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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:            ISAAC WISE

INTERVIEWER:      UNKNOWN

LOCATION:             ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE                        UNKNOWN

Transcript (PDF)

BIOGRAPHY

Isaac Wise (Weiss) was born Izchak Visgardiski in the small village of Vendziogola, Lithuania on April 1, 1910. He had six siblings. After he completed his schooling in the nearby city of Kovno, he became a successful salesman. In 1936, he married Rachel Lager. The couple had one child and enjoyed a happy life until the Germans invaded Lithuania in the summer of 1941.

Isaac was soon working as a forced laborer and the family was confined to the Kovno ghetto. Isaac and Rachel were able to get extra rations working as a carpenter and domestic servant. Towards the end of the war, Isaac was evacuated to the Stutthof concentration camp and then to Dachau near Munich, Germany. From there, he was sent on a death march south toward the Alps. After narrowly escaping execution, Isaac and the other survivors of the march were liberated by the American Army.

While recovering in a former military hospital, Isaac was reunited with his brother, Sam. Isaac soon learned his wife had also survived and was in Lithuania. Isaac traveled to Poland and was soon reunited with Rachel. No other family members survived.

In 1949, Isaac and Rachel came to the Untied States and began a new life in Atlanta, Georgia. When Isaac’s brother and his wife, Ida (also a Holocaust survivor), joined them later that year, Isaac and Sam opened Wise Brothers Grocery. Rachel and Isaac had two children. Isaac died in 2002 and Rachel died in 2011.

Scope of Interview:

Isaac talks about Vendziogola, Lithuania, the village he was born in, his family and attending school in Kovno, Lithuania. He recalls a happy life as he began a career as a salesman and married. Isaac recounts the German invasion of Lithuania in 1941. He describes the anti-Jewish attacks he witnessed. Isaac explains being sent to the Kovno ghetto, the roundups that took place and working as a forced laborer. He talks about being sent to Stutthof and Dachau and finally on a death march. Isaac recounts his experiences at liberation. He contrasts the cruelty, fear, and hunger he experienced with the occasional kindness that helped him survive. Isaac details his recovery after the war and reuniting with his brother in Munich, Germany and later with his wife in Lodz, Poland. He explains how pretending to be a carpentry got him and his wife extra food. The interview concludes with Isaac detailing how many of his family were killed and his fear of contemporary antisemitism in America.

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