He graduated in 1957 from the University of Manitoba with a degree in Civil Engineering and joined the Bridge Office of the Province of Manitoba as a project engineer, retiring in 1997 as the Director of Bridges and Structures.  Since retirement and up until the age of 81, he served as Engineer-in-Residence at the University of Manitoba as well as a Technical consultant for ISIS Canada Research Network Canada (ISIS).


Walter served as President of Association of Professional Engineers of Manitoba (APEM) in 1980. He has received many professional and community awards including, being recognized as a Fellow from the Canadian Council of Civil Engineers (2007), the Merit Award (1984) and Outstanding Service Award (1988) from APEM and the Meritorious Service Award for Professional and Community Service from the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers (1989). He also received the Optimist of The Year Award from the Optimist Club of Assiniboia (1974), and served as a President of the organization.


In addition to having volunteered his time telling his story to young people at presentations at the Holocaust Education Centre and at breakout sessions at the annual Symposium at the University of Winnipeg, Walter traveled at his own expense to rural schools outside of Winnipeg to provide Holocaust education by telling his story. He volunteered to do so in order to reach schools which would not otherwise be able to hear his message due to their distance from the Holocaust Centre and the cost involved for them to travel to Winnipeg to hear him speak (as most presentations take place in the HEC).



When Walter's only daughter was diagnosed as a schizophrenic in her teens, he educated himself about this mental health disorder and became involved in support organizations to help others.  He got involved with the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society and eventually served as its president.  He was a Director of the Grace Housing Co-op Rehabilitation Housing services for Schizophrenic patients as well as serving as the Vice-President of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.  He has been a devoted parent to his daughter in Winnipeg as well as to his two sons, both of whom live in Toronto.



Walter was nominated for this great honour by Belle Jarniewski , Chair of the Freeman Foundation Holocaust Education Centre of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada.







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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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