Saul Raimi

"Never forget, never allow such evil to happen again"

Name at birth
Bezalel Rejngewirtz
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Mlawa, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Yechiel Rejngewirtz, Shop owner
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Laja Filar, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Pearl, Frimet, Meyer, Malka, Bezalel (Saul), Chaya
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
Just Saul

Saul was born in October, 1924, in Poland, the fifth of six children of Orthodox Jewish parents.  There were four daughters (one died before the war) and two sons.  His older brother Meyer had been sent to the United States in 1938, a year before the war began.  A large family of uncles, aunts, and their children had also immigrated to the USA earlier in 1900. Many of their children and grandchildren were born after 1900.

Before the war, Saul led the usual life of a young Jewish boy.  He studied secular studies, Hebrew and Jewish religion in a cheder (religious school).  If he did anything out of line, the teacher was free to beat him with a switch.  There was no use complaining to his parents. They were on the teacher's side and would often beat him a second time.

During the week Saul studied in the cheder, but on Shabbat (Sabbath), after morning services, he would have a few precious hours to himself to play with his buddies in the park. Sometimes he would be stopped by one of the Polish boys who would roar at him "You Christ Killer!" He did not even know who Christ was, and why was he accused of killing him?

In September 1939, just prior to his 14th birthday, the Germans bombed and invaded Poland. Subsequently they marched into his city of Mlawa, close to the German border.  Life for Saul was not as it had been.  Many Jewish people were chased out of their little towns into larger cities. There they were to live in ghettos, restricted areas.  

Saul was blonde-haired and blue-eyed, as was one of his sisters.  Because they did not look Jewish, they could get out of the ghetto.  

They both decided to smuggle jewelry and other precious items out of the ghetto.  They sold them for cash which they shared with the owners of the jewelry.  They smuggled back food items for themselves and for the owners of the valuables.  

Smuggling was a dangerous occupation.  They had to be near train stations at night to meet buyers and they were fearful of betrayal by others.  One evening as a policeman approached them, Saul drew his sister close to him and began to kiss her.  The policeman said to others, "That is just a couple of teen-age lovers," and they were not caught.

In November of 1941, the Germans decided to liquidate, that is to empty out, the ghetto.  All the people were rounded up, placed on transports, and sent to various places.  Saul’s sisters were shipped to Auschwitz, along with the men.  At Auschwitz, the men were sent in one direction and the women in another.  Saul never saw his sisters again.  Years after the war he learned that one of his sisters had become ill.  That was a death sentence for her, so the other sisters decided to go to the gas chambers with her.

Saul underwent a selection under, Dr. Mengele, looked him over carefully and decided that he was fit to be a slave laborer.  Saul was given a prisoner's uniform, dunked into some disinfectant and he received a new name; a number was tattooed on his arm.  Every time there was a roundup calling the names of the prisoners, he responded to that number.

The morning began at 5:30 AM with roll call.  After a brief washing, bed making, he went for breakfast, a piece of bread (consisting mainly of sawdust) and some ersatz coffee.  Then off to work at whatever job was necessary that day.  One year he was luckily learning to be a bricklayer in a bitter winter.  That kept him alive.  One time he began to despair. He ran to the electric fence in an attempt to take his own life.  One of the guards, a convicted criminal, saw him and began to beat him up, breaking his nose.  He decided to show the guard that he was not intimidated, but could live.

This is how life went on until January of 1945.  The Allies were winning the war.  Auschwitz was emptied of prisoners who were then placed by the Germans on a death march. They walked for several days until they reached another camp, Buchenwald.

As January proceeded to April, Jews were again put on yet another death march.  Finally, on April 23, more dead than alive, he and his friends hid in ditches in the evening.  In the morning of April 23, he and his fellow prisoners were liberated by American soldiers. The soldiers had tears in their eyes when they beheld the starved remnants of people.  A few days later he was found to weigh 73 pounds.

It took Saul quite a few months to regain his weight and his strength.  Some of the survivors ate too much food on shrunken stomachs and died.  Saul spent some time in a hospital and corresponded with his brother in Detroit. 

Saul traveled to his home town of Mlawa to find out whether any of his family were still alive.  While there, he ran into the caretaker of his grandmother's apartment.  The man asked him, "What are you doing here; they were supposed to kill all of you." 

Saul realized that he was possibly the sole survivor of an extended family of 41 people.  He remained in Europe for a few more years.  In 1947, Israel was granted its independence as a country.  In 1948, Saul decided to go to Israel and to fight for his people.


Travel to Israel was very limited, with ships being diverted to Cyprus by the British.  Saul took an illegal boat.  Those above deck had to watch out for airplanes flying overhead.  Then they hid themselves from view.  Arriving in Israel, he was immediately drafted into the Israel Defense Forces.  


Stationed somewhere near Beer Sheva, he went out on a patrol one night.  As the third in line, he was returning to base on a dark and foggy night.  The leader of the patrol accidently stepped on one of their own land mines and was instantly killed.  The same thing happened to the second in line, Saul was the third in line and only received a piece of shrapnel in his eye.


While in Israel, he met his cousin Israel Rejngewirtz, his wife and baby.  Another relative was also there, as some remaining members of the family found each other.  During the following years, Saul worked as a plasterer while living in a third floor apartment in Tel Aviv.  Finally he decided to join his brother in the United States around 1993.

Saul arrived in Canada in December, 1953.  He was allowed to come into Canada at that time and found work at a Ford Factory in Oshawa, Ontario.  Sometimes he lived in Toronto, sometimes in Windsor.  He found entry to the United States in December of 1954.  

Sometime after that, he married, fathered four children, and worked at a variety of jobs to support his growing family.  He had vowed never to marry, but he was a good husband and father.  Each job led to another.  At the end of his working experience, he was a metals dealer, finding an excellent opportunity to bargain with men in junk yards and buy and sell metals.  
When he finally retired at age 59 and half, he became a speaker at the Holocaust Memorial Center.  He spoke to groups of junior high, high school, and college students about the impact of the Holocaust on his life.  The main idea that he espoused was "Never Again, Never Again" shall people do such horrible things to each other as the Nazis had done to the Jews.  He was part of an Alma College presentation about the Holocaust.  In over twenty years of lectures, he presented his experiences and ideas to others.  This is what could happen if we do not guard our liberties
To learn more about this survivor, please visit the Holocaust Memorial Center Oral History Collection
Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Name of Ghetto(s)
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
What DP Camp were you after the war?
In Germany
Where did you go after being liberated?
Israel (fought in the War of Independence), Canada
When did you come to the United States?
Where did you settle?
Detroit, Michigan
How is it that you came to Michigan?
Brother lived in Detroit
Occupation after the war
Scrap metal dealer
When and where were you married?
1956, Detroit
Ruth Krandall Raimi
Philip, Marsha, Steven, Cheryl
Sara, Hanna, David, Eli, Aaron, Melissa, Lena, Nathan
What do you think helped you to survive?
The desire to bear witness to the atrocities
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Never forget, never allow such evil to happen again
Written by Ruth Raimi, widow of Saul Raimi
Interview date:

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