Harold Perlstein was born in Sarny, Russia in 1914. His father was Hershel (Tsfi) Banalasek. There were five children in his family. He had one brother, Max and three sisters: Sarah, Hika and Dobbie. He was the youngest. His grandparents also lived with them.
His paternal grandparents were Josef and Dvora and his mothers parents were Bubbie and Yitzchok Sher.
Harold lost sixty members of his family during the war.
There were thirty Jewish families in his village of around two hundred thousand people. The Perlsteins lived in a small apartment and his father was a grocer. During an early incident, his father was beaten by the Polish police and died shortly thereafter.
Harold went to Polish school for three or four years and finished at the age of thirteen. He had no Jewish schooling, but learned prayers from his grandparents. On Shabbos, his mother made a special holiday meal. She called Harold her “beautiful boy.”
His mother was paralyzed on one side of her body. Nevertheless, she owned a grocery store close to his father’s. Every farmer loved her because of her charming ways. Harold also became a grocer and also a landlord.
Harold married at the age of nineteen, a marriage set up by a matchmaker.
When the war began, the Poles took his business and, although he wanted to leave, he could not as he was the family’s sole provider. The Nazis then took all their possessions, including their cattle. Soon afterward, the entire family moved to the Ghetto, not taking anything with them. But, they traded what they had with farmers for food. The Germans killed his mother and took everyone’s gold and silver, but he hid as much as he could.
When hundreds of Jews from the Ghetto dug a massive grave and were forced to jump in, he escaped and ran away, knowing that if he stayed he’d be killed. He went to a Christian home, hid in an attic and stayed for a few months. The owners led him to the Russian underground where he fought with the Russians.
The Ukrainians took him to the partisans where he watched German hangings and killings on the streets and in homes.
He went home after the war, dug up his possessions, and found that his family was mostly killed. One sister was in Israel. Harold went to a home for refugees and eventually bought and ran a bar for Ukrainians. This lasted five years, during which time he remarried for the third time. His first wife had perished in the mass graves and his second wife had left him.
He came to Detroit because his cousins, the Shers, brought him here. He began buying bars and within two years, owned four of them.
Harold also began buying condos and nursing homes and is a very successful businessman. He donated $64,000 for an ambulance in Israel and also bought his sister a condo there.
Harold and his wife have three daughters, Rita, Debra and Bonnie.
Interviewer: Donna Sklar
Length: 58 minutes
Format: Video recording