Helen Mechlowitz

"I hope that my kids, my grandkids, no one should go through what I went through when I was 9 years old and my brother 3 years old."

Name at birth
Chaya Karcz
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Warsaw, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Benjamin, Baker
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Esther Ziesholtz, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, me and Natan
How many in entire extended family?
About 35 altogether, nine children in my grandmother’s family
Who survived the Holocaust?
Parents, Natan and Chaya survived

 When I was 9 years old, the war started, they started bombing Warsaw. I remember we all ran into the basement.  Then we went upstairs, mom cooked for us, then the Germans soldiers came in.  My father worked in a bakery and brought bread for the whole neighborhood.  After two weeks, we didn’t know what was going on.  They took away all of the radios.
My father knew that the Germans were going to come after him because he was a Communist.  So he decided to run away to Russia and later have the rest of the family join him.  Six friends went with him.  After a while, he sent a message to come join him.  We packed our bags, even my little brother, he was 3 years old.  
We went to a field that bordered into Russia that was under German occupation.  Thousands of Jews were camped out there, waiting for the border to open up.  My mother, I, and my little brother waited for a few days with many others until they opened the border and we were allowed in to Wietebst, Byelorussia.  
In the beginning of the war, they let us go in.  We had very little food after the Russian border opened up.  We knew where my father was and found him.  The hunger was great and we later decided to go back home to Poland.  We didn’t know what it was like in Poland.  The Russian asked us if we wanted to return to Poland or stay in Russia.  We said back home because we didn’t know where to travel.  So we went to Bialystock to register to go return home.  We knew we had a home in Warsaw.  
It seems that as punishment, because we asked to leave Russia, they sent us instead to Archangelsk in Siberia.  Siberia was terrible. We lived in a metal barracks, it was freezing cold, we were always hungry, and we had no proper shoes or clothing.  
My father worked in the forest cutting down trees.  My mother took care of us and would go out and pick mushrooms and blueberries.  At times, my mother would go out at night to farms to get us food by exchanging clothing for food.  
I have problems with my feet to this day; I can’t walk well because my legs were so frozen.  From Siberia, we were taken to Uzbekistan, then Kiev.  
After the war, my father wanted to return to Poland.  We went to Cracow and then back to Warsaw.  I was 14 years old and found a kibbutz (Israeli collective settlement) in Cracow.  On the kibbutz, there were young Jews getting an education and were planning to go to Israel.  I was young and wanted to go on with life.  Warsaw was demolished.  
My kibbutz decided to go to Israel.  First, we went to Austria, Italy, and then went on the ship, “Hatikvah.”  This was before Israel became independent.  We were caught by the British and taken to Cyprus for ten months, I was 16 years old.  In 1948, they finally let us in to Israel, like the movie, “Exodus.”
I came to Israel to Kibbutz Alonim in Emek, Israel.  There I was learning Hebrew and working.  I met my husband on the kibbutz, Yitzchak Mechlovitz, a concentration camp survivor.  We were married in 1949 in a very simple wedding on our kibbutz.  Our first two children were born in Israel.
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
When did you come to the United States?
1961. My husband’s mother and two brothers were living in the USA.
Occupation after the war
Homemaker and Helped in Kindergarten
Yitzchak, Butcher
Mayer, wholesale restaurant business Hannah, travel agent Sharon, homemaker
Eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren
What do you think helped you to survive?
That we went to Russia. It’s a good thing that they sent us to Siberia because we wanted to go back to Poland.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
I hope that my kids, my grandkids, no one should go through what I went through when I was 9 years old and my brother 3 years old.
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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