Moskovitz (Szmulewicz), Ida

Moskovitz (Szmulewicz), Ida

Wodna (Poland), Chrzanow, Gabersdorf

Ida Moskovitz, nee Szmulewicz, was born in Wodna, Poland and is the oldest of four children of an orthodox Jewish couple. A few months after her birth, the family moved to Chrzanow, Poland, a small town approximately 20 miles northwest of Auschwitz. Her father was in a business connected with shoes. She attended public school, but left at an early age to assist in the household. Although about half of her hometown’s population was Jewish, she still encountered considerable anti-Semitism at school and in town.

A few months after the occupation of her hometown by the German army in September 1939, her mother gave birth to a boy. While away from her home getting food for the baby, her mother was seized by the Germans. She never returned and is presumed to have been killed. The burden of caring for her two brothers and sister fell to Ida, then only 13 years old.

In 1941, Mrs. Moskovitz was seized by the German occupiers and deported to the Gabersdorf labor camp in Germany. At Gabersdorf she was required to work in a weaving mill, tending a large weaving machine. At the camp which was a short distance from the mill, she lived in a barrack with several hundred other Jewish girls, all working at the mill, and slept in a bunk bed.

She describes conditions at the camp as quite bad with poor hygienic facilities and only cold water available. Food was very scarce. Her daily ration was a watery soup with one potato, and a one pound loaf of bread that was to last for one week. The guards were primarily German. Girls who had nervous breakdowns were confined in the cellar and after a while shipped out, presumably to extermination. She states that a lot of illnesses occurred and that no medical help was given, but as long as the inmates made no trouble and did their work at the mill, no physical harm befell them either at the camp or at their worksite.

British soldiers from a nearby POW camp also worked at the weaving mill. Although contact between the British and the labor camp inmates was forbidden, some did occur. The girls who were caught had their heads shaven or were sent away. Mrs. Moskovitz tells of one female camp leader who became pregnant and delivered a child after the war.

The labor camp was liberated by Russian forces in 1945. Mrs. Moskovitz, together with an aunt who was also in the camp, returned to her hometown and learned that her father, her older brother and her sister also had been deported and did not return after the war. They are presumed to be dead. Her baby brother had been given into the care of neighbors, but died shortly thereafter. She and her aunt left for Czechoslovakia where they stayed with a German woman, an acquaintance of the aunt’s. There Ida worked in the kitchen, just for food.

When the opportunity arose she went on a transport to a “waiting” camp in Germany, awaiting emigration to Israel or the United States. There she met and married her husband and gave birth to a son, Morrie, prior to leaving for the United States.

In the United States they settled in Pennsylvania, initially in Pittsburgh for about a year and subsequently in Beaver Falls for close to 20 years. Ida Moskowitz gave birth to two daughters, Esther and Brenda, and in 1970 moved to Detroit so that her children would be more exposed to other Jewish families. In the Detroit area the Moskovitz’s are the owners of the Star Bakery.

At the end of the interview, Mrs. Moskovitz stated that certain events took place that she cannot talk about. They are too painful for her.

Interview Information:
Date: September 30, 2001
Interviewe & Synopsis: Hans Weinmann
Length: 40 minutes
Format: Video recording