Hershel Kelman

"It was a dark, evil part of history that should NEVER be repeated to any group of people."

Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Tluste, Galicia, Polish Ukraine
Name of father, occupation
Shmuel, Horse and buggy driver.
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Gittel, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, Mendel, Mordechai, Muno, and I.
Who survived the Holocaust?
Only me.
My father died before war.  He was a soldier during WWI and was shot by an Austrian soldier when I was only 1 year old.

My brother Mendel lived out of town and died before the war of sunstroke at the age of 26.

After my father’s death, because we were impoverished, my family lived in the basement of a synagogue.

Before the Germans came, I was a soldier in the Polish army.  In 1943, when the Germans came to Tluste, I was taken to a labor camp, Borki Wilkie, near Tarnipol, working building a railroad.  While I was in the labor camp, the Germans surrounded the Jewish inhabitants of our town and took everybody to the Jewish cemetery.  Everyone was shot and killed including my mother and my brothers.  

Everyday in the labor camp, they took a few people out and killed them.  A Ukrainian soldier told me that in a week or two, they were going to kill all 900 of us in our camp.  I told people about what I had heard but no one believed me.  That night, at 4:00 in the morning I escaped to a nearby forest.  I stayed in the woods.  Later, the Russian army approached, I volunteered to join them.  For two years, I had been a soldier in the Polish army. 
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Where were you in hiding?
I joined the Russian army. I was in Latvia among other places. I fought on the front against the German army and killed many German soldiers. I was shot on the front and lost two of my fingers.
Where did you go after being liberated?
After the war I returned home to Tluste. I was told, “You’re still alive, we thought all of the Jews had been killed. We’re going to kill you too.” I left and went to Austria and later to Germany to a Displaced Persons’ Camp where other Jews were. I was in Germany for three years.
When did you come to the United States?
I came alone in 1950.
Where did you settle?
First in New York and then moved to South Haven, Michigan. I later moved to Detroit.
How is it that you came to Michigan?
My father’s brother lived in South Haven, Michigan. I worked on a farm there. I later moved to Detroit where I worked as a laminator in a small factory.
Occupation after the war
Factory worker, laminator.
When and where were you married?
Married in Detroit.
Eleanor Stern Kelman, passed away in 1996.
Gayle, Stewart, and Carol.
Four: Roselie, Johny, Eric, and Eitan.
What do you think helped you to survive?
I worked hard in the labor camp. I heard that the Germans were going to kill all 900 of us in the labor camp. No one believed me. I ran away at 4:00 that very night.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
It was a dark, evil part of history that should NEVER be repeated to any group of people.

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