Warning! The text retains the original spelling of surnames and place names by an Israeli researcher; in many cases it may not be correct. Fragments that could contain current personal data have been removed from the interview.

Interviewee: Mrs. Miriam Malchi, daughter of Hela - Haya Altman (61 years old when interviewed)

Interview Subject: Hela - Haya Altman nee Rotshtein.

Hela-Haya Altman was born on December 24th 1917 in Łódź, Poland into the Rotshtein family. Hela was one of the eleven children of Arie and Miriam Rotshtein. The Rotshtein family were part of the Jewish community in Łódź.

They were very religious. They observed the Jewish traditions: they ate kosher food, kept the Sabbath – Hela`s mother used to light the candles and pray every Friday evening and her father used to go with her brothers to the synagogue and they had a big dinner every Friday evening and a big lunch every Sabbath and they all wore smart, white clothes. Her father and brothers went to the synagogue every day. They celebrated all of the Jewish holidays. Hela`s favorite holiday was Pesach (Passover); she and her sisters used to help their mother Miriam clean the house and her father Arie and her brothers did the Biur Hamez (cleaning out all the leavened food from the house). All the members of the family waited for the big dinner of Leil Haseder (the eve of the Passover festive dinner): they read in the Hagada (story of exodus) and ate Jewish traditional food like Gefilte Fish, chicken soup and Mazot (unleavened bread).

Hela`s family spoke Yiddish to each other and with their Jewish friends and neighbors and spoke Polish with the Poles.

Hela and her brothers and sisters went to the Jewish school in Łódź like all the Jewish children in their community. There were only Jews in their neighborhood and she had mostly Jewish girlfriends. When she got older she helped her mother with the housework and taking care of her younger brothers and sisters.

On September 8th 1939 the Germans captured Łódź and annexed it to the Reich in November 1939. The city received the new name of Litzmannstadt. In the beginning of 1940 the Nazis set up the Łódź ghetto in the city and populated it with more than two hundred thousands Jews from the Łódź area.

Hela with her parents, brothers and sisters were in the Łódź ghetto from the beginning. They suffered from starvation, diseases, crowding, and isolation from the outside world. In the summer of 1944 they were sent on the transports to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. Hela and her little sister Sela -Yafa stayed together all the time and survived, but their parents and nine brothers and sisters were killed.

The Russian Red Army freed the camp in 1945. Hela and her sister Sela went to Zaltzhaim displaced persons camp in Germany.

Sela met a young man called Shlomo Danziger there and they got married.

Hela met a young man called Yosef Altman in Zaltzhaim and they got married in March 1946. The pictures from their wedding got lost, so when they were at their friends' wedding a few weeks later,  they took another picture as if it were at their own wedding. On February 20th, 1947 their daughter was born and they decided to name her after Hela`s mother (who was killed during the Holocaust) – Miriam.

Hela and Yosef Altman registered together with her sister Sela and her husband, and with Yosef`s brother Abraham and his family for immigration to Palestine and came to Palestine in April 26, 1948. Hela and Yosef came by plane since they had a little baby. They came to live with Yosef`s sister Rachel and her husband and lived in Tel Aviv. After a few months they rented a room in an apartment in the Shapiro neighborhood in Tel Aviv, in the same building as Hela`s sister Sela and her husband.


Hela`s husband Yosef worked in a Textile factory for a few months and then with his brother Abraham, bought machines and opened a weaving workshop together in Tel Aviv. They were partners ever since. Hela was a housewife and also helped Yosef in the workshop.

Yosef and Hela continued to observe a religious way of life in Israel. They learned Hebrew in Israel. At first they spoke Yiddish with Miriam, and when she started school they spoke Hebrew at home. When they did not want her to understand what they were talking about, they spoke Polish.

In 1955 Hela and Yosef moved with their daughter Miriam to the city of Ramat Gan, and Hela`s sister Sela with her family moved to the same building. Since the tragic years of the Holocaust, Hela and Sela were always together.

Hela`s daughter Miriam learned at the elementary school Mizrachi in Tel Aviv and at Yavne elementary school in Ramat Gan. Miriam continued her studies at a religious high school in Ramat Gan. Since Miriam was an only daughter she spent a lot of time with her friends in the Bnei Akiva youth movement. During her vacations she helped her father in his workshop. Hela and Yosef loved going with Miriam to the beach and traveling in Israel. They were very friendly people with many friends. They managed to find some childhood friends from Poland who survived the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel like them.


Yosef died in 1997 and Hela died in 1998 in Ra`anana, Israel.