Leo Steinmetz

"Don't forget your Chaverim (Hebrew, for friends). Help those who are hungry."

Name at birth
Leibish Steinmetz
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Velky Bockov, Czechoslovakia
Name of father, occupation
Yakov Steinmetz, Bought and sold vinegar
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Malka Greenfield Steinmetz, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and eight children; names of some of the children, Leibish, Avraham, Velvel, Rochel
How many in entire extended family?
Large extended family
Who survived the Holocaust?
My father and I
My grandmother was Elie Wiesel’s aunt.  I remember a story about my grandfather who was returning from a visit to the Vishnice Rebbe when he was accosted in the woods by a band of robbers.  He was taken into the forest, robbed, and tied to a tree.  The head of gang saw him and recognized him.  When this gang leader was a little boy, he remembered being in the grandfather’s house with his mother doing some kind of business.  The boy started crying.  The grandfather asked what was wrong and the boy told him that he was hungry.  The grandfather fed him a meal.  As he now recognized the grandfather, he set him free and returned all of his possessions to him.

The Germans killed a baby sibling in our house.  My mother and the children were killed at Auschwitz.  My brother Velvel was killed fighting the Germans in Budapest.  

My father survived the Holocaust but died shortly afterwards.  My father weighed 85 pounds when he was liberated.   He found a can of meat and ate it all at one time.  His body swelled up and he died.  My father had a Yiddish expression, “I’d rather die being full than die being hungry” and that is interestingly what happened.

I was conscripted into the Hungarian Army working in a labor camp outside of Dach, Hungary for the duration of the war.  I was the cook for the camp of 290 men who worked primarily building roads through the Carpathian Mountains for the army.

I returned to Sighet and then to Budapest where three or four of my mother’s sisters lived.  In 1945, in Budapest, I married Esther Bistritzer.  We were planning to move to Israel.  On the way to Israel, in Italy, I met an American soldier.  We got to talking and I said that I had an aunt and uncle who lived in Chicago but had no way of contacting them.  The soldier was able to locate American telephone books including Chicago.  I was able to locate my relatives in Chicago.  We spoke and my relative was able to eventually make the arrangements for me and my young family to move to Chicago.  We eventually moved to Detroit.

Occupation after the war
Kosher butcher, caterer, and Mashgiach (kosher supervisor)
Esther Bistritzer
Mindu Giffin, Malki Shur (both born in Italy), and Alan Steinmetz
Three and seven great grandchildren
What do you think helped you to survive?
Tzedakah (Hebrew for caring for others). Conditions in our particular labor camp were not as terrible as others. I was the cook for the labor camp of 290 people. I did every thing I could to never let a person go hungry.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Don't forget your Chaverim (Hebrew, for friends). Help those who are hungry.
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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