Esther Halpern

"Remember and never forget what happened in the Holocaust. If we forget, history can repeat itself again."

Name at birth
Estera Olishansky
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Stare Siolo, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Yitzchak Olishansky, Textile worker
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Eta Resnick, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and nine children: Soril, Shaindel (Gendelman), Chaya, Chava (Feldman), Miriam, Hershel Tzvi, Leah (Fuchs), Reuven, Estera (Halpern)
How many in entire extended family?
Large extended family
Who survived the Holocaust?
Esther and her sisters Leah (Fuchs), Chava (Feldman), and brother Hershel Tzvi
During the war, the Jews in Rokitno, Stare Siolo, and Helinka thought that only the younger generation was going to be captured and killed by the Nazis.  They sent the teenagers and young adults to Russia.  
Esther escaped to Russia with her sister Leah and many cousins and friends.  The Russians sent Esther and others who survived to a kolkhoz, a commune, in southern Ukraine.  While there, she met her husband Avraham (Leon) Halpern.  They were engaged the same day that they met.  He proposed to her with a ring made from wire.  He married her the next day in a borrowed shirt.  
They had their first daughter Eta (Edi) in Russia in 1945.  Their second daughter Sarah was born in Germany in 1947.  Their son Yale was born in Detroit in 1953.  
Esther’s entire remaining family, with the exception of three siblings, were murdered in the villages where they lived during the war.  
Leon and Esther were one of the main founding members and active advocates for the first Detroit Holocaust Memorial Center.  Leon and Esther Halpern were founding members of the Detroit chapter of Magen David Adom, Israel’s ambulance, blood-services, and disaster-relief organization.
Where were you in the Former Soviet Union?
In a commune in southern Russia
Where did you go after being liberated?
When did you come to the United States?
Where did you settle?
Detroit, Michigan
How is it that you came to Michigan?
There was family living in Michigan before the war.
Occupation after the war
Seamstress, homemaker
When and where were you married?
Around 1944, on a collective farm in Russia. They met and were engaged in the same day. The following day, they were married using a piece of wire as a wedding ring.
Leon Halpern, Construction business
Edi Gastman, Sarah Gordon, Dr. Yale Halpern
Michelle Millman, Rebecca Hayman, Dr. Brian Halpern, Jason Gordon, Dr. Sharon Ferber, Dr. Elizabeth Gordon, David Gordon, Jordan Halpern
What do you think helped you to survive?
Esther was with her sister, Leah, throughout the war. She did everything in her power so that they would both survive.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Remember and never forget what happened in the Holocaust. If we forget, history can repeat itself again.
Biography given by Esther Halpern’s granddaughter, Michelle Millman
Interview date:

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