Holocaust Survivor Interviews

At Ganzach Kiddush Hashem, we diligently work to reach survivors who have not yet shared their stories.

The interviewers are accompanied by a professional team that includes photography and recording staff, who do their job in the best possible way.

Yes, there are many good people, especially among the charedi (ultra-Orthodox) community, who have avoided the spotlight all their lives, and we, at Ganzach Kiddush Hashem, want to hear their stories too.

Such is the story of the chassid, Rabbi Kalman Jung in Bnei Brak, who after the request from Ganzach Kiddush Hashem, agreed to speak with us, but on the condition that there would be no photography or recording devices in the room. A conversation, to advertise G-d’s grace, and nothing else.

Thus we respected his request, and here is the wonderful conversation that we held with him on the night of Yom HaShoah, Nisan 28, 5784 (May 5, 2024).

Yom HaShoah Night 2024, By: Yaakov Rosenfeld

Conversation with Holocaust survivor, Kalman Jung

Bnei Brak

Orphanaged of his father and mother

I was born in 1938.

The same year, we moved from the city of Beregszász, Czechoslovakia, where I was born, to Antwerp, Belgium (that year, Beregszász, changed hands from Czechoslovakian control to Hungarian control, who were allied with Germany).

In the region of Brusels (Wezembeek), in the year the war broke out in Belgium, 1940, my mother passed away from an illness, and I was moved to a children’s institution in Wezembeek. [1]

My father, Dov Jung, was a rabbi and a Torah scholar.

I do not know his date of murder with certainty, although we set a yahrzeit (anniversary of death).

(Shows me a photo of his father sitting with the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Meir Hager, in the healing resort town of Marienbad)

In 1942, I was a five-year-old boy, orphanged of my father and mother.

On Friday August 29, a truck suddenly arrived at our institution.

SS men gathered all the students of our institution, 58 children, with the counselors and staff members, and they commanded the gentile counselors to separate from us.

They loaded us all onto the truck, and it traveled to the train station in Mechelen in Brussels. We sat together, crowded, children with the adults, and the destination was clear: Auschwitz.

I was a small child then; I still remember the events, but the details that I am giving now I heard from our manager Miriam Blum (Marie Albert Blum, a nurse by profession) when I visited her after the war at her home in Brussels.

As mentioned, the SS men separated the gentile workers and ordered our principal to pay them for what they had worked up to that point, and that was actually the miracle of our rescue.

The gentile workers were mainly employed in cleaning work, etc.

When they broke into our building, the Nazis tore up the telephone cables so that there would be no chance of calling for help from the outside.

Our clever principal wrote to each of the workers the bill of how much she was owed, and between the numbers and the words, she inserted a phone number and whispered to them that they should immediately contact this phone number, which belonged to the committee that managed the institution, and inform them that the children and the staff were being kidnapped and to also tell them what the destination was.

This was true self-sacrifice for if the SS men realized what she was doing, they would have killed her on the spot.

The gentile workers understood the message and immediately, upon exiting the building, went to look for a telephone and updated the people on the committee about what had happened.

The role of the committee was to take care of the needs of the institution which had official recognition and even a subsidy from the Belgian government. The honorary president of our institution was Queen Elizabeth of Belgium (who after the war was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations for her work to save Jews during the war years).

We had already arrived at the train station and were ordered to wait together with many other Jews for the train from France that would take us to Auschwitz.

We were all already marked for shipping. They put a string around our necks with cardboard and a number on it; this number was supposed to be our name and our identity card, and so we sat still, awaiting our fate.

Meanwhile the Queen of Belgium did not rest for a moment. Since the news reached her about our situation and what we were sentenced to, she initiated an urgent meeting with the SS commander who was in charge of Belgium, and in the eloquent German language begged on our behalf. She requested this as a personal gesture for her, as she served as the honorary president of the children’s home.

She claimed that sending the children under her protection to death would damage her good name, and finally, miraculously, the commander agreed and sent an urgent order to the commander of the train station on behalf of the SS, Shteckman was his name, to immediately prevent the deportation of the 58 children of the Wezembeek institution, and to release them immediately back to their institution.

At that moment, they took all of us and locked us in a separate room in the train complex, and this was to avoid causing riots among the thousands of Jews who were condemned to be sent to Auschwitz and who were awaiting their fate in sorrow and despair.

