Martin was born in the Czechoslovakian village of Tereshva in 1929, but home was across the Tisa River in Sapinta, Romania, a town with about 100 Jewish families. In 1940, Romania was forced to cede northern Transylvania to Hungary, and conditions for the Jews deteriorated rapidly:  public school was forbidden, businesses confiscated, travel restricted, and, ultimately, forced labor.

Martin was fifteen in 1944 when the Jews were taken by wagon to Tyachev. This was a ghetto in every sense of the word. After several weeks, Martin’s family was put on a train for two days and nights, arriving at Auschwitz II (Birkenau). This was the last time Martin and his older brother, Moshe, would ever see his parents, two sisters, and two younger brothers again.

The boys were settled into deplorable barracks, when guards came looking for prisoners with skills. Anxious to get out, Martin and Moshe called themselves mechanics, and after a week, were transferred to a labor camp in Bunzlau, Germany. It was here that Martin was given the number 46006 as his identity. The boys worked mixing cement to build foundations for factory walls. Had he remained at Bunzlau, Martin would have been freed by the Soviets in a few days. Instead, Martin was marched for five or six weeks through Germany to Gurlitz, Leipsig, then Nordhausen. Of the 100 men who began the journey, fewer than twenty-five survived. Moshe stayed at Bunzlau and was liberated from there, eventually immigrating to Israel, but died shortly thereafter, succumbing to the ravages of his concentration camp hardships.

Skeletally thin and so weak that he could hardly stand, Martin was put on a train to Bergen-Belsen. Several days later, on April 15, 1945, the British liberated the camp. Martin is certain that he would not have survived another day. He was taken by medical truck to Celle for recuperation and then brought back to Bergen-Belsen, which had been organized into a Displaced Persons (DP) Camp.

An aunt and uncle in New York saw a notice in the Jewish paper about Martin’s search for relatives; they sponsored his immigration. On March 3, 1948, Martin arrived in New York City. He was drafted by the U. S. Army during the Korean conflict and after discharge, settled in Birmingham, married Sylvia Gerber, and had one son. Sylvia died suddenly in 1967. In 1974, Martin met and married Shirley Beck Zalla, also widowed with one son. Together they became a family. Martin worked at Berman Brothers Iron and Metal Company for thirty-five years.

 

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