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Seltzer, Martin - Oral History of a Holocaust Survivor

https://www.cjhn.ca/en/permalink/cjhn67757
Collection
WITNESS TO HISTORY COLLECTION (MHMC-02)
Description Level
Item
Material Format
moving images
Physical Description
01:26:32
Archival / Genealogical
Archival Descriptions
  1 video     1 image  
Collection
WITNESS TO HISTORY COLLECTION (MHMC-02)
Description Level
Item
Material Format
moving images
Physical Description
01:26:32
Creator
Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre
Language
English
Notes
Martin Seltzer was born Mordechai (Motke) Penczna in Klimontów, Poland on February 2, 1917 to an observant Jewish family. At the onset of the war, Martin had three older sisters who were married, a younger brother and a younger sister. Neither his parents nor any of his sisters survived the Holocaust. The Germans came into Klimontów ten days after the September 1st occupation of Poland. A Judenrat was established, all Jews were ordered to wear an armband with the yellow star, and the Germans began requisitioning resources every second week. The family business was taken over by a Volksdeutch - they could still live in their home, however. In 1940 all Jews from surrounding villages were ordered into the center of Klimontów. In 1942, the Jews in Klimontów received a deportation order. Martin's father asked a Polish farmer, a friend of his, to hide Martin until the war ended. It was understood that he would be compensated for this. One morning the town was full of Ukrainian police - people started to run, Martin included. The Ukrainians were shooting at the fleeing Jews - many of them were killed, but Martin was lucky to make it out of the city unharmed. The rest of his family went together to Auschwitz and were murdered there. Martin hid in a forest until night fell, and then made his way to the farmhouse, where he hid in the stable as arranged. He stayed on the farm for over two years; he would go to the forest if the Germans were near - the farmer's wife was very frightened of being caught hiding a Jew. Martin tells a story about almost being caught in a cellar trying to dig up his family's hidden valuables. In 1944 the Russian army advanced into Klimontów - when Martin heard this, he left his hiding place and went into the city. He took over his family's flour mill and employed some other Jewish survivors; the Russians requisitioned him to make flour to feed the Russian army. After four or five months he was warned by a Russian Jewish soldier that they were moving on and that he should leave the city. Martin wasn't feeling well - he went to Lodz to see a doctor (there were none in Klimontów). He was operated on for appendicitis, and when he left the hospital he learned that the Armia Krajowa had come into his hometown at night and killed all the Jewish survivors living there. He learned that his cousin was living nearby in Opatów; he knew that the AK were active all over Poland and that she was at risk as well. He took the train there and convinced her to leave with him; they lived together in Lodz for about six months. They got in contact with the Bricha, who smuggled them into Czechoslovakia by bribing Russians. From there they crossed into Austria and lived in Linz for a few months in a Jewish refugee camp - it was after May 1945 - the war was already over. Martin and his cousin went to Stuttgart and lived there until 1947. She got in contact with her brother in Canada - he wanted to bring her over but she insisted that Martin had to come as well. The immigration laws at the time dictated that only parents, children and siblings could be sponsored from DP camps, not cousins. Martin took the name of his cousin's brother who had died the previous year in order to immigrate to Canada. Once in Canada, he kept the Seltzer name out of fear that he would be suspected of being a Russian spy in the age of McCarthyism. He arrived in Canada in November 1947 and began to work as a custom peddler. He married and had two children; he has one grandson. He decided to make his testimony because of his age and to counter Holocaust denial.
Accession No.
WTH-031
Name Access
Seltzer, Martin
Places
Klimontów, Poland, Europe
Archival / Genealogical
Archival Descriptions
Repository
Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre
Video Tracks
Images
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