Krystyna i Samuel Willenberg

Interlocutor name:
Krystyna i Samuel
Interlocutor surname:
Willenberg
Researcher:
Joanna Król
Operator:
Przemysław Jaczewski
Catalogue number:
MPOLIN-HM52
Recording date:
24th April 2014
Recording location:
Warszawa
Recording duration:
0:47:19
Format:
Audio
Recording language:
Polski
Recording copyright:
Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN
Project:
Holocaust Survivors

Topics

Emigration, False documents, ghettos , World War II, Israel, Death camps, Holocaust survivors, Participation in the resistance, Holocaust.

Related places

Interlocutor biogram

Samuel (Igo) Willenberg was born in 1923 in Częstochowa. His mother was an Orthodox Russian, while his father, Perec (Baltazar) Willenberg, was a Polish Jew and an artist. He took part in the September campaign in 1939. He then moved with his family to Opatów, where his father worked on polychrome decorations in the local synagogue. They were all sent to the ghetto in Opatów. They managed to obtain Aryan papers and returned to the home town of Częstochowa. In Częstochowa, however, their Polish neighbours denounced the two sisters of Samuel Willenberg – Ita and Tamara to the Germans. They both died in the Treblinka extermination camp, while Samuel ended up in Treblinka after the liquidation of the Opatów ghetto, to which he returned in search for his sisters. In the camp he described himself as a bricklayer which saved his life. On 2 August 1943, he took part in a revolt in Treblinka, and managed to escape from the camp. He got to Warsaw, where he participated in underground activity as part of Armia Ludowa (The People's Army). A participant of the Warsaw Uprising. After the war, he was a lieutenant in the People’s Army. He trained the Jewish youth in self-defence, and on part of the Zionist organisation Ha-noar Ha-cijoni Jihud, he searched for Jewish children who survived the war hiding with Polish families. In 1950, together with his wife Krystyna (Ada) Willenberg, he emigrated to Israel. For many years he worked as an engineering surveyor. On reaching retirement, Samuel Willenberg turned to sculpture. His work depicts scenes from Treblinka, for instance, a girl having her head shaved and camp artists who are forced to play violins. Samuel Willenberg wrote a book entitled “Bunt w Treblince” (Revolt in Treblinka) (Biblioteka “Więzi”, 2004).

 

Krystyna (Ada) Willenberg née Lubelczyk was born in 1929 in Warsaw in the Northern District (“Dzielnica Północna”, no longer in existence), at  Franciszkańska St, in a Jewish family. During the war she found herself in the Warsaw Ghetto, from which she escaped to the Aryan side with  the help of her family in 1942. She survived the war under a false name at the home of Helena Majewska. She met her husband, Samuel Willenberg, in Łódź in 1946 when looking for a flat. They got married in 1948 and in 1950 they emigrated to Israel where they have lived ever since. Their daughter, Orit Willenberg-Giladi, is an architect. Krystyna Willenberg is the author of the book Skok do życia (A Leap to Life) (published by Austeria, 2010).

Recording circumstances description

The conversation was recorded at the Bristol Hotel in Warsaw, in one of the conference rooms.

Recording summary

  1. First meeting of Krystyna and Samuel Willenberg in Łódź, trouble with finding accommodation after the war, 0:00:47
  2. Service of Samuel Willenberg in the Polish People’s Army, participating in self-defence courses for Jews, 0:04:18
  3. Situation of Jews after the war and the dangers facing them, comparing this situation to the situation of Jews in Western Europe, 0:06:20
  4. Description of training courses in self-defence for the Zionist organisation Ha-noar Ha-cijoni Jihud, 0:08:26
  5. Description of transporting Jewish children and adolescents to Rome, description of finding Jewish children who survived the war staying with Polish families, 0:10:50
  6. Memories of the loss of the two sisters of Samuel Willenberg – finding clothes belonging to the sisters in the Treblinka extermination camp where Samuel Willenberg worked as a prisoner, 0:18:28
  7. Description of the life of Samuel Willenberg after his escape from the Treblinka extermination camp in August 1943, after a revolt in the camp, 0:22:29
  8. Description of the life of Krystyna Willenberg – escape from the Warsaw Ghetto and her stay on the Aryan side, 0:29:44
  9. Description of the post-war wedding of the Willenberg couple in front of a rabbi in Łódź, 0:34:30
  10. Thoughts on the belief in God, 0:35:50
  11. Description of the participation of the Willenberg couple in the Marches of the Living and taking Jewish groups round Treblinka, 0:38:00
  12. Description of the return of Samuel Willenberg to his memories from his stay in Treblinka through art, description of his sculptures depicting scenes from Treblinka, 0:40:37
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