In today’s story from the Oral Histories Project, at the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum, We tell the story of Bess Fizel, a St. Lousian who survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.
The St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum is allowing us to republish a portion of these Oral Histories projects as a celebration of life and a crucial part of honoring and remembering the past. Please follow the provided links to additional recordings.
A Brief Bio
Bess Fiszel (née Basia Gurt) was born February 12, 1920, in Lodz, Poland. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, she was able to complete her schooling, which lasted through the seventh grade. She was also responsible for helping in her family’s store.
In 1939, her family was forced to relocate so that the Germans could isolate the city’s large Jewish population into a part of the city that became known as the Lodz Ghetto. Bess managed to secure a job in construction during her stay in the ghetto, which meant both long hours of hard labor but also a small daily ration of food. Even so, there was not enough food to go around, as is evidenced by her father’s death in 1944 caused by starvation.
In August 1944, Bess Fiszel was transported to Auschwitz, where she would only spend two weeks. She was then sent to the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen for a period of six weeks. Bess was in Zaltswedel, the labor camp, from October 1944 until April 1945 when the camp was liberated by the British army.
Of her immediate family, only one brother and sister survived the war. Her brother moved to the United States, and she followed soon after in 1950. She married Sam Fiszel, who was also a survivor of the Holocaust and with whom she had three daughters, Jacqueline, Rosemary, and Mimi.
Listen to Tape 1 / Side 1 of Bess’ Oral History
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