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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                       LOLA BORKOWSKA LANSKY

INTERVIEWER:                   ERNA MARTINO

LOCATION:                          ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                                  UNDATED (ca. 1985)​

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY:

Lola Borkowska Lansky was born in Lodz, Poland on November 19, 1926.  She had two siblings: a brother one year older and a sister one year younger.  Lola’s mother died in 1931 of tuberculosis, and Lola’s father remarried his sister-in-law whom Lola refers to in the interview as her mother.  Lola’s parents came from the small town of Parzeczew and Ozorkow, Poland where they lived until Lola’s father served in the Polish army during World War I.  When he came back from the army, they moved to Lodz and lived there until the outbreak of World War II.  Lola spent happy summers as a child visiting her grandparents in Ozorkow, where her maternal grandfather especially was well-known.  Lola’s grandparents were more observant Jews than her parents, but she did grow up in a kosher Jewish home. 

When Lola was about to enter the seventh grade in 1939, the Germans invaded Poland and began issuing restrictions for Jews.  Lola’s father went to Warsaw to join the fight against the Germans.  He returned wounded six weeks later to Lodz and eventually joined Lola and her siblings in Parzeczew where they had gone to be with her grandparents.  They were then sent to Ozorkow in 1940, where the Jews of the town were assembled to witness Jews being hanged, one of whom included Lola’s cousin.  After the hanging, the Jews were taken to a school where they were forced to strip and were stamped with ‘A,’ if they were selected for work, or ‘B’, if they were selected for death at the Chelmno death camp.  Lola’s grandparents and young cousins were sent to Chelmno, and Lola and her immediate family were sent to the Ozorkow ghetto.  Her father worked there as a tailor, and Lola worked as a seamstress in a factory.  Food was scarce, but the family felt that by working, they would stay alive. 

In 1942, Lola’s family was sent to the Lodz ghetto, and although conditions were poor, Lola was happy to be reunited with some of her friends from before the start of the war.  Food was scarce, but Lola recalls that there were doctors, religious services, and cultural events in the ghetto.  When the Lodz ghetto was liquidated in 1944, Lola and her family were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Lola, her mother and her sister were separated from her father and brother.  Conditions were harsh—Lola recalls getting only a sip of soup from a communal pot as her meal and the difficult roll calls (Appells).

From Auschwitz-Birkenau, Lola, her mother, and her sister were sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany.  They stayed at Ravensbruck a few weeks and were then transferred by train to Muhlhausen labor camp in Germany to work in an ammunition factory.  There, Lola’s mother became ill with pneumonia.  They stayed in Muhlhausen until February, 1945 when they were evacuated by train to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which Lola describes as “hell on earth.”  Bergen-Belsen was extremely overcrowded, there wre dead bodies everywhere, and sanitary conditions were deplorable.  Lola and her sister took turns caring for her mother, who grew increasingly more ill.  Eventually, Lola was able to move her mother to a hospital, but Lola’s mother died just one day before the camp was liberated by the British. 

Because Lola’s sister was sick with typhoid at liberation and was afraid to move to a hospital, Lola and her sister stayed at the camp until her sister was well, at which time they were joined by Lola’s father and brother who had also survived the war.  The family rejoined with other aunts and uncles in Feldafing, a displaced persons camp in Germany.  Although Lola wanted to immigrate to Palestine, her father wanted to move the family to the United States, so they arrived in New York Harbor in June, 1946.  Lola worked in a factory and enrolled in evening classes.  She married her husband, Rubin Lansky, on November 23, 1947.  In January, 1953, they relocated to Georgia with their son, Murray.   Lola passed away on February 10, 1999.

Scope of Interview:

Lola discusses her happy memories of visiting her grandparents in the small towns of Ozorkow and Parzeczew before World War II broke out in 1939.  She discusses how relations were good between Jews and gentiles and Lola had non-Jewish friends.  Lola remembers how when the Germans invaded Poland her family moved to Parzeczew, where they believed they would be safe.  She remembers how her family was later forcibly related to the Ozorkow ghetto and later to the Lodz ghetto.  She recalls movingly the last glimpses of her family when they were separated and she and her immediate family were sent to Lodz.

Lola describes her belief that to work was to stay alive, so the she worked in textile factories and her father worked as a tailor.  Although there was not enough food and conditions were harsh, Lola’s remembers her gratefulness that her family was still together.  Lola recalls their transfer to Auschwitz-Birkenau when the Lodz ghetto was liquidated in 1944, and their further transfer to the Ravensbruck and then Muhlhausen camps in Germany.  While at Muhlhausen, Lola’s mother became ill and never recovered.  Although conditions were still grim, Lola recalls how she and her sister worked in a munitions factory and were treated kindly by a German co-worker.  Lola recalls being sent to Bergen-Belsen where they were dumped and how her mother died in the hospital just before the camp’s liberation.  Lola describes remaining optimistic throughout the war feeling that her optimism helped her survive.

Lola describes her feelings when she was reunited with her father, brother, and several aunts and uncles at Feldafing Displaced Person camp.  Lola describes being active in the Zionist movement at the camp and wanting to immigrate to Palestine but, following her father’s wishes, the family moved to the United States, settling in New York in 1946.  Lola discussions her opinion that had the State of Israel existed during the Second World War, the atrocities and escalation of the war would never have happened.  Lola recalls her marriage to Rubin Lansky in the United States, although they had met in Germany after the war, and their subsequent move to Atlanta, Georgia in 1953.  Lola recalls how she was able to return to Poland with her husband in 1975 and was given a Sefer Torah from Ozorkow that she was able to bring back to the United States.  During this visit, Lola and her husband were able to also visit with people who remembered them from before the war. 

KEYWORDS:

Ahavath Achim Congregation—Atlanta, Georgia

Aktions

Auschwitz-Birkenau (Death Camp:Poland)

Badges, Jewish

Bergen-Belsen (Concentratn Camp: Germany)

Biebow, Hans

Canada

Chelmno (Death Camp: Poland)

Haberdashery industry and trade

Hat industry and trade

Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS)

Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)

Immigration

Israel

Jewish-gentile relations

Kashrut

Kosher

Lansky, Lola Borkowska

Lansky, Rubin

Liberation

Lodz, Poland

Łódź, Poland

Lodz (Ghettos: Poland)

Mengele, Josef (Dr.)

Muhlhausen (Labor Camp: Germany)

Mühlhausen (Labor Camp: Germany)

New York City, New York

Ozorkow, Poland

Ozorków, Poland

Parzeczew, Poland

Parzęczew, Poland

Poland

Ravensbruck (Concentration Camp: Germany)

Ravensbrück (Concentration Camp: Germany)

Sabbath

Shabbat

Slave labor

Soldiers, Polish

Soldiers, Jewish

Tailoring industry and trade

Torah

United States

World War, 1939-1945

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