The North Bend Eagle

 

Holocaust refugee to speak at library

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 6/22/16

The North Bend Public Library will be hosting a speaker Wednesday, June 29, at 6:30 p.m. Milton Kleinberg is a successful insurance business man in Omaha, but his roots tell a different story.

Young Milt
Milt Kleinberg as he appeared in his passport when he emigrated to the U.S. in 1951, top, and today, bottom.
Milt today

He was born Mendel Dawidowicz Jan. 28, 1937, in Pabianice, Poland. He was just shy of his third birthday when the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, beginning World War II.

Being Jewish, his family felt the storm growing in Europe and knew that their life would change. In January 1940, the Dawidowiczs were forced to resettle. Where to go was a big decision. The Germans had treated the Jews better than the Russians in World War I, so there was a choice to make. The family eventually made its way to the Soviet Union. They took a long train trip, ending up in Samarkand, Siberia, Soviet Union.

Along the way his mother gave birth to her third son who later died. Mendel’s younger brother and their father were also lost along the way. When they arrived in Samarkand, there was work for his mother and schooling for Mendel. But the war made Mendel age way before is time– he murdered a man trying to harm him and his friends at the age of six.

Though Dawidowicz was not in concentration camps in Germany, he lost relatives in those camps. His own life in the Soviet Union was not much better. He ended up in a school for Polish orphans, though is mother was still living, where the

Polish culture and songs were over shadowed by indoctrination on Marxism and the beliefs of Joseph Stalin. The students were exposed to death, lice, disease, starvation, bandits, thieves, and managed to keep alive.

“Being able to adapt to circumstances beyond our direction and making the best of ever-shifting conditions was crucial,” Kleinberg writes. “It meant survival,”

How did this child of the war manage to end up in Omaha? Dawidowicz, now Kelinberg, is coming to the North Bend Library to tell his story June 29. He has written a book, Bread or Death: memories of my childhood during and after the Holocaust. It is available at the North Bend Library.

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