// William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum
Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                       MARY ELKAN

INTERVIEWERS:                   JOHN KENT

                                            JANE LEAVEY [Does not introduce herself]

LOCATION:                           ATLANTA, GEORGIA

DATE:                                   JUNE 1, 2003

Mary (Marysia) Stawska Elkan was born in Czestochowa, Poland in 1921. She had one brother, Janek. Their father owned a furniture factory and they lived a comfortable life. After the German occupation in 1939, the family lost their business and was forced to relocate into the portion of the city that became a ghetto. Mary worked as a slave laborer, including inspecting bullets in the ammunitions factory in the ghetto, Hasag-Pelcery. There she met her future husband, Morris Elkan. She also worked as a nanny. 
Russian forces liberated Czestochowa on January 16, 1945. After trying to locate members of their family, Mary and Morris made their way to Bamberg, Germany, which was in the American zone. Mary later found out that her brother, Janek, was killed while working for the Underground, and her parents were murdered in the gas chambers at Treblinka. Although Mary wanted to immigrate to Palestine, Morris's only remaining family member, a sister, lived in Atlanta, so the couple decided to make their new home here.
The couple and their toddler, Jeanie, arrived in Atlanta on July 4, 1949. Morris, who had some experience in the camp dying hair to get an extra piece of bread, became an apprentice to Mr. Adolf in the Doctor's Building on Peachtree Street and earned his license as a beautician. Eventually, the Elkans were able to buy a small beauty shop. After giving up her childhood dream of becoming a pharmacist, Mary worked as the receptionist. The couple had a second daughter, Stephanie. Mary and Morris joined the Ahavath Achim Synagogue.  

Scope of Interview
Mary describes her childhood and shares her experience living in Czestochowa (Czȩstochowa), Poland during the Nazi occupation. She discusses working in the ghetto and the Hasag-Pelcery work camp. She recounts how she and her husband met and married in the ghetto and tried to go into hiding. Mary details the slave labor jobs she and Morris worked at. She recalls how she learned they were liberated. Mary talks about the antisemitism and fear they experienced after the war and why they left Poland for the American occupied zone of Germany. Mary recollects how it felt to arrive in the United States and Atlanta, Georgia on July 4, 1949. Mary speaks of her early years of living in Atlanta. She shares her connection to a synagogue in Atlanta and the importance of being Jewish. Mary tells of her grandchildren and the importance of the next generation. She explains who she named her children after and who her grandchildren were named after. The final part of the interview includes her two daughters.

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