Joseph Steuer

"Keep the Jewish faith alive. I did so with Jewish music, humor, and storytelling."

Name at birth
Joziu (Yoseph) Steuer (pronounced Yu-shu)
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Bielsko-Biala, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Ignatz (Yitzchak) Steuer, Restaurant waiter
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Anna (Chana) Fuchs, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and seven children: Ela (f), Zigfrid, Elias, Marta, Max, Karol and Joziu (me)
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
Elias, Marta and I. Marta was in Parsznitz, sub camp of Gross Rosen, and Elias survived Auschwitz
On September 3, 1939, I was 24 years old when the Germans came to the city of Bielsko-Biala.  The Jewish people were restricted to work and to move freely around the city.  We were forced to wear armbands, a white and blue Mogen Dovid (Jewish star).  
I was forced to work for the Germans, cleaning up the debris of the damage the Germans had done to the destroyed synagogues, streets, houses, etc.
In Bielsko-Biala most people were bilingual knowing Polish and German.   I grew up knowing both languages.  My knowledge of German later became a great asset.
On October 19, 1939, all Jewish men from the ages of 16-50 received a notice to bring a knapsack and report to work.  We were sent on a cattle train to Nisko, near Lublin.  In Nisko, the Germans unloaded the train and made us go to a big field nearby.  Then they started shooting at us.  Some of the men and I ran away into the woods to the Russian border.  I was with my friends as well as with some of my future wife’s family.  My family had been tenants in Ida’s family’s home.
Some of us were caught by the Russians but were later released.  We ran for weeks and came to Cracow.  In December, 1939, I came back to Bielsko-Biala to be with my parents.
In May, 1940, we were forced to leave our homes in Bielsko-Biala and go to Wadowice.  There I was forced to do very hard physical labor.  In April, 1941, we were forced to go to Durchgangslager in Sosnonic, Poland.  From April through August, 1941, I
 was taken to a labor camp in Wiesau, Germany.  
From August through October, 1941, I was forced to work in a labor camp in Sakrau, Germany.   I was beaten so hard there, that two of my teeth were knocked out.  From October, 1941 through March 1942, I was in a forced labor camp in Flossingen, Germany.
From March through June, 1942, I was taken to work at Auschwitz.  From June, 1942 through March, 1944, I was in a forced labor camp in Markstadt, Germany.  
I worked in there in hard labor but I was also utilized to do office work because of my knowledge of the German language.  
I also had a beautiful singing voice and entertained the Germans with the German songs that I knew. 
From March through September, 1944, I was forced to work in a labor camp in Faulbruck Ammunition Factory (R.A.B.).  From September through May, 1945, I was transported to Sportschule to Langenbielau labor camp.  Afterwards, I was transported to Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia.  On May 9, 1945, I was liberated by the Russian army in Theresienstadt.  
I came back to Bielsko-Biala looking for my family.  Unfortunately, I learned that my parents and four of my seven siblings had been killed by the Germans in Auschwitz and Belzec. 
In 1948, I married Ida Richtman in Bielsko-Biala, Poland.  We had one child, Sydonia Steuer (Gajda).  
In Bielsko-Biala, Poland, I was a bookkeeper for a meat company.  In 1964, we immigrated to Detroit, Michigan where my brother Elias, who had also survived the Holocaust, was living.  Elias sponsored my family to come to the United States.  In Detroit, I became a Controller for Production Steel in Detroit.  
Name of Ghetto(s)
Occupation after the war
Controller for Production Steel
Ida Richtman
What do you think helped you to survive?
Knowing the German language was a great asset for me, I was able to sing for them. I also was very precise and organized which appealed to many Germans who were with me.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Keep the Jewish faith alive. I did so with Jewish music, humor, and storytelling.
Biography given by Joseph Steuer’s wife, Ida Steuer and daughter, Sydonia Gajda
Interview date:

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