Sarah Cwagenberg

"Always have hope and faith.  Believe and pray to G-d.  Never let it happen again!"

Name at birth
Sura Cimerman
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Kozienice, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Motel Cimerman
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Chana Tyshman, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Living in my house were my grandmother Tema, my mother, a brother named Nachman, me (Sura), a sister named Pearl, and a sister named Yura.
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
Only my sister Pearl and I survived. My mother had a brother named Avram Tyshman who left Poland and went to Brazil just before the war.
I grew up in Kozienice, Poland.  My father died at the age of 26 from pneumonia, just two months before I was born, so my mother was left with my older brother and me.  My maternal grandmother also lived with us.  We were very religious and poor.  

My mother remarried to an older man who could help support us when I was 6 years old.  She then had two more children.  I was 19 years old when the war broke out.  I had been engaged to a young man, but his house was bombed on the first day of the war and he was killed.  I got married to someone else a year later while in the Kozienice ghetto.  

I had typhus in the ghetto and almost died there.  My mother had to bribe a German police officer with all of the things that she had been saving for my dowry so that he would let me go to the hospital outside of the ghetto.  My husband and I were sent to different camps and did not know each other’s whereabouts for the remaining four years of the war.  During the war, I was sent to different labor camps to work in ammunition factories.  One day, I bent down to wash my hands, so a Nazi soldier hit me in my mouth with the back of his rifle and knocked out my front teeth.  

After the war, I went back to Kozienice to find my family, but no one besides my sister Pearl and I had survived.  I went to our Polish neighbor’s house to retrieve some items we had left in their safekeeping, especially my mother’s silver Shabbos (Sabbath) candelabra.  The neighbors, who had been our friends, told me I could only have the items back if I paid for them!!  Of course, I had no money, so I could not get anything that had belonged to my mother.  

I believed that my husband had died because his name was on a list of those who did not survive.  Then, miraculously, while in Czechoslovakia, I met a man from my hometown and he told me that he had seen my husband alive and in a hospital in Munich just the day before.  I made my way to Munich and was reunited with my husband there.

Name of Ghetto(s)
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
What DP Camp were you after the war?
Yes, in Feldafing, Germany.
Where did you go after being liberated?
I was liberated by the Russians in Leipzig, Germany. They took us back to the barracks in the Czestochowa Camp. I went back to my home town to see if I could find any of my family, but no one had survived. Then I went to Prague where I found out that my husband had survived and was in Munich, so I went to Munich.
Where did you settle?
In 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio for two and a half years.
How is it that you came to Michigan?
My only surviving sister, Pearl, was in Detroit with her husband, so we moved to Detroit.
Occupation after the war
Seamstress/dressmaker. I got a job doing alterations at Winkelman’s, but then quit to stay home and take care of my children.
When and where were you married?
1940 in the Kozienice Ghetto.
Iche (Jack) Cwagenberg, Auto worker, business owner
Allen, engineer Anne, teacher Philip, lawyer.
Seven: Deborah, Susan, David, Jennifer, Jack, Jeffrey, and Dena
What do you think helped you to survive?
My strong will to live! And a lot of luck.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Always have hope and faith.  Believe and pray to G-d.  Never let it happen again!
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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