Survivor STORY

Ida was born in Bialystock, Poland, the youngest child in a very Orthodox family. Her father was a well-known and respected businessman. Her brothers, seeing no future in Poland, emigrated before the war, as did a sister, who emigrated to Shanghai.

Ida graduated from high school in 1939, the year the Nazis occupied Poland. Her family was forced into the Bialystock ghetto and Ida worked in a factory making shoes for the Germans. Her husband, Joseph, was forced to join the Russian army and Ida was left behind to take care of their daughter, Tzipporah. In 1943, she was bringing her niece, Chana, home from the hospital when they were accosted by Nazis soldiers threatening to take away Chana, still weak from an appendectomy, for forced labor. Ida begged to be taken in her place. She was indeed taken instead, and spent the war years in concentration camps Stutthof, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Ravensbruck. On May 1st, 1945, the Red Cross liberated her from a labor camp in Hamburg, Germany.

After liberation, she was taken by the Red Cross to Sweden to recuperate, where she made contact with her brothers and her sister living in China. She learned that her husband and her child, her other two sisters, her parents and her niece, Chana, did not survive. After regaining her health in Stockholm, Ida joined her brothers in Israel in 1946, where she remarried and had two children. In 1957, the family moved to New York, where Ida was hired at a well-known bakery, taking birthday cake orders in the many languages she learned in Europe.

In 1988, Ida moved to Georgia to be close to her daughter and her family. Her son lives with his family in France.


I was already helpless, speechless, unable to walk, we were on the bed. No food, no water, nothing. We picked up the grass to fill up the stomach. Because it was already the end of April, and May 1st we were liberated from the Red Cross ...That day, when they liberated us, they gave us ... we stayed in line, they gave us a bread with hot soup. And it was, they took us to the trains, and the German, the guard in the train, in the open train, said to us in German [phrase in German] "You are free." I remember, I said to my girlfriend, "I don't believe him, it's something fishy, we don't know." And then, when they put us in the trains, we told the Germans in Hamburg, and took us to the train and took us to Denmark ...Then we know that we are free, because the people on the station, Luebeck was the station, the border, I remember very well, and they throw us cookies and sandwiches and shoes and clothing and congratulations, and flowers. Then we know that we were free. But then I said to my girlfriend, what for, we lost our loved ones, the families, and that's it.

Life and Survival in Europe

This I will tell you. I'm a survivor. When I was in Auschwitz I was so hungry. And I... the piece of bread, I had to share it. And I was thinking, "God, will I ever have a bread to eat as much as I want?" And I always, till today, I live, whatever I have I count my blessings for everything what I have. This is the story. I can adjust because I went through this time. So, to me, nothing, all materials doesn't mean a thing to me in life.

Life Lessons and Perspectives

Everybody has a different attitude to life. For example I live, even now, that I ...It was a time when I remarried, 15 years, 20 years now is already, is five years dead. It, so he was a good provider and everything. And he asked me, for example, "What would you like, to travel or jewelry?" I said, "I like to travel." So I traveled all over the world, we traveled. And then I always remember, when I, in Auschwitz, didn't have bread enough to eat, and I will say I will appreciate when I will have food enough to eat. And till now, I don't pay any attention to any material things. I don't have any special jewelry. If I had it I gave it to my son's, my daughter-in-law, because when my son was in medical school, a student, and couldn't afford for his wife to buy any, I gave away all the jewelry that his father gave me for her. That's the way, to me, all materials things don't mean a thing till now.

Ida Tavor