Alter Wiener - Survivor Bio
Alter Wiener was born near the German border in a small Poland town called Chrzanow, on October 8th, 1926 to Pearl Tilles Wiener and Mordechai-Markus Wiener. He was brought up with both a public school and a religious school education, and his parents instilled in him very family focused values. Alters’ mother passed when he was four years old. His father later remarried so Alter’s family consisted of his father, stepmother, and Shmuel and Hirsch, his brothers.
On September 5th, 1939, the German army invaded Poland. Alter and his brothers fled to his stepmother’s hometown, 40 miles away. The trains weren’t running, so they were stuck there for three month. When they were finally able to return home, they found their father gone and their entire house looted. They heard word that there was a pit nearby containing bodies of those who were killed, so they went to search through the bodies. They found it very difficult to identify any of the bodies, but eventually recognized their father’s body.
As anti-semitism increased, Alter was no longer allowed to attend school. Every day, the Germans would issue new orders, prohibiting Alter and his family from doing most of the activities they had been used to. In the middle of the night in 1941, the Germans came to Alters’ house and took his older brother away. They had no way of contacting him or whether or not he was even alive. One year later, the Germans came back and told Alter they were taking him away as well. Alter never had a chance to say goodbye to his stepmother and younger brother before he was forced into a crowded cattle car and taken to a forced labor camp in Blechhammer, Upper Silesia, Germany.
Alter was shocked to find his older brother, Shmuel at Blechhammer. The camp provided very little food and Alter witnessed many beatings and deaths while there. One day, Alter had to confess to a German officer that he gave away his wristwatch for a loaf of bread, so he was taken to a punishment room and given 15 strokes on his bare body. He was then forced to go to work the following morning. In October, 1942, Alter was sent to a different camp, separating him from Shmuel. This was the last time that Alter ever saw his brother.
Alter was at Brande for only two months, before he was transferred to a third camp, Gross Masselwitz where he was interned for 15 months. At this new camp, he was forced to build underground warehouses, until he was sent to a fourth labor camp to dig trenches for the Germans. At this point, the Germans were starting to lose the war and Alter was sent to his fifth camp, a concentration camp this time. There, he was given a uniform and a number to replace his name. By February, 1945, Alter wanted to put an end to his life but with his religious education, he felt that only God could decide when his end would come. In May, 1945, at morning roll call, the German guards were missing and Alter was told that they were being liberated by the Russians.
Alter later learned that his stepmother and younger brother were taken to Auschwitz and murdered there, and that his older brother had also died in a camp. Alter went to Palestine after the war and came to the United States in 1960.