Zoltan Rubin

"  Always remember that you are Jewish and should stay Jewish so we should not be destroyed.  Because there’s no other way.  For generations, we’ve been trying to stay alive, we’re only a tiny fraction of the population of the world, it’s important that we stay Jewish and survive.   It’s interesting, my brother Armin who was not at all religious decided to move to Israel after being allowed to leave Czechoslovakia in 1966. He may have not been observant, but his Jewishness... (continued below)"

Name at birth
Zoltan Rubin
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Kapusany, Czechoslovakia
Name of father, occupation
Emmanuel Rubin, Entrepreneur
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Hermina Handler, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and eleven children (eight boys and three girls): Armin (doctor), Serena, Leopold (banker), Cecilia, Yitzchak, Frieda, Shmuel or Sany, Mitu, Moric, Bartolomej or Berti and me
Who survived the Holocaust?
Three brothers: Armin, Mitu and me
Armin was in Persia and became the physician to the Shah of Iran.  Our father was a very religious man and wanted my brother Armin to learn at a religious school, a Yeshiva.  Instead, he left for Vienna and attended medical school.  My father and Armin became estranged.  
In 1928, Armin and a friend of his went to Persia to look for work.  When he arrived in Teheran, as it happened, an important Sheikh who was visiting became very sick and was dying.  It was heard that a European doctor had recently arrived in Teheran and Armin was called to help.  He was able to save the Sheikh’s life.  Armin later became the head of a hospital in Teheran and the physician to the Shah.  Armin met an English woman there and planned to marry her.  Our mother wrote him to not marry her; but to come home and marry a Jewish woman, and that everything would be forgiven between his father and him.  Armin came home.  Later in 1939 when the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, Armin was able to leave as he had a Persian passport.  He joined the Czech Brigade in London and later became an officer.  After the war, he immigrated to Israel.
My other brother Mitu was a soccer player.  When the team from Palestine, the Maccabees, came to our city before the war, Mitu went back with them and survived the war there.
I survived by being able to pass as a gentile as I was about to get false papers.  In the beginning of 1944, I joined in an uprising against the Nazi Slovak state.  On October 28, 1944, I was captured and taken as prisoner of war, as a non-Jew.  They did not know I was Jewish.  We were sent to prison camp in Lamsdorf, Germany.
In 1942, they started taking Jews to concentration camps.  My father was prominent in the community and had received a “yellow paper” which made him exempt from being deported; he, my mother, and I.  I was the remaining child still living at home.  A few months later, in 1942, the yellow paper was withdrawn; now it was a white paper that was needed.  In October 1942, before Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), my father did not receive a white paper as all of his land had been confiscated by the Slovaks and he was no longer valuable to the community.  The Slovaks had joined with the Nazis.  I heard that the Slovaks even paid the Germans a certain amount of money for each Jew that they transported away.  I met a girl when I was 14.  I never saw her again.  She and her family were taken away, who knows where they were taken.  
My brother and sister were both married and living in Hungary, they were taken there by the Germans.   
We had a porch with an open roof.  We would use it for a Sukkah (a hut used during the Jewish holiday of Sukkos – the Feast of Tabernacles).  The Sukkah had s’chach (a roof covering, typically of pine branches) on it.   The Germans came into our house.  My father said to me in Yiddish, guy aros.  He meant for me to leave, go up on the roof where the s’chach was, hide, and don’t come down, and so I did.  
I watched while they took away my parents, I was 20 years old at the time.   They took them away, took away my papers, I walked to Presov.  I had papers saying that I was a non- Jew.  
My parents were first taken to Zilina for a few days.  I had a contact who had an in with the Slovakian Nazis, I made a deal with him, I gave him 10,000 kronen (Czech currency), to have my parents taken off the transport.  What actually happened was that unfortunately my parents were taken away on one of last two transports.  They were to be released on paper at 6 AM, but the train left at 2 AM.  I learned that another family was released though under my father’s name.  
My father actually had an opportunity get false papers saying that he and my mother were non-Jews.  My father was a very religious man and did not want to pretend to live as a non-Jew.  My mother knew that her children had been taken by the Nazis and said “I would like to go where my children are.” 
I had money and bought a railroad ticket to Zilina.  From 1942-1944 I was with the Partisans.  For two years, 1942-43, was the worst part for me, in the beginning I didn’t know what I was doing.  At Zilina, I got acquainted with a girl, I didn’t have a real passport and she was able to get me legitimate papers.
I joined the army with the name, “Kibor Szanto.”  When I was captured by the Germans, I was taken to Kleinenbach prisoner of war camp, my prison number was 115129.  We were transferred from one place to another as the American army got nearer.   I was working underground digging tunnels in November and December of 1944.  The Zeiss camera lens company was moving a lot of their factories into the tunnels for protection from Allied bombing.  
