Nir (Greenfeld), Yehuda
Stanislavov (Poland), Krakow
Dr. Nir was born in March of 1930 in Stanislavov, Galicia. His name was then Greenfeld and his maternal grandparents were the Hagars.
His parents were step siblings. His father had six brothers and a sister and they were very wealthy. His mother came from a rabbinical family. His grandparents went to Palestine in 1938. Years later, one of each set of grandparents died and the remaining one married the other remaining grandparent.
Approximately 86 people in his family were murdered in Eastern Poland.
He went to a Jewish/Polish school. His father had a business degree and they owned a car.
When the war broke out, his father fell apart and couldn’t cope, but his mother became much stronger and worked. His father slept at a cousin’s home at night because the Russians only attacked at night.
When morning came, the family would hang out a white towel and the father would return home.
In 1939 when the Germans arrived, the Russians were trying to shoot the German planes with their handguns. His mother refused to move when told to clear out so she was left alone.
His father was taken by the Ukrainians and killed the same day.
His mother gave an empty bedroom to a German officer, Major Kendwicz, and his mistress who moved in with them. Dr. Nir’s mother had hidden all the china, silver and porcelain and the officer, who was very friendly, noticed that all the decorative objects were gone and, in a very nice way, asked his mother to put them back because he wanted to “admire” them. When the officer left, he took not only all the furniture, but also all the objects which were originally hidden.
Dr. Nir ran after the truck to see where his family possessions were taken, thinking that when this “ordeal” was over, he’d get them back.
His sister’s boyfriend, Ludwig, got them false papers, so in June, as times were getting worse, he took
Nir’s mother and sister to Krakow.
The Germans gave Nir’s aunt Sonia, who had a Ph.D. in geology, an apartment in the German sector and he stayed with her. One night, the Gestapo came and took away his aunt and uncle, but didn’t see him. His aunt was returned to help the Germans with her knowledge. She now lives in New York.
His family blocked out what was happening around them. At the age of fourteen, he pretended he was Gentile and heard the Poles talking about their great entertainment: watching the Jews burn and commit suicide. He had to pretend he was anti-Semitic. He even went to church and studied to be an altar boy.
He would always recognize other Jews who were hiding as Gentiles, but would never be seen with them as it wasn’t safe. The dentist he was working for said that he could always smell a Jew, but didn’t realize that four Jews were working for him.
After the war, they all left for Israel in 1946. He came to New York in the 1950’s, went to medical school, and became a psychiatrist who sees children and survivors.
He lives on Park Avenue and also teaches at Cornell. He has written a book about his experiences entitled “The Lost Childhood.”
Interviewer: Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig
Length: 48 Minutes
Format: Video recording