Howard Chandler’s Story- Chad Pollack

            Howard Chandler, born in 1928 in Poland is the second youngest amongst his family of three other siblings. His sister was the oldest, then his brother, then him, and then last but not least his other brother. In Poland, public school was compulsory, but he only went to school for three grades, because when the Germans occupied Poland they did not allow kids to go to school. In the beginning, many restrictions were already put on him. He was unable to attend school, he could not go out of town, there was no public transportation, and you could not practice his profession. This was very unexpected and not normal that there was no travelling, or if you were to own a business you could not buy anything else for the store, once you sold out of inventory you were done. As time went on, Jews had to live in ghettos. This was a very restricted area, and the Jews were congregated. Jews had to be identified with either a blue star or a white armband, but in other parts of Poland they had a yellow star. The laws were very strict, such as if you were caught without the identification you were shot, if you stepped out of the ghetto you were shot, and even if you were playing ball outside and it went across the street and you went to get it, you were shot.

In 1939, Howard was in a smaller town that was not as strict with the laws, but in the bigger cities it was much more strict. He had Christian neighbours, customers, and friends, but it was very difficult to trust anyone. He wanted to pretend he was not Jewish, but he knew that he could not trust people because they may tell on you. At the time it was very cold, as it was winter and it was very crowded, unsanitary, and uncomfortable. In 1942, his mother, father, sister, and youngest brother were taken, and he did not know where they were going. The Jews were singled out for complete destruction, and almost every one of them was getting killed. The Jews were rounded up and put onto trains, if they were in extermination camps, they were automatically killed. If you were to survive you had to be healthy, a certain age, and working for the Germans, but this was not everyone, they took as many as they needed. They could not go back home, and were put in forced labour camps. In 1942-1944, you needed a work permit to survive. His father and his brother were working so they had permits, they got Howard a permit by lying saying he was 16 yet he was not actually, so them three stayed and worked.

In 1944, Germany attacked most of Europe, and Russia as well. The Russians were able to repulse the Germans, and push them West, which affected the Jewish workers. They were then put on another train headed for Auschwitz, and they picked certain people with certain qualifications to work, otherwise you were sent to the gas chambers. Howard was picked, and as long as you were not killed, and had the power to withstand the pain you had a chance of survival. His father and brother were both sent somewhere, and Auschwitz was evacuated, but they had to march barefoot because there were no more trains, and many people died on the way. There was no food, but he made friends, and they stood together. They found trains, and were taken to Buchenwald, a concentration camp in Germany. There he searched for his family and found his brother, but he had records that his father arrived at a camp, but none of him leaving, so it was an assumed death. There was never food, you did not know what would happen next, it was tight living, cold, and there was no privacy. Camps were tough, and illnesses/injuries were known as accidents because you would not survive, as there was no medical attention. They marched to work, and then marched back to their barracks, which had bed bugs, and fleas. The only thing they had to keep them warm were old cement bags, and your clothes were never replaced. There were two ways to be killed, either outright, or through labour. Thankfully Howard did not experience either, and Buchenwald was evacuated. He was put on a train, and was unsure of where he was going. He travelled for four weeks until the war ended. The Russians liberated them as they got to Yugoslavia, to Czechoslovakia, to another camp for a very short time.

The war ended May 8, 1945, and 300 people his age were taken to England for rehabilitation. He survived with his brother, and he lived there for two years then came to Canada, but his brother settled in England and raised a family. Howard had four kids here in Canada, and married his wife Elsa. He believes that it is hard to judge his experience daily, as now there is school, and food. He does not understand how people still kill each other for no reason, and should be vulnerable to repeat what happened. People still use Anti-Semitism he says, but he believes that we are lucky where we are today in an enlightened place. He has a strong passion for the State of Israel, and stands by its importance, and believes we must all support Israel. He knows how important the experience of the March of the Living is, and encourages everyone to go. Although the ultimate goal of the Nazi Party was to kill, Howard Chandler was able to sustain himself throughout the tough years of the Holocaust.

 

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