Dr. Mark Nusbaum
Mrs Edith Nusbaum
31 Prue Avenue Toronto, Ontario M6B 1R3 Canada
Emails -Home: firstname.lastname@example.org
I was born on Oct/10/35 to Regina (nee Landau) and Abraham Nussbaum. My brother, Aaron was born 4 years earlier.
We lived in the ancient town of Sandomierz1. At the beginning of WWII, about 2,500 Jews lived there, of whom only about 70 survived. Of our extended family of 40, only 7 survived.
My father was a well-to-do business man owning an electrical business. He was generous, supporting the poorer members of our family. We had a comfortable life relative to the community.
On Sept/1/39, Germany invaded Poland. Sandomierz was occupied 2 weeks later. Life became more difficult. In April/40, my father, along with the other community leaders, was imprisoned in the local jail. Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to Buchenwald, and then to Ravensbruck. We corresponded with him regularly until we received notification from the camp in June/42 that “Herr Nussbaum succumbed to his illness”. We knew of course, that he, like many others, died because of exhaustive work, malnutrition and terrible living conditions. His watch and some personal belongings were returned with the notice.
By the summer of 1942, “Jewish” Sandomierz was being squeezed into an ever smaller geographical space, as Jews from nearby towns were brought into the city. In the fall of 1942, we and 3 other family members secretly left for Warsaw, as hiding there on the “Aryan side” would be much safer. Through family connections, we found an apartment where we could hide. We lived on the top floor, hidden behind a false wall in a “crevice” only 4’x15′. The entrance was through an armoire which had a false back. There, we hid quietly night and day, fearing that any noise could result in our certain demise. At night, we would leave the hiding place to catch a few breaths of fresh air by the window.
One event has caused me nightmares for many years. As my hair had grown long, it was decided that I should be taken to a barber. My Aryan-looking aunt hailed a “droshka”2 but, as we started to move, the driver turned and asked, “You are a Jew, right?” I (unwisely) replied, “you SOB”. He stopped the carriage and tried to strike me with his whip. Somehow I grabbed the end of it and managed to pull it out of his hand! We quickly ran out of the carriage, in different directions, with the driver pursuing me. As I was a fast runner, I was able to escape. Eventually, I found my way back to the apartment.
In the spring of 1943 after the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, rumours circulated that the Nazis were looking for Jewish citizens of foreign countries (USA, UK, Latin America, Palestine, etc.) to be exchanged for German citizens trapped there by the war. Our situation had become so desperate that we decided to go to the Hotel Polski and register. Since many of those citizens were no longer alive, their passports were being sold by the Gestapo and their collaborators at exorbitant prices. As well, many false passports were “being produced”. We could only afford the cheapest and least desirable available; the Palestinian passports. As it turned out, they proved to be the best ones! Somehow, miraculously, my mother resembled “Mrs. Moscovitch” while I resembled her son, “Marek”, a name I have retained ever since. We headed to the train station; it began to look as if “the exchange” was a reality! We boarded the passenger train to Bergen Belsen where we “lived” in barracks, surrounded by barbed wire, guard towers and were frequently called out to “Appels”3 Beyond the wire were mounds of corpses awaiting cremation, a picture still ingrained in my mind.
In April/45, with the Russians advancing, orders arrived that our group was to be moved. We received some rations and were marched to the train station, where we boarded a passenger train guarded by Nazi troops.
After some 6 days of starts and stops, the train stopped in a valley, as a tremendous artillery barrage was occurring from both sides. The next day, April 13, 1945, we were ordered off the train for an “Appel.” Unbeknownst to us, the guards had received orders, to march us to the nearby Elbe River to be shot and drowned. Miraculously, as we were being lined up, a USA tank unit commanded by Sgt. Cohen, arrived and we were saved, just in the nick of time.
After the war, we travelled to Antwerp, Belgium, to obtain Canadian visas and to join my uncles Pinchas and Sam (Landau) in Toronto. While in Antwerp, my mother decided I should learn French quickly in an “immersion course” and enrolled me in a French speaking camp in Knocke by the sea. The next day, the councilor asked a question, to which all the kids raised their hands answering positively. Not wanting to be an exception, I did the same, being unaware that he had asked “who could swim?” Unfortunately, I could not. While standing around on the pier, the tide had changed, along with sudden strong winds. I was swept off the pier steps and began to drown. Miraculously, someone saw my hand sticking out of the water, grabbed it, and I was saved! While this was not the planned French “immersion course”, I did learn to swim and to speak French within 3 weeks.
In 1946, my mother married Chi! Elbaum a Bergen Belsen survivor. Chil’s children, Charles and Esther, were as true siblings to me. In the spring 1948, our visas arrived, permitting our family to come to Canada. We arrived in Halifax on May 15/48, the very day that the State oflsrael was established.
I quickly learned to speak English while attending public school, and also attended the “Brunswick Talmud Torah” after school. After high school, with the encouragement of my mother, I enrolled in dentistry at the University of Toronto.
After graduating in 1960, I married my eshes chayil 4, Edith Juda, also a Holocaust survivor, who came to Canada from Hungary in 195I . Like me, Edith had lost her father and many family members. It was Edith’s business acumen which guided me in my dental practice, and in running the family business established by her brother, Arthu z”l.
Together, we remained committed to rebuilding our families and helping build and preserve our new Jewish community. The Almighty blessed us with four devoted daughters, Suzy, Shari, Naomi and Tammy, four wonderful sons-in-law, Mark, Dani, Larry and Josh and twenty three grandchildren, two of which were recently married.
As an expression of our Hakarat Hatov5 for the new beginning we were given, we are committed to the community. We do considerable work for the University (including assisting the Faculty Board and lecturing) and donate to various hospitals and institutions. Among our contributions are the Nusbaum Family Audio-Visual Lecture Theatre at the Faculty of Dentistry 6, a mobile Dental Clinic in the Shomron in Israel7, and two scholarships for post graduate studies at the Faculty. In addition, we are supporters of Hebrew University, Yeshiva University, Laniado Hospital, Ben Gurion University, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, etc.
My wife and I are ever so grateful to the Almighty for allowing us to survive the Holocaust and rebuild our families and our community. We also thank this wonderful country that gave us this opportunity to flourish.
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