Tola Gilbert

"They should last.  Be strong – you will live to be liberated.  There is always a future, no matter how hard it comes.  We went through hell before we saw the future."

Name at birth
Tauba Zaks
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Sosnowiec, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Mendel, Businessman, owned a grocery/deli store
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Helen Kleiman, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, Regina, Sylvia, Tauba (Tola), Romek, Manya (Maria), Rosa, and Sima
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
Me and four of my sisters, Sylvia, Regina, Manya, Rosa
My life was a tragedy. When I think back I really saw hell.  When I think back, I get sad.
My life – I had a very comfortable children’s life.  When they took me to camp I was about 14 or 15 years old.  I met many friends there and of course we stuck together.  Life was very hard.  We had to walk and produce.  Food was very meager.  We didn’t have the comforts we did at home – far from that.  We produced thread at camp.  We worked many, many hours, at least eight hours a day.  I was at camp for about three years.  In the camp we were very friendly between us girls, we were trying to help each other as much as we could.  The circumstances were very hard.
After camp we went back to Sosnowiec, nobody was left there. We lived there in an apartment, my sister’s and a few friends.  Rosa was with me at Oberaltstadt.  She was always with me since then.  She was only a kid.  She went through school when we came back, I did not.  Manya was with us after camp back in Sosnowiec.  Sylvia and Regina were away deep in Poland, in camps.
I lived with Rose and Manya and some friends back in Sosnowiec.  Life was not easy.  We had no clothes.  We didn’t have what we were used to.  We had to cook for ourselves and to provide for ourselves.  It wasn’t easy; we never had to do that before.  It was very lonely.  We had to depend on our own.  Of course I was very close with my parents all my life before the war.  What else can I tell you?  That is from my heart.  To come back to nothing was devastating.  Life was very hard because food was getting very hard to get and we had depended on our parents for everything.
Regina and Sylvia came back to Sosnowiec after liberation and we lived together with them.  If you would know how sad this was, it was unbelievable.  We were so lonely even with each other.  We always stuck together, for better or worse.  The loneliness that we felt, how we missed our parents.  No one who did not go through could never, never understand.  I don’t wish on my enemies to feel the way we felt.  And we are alive and we are here.  Other people who survived must have felt with us.  You may know what it means to miss parents, but this is in a whole different way.  No human being can go through this.  What person cannot be moved by a story like this?  You were a child to be on your own.
Life went on and I met Morton and I married him.  I was so happy to have somebody who cared for me.  I had an uncle in Cleveland, Ohio.  After Martin and I married we came to the US because my uncle was here.  My sisters and I came over at different times.  Martin and I first, then slowly I sent for my sisters and they came about one at a time.  We never knew our uncle before the war.  He was a wonderful man and he had a wonderful wife.  We loved our aunt; she took care of us here.  It’s unbelievable that we survived.
Name of Ghetto(s)
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Where did you go after being liberated?
Back to Sosnowiec, that was the only place I knew to go
Where did you settle?
Cleveland, Ohio
How is it that you came to Michigan?
We used to travel here for our business frequently
Occupation after the war
Homemaker and helped Martin with our grocery business
When and where were you married?
After the war in Sosnowiec
Morton Gilbert, Homebuilder
Bruce and Pamela
Elise, Bradley, Melissa, Stephanie and Jacqueline
What do you think helped you to survive?
Mostly, my will to live
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
They should last.  Be strong – you will live to be liberated.  There is always a future, no matter how hard it comes.  We went through hell before we saw the future.
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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