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Jerusalem - Tattoos from Auschwitz Horror Bring Late-Life Joy

Published on: April 19, 2009 12:03 AM
By:  AP
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Jerusalem - As terrified teenagers 65 years ago, Menachem Sholowicz and Anshel Sieradzki stood one ahead of the other in Auschwitz, having serial numbers tattooed on their arms. Sholowicz was B-14594; Sieradzki was B-14595.

The two Polish Jews had never met, they never spoke and they were quickly separated. Each survived the Nazi death camp, moved to Israel, married, and became grandfathers. They didn’t meet again until a few weeks ago, having stumbled upon each other through the Internet. Late in life, the two men speak daily, suddenly partners who share their darkest traumas.

“We are blood brothers,” said Sieradzki, 81. “The moment I meet someone who was there with me, who went through what I went though, who saw what I saw, who felt what I felt - at that moment we are brothers.

The twist of fate doesn’t end there. Two brothers who were with them in the tattooist’s line have made contact since hearing of their story.

As Israel marks its annual Holocaust remembrance day starting Monday night, commemorating the 6 million Jews murdered in World War II, the four new friends are arranging an emotional reunion.

They are among an estimated 250,000 who are still alive in Israel, carrying the physical and emotional scars of that era.
“It is never forgotten, not for a moment,” Sieradzki said. “It’s like an infected sore deep inside that hurts every time it is exposed.


The unlikely reconnection began when Sholowicz’s daughter found a Web site that detailed Sieradzki’s odyssey from Auschwitz to Israel. It struck her as eerily similar to her father’s.

All the same elements were there - being separated from parents and siblings and never seeing them again, searching for scraps of bread to eat in the Polish ghettos, surviving the selection process of Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous Auschwitz camp doctor who decided who would live and who would die. They endured Nazi death marches to two other camps in which any emaciated prisoner who fell behind was shot in the head.

Later, both moved to Israel, fought in its 1948 war of independence, and made careers in its military industry.

Still, the two men never met and the name Sieradzki on the Web site didn’t ring a bell. Then Sholowicz, 80, saw the man’s number and he froze.
“I rolled up my sleeve and sure enough - I stood exactly ahead of him in line at Auschwitz,” he said. The discovery “was a moment of great emotion, great excitement. We went through it all together. We are like two parallel lines that never met.

He called Sieradzki the next day. They recently met halfway between their homes in Haifa and Jerusalem and a photo of them and their tattoos appeared in an Israeli newspaper.

Sieradzki says it is astounding that both survived the Holocaust and lived this long.
In Auschwitz, “I used to think about getting through the moment, the hour, at most the day,” he said. “I didn’t think about the next day, because I didn’t think I was going to live to see the next day.

He can never forget arriving at Auschwitz and seeing Mengele, who with a flick of a thumb decided fates. Those too old, too young, or too ill were sent to the gas chambers and the crematoria. Those fit enough to work were stripped, shaved and tattooed and then forced into labor.

He never noticed the others in line with him. “At that moment, everyone was busy with their own thoughts,” he said. “I don’t remember who was in front of me and who was behind me.

In an even more unlikely development, Sieradzki recently discovered who stood behind him in line for tattoos - Shaul Zavadzki and his older brother Yaakov, serial numbers B-14596 and B-14597. They too survived Auschwitz and made it to Israel.
“I choked from shock when I saw this,” said Yaakov Zavadzki, 82. He then talked to the two men on the phone and said he looks forward to seeing them soon in person.

Like many survivors, Sieradzki, who in Israel took on the Hebrew name Asher Aud, kept silent for more than half a century. Only when he returned to Poland in the early 1990s did he open up. He founded an organization of the former residents of his hometown of Zdunska Wola and resurrected the Jewish cemetery there. The organization’s Web site is what first drew the attention of Sholowicz’s daughter.

“I felt like I was closing a circle,” Sieradzki said of visiting Poland. “If God kept me alive to tell of what happened, then it was worth staying alive.

Now that story includes a new chapter he shares with three others, bound together forever by the numbers inked deep into their arms.
“Our fate was to be together either in life or in death,” Sholowicz said. “Now we have life.

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Read Comments (13)  —  Post Yours »


 Apr 18, 2009 at 11:32 PM Mordechai Says:

Where is Zdunska Wola? What shtetlach is it close to?


 Apr 18, 2009 at 11:46 PM ShtetlLocator Says:

6 miles from Szadek, in the Sieradz (Sheradz) district in Lodz province


 Apr 19, 2009 at 01:00 AM Anonymous Says:

How amazing. let the nations see that if G-D wills a person to live no matter wat torture HE protects him. G-D IS GREAT. Let the nations finally realize they can't fight against us, we're the only nation bountiful despite our oppression.


 Apr 19, 2009 at 01:02 AM Anonymous Says:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szczebrzeszyn is where my family came from. note there is a yiddish translation of the town and a picture of "Former synagogue, nowadays community centre" - is there any organization from these towns of children of survivors? Thanks


 Apr 19, 2009 at 05:09 AM Bantam Says:

Please,what is Mr.Sholowicz's daughter website?


 Apr 19, 2009 at 03:55 AM Aviva Sieradski Says:

hey, this guy could be my family - how can I find him?


 Apr 19, 2009 at 07:23 AM Anonymous Says:

This is one amazing story


 Apr 19, 2009 at 07:55 AM cp Says:

Reply to #6  
Aviva Sieradski Says:

hey, this guy could be my family - how can I find him?

Try www.jewishgen.org and search for your last name. It will probably take a little time to piece it together, but you might get lucky.


 Apr 19, 2009 at 08:20 AM Anonymous Says:

my grandfather was in Auschwitz at the age of 8 years old....and now hes actually in my house today visiting! its amazing.....thank hashem FOR EVERYHTING!!!!


 Apr 19, 2009 at 08:14 AM Anonymous Says:

Were and what is the web site that i can serch i have my grand father who is now 83 year old with a tattooed num. On his holy hand i wanna know were i can serch his next or before numbers please let me know looking forward


 Apr 19, 2009 at 09:50 AM ash Says:

get the new book Small Miracles of the Holocaust by Yitta Halberstam. It's a mitzva to read and remember. the book has many such amazing stories. read them all.


 Apr 19, 2009 at 02:31 PM Anonymous Says:

We will NEVER FORGET our brothers and sisters who perished at the hands of mans worst moment in history. We must also never forget the words of the Tzaddik HaRav Meir Kahane ZT"L "NEVER AGAIN" " NEVER AGAIN" These words must be emboldened in our minds that should we as Klal Yisroal ever face a threat as we did from the murdering bastard hitler Y.S.M. we will not sit back and allow it to happen. NEVER AGAIN!


 Apr 20, 2009 at 07:36 AM Chaim S. Says:

When my father was given his number in Auschwitz, he stood dumbfounded and stared at his arm and the number. He added together the tattooed numbers and they added to 18. He said to himself, Dahtch, you gave me chai to life, I'll survive you. And he did BH.


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