Aaron Nussbaum is 92 years old and has lived the most remarkable life!
He was born in Sandomierz, Poland, in 1931. After the German occupation of Poland in September 1939, his father was no longer allowed to manage his own business, and in the spring of 1940, his father was arrested and then taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp.
His father died in a German camp in 1942.
In September 1942, Aaron went into hiding. A Jewish woman they knew (Menashe Laiman’s sister, who looked “Aryan”) had a Polish housekeeper who could provide hiding places in Warsaw and she brought them there. They were hidden in the apartment of a woman who had three sons, the Gruszewskas, all living in one room. There was a fake wall in the apartment, and if they heard anyone coming, they would hide behind the wall, crowded together, not moving.
They could never go outside. They had to bribe Polish police to leave them alone and also had to pay for being hidden. Being one of the wealthiest Jews in the town, his father was well connected with the local Poles. He had many Polish friends and business associates, and this ended up helping them survive.
“My father knew he had to protect his family, and so before the war he left money with a local Polish engineer, a nice man who lived down the street from us. This man brought us money every couple of months during the time my mother, brother, and I were in hiding in Warsaw so that we could pay those who were hiding us; I don’t remember his name.” Aaron said.
Sadly their hiding place was revealed and Aaron and his family went to the infamous ‘Hotel Polski’ in Warsaw. The Germans along with Jewish and Polish collaborators used this hotel as bait for Jews in hiding. Aaron and his family were led to believe they could escape the war as exchange prisoners for German citizens in foreign countries. Instead, they were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the summer of 1943, where they were imprisoned until April 1945, they were put on a train headed to the Theresienstadt ghetto and concentration camp; several days later when the train stopped near Hillersleben, Germany, Aaron, his mother, and brother, were liberated by the American army.
After the war, Aaron left for Palestine. In 1952, he visited his mother and brother in Toronto and decided to stay with them. Aaron worked in a garment factory and then in construction, eventually opening his own hardware store. Aaron raised two children in Toronto with his wife, Bella (née Goldman), who passed away in 2011, and has several grandchildren.
When I spoke to Aaron after we wrote a letter in the Holy Torah, I was truly overcome with emotion. He told me about his youth in Poland and we spoke in Polish. Suddenly I saw a twinkle in his eye, we switched to Hebrew, and he told me of how he served in “Hativat HaNegev” the “Negev Bridgade” in the Independence War of the State of Israel, something he clearly was so proud to be a part of.