I was warm inside the tunnel but there was a lot of chalk and dust.  There was a guy who had been working outside the tunnel who was freezing.  He asked if I would like to switch with him.  I asked the Germans, I thought working outside in the fresh air would be better than breathing all of that chalk dust.  We knew the U. S. Army was coming.  When I transferred, I was sleeping outside.  Three of us had a chance to escape to the forest and so we did.  We were there for about three weeks.  The American army arrived.   We prepared in advance of the escape saving bread.  
How did we survive?  One night we went to a farm, we knocked on the door.  We had our green prison uniforms on, in black letters, it said “KG” or war prisoner.   The woman at the farmhouse screamed seeing our green uniforms.  She thought we were American soldiers and gave us food.  We went back into the forest.  During the day we made a fire.  Two older Germans came by and we thought the worst.  I spoke German.  He said don’t worry about us we won’t hurt you but you do have to worry about the young punks, around 12-15 years old.
After the war ended, I went to Pilsen, I was still wearing that same uniform.  I wanted to go home, maybe someone survived.  I was at the train station and I saw that on another train across from mine were people from the Czech brigade.   I ask someone have you seen my brother, my brother the doctor who was in Teheran who was with the Czech brigade.   He says he has, that he is near Prague.  I got on another train and went to where his barracks were.  A Czech soldier asked me what I wanted.  I said that I heard my brother is here, Dr. Rubin, who I haven’t seen since 1939.  He says yes, Dr. Rubin is here.  The soldier goes in and says to my brother there’s someone waiting for you outside.  Armin came out and we both started to cry.  This is how we met.  It then became easier to travel with him together with me.  We came home and we saw trouble as people had taken over our family’s mill. We were able to get help from the mayor of the city.
When I came home, I went to the post office.  The postmaster kept our mail from 1942-1944.  I found a letter from a farmer who had been a friend of my father who had moved to Canada.  He invited us to move there.   He had been a friend of my father since 1936 or 1937.  He wanted to move to Canada but was not sure if he would like it or not.  So he sold his land to my father with the condition that if he came back within two years, that he could have his property back for the same amount of money.  After one year, he came back and father gave him back his land as they had agreed.
I wrote both my brothers about what I should do should I stay in Czechoslovakia or leave? I would have a lot of responsibility keeping up the family duties.  My brother Micu in Tel Aviv advised me not to come to Israel because conditions there were so bad, malaria and so forth.  My brother Armin who was now in Bohemia left it up to me to decide.  I decided to go to Canada and write my father’s friend.  My friend goes to a Father Kurta in Windsor, Ontario to help.  Six weeks later I get a call to go to the Canadian counsel in Prague to pick up a visa.  When I arrived in Windsor, Father Kurta and Andrew Baca, two non-Jews were there to me meet me.  They had arranged for me to get a job on a farm in Leamington, Ontario. Mr. Baca was very appreciative how good my father was to him.  As is turned out, I didn’t like working on the farm in Leamington and went to Windsor to work in a department store there.  I was making $20 a week.  I heard that the boys in Detroit were making $40 or $50 a week working for the car factories and wanted to move to the States.  I met my wife Agi Katz on a blind date in Detroit.  We were married in 1951.  I always joked that I married her for her green card.  
Name of Ghetto(s)
Where were you in hiding?
In Slovakia in the mountains and was with the Partisans. I was captured and was in a German prison camp but later was able to run away.
When did you come to the United States?
After the war, a friend of my parents and a Slovak priest helped me come to Canada.
Occupation after the war
Salesperson for Midwest Woolen
When and where were you married?
Agata Katz
Vicky Waxenberg, Amy Weber, and Randy Rubin
Seven grandchildren
What do you think helped you to survive?
Because of my mother who made me warm socks, as long as I had them I knew I would survive. Also because of my dad who told me to run away when they came for us. When the Slovaks took over in 1939, people were running away to Hungary, anywhere to get away. My mother knitted me a scarf and socks. I kept theses socks until 1945. Those socks saved me. When I was working outside the tunnel in the German prison camp, one guy tried to escape. They found him in a barn and shot him. We were then being bombed. I was washing those socks outside and when the bombing was going on, the socks disappeared. I figured this is it; that’s when I decided to escape to the forest.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Always remember that you are Jewish and should stay Jewish so we should not be destroyed.  Because there’s no other way.  For generations, we’ve been trying to stay alive, we’re only a tiny fraction of the population of the world, it’s important that we stay Jewish and survive.
It’s interesting, my brother Armin who was not at all religious decided to move to Israel after being allowed to leave Czechoslovakia in 1966. He may have not been observant, but his Jewishness was still strong regardless.  His Jewish soul was still there.  If he could do it, anyone can.  We have to stay Jewish; we should stay who we are, the way we were born.
Charles Silow
Interview date:

Contact us

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our email newsletter to receive updates on the latest news

thank you!

Your application is successfuly submited. We will contact you as soon as possible

thank you!

Your application is successfuly submited. Check your inbox for future updates.