Wegier, Henry

Survivor/Escapee, Member of the Polish Air Force

Warsaw (Poland), Krivoy Rog, Tehran, Palestine

Wegier, the only child of working-class parents, was born and raised in Warsaw, Poland. His father was an electrician who, because he was Jewish, had difficulty finding adequate work. His mother worked whenever possible at a factory manufacturing gloves. He attended public schools where all of his classmates, as well as the teachers, were Jewish. He encountered a considerable amount of anti-Semitism, mostly verbal, as well as some physical abuse.

Following the start of World War II, his father was evacuated to the eastern part of Poland which was then occupied by Russian forces. His father found work in Lvov, Wegier and his mother fled Warsaw after two months and joined him. The trip which normally took six hours lasted six days. His mother subsequently returned to Warsaw in an attempt to bring her younger half-sister out of the German-occupied zone but was stuck there when the German-Russian border was closed to all travel.

After Germany's attack on Russia in June 1941, Wegier and his father moved from Krivoy Rog, where they had moved from Lvov, eastward to avoid being caught by the advancing German army. Eventually they arrived in the Urals on the border of Siberia but then moved further south where a Polish army in exile was being formed. His father joined this army and Wegier was placed in a military school. After some more stops, he and his father arrived in Teheran, Iran, which at that time was under British control. They stayed in Teheran about fifteen months and from there went to Palestine. His father was then assigned to Egypt while Henry Wegier finished high school and then entered the Polish army as a soldier. Subsequently his father's military unit was sent to Italy to participate in the fighting there.

Wegier, who by that time had acquired a good knowledge of English, was sent to England to become part of the newly formed Polish Air Force, a wing of the Great Britain's RAF (Royal Air Force). There he served in ground support units. He participated in one bombing mission over Germany as an unauthorized "passenger," an act which he now characterizes as very foolish because of the dangers involved.

While on temporary assignment to Germany at the end of the war, Wegier had the opportunity to enter the Bergen Belsen camp after its liberation. He vividly recalls, among other items, the large pile of children's bodies with their skulls crushed. He stated that he has never forgotten that sight.

Wegier was reunited with his father when the father's military unit came to England. After the war, Wegier found out indirectly through lists of survivors that his mother was alive. She had survived the Warsaw uprising and subsequent labor camps. Efforts to bring her to England were eventually successful.

After his release from the Polish Air Force in 1947, Wegier attended and graduated from London University as a mechanical engineer, married, and had two daughters. On an assignment by his employer to the United States, he decided that the U. S. would be a better place to live so he emigrated here in 1968.

He considers himself extremely fortunate to have survived the Holocaust with relatively little physical or emotional hardship or damage, as compared to those who remained under German control, and to have had both of his parents survive as well.

Interview Information:
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Date: April 17, 2000
Length: 1 hour 31 minutes
Format: Video recording