Photo on left: George with his mother in Warsaw after the war, 1945-46.
Photo on right: George with students from Charles Wright Academy, Tacoma, 2011.
For more on George's story, including a photo gallery, please visit his blog - www.neitheryesterdays.com.
Below is an excerpt from the introduction to George's memoir - Neither Yesterdays Nor Tomorrows*
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I neither looked nor knew that I was Jewish, so shortly after my 3rd birthday my mother smuggled me out of the Warsaw ghetto, then paid various Polish Catholic families to hide me and raise me with their own children.
I was one year old in Warsaw in September 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland and World War II started. Within weeks my father was called into the army and never returned, so I never knew him. Within 3 years my grandparents, uncles and aunts, about a dozen family members in all, had been killed by the Nazis. Only my mother and I were still alive. We were Jewish, so according to the Nazi plan, we were alive illegally.
My mother dyed her hair blond and bought the ID documents of a Catholic woman who had died. I neither looked nor knew that I was Jewish, so shortly after my 3rd birthday my mother smuggled me out of the Warsaw ghetto, then paid various Polish Catholic families to hide me and raise me with their own children.
I never knew when my mother would visit me, nor if she would. On some visits she took me to a new family with whom I would live for awhile and sometimes she told me a new last name that I must remember in case anyone asked who I was. This tenuous life went on for almost 4 years till the war ended and I was almost 7, then to a lesser extent for another 4 years which included my being sent to France, where only a broken leg kept me from continuing to Palestine. I returned to Poland, but stability came only when my mother and I arrived in the U.S. in late 1949.
Thinking about those years, I realize that most of my past was painful, sometimes too painful to remember, and my future was so uncertain and unpredictable that I did not plan or anticipate things. I learned to live in the present, with neither yesterdays nor tomorrows to enjoy or console myself, and to some extent this habit has remained into my adulthood. I refused to relive the wartime tragedy through books and films, as my mother did, and I avoided making long-term or strategic plans, preferring to tackle each situation as it came.
For years my wife and friends suggested that I put my most poignant experiences to paper, if for no one else than for my son, yet I ignored their suggestions. Even a 1995 visit to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem did not change my mind, though it made me understand that my mother, who saved me and herself by luck and strength and wits, all with full awareness of the constant danger and death (which I was too young to understand), could not have come through this horrible experience without some deep emotional scarring. Apparently I was not yet ready to visit my yesterdays.
When the film ended and my wife again suggested, as she had many times before, that I document my memories, I thought for a moment, took a deep breath, and said “I will.” And the next day I started.
*Excerpt above is from the introduction of George's memoir Neither Yesterdays Nor Tomorrows. The book is available to purchase through the Holocaust Center's online store, or you can download it for free.
George resides in California but is a devoted member of the Holocaust Center's Speakers Bureau.