Grunwald (Weinberger), Julie
Czechoslovakia, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Trautenau, Parschnitz, Detroit
Julie Grunwald was born Julie Weinberger in 1919 in Czechoslovakia. Prior to her birth, Grunwald’s parents had three miscarriages so Grunwald’s birth was welcomed happily. Her father was a tailor and owned a large store with many materials. He made men’s suits. The family lived in a mostly Jewish community and was religious. Her father and mother were also very generous to the community; for instance, her parents would distribute free suits to people as well as give them money to have a nice meal for Shabbat. When she was nine years old, her father died of a heart attack. Her mother then decided that she wanted her daughter to learn a trade. She enrolled her in a religious Jewish school, where Grunwald learned Yiddish and sewing.
Around 1940, when Grunwald was twenty years old, she learned of a man that was in need of a young Jewish governess for his young child. So, she traveled by train to Hungary and worked there for about three to four years. While working there, she was able to send home food such as goose, duck, etc. Her mother was also able to make money off of charging people rent to live on her property, which she shared with her mother, Grunwald’s grandmother. When the time came in 1944 for Grunwald and her boss to be transported, Grunwald told her boss to give his son to gentiles to be kept safe. Grunwald’s act saved the boy’s life.
Grunwald arrived in Auschwitz and two months later was selected for work in Birkenau. In February 1945, Grunwald was taken to Trautenau. She recalls not being feed well, poor sanitary conditions and harsh acts of cruelty by the guards. She also mentions that every night she cried because she was hungry. She attributes her survival in camp because of an extra slice of bread given to her by a German. She was eventually liberated in Parschnitz by the Russians. At the time of liberation, Grunwald was about sixty to seventy pounds and in very poor health. Despite this, she managed to go back to Czechoslovakia and find her grandmother’s house.
After discovering most of her grandmother’s possessions looted, she confronted the person that had taken her grandmother’s most prized possession, a beautiful wooden pantry. She was given two hundred rubles. With that, she went to stay with a former concentration camp inmate she had met in Birkenau. While staying in these apartments, she met her future husband. He had been married before the war and wanted to wait to marry Grunwald until a year had passed, to be certain his wife wasn’t going to come back. When it was obvious that his wife was a victim of the Holocaust, they got married. They eventually moved to Detroit.
Grunwald remarks that she loved the United States. She called a piece of toast “cake” because it was so beautiful. Grunwald and her husband went to night school to learn English and became citizens. They also had one child, a daughter named Rosalie. They owned restaurants and were very happy with their life in the United States. They never talked about their experiences because it was too hard and painful.
Date: January 20, 1998
Interviewer: Judy Michaels
Length: 1 hour 13 minutes
Format: Video recording