Jewish History: Holocaust Survivor Jozef Riwen Gasiorowski, Against All Odds

By: Baruch Garner

Jozef Riwen Gasiorowski, his first wife and daughter.
Jozef Riwen Gasiorowski, his first wife and daughter, in happier times.

My father, Jozef Riwen Gasiorowski was born in Kowal, Poland in 1912. He was married to Baila Sztulzaft and they had at least one child, that we know of, a girl, my half-sister. The Germans invaded and moved all the Jews out to the Wloclawek ghetto. My father and his family was moved in 1940.

In July 1941 he was sent to the labour camp at Pozen. He never saw his family again. The conditions at Pozen were inhumane and slave labourers would expect to live no more than six months before being worked to death.

My father’s family was transported to the Lodz ghetto when the Wloclawek ghetto was liquidated in 1942. In spite of our best efforts we have been unable to discover their fate after 1942. They were probably murdered in Chelmno or Auschwitz.

Against all odds my father survived Pozen until 1943 when he was transported to Auschwitz Birkenau. He was tattooed on his left arm with the number 142891. He worked in the Fuerstengruben mine, a sub camp of Auschwitz. He was fortunate to be assigned to be a cook. As a food handler he was regularly tested by the SS Hygiene Institute to ensure that he did not spread disease. We have obtained the results of these tests from Auschwitz.

When the red army was nearing the Auschwitz camp in January 1945, many of the inmates were taken on a death march into Germany. They did not have proper winter clothing and were hardly fed. They had almost no water. Those that fell were murdered by guards in the rear for that very purpose. In February 1945 my father, and some others, made their escape into the surrounding forest. He buried himself in snow and stayed like that for some time. He could hear the Germans calling for them to come out and heard the periodic gun shot.

Miraculously he was alive and made his way back to Poland. He suffered severe frostbite and was in danger of losing his legs for many weeks.

He died in 1968 prematurely likely from all he endured. He was a strong man and I only saw him cry twice. Once was during the Eichmann trial in Israel. I saw him tear out Eichmann’s picture from the Der Tag Yiddish paper and burn it on our stove. He was a man of few words.

My parents were not unusual in that they survived against all odds. There were many miracles in those six terrible years that allowed them to survive. We must always tell the story of our family and our people at every opportunity. The Seder table is a good place to teach your children. People tell me that the Jews are fixated on the Shoah. Let it go. Nobody wants to hear it. Stop whining.

What do you think?

Baruch Garner originally wrote this story of his father in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz to honor his parents and put a story behind the millions of victims of the Shoah (Holocaust.) I’ve reposted it here with his permission.

In this blog, I would like to explore people, religion, culture, ancestry and important history. If you have a compelling story to tell like this one, maybe a family love story or something on the topics of ancestry, interfaith, immigration, etc., contact me on Facebook.


6 thoughts on “Jewish History: Holocaust Survivor Jozef Riwen Gasiorowski, Against All Odds

  1. I’m speechless. Maybe not quite… There is a subtle movement to consider sociopaths an interesting variant of normal, and increasingly in our fiction they are becoming “heros.” With “science” more or less teaching us that there is no right or wrong, only moral relativism, we need concrete non-fiction accounts like this one to show us the truth about the human condition. For practical purposes, right and wrong do exist for us, soft science’s ape myths aside.


  2. There is always one left to tell the tale – you speak of your father as only a daughter could – things must have been difficult, careful not to resurrect sensitive areas of the past but your story is important, erudite and one that must not be hidden in the recesses between stones – keep telling the story of your father and add it to the six million others – each one different and everyone a monument.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, though you seem to be directing it at me, rather than the author, Baruch Garner. 🙂 He writes of his father as only a son could, and I do agree that Holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren must continue to tell their stories to remind us and to inform the younger generations.


  3. My father was also born in Kowal and transported to Poznan camps. He was a slave labourer in the mines for Bayervand IG Farben. He survived and his number was 143414. I knew survivors from the Sztulzaaft family from my childhood in NY. How can I get in touch with Baruch Garner?


      1. I knew both the Sztulzafts you knew. They used to come to my fathers house in NY. My fathers name was originally Aron Nejman (Neiman) later Americanised to Arnold Newman.

        Where are you based? I have recently had a wonderful meeting with Idel Alexander, also a Kowaler. He is now 95 and clearly remembers being taken from Kowal to Poznan camps. He also knew the same people.

        I am now iiving in London and my brother is in Maryland and works at the US Holocaust Museum.


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