Children of Auschwitz Survivors Take Lead
June 14, 2006
Children of Auschwitz Survivors Take Lead. The Downstate New York Division of the Polish American Congress recently announced it is forming a new unit to be known as the “Children of Polish Christian Holocaust Survivors.” Named to lead it is Eva Preisler-Grabicki, daughter of Auschwitz survivor, Michael Preisler, co-chair of the PAC’s Holocaust Documentation Committee.
“Children of Polish Christian Holocaust Survivors” is being organized as a committee of the Polish American Congress.
Its members will honor the memory of their parents and grandparents who suffered the terror of the German occupation of Poland in World War II to assure that the facts of their tragedy will not be forgotten or trivialized.
Eva Preisler is an assistant principal in a New York City public school. Her father, Michael Preisler, is currently the foremost spokesman of the Polish American Congress on matters concerning the ordeal of Polish Christians at the hands of the Nazis. Mr. Preisler spent over three years as a prisoner of Hitler’s SS in Auschwitz. He has agreed to act as advisor to the children’s group.
The majority of the members participating in the creation of the new committee are children of Auschwitz survivors. Their first meeting took place in Brooklyn, New York, and included Eva Preisler, Barbara Wierbicki, Andrew Kaminski and Rev. Peter Zendzian.
Like Eva Preisler, Barbara Wierbicki’s father was also an Auschwitz survivor. He was among the first Polish prisoners in Auschwitz and spent nearly five years there.
The Nazis began operations in Auschwitz in June 1940. In the first two years of its existence, most of the prisoners in Auschwitz were Polish Catholics, according to Michael Preisler who was there at the time.
Barbara’s father arrived at the camp with the second transport of Polish prisoners that same month. Once there, he was branded with the number 3470. Somewhat later, her uncle was arrested and also sent to Auschwitz where he joined her father. Barbara is an attorney with a prominent New York City law firm.
Another member with a father who survived Auschwitz is Andrew Kaminski. Although they never met while they were together in Auschwitz, Kaminski’s father and Michael Preisler were both liberated by the U.S. Army the same day, May 6, 1945 after they were transferred from Auschwitz to the Ebensee concentration camp in Austria. Andrew is an attorney with his own law firm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Also one of the “Children of Polish Christian Holocaust Survivors” is Rev. Peter Zendzian, pastor of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in Maspeth, N.Y.
As in so many Polish families that had gone through the trauma of the German occupation, nobody in his ever wanted to relive the memory by talking about it. Despite such reluctance and the fact he was only seven years old when his father died, Father Peter did eventually learn his father had ended up in a Nazi camp along with two of his brothers.
As a priest, Father Peter feels “too little” is being said about the suffering the Nazis inflicted on the Catholic Church and its members during the occupation. As a member of the children’s committee, he will also act as its chaplain.
Information about the “Children of Polish Christian Holocaust Survivors” can be obtained by writing to the Polish American Congress, 177 Kent St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11222 or calling (718) 349-9689.
On the photo: (from left) Barbara Wierbicki, attorney; Eva Preisler-Grabicki, assistant principal; Andrew Kaminski, attorney and Rev. Peter Zendzian, pastor of Holy Cross RC Church.
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