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Hinda Chilewicz

Sosnowiec, Poland

Hinda was the eldest of three children in a comfortable middle class Jewish family. Her father owned a textile business in Sosnowiec and her mother attended to the home. Sosnowiec in southwestern Poland had a growing Jewish community of almost 30,000 people. There was a Jewish hospital as well as religious schools.

1933–39: Hinda was just 13 years old when German troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Three days later, they occupied Sosnowiec and terrorized the Jewish community, killing over a dozen people. On September 9, the Great Synagogue was set ablaze. By the end of the year, Jews were subject to a host of discriminatory laws and were forced to wear armbands with the Star of David. Hinda's father had to close his business.

1940–45: German authorities began deporting Jews from Sosnowiec to the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center in spring 1942. A year later, the remaining Jews were forced to move into a ghetto. After spending only a few days there, Hinda was transported to the Gogolin transit camp. Selected for forced labor, she was deported to Gleiwitz, a camp that became part of the vast Auschwitz concentration camp network. There, Hinda formed a close friendship with Welek Luksenburg, a fellow inmate. In January 1945, as the Soviet army approached, the prisoners were evacuated from Gleiwitz.

Hinda survived a death march to the Ravensbrück concentration camp and was liberated by Soviet troops in May 1945. Returning to Sosnowiec, she learned that her brother, Abraham, had died on a death march in 1944 at the age of 17. The remaining family members were deported to Auschwitz, where they perished. Hinda reunited with Welek in a displaced persons camp in the American-occupied zone of Germany. They were married on March 2, 1947.

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