Lasting Lives

George Kohn


He grew up in a small town in central Poland, very much a Jewish “shtetl”. But, as was the case for many millions of Jews in that country, September 1939 changed the lives of all. George had come from a family of nine children, the four eldest having moved away from Poland prior to the outbreak of war. As the Germans blitzed through the country and occupied the various towns, most Jews could see the writing on the wall.

George, being the eldest of the remaining children, was taken to the cellar of the family home by his father and made aware of a stash of money and gold hidden behind a brick. He was told to use it to help escape any trouble that might be coming. Sure enough, by the year 1942, things were getting very bad. There started to be many roundups of Jews to be “re-settled”. One awful night, George’s parents and 3 sisters were part of this roundup. He and his brother, prior to coming home from work that night, had gotten wind of what was happening. Because of a previous arrangement by his father, offering his entire inventory of shoes and boots to the local railway official in exchange for taking care of his two boys, George and his brother made their escape and were hidden in the official’s home that night. They were able to remain hidden in the attic for a few months, the footwear being sold off as funds were needed. They, then, through an underground network, joined with eight other people and escaped into the nearby forest. They dug large pits to live in and had a local town boy be the “courier” between them and their guardian railway official, providing food, water and supplies. This went on for a year and then with the help of one of the other hidden people, forged documents were obtained and they went their separate ways, as non-Jews, to work in Germany, of all places. George (now known as Bruno) worked in a bakery and the owner took very kindly to him over the next two years. George would, from time to time, see the gathering up and marching of Jews in the town where he worked. One time, showing the kind heart he had, secretly offered up some bread to an older woman who was not keeping up with the march. Finally, the terrible war ended in 1945, and the owner of the bakery, whose son had been killed in the war, wanted George to be his adopted son; George then finally confessed that he was really Jewish. He then reunited with his brother; returned briefly to Poland to thank his guardian angel; and say goodbye to his childhood home. All this, and still he was a boy of only 25. Within two years, arrangements were made by his brothers in Montreal to bring the boys over; landing in Halifax and then the start of a new and much happier and peaceful life. Submitted by his son Stan Kohn If you have a story of a Jewish friend or family member who has passed away and you would like to submit it to Lasting Lives, please contact us for the guidelines at