Glubok (Poland), Ulm (Germany)
Gordon, born in 1931, is the youngest of five children of an Orthodox Jewish couple who operated a bakery in Glubok, Poland, now Belarus, approximately 150 miles east of Minsk. Gordon attended both public and Hebrew schools until he was expelled following the German occupation in 1939. Even though about half of Glubok’s pre-war population of 15,000 were Jewish, Gordon still experienced a fair bit of anti-Semitism.
After the German occupation, a ghetto was created in Glubok, but the Gordon family was initially allowed to stay in their location outside the ghetto to continue to operate the bakery. After the German invasion of Russia, the bakery supplied bread for the Russian prisoners of war. Eventually, the Gordon family also had to move into the enclosed ghetto. Gordon recalls many young Jewish men who were taken from the ghetto for outside labor, never to return. He also recalls hearing a lot of gunfire outside the ghetto and assumes that some were killed that way. His brother was taken for labor, but managed to escape into the nearby forest and then joined a partisan group.
Gordon, his parents, and two sisters managed to escape from the ghetto and joined the partisans in the forest. These woods were dense and swampy which deterred the Germans from searching for the escapees. Shelters were made from whatever was available, trees, branches, etc., and food was obtained from either willing or coerced nearby farmers. A large group of Russian soldiers who had escaped from a prisoner of war camp was operating nearby as guerrilla forces, being supplied with food and arms by Russian army parachute drops. This group which operated in the same forest enlisted Gordon and had him do various jobs, such as care for their General’s horse, etc. While serving in this unit, Gordon participated in some raids against German installations, but, because of his young age, not as an active combatant. He also had an one-time reunion with his brother who was serving with a different unit of the Russian army of ex-POWs.
Following liberation and his discharge from the Russian army, Gordon returned to his hometown, now part of the USSR, where his parents and siblings had preceded him except for his oldest sister. She had remained with her husband and children in the ghetto and all of them perished. Details are unknown. While in their hometown, Gordon’s father recovered a Torah, a scroll of the first five books of the scripture used in synagogues for liturgical purposes, which had been placed into the care of a non-Jewish neighbor. This Torah was kept by the Gordon family on all of their future travels, including their journey to the United States.
Finding it too difficult to get along with their neighbors, who at times expressed regrets that not all Jews were exterminated, the family accepted an offer by the Soviets to allow Polish citizens to return to Poland. From there, with the assistance and direction of some Jewish organizations, the Gordons were smuggled out of Poland, through Czechoslovakia and Austria into Ulm, Germany, where they entered a displaced persons (DP) camp. Since his mother had two sisters living in the United States, their objective was to join them, which they accomplished in 1949.
In 1954 Gordon married and has three children. He became a successful businessman and donated the Torah from his hometown to Temple Beth Jacobs of Dayton. The Torah is being used by the synagogue for high holiday services.
Following the interview, Gordon’s son, Vernon, is presented commenting on his observations and experiences as the son of a Holocaust survivor.
Date: August 19, 2001
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Length: 47 minutes
Format: Video recording