Alex Spinner

"Never settle, always reach for the higher bar. Your only limits are the ones that you set."

Name at birth
Aleksander Spinner
Date of birth
Where did you grow up?
Holoskow, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Nuchim Spinner, Restaurant/bar owner
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Sarah Schmerler, Restaurant/bar owner
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and twelve children - Mendel, Sam, Aron, Mary, me, the rest are unknown
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
Sam, Aron, Aron's wife, another brother, and me
I was born on September 15, 1920, in a small town in Ukraine named Holoskow. The town was formerly known as Ottynia, when the land was under Austrian-Hungary rule.  I was the youngest of twelve children, of which two brothers and one sister survived the war.  In addition to my brother who moved to the United States prior to the war. My closest brother, Aron, left to find work in Lvov, while me and my other brother remained in Holoskow with our mother and two sisters (our father passed away prior to the war). 
While in Holoskow, I learned the carpentry trade, which I continued as a profession after the war.  When Germany dissolved their non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, my brother and I were taken into the Soviet army and, as soldiers, saw action during the war against Germany.
As a Jew in the Soviet army, I was subjected to much anti-Semitism by not only my officers, but also by my fellow soldiers, people who I fought alongside of, against a common enemy. 
On one exercise, my platoon crossed a land mine and an explosion occurred, hospitalizing me. My injury kept me hospitalized for approximately one year at the military hospital in Siberia. 
Upon my release from the hospital, I was again sent to the war front. After only a few months, I was injured once again. This time a bullet had penetrated my lower leg and I found myself again in the military hospital, where I remained until the end of the war.
With the war now over and having heard news of the atrocities that had taken place, I set out to return to my home town, hoping to find members of my family that may have survived.  
On my journey I came into contact with a former neighbor who informed me that my brother Aron was in Warsaw, Poland.  My search then led me to Warsaw where my brother and I reconnected with each other.  Still desirous to return to my home town, I was advised that it was not safe to return to Holoskow. 
My whole family had been taken away, except for my mother and one sister. Our neighbors, people with whom our family used to share meals, had murdered my mother and sister. Another sister had survived, and years later made contact with my brother, Sam, who had left Europe before the war. 
Sam then sponsored Aron and his wife to come to the United States, where they settled in Detroit, Michigan. Our other brother, who was also taken into the Soviet army, had earned his way up the ranks, becoming an officer in the Soviet army. 
Because he was Jewish and now had family in the United States, he saw the risk these things posed to his career. To protect his career, and in his best interest, he dissolved the relationship with his family.
I continued to work in Poland for a few years after the war and then moved to Israel. In 1960, I came to the United States, where I met my wife, Gloria (Weinberg) Spinner. Together we had one son, Howard. I continued my trade of carpentry, where my work was a direct shadow of my life. I always gave 100%. 
Where were you in the Former Soviet Union?
Where did you go after being liberated?
I returned to Poland to search for surviving members of my family. I came across a former neighbor who had crossed paths with my brother, Aron. I reconnected with Aron in Warsaw. I traveled to Italy, then France, en route to Israel.
When did you come to the United States?
March 29, 1960
Where did you settle?
Detroit, Michigan
Occupation after the war
When and where were you married?
January 25, 1963 in Detroit, Michigan
Gloria (Weinberg) Spinner, Administrative assistant
Howard Spinner, Contractor
Three granddaughters and one great-grandson
What do you think helped you to survive?
Unfortunate luck. By going into the Soviet army I avoided the same fate that the other members of my family experienced. My injuries during the war kept me off the battlefield and in the Army hospital.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Never settle, always reach for the higher bar. Your only limits are the ones that you set.
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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