Sonya Welis Frenkel

Facts about Sonia Welis Frenkel
Written by her daughter Marsha Frenkel Goren from Israel

Sonia Welis was born in Zabludeva, Poland near the city of Bialostok in 1923. She had two brothers and one sister. Her parents Moshe and Bella were killed in Auschwitz along with one of her brothers. Her older sister Shandel Welis escaped to Russia from the Bialostok ghetto. Her second brother was in concentration camp, survived and then moved to Israel. All of her brothers and sister have passed away since then.

She lived in the Bialostok ghetto and worked in a kindergarten. Evidently, my teaching skills and love of children came from her.

Her three children Elaine, Marsha and Sidney loved and cherished her dearly. We dedicate this memoir to her and everything she stood for in her life. She passed away at the early age of 67 years old after being a sick woman all her life. It was her strong will and determination that kept her alive in the hardest period man has ever known in human history.

From 1939 she lived in the crowded Bialostok ghetto among thousands of others. She once told me she was always hungry and cold. Times were difficult; food was scarce as was of course money. The highlight of her life was her work in the kindergarten with her friends Sarah and Bubah.

Rumors of the horrors of the Nazis spread and the night when they liquidated the ghetto was a night she said she would never forget. The crying, the separations of loving families, the horrors were a memory she preferred to block out of her mind while raising her own three children in the USA.

She was taken to Majdanek along with everyone else in the ghetto. At that time, Himmler, Reichsführer-SS (Reich SS Leader) and Chief of the German Police, decided that a camp should be established there. Himmler issued the order to organize a concentration camp for 25-50 thousand prisoners with the purpose of employing them in SS and police construction workshops.

When my mother and the group from Bialostok arrived they had not yet finished building the crematorium and the ovens. The group did however go through the selection of the Nazis and were examined by the Nazis. Those who were of no use to the Nazi murderers were immediately eliminated and killed. 

In addition, people were taken outside all hours of the day and were shot and burned by the SS soldiers. The death camp had started and my mother and her friends knew that they had to find a way to escape this horrendous situation. There was constant screaming; crying and gun shots and they lived in complete fear. They knew that at any moment they could be the next shooting ducks.(There was also a near by camp named Kayel that used gas chambers and many people were killed there).

At the same time there were Polish criminal prisoners at Majdanek and they informed my mother that the Germans were looking for seamstresses or dressmakers. My mother realized it was their only chance to escape the death sentence and together with her friends they lied and said they were dressmakers. They joined a group of about 180 – 200 women who were taken to Blizen to sew uniforms for the Nazi soldiers. History would later show that the only survivors from Bialostok were the 180 to 200 women who were transferred to Blizen. 10,000 others from Bialostok were not as fortunate. My mother’s entire stay at Majdanek was only 10 days!

When the Russians advanced the Germans flew and they took my mother to Auschwitz.  We also know that she worked at an ammunition factory in Hindenburg. She was later transferred to Czechoslovakia and was released by the Russians. We do not have knowledge of what camp she was in while living in Czechoslovakia.

I recently spoke to Buba who had the following remarks about her, my mom and Sarah. “We were good honest people who were fighting for our lives. Your mother’s strong will and nature kept us alive. The Nazis were wild people like animals who treated us with such cruelty that it is impossible to put into words.”

When Sonia, Buba and Sarah met after the war, they all wanted to go on with their lives. They did not want their children to suffer from their pain so they decided to lead normal lives and not sadden their families by talking about their suffering. Before my Mother died she told me things I will never forget and this is the reason for the Holocaust unit which I pray will be conductive in changing biased opinions and making our world a better and safer place to live in. These were Sonia’s last wishes for all to learn about the Holocaust and to never forget so it would never happen again.

Photos from Marsha's wedding day which her parents proudly attended.

I believe a person has to know their family roots or the next generation will forget the tragedies of mankind and the Holocaust. This is the reason for the Holocaust unit on Globaldreamers and we invite children and educators from around the world to join in our dream for world peace and a better future for all.