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Jewish Research and Education - Cuba Family Archives, Finding Aids

Dates: 1939-2007

Creator: Pola and Sam Arbiser Family

Summary/Abstract: Pola and Sam Arbiser are both Holocaust survivors from Poland. After the end of World War II, they immigrated to Israel where they met and married in 1954. They immigrated to Atlanta in 1960 and settled in Atlanta, Georgia. Their papers contain correspondence, appointment books, a poetry book, passports, wedding invitations, immigration documents, and school records. Of special interest are a diary kept by Pola while in hiding and soon thereafter, as well as a prayer book printed in 1935 at the future site of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Quantity/Physical Description: .6 linear feet

Language(s): English, Polish, Russian, Hebrew

Repository: The Cuba Family Archives for Southern Jewish History, The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, 1440 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30309.

Restrictions on Access: There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection.

Restrictions on Use: Copyright restrictions may apply.  Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright.  Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation: Box #, Folder #, Mss 314, Pola and Sam Arbiser Family Papers, The Cuba Family Archives for Southern Jewish History, The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, 1440 Spring Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30309.

Separated Material: Objects removed to artifact and textile collections and photographs removed to visual arts collection.

Processed by: Jeremy Katz (January 2015)

Arrangement: The papers are arranged in alphabetical order by subject and chronologically within each file.

Biographical/Historical Note: Sam Arbiser was born on September 19, 1919, in Warsaw, Poland, to a middle-class family. In November, 1939, a few weeks after World War II broke out, Sam followed a few weeks later by his brother Nathan fled Warsaw to the East. His mother, father, sister, and younger brother remained in Warsaw. All perished without a trace in the death camp of Treblinka.

Sam made his way on foot to Bialystok, where he was soon reunited with Nathan, but Bialystok had become a town of refugees with overcrowding and lack of services. Sam and Nathan left and made their way to Krasnoyarsk in Siberia where they were assigned to work in a machine shop. Both boys were also enrolled in the local evening high school. Life was hard, the climate harsh, and food was scarce.

After the war, Sam and Nathan made their way back to Poland. After five weeks of riding in cattle cars, they arrived at the bombed out city of Warsaw, where they discovered that not only had the area been totally devastated, but their entire family had been murdered. Sam remained in Poland for four years, but the anti-Semitism and difficulty of life under Communist rule prompted him to immigrate to Israel.

In January 1950, Sam and Nathan arrived in Israel where Sam got a job in the largest foundry in Haifa, where he became head of the machine building department. In Israel, Sam met and married Pola Bienstock. The Arbisers left Israel for the United States in 1959, where after a short time in Chicago they ended up in Atlanta, Georgia, where Sam started a successful machine building company. Pola and Sam had two children, Jack and Sherry.

Pola Bienstock Arbiser was born on September 23, 1928, in Drohobycz, Poland (now Ukraine). When World War II started in 1939, Drohobycz was bombed and later occupied by the Soviet Union. The Russian secret police were even stationed in the Bienstocks’ home. Pola’s father eventually lost his business and was drafted into the army and her brother died of pneumonia.

When the Nazis invaded Russia on June 1941, things went from bad to worse. The Nazis encouraged acts of violence against the Jews of the city. Pola’s aunt was killed and her mother was shot in the street by a Nazi, but fortunately survived. At one point, the mayor of the city, a friend of Pola’s father, hid them in the clock tower of city hall. For a week they watched helplessly as their friends and neighbors were beaten and murdered on the street below.

In 1942, the Jews of Drohobycz were ordered to move to a ghetto where they could be contained and where their labor was exploited by the Nazis. It was at this point that Frania Sobkowa, who worked as a nanny for the Bienstocks, said the words that would save Pola’s life: “Give me the children.” She said this knowing that any Pole caught protecting a Jew would be hanged as a warning to others. For Pola’s parents, Sara and Israel, there was no choice. Her sister, Irene, went first to Frania’s tiny apartment, followed by Pola’s mother, and finally Pola herself. Her father was a heavy smoker and his chronic cough would have given them away. He remained in the ghetto.

For three years, Frania hid the three hunted Jews in a small two-room apartment across the street from the local Gestapo headquarters where she worked. They could not let anyone know they were there, and they could not go outside. Terrified that they might be discovered, they could not even make a sound. During this time, the Holocaust raged around them. The ghetto of Drohobycz was eventually “liquidated” and many of the Jews of the city were sent to the Belzec death camp where they were all gassed and burned. In the city itself, other Jews who were also in hiding were hunted down and killed. Pola’s uncle was one such person. He was shot dead in the street by the Nazis and his body left there for days.

When the war ended in 1945, the three survivors emerged from their hiding place. The girls were pale and walked through the street with bare feet, having outgrown their shoes. They soon found out that their father had miraculously survived the war, even though he had been sent to many concentration camps, including the death camps of Auschwitz and Majdanek. Because Drohobucz was now part of Ukraine, the family decided to leave. The Bienstocks gave everything they owned to Frania and immigrated to the State of Israel. In those early days, life in Israel was not easy. The Bienstocks initially lived in a transit camp where three families were packed into just one room. Eventually, they moved to Tel Aviv and into their own home.

In Tel Aviv, Pola met Sam Arbiser and they got married in 1954. During this entire period, Pola remained in contact with Frania. When Sara Bienstock passed away, Sam and Pola decided to immigrate to the United States. They thought about moving to Chicago but settled on Atlanta because they liked the weather and people. Pola found work at Emory University. The Arbiser family brought Frania over for a visit and wanted her to stay, but she would not leave her homeland. She died on February 15, 1977, and is listed as a “Righteous Gentile” by Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Authority, in 1998.


Sam passed away on January 12, 2014, and Pola passed away on July 20, 2014.

Scope and Content: Researchers studying the Pola and Sam Arbiser Family Papers will gain insight into the Holocaust, immigration, the State of Israel, and Jewish life in the American South. Of special interest are Sam’s passport, which was one of the last issued by the Polish government before it fell to the Nazis, and Pola’s poetry diary, which she kept while in hiding during World War II. Also, a prayer book that was printed in 1935 at the future site of the Warsaw Ghetto. The papers are arranged in alphabetical order by subject and chronologically within each file.

Collection Inventory








40th Wedding Anniversary




American Society of Tool and Manufacturing Engineers




Appointment books




Arbiser Machine Building Co.




Birth certificate – Pola




Camp Blue Star









1944-2003, Undated



Correspondence – Talmadge, Herman




Emory University

1960, 2007



Hebrew University




Identification cards – school




Immigration documents – Pola




Immigration documents – Sam




Letter related to why Pola and Sam moved to Atlanta




Letters of reference




Marriage license








Metal Workers calendar (Germany)








Pattillo Construction Company




Photo album cover from Poland (photographs removed to visual arts collection)




Poetry book and diary – Pola








Prayer book printed in Warsaw, Poland




School records – Poland




Scrapbook - Thank you letters for speaking








Vulcan Foundries Ltd.

1954, 1956



W.D. Thomson PTA




Wedding invitations – Sam and Pola




William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum – Arbiser Theater dedication


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