Isaac Nittenberg, Holocaust Survivor

Isaac Nittenberg Isaac Nittenberg was born on September 18, 1927 in Lódz, Poland. Isaac was the only member of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust. He lost his parents, Dora and Philip, and his sister Rachel.

Isaac Nittenberg was born on September 18, 1927 in Lódz, Poland. Isaac was the only member of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust. He lost his parents, Dora and Philip, and his sister Rachel.

While Isaac remembers experiencing anti-Semitism at a young age, it was when the Nazis invaded Poland in September of 1939 that his life took an unimaginable turn. Lódz, located in central Poland, held one of the largest populations of Jews in Europe. Once the Nazis occupied Poland, the 230,000 Jews living in Lódz were immediately harshly persecuted. Isaac and his family were forced into the Lodz ghetto in May of 1940. At first, life was somewhat bearable as there was still some sense of freedom within the ghetto. Isaac remembers a sense of culture within the ghetto.  For example, young people participated in youth groups, which became a prominent part of ghetto society. But it wasn’t long before day-to-day life gradually deteriorated.

Isaac endured grueling work and starvation in the ghetto for four years. He had to carry sand and bricks all day in order to receive barely enough food to survive. As the conditions continued to decline, Isaac found himself surrounded by death and despair. He remembers families refusing to turn in death certificates in order to continue receiving their diseased family member’s food rations.

Lódz was the last ghetto in Europe to be liquidated. After four years of terrible conditions, Isaac and his family were transferred to Auschwitz. At the time, they didn’t know anything could be worse than the ghetto. They were packed along with 80 other Jewish families into an unsanitary cattle car. Immediately, Isaac was separated from his family.

He remembers his father saying to him, “Be stronger. Wipe the tears from your eyes. Don’t Cry.” This was the last time he would see his family.

After learning the fate of his parents and sister, Isaac found it unbearable to find the will to survive. He suffered through death marches, violent beatings, inhumane conditions, and unbearable hunger. Death was everywhere.

With the support from his fellow prisoners, he mustered up the will to survive. His main goal was to see the end of the evil Nazi empire. Throughout December 1944 to March 1945, Isaac was interned in a total of five concentration camps where he became immune to death and despair.

When Isaac arrived in his final camp Türkheim (Turkim), a subcamp of Dachau, his conditions finally began to improve. Under the supervision of Commander Hoffman, Isaac was treated like a human being again. His friend from before the war, Getzel, helped him secure a job in the kitchen where he was given three meals a day. In March 1945, Commander Hoffman tipped them off about an impending death march and together Getzel and Isaac escaped. At some point they were spotted and Isaac was shot in the leg. They managed to get away and hid out for a couple of days on a farm. Soon after, they ran into an American convoy and Isaac received treatment for his leg.

Isaac lost everything during the Nazi Regime and yet his will and strength kept him alive. He believed that he had to live through the nightmare of the Holocaust.

After the war, Isaac began to piece his life back together. He settled in Germany and later moved to Patterson, New Jersey where he connected to relatives who immigrated to the US before the war. Eventually he moved west to work in Los Angeles in the upholstery industry and then to the San Francisco Bay Area to start his own upholstery business. He currently lives in Marin County and has one son, Philip, and two grandchildren.