Alexander Raab

" I hope that the young people that will get an education in the university and will some day be the leaders, the Presidents, and the Congressmen should learn form the past and make sure not to abuse their education because all those that committed the atrocities were university-educated people."

Name at birth
Alexander Raab
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Jaroslaw, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Abraham, Grocery store merchant
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Miriam Steinberg, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and myself
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
Two cousins and me
My father was living in Jaroslaw but he left when he heard rumors about what was happening.  He went to his parents’ home in Ukraine while we lived under the Germans for one month in Jaroslaw.  The Germans rounded up and deported the Jews.  The building we lived in had belonged to my father’s father.  When the Germans came, I remember watching them with my cousin.  It was fun for us to see the soldiers.  When the SS came to the door, the Polish man who managed the apartment building pointed out where we lived since we were Jews.  There was my mother, my mother’s mother, and myself.  The soldiers and the guards with them told us to go to City Hall.  
They rounded up as many people as they could and marched us to the San River.  On the other side was Ukraine. In peace time, there had been a bridge over the river between our town in Poland and Ukraine, but it had been destroyed by fire so we had to cross on a pontoon bridge.  There was beating, pushing, screaming, running – complete chaos.  The KGB was over on the other side.  They didn’t know what was going on and didn’t know what to do with the Jews when we got there. People ran to the woods.  We decided to walk and saw a farmer with a horse and buggy going down a dirt path.   We asked him to take us to Grudek where my grandfather lived and had property.  We met up with my father and stayed there a few months.  The Russians announced that all newcomers/refugees from the German side (i.e., Poland) had to register at the city hall.  That seemed to make sense, so we went and told our story.  We were asked if we wanted to stay in Russia or go back to the German side.  We chose to return home.  That “raised a red flag” in the eyes of the Russians, but we knew that if we chose to stay in Russia, we would never be allowed to leave.  
It was 1940, and no one believed yet that things could ever be worse.   After all, there was a treaty between Germany and Russia at that time.  One night the KGB came in the middle of the night and told everyone to get out.  They put us on trucks and took us to the railroad station and loaded us into cattle cars.  We didn’t know where we were going or what or why. We traveled for three days with no food or water.  Then the train stopped one night. The doors opened wide enough for two men to get off together.  When they came back, they had buckets of “soup” for us and said they’d seen signs that said “Kiev.”  Normally that would have been a two-hour ride, but it took three days to get to that stop.  Then the train kept going.  
Again we didn’t know where or why or what, just that we were headed for an unknown destination.  It seemed we were going deeper and deeper into Russia.  Even the armed guards seemed to be “relaxing” more and would let us out of the train to “do business.”  It was summer time by then.   We were given enough food to sustain life.  We traveled for three months until there were no more train tracks and ended up in Siberia in a town called Bodaibo.  We had been traveling on the Trans-Siberia line.  We were then taken by trucks and across a river to Baikal Lake, which has three rivers going out from it: the Lana, the Angara, and Vitim.  In winter, the water is so solidly frozen; one can drive across it.  We went on a barge to Sinyuga where we lived in wooden barracks for two years until the situation with the Germans changed.  
We scavenged for food.  We were starving.  My mother made a kind of pancakes from poison ivy leaves.  In summer, we picked mushrooms and had to be careful that they weren’t poisonous. We saw big bears.  If the fruit the bears had picked didn’t kill them, we would pick that too.  I was so hungry all the time, I would eat salt. My mother saved us.  When she would get two slices of bread that weighed roughly 20 grams, she would cover one with a cloth to save for the next day, and then she would cut the other piece in four pieces to share with my grandmother, my brother Eric and I.  I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about that bread we would have the next day.
The males all worked as lumber jacks, and the women gathered logs or worked in the fields.  The Polish government-in-exile which was created by the Russians claimed us as Polish citizens.  They said they wanted their citizens back, and the Russians said that we had to accept Russian citizenship.  What would you do in a situation like that?  We were afraid because if we refused Russian citizenship, we could end up in jail or a labor camp.  My father died in a labor camp in Siberia.  My mother wanted to stay Polish, not Russian.  Somehow Stalin agreed to let the Polish citizens go from Siberia.  
My grandmother died, so just my mother, my brother and I took a train back to Poland.  When the train stopped in Jaroslaw, we were warned not to go there because of the danger of anti-Semitism.  We stayed on the train and went to Lower Silesia, to Świdnica (German: Schweidnitz).  There were organizations there, including the Hagana.  We were organized into kibbutzim (an Israeli collective community), with the Jews living in one building.  The Bricha took us from Poland through Czechoslovakia to Austria to the American Zone. 
In 1947 my mother, my brother and I crossed by foot illegally over the Alps to Bogliasco, Italy, near Genoa.  For two weeks we were on the ship, “Hatikvah,” as part of Aliyah Bet and were “welcomed” by the British in Haifa.  We then spent two years in Cyprus until January 1949, when we finally got to Israel.  We went to Ramle.  I served in the Israeli Army for two and a half years of active duty plus miluim (reserve duty), including the Sinai Campaign in 1956.  In civilian life, I worked at Nahlat Tzrifin in a pipe factory, in maintenance and also on pipe lines.  
In 1960 I got married, and in 1962, my wife and I left to come to the U.S. to live in Detroit, where I had my cousin who had emigrated in 1950 from Austria. I went into plumbing and became a licensed plumber and belonged to the union. Now I am retired.            
Where did you go after being liberated?
When did you come to the United States?
Where did you settle?
Detroit, Michigan
Occupation after the war
Worked in a Pipe Factory
When and where were you married?
November 22, 1960, in Israel
Irene, Hairdresser
Miriam Fogelson, housewife Emil, accountant Leah, advertising
Four: Noah Fogelson (13), Aaron Fogelson (11), Adam Raab (13), and Ben Raab (11)
What do you think helped you to survive?
The will to survive, I was a tough kid.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
 I hope that the young people that will get an education in the university and will some day be the leaders, the Presidents, and the Congressmen should learn form the past and make sure not to abuse their education because all those that committed the atrocities were university-educated people.
Charles Silow
Interview date:
To learn more about this survivor, please visit:
The Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive, University of Michigan

Survivor's map

Contact us

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our email newsletter to receive updates on the latest news

thank you!

Your application is successfuly submited. We will contact you as soon as possible

thank you!

Your application is successfuly submited. Check your inbox for future updates.