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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                EDDIE KING


LOCATION:                 ATLANTA, GA

DATES:                        MARCH 6, 2009

Transcript (PDF)


Eddie King was born on June 8th, 1931 in Wolomin, Poland to parents Mary and Simon. His mother was an American and his father was a Polish tailor, and he had one younger brother. He remembers the anti-Semitism from the Polish villagers and was not permitted to attend the Polish public schools. Eddie and his family were in Warsaw visiting family on September 1, 1939, when German troops invaded Poland. He and his family took shelter from the falling bombs in a cemetery.

The German occupation of Poland began relatively calmly, but soon rumors of able-bodied Jewish men being sent to labor camps made their way to Eddie’s parents. His father and uncles chose to leave for Russia, which had a reputation of friendliness toward Jews. Eddie, his mother, grandmother, and brother remained behind. One of Eddie’s most vivid childhood memories was when German soldiers came to confiscate the radios and shot his grandmother for walking too slow. Shortly after this, German soldiers burned the synagogue, forced the Jews to throw the Torah and prayer books into the fire, and cut the rabbi’s beard and payes. The people of Wolomin soon realized these events were more than a pogrom.

After a period of scraping by in Wolomin, Eddie, his mother, and his brother were transported to what was later known as the Warsaw Ghetto. He recalls witnessing shootings and people dying in the streets; his only friend was a man named Sevek who was charged with removing the bodies from the streets each morning. Eddie found a hole in the fence and would sneak out at night to steal food. Though Eddie does not remember how, he and his family were eventually able to leave the Ghetto and heads towards Russia. They waited at the border for some time, where they witnessed German soldiers shoot a little girl and her mother over candy. The Russians finally opened the border, and Eddie and his family made their way to Moscow. Eddie and his brother were separated from their mother, who was arrested, and survived alone for a short time before they were picked up as well. Miraculously, the boys were reunited with their mother at a train station where they were all set to be shipped to a work camp in Siberia.

After a nightmarish two weeks in the freight train, the family arrived in Siberia at the end of 1940. His mother worked cutting trees and in the coal mine, while Eddie and his brother went to the camp school and picked up coal. As a punishment for sneaking food to his mother, Eddie was whipped, stabbed with a hot poker, and deprived of food. After about a year, Eddie, his brother, and some other Jews in the camp were taken to Japan at the behest of Japanese politicians. Eddie believes Chiune Sugihara, later honored as “Righteous Among Nations,” may have been involved in this mission.

 From Japan, the brothers eventually made their way to an aunt in New York. From the age of ten onwards, Eddie worked to support his family by washing dishes and peddling goods. After seven years, both of Eddie’s parents had found their way to New York. His father had been in Auschwitz, where he was forced to work in the crematoria. His parents worked all day and went to synagogue on the weekends and were unable to enjoy life or bond with their children. Eddie continued to care for his brother. Through hustling and peddling, Eddie did well for himself, became involved in business, and started his own family. He moved to Georgia for business in the late Seventies. He describes how his childhood experiences affected his emotional processing, Jewish identity, and attitude towards prejudice.

Scope of Interview

Eddie describes his early life and family in Wolomin, Poland, and how it was disrupted by the German invasion of 1939. His father and uncles fled to escape transportation to a labor camp, the village synagogue was burned, and his grandmother was killed by German soldiers. Eddie recalls the horrors of his life in the Warsaw Ghetto, his escape to Russia, and his subsequent transportation to a Siberian labor camp. He was separated from his mother twice over the course of these events and was forced to care for his four-year old brother, despite being only nine years old himself. He and his brother were eventually taken to Japan, from whence they went America to live with an aunt in New York. Eddie remembers the eventual reunion with both of his parents and the devastation wreaked on their lives by their experiences in Europe. He describes working from the age of ten onwards to support the family, getting married at eighteen and starting a family, and eventually moving to Atlanta for business. He reflects on his Jewish identity, fighting against prejudice, and the importance of remembering the Holocaust and its lesson for humanity.

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