Late at night, a truck came and they loaded all the children on it and returned us to the institution.

Thus we passed through the period quietly.

One day, our administration learned that the SS were on their way again, this time to finish the job. They came to us with the aim of killing. They immediately scattered all of us in gentile institutions: monasteries, hospitals and more. So we would be with the gentiles until the horror passed.

When the SS came to our building and discovered that it was empty, they were consumed with anger and smashed the glass.

Thank G-d, this is how we were saved from death.

Kalman, the war has ended

At the end of the war, while in our our institution, I saw American planes flying above us at a low altitude. I excitedly called my counselor and showed her the horizon dotted with planes. I will never forget her answer: “Kalman, the war has ended.”

When I think about the miracle of my rescue, I reflect in my heart on the saying of our sages: “Even when a sharp sword is placed on a man’s neck, he should not prevent himself from mercy…”

I was the one with the cardboard around my neck… My path to “there” was already paved and certain, with all this I was not denied the gates of mercy, and here I am…

After the war, I merited to start a new life. I was moved to a charedi institution in Antwerp, where I was alone in the world – until I merited to have a visitor.

My brother, who was in Switzerland, looked for me and found me with the help of the Red Cross. I never knew him before, because at the outbreak of the war I was a child of less than three years old and since then we have been separated. When the stranger who came to me told me that he was my brother, I should have believed him, but the truth is, I didn’t know him…

From then, we were reunited and we were a family again.

I was a small child when I entered the yeshiva of Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik in Lucerne, Switzerland, and with great effort I filled in the gaps until I obtained the light of the Torah.

I remember, in 1957, while still a yeshiva student in Switzerland, we learned that the genius from Brisk came to vacation in Switzerland with his sons. He stayed in the mountains and since he did not have a minyan, I went with several friends to stay near the great and revered rabbi.

At the Kabalat Shabbat prayer service, I merited to lead the prayers, and since I didn’t know if the genius from Brisk normally sang “Lecha Dodi,” I approached him and asked if it was possible to sing and he agreed. I remember the song I sang then (the interviewee started singing the ancient Jewish song).

The next day, on Shabbat, I approached him and asked him a difficult Talmudic question, which was related to the Tosfot commentary that I was learning at the time.

Later, when I was already living in Bnei Brak, I met one of the great Torah scholars, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Schulzinger z”l, and I told him about my Shabbat in the presence of the rabbi of Brisk and the question that I had asked him.

He was very excited, and after a while I learned that he wrote about this matter in his famous book “Mishmar HaLevi” about Tractate Shabbat (pg. 53).

To quote the words of the genius Rabbi Schulzinger:

“And here in our city, there is an exceedingly precious scholar, Rabbi Kalman Jung, one of the survivors of the terrible world war, who was saved and studied in Switzerland, and by his choice, in the year 5716 (1955-6), on Shabbat of the Torah portion of Shoftim, he merited to be one of the several students who was in the healing city in Switzerland where Rabbi Yitzchak Zeev HaLevi Soleveitchik z”l was staying, and he helped make a minyan (prayer quorum of 10 men) for him on Shabbat, which is why they went to that city in the mountains to be with the rabbi, and he told me some time ago that he had the privilege of being asked by the rabbi of Brisk…”

At that time I was privileged to immigrate to the Land of Israel, and I worked polishing diamonds, and every morning I would go to the great Ponevezh yeshiva to study with study partners.

I would sit in the yeshiva from early in the morning.

I remember there were days when I was alone in the Great Hall together with the tzaddik (righteous man) and genius Rabbi Yechezkel Levinstein z”l. He once approached me and asked me what time it was, and I answered him ” it is now five.”

The interviewer said: It’s amazing to hear about an orphaned Holocaust survivor who had to take care of his livelihood but gave up sleep and went to study in a yeshiva with study partners even though he was not accepted to the yeshiva as a full-fledged student.

This dear survivor of the Holocaust had no complaints and no demands from anyone in the world. He had one goal: to rehabilitate himself and fulfill his duty in his world.

And I have indeed heard from those in the know that this dear survivor of the Holocaust received the light of the Torah and that he is an exceptional scholar and knowledgeable in all parts of the Torah.

When I asked him how he was able to integrate the knowledge and scope of the Torah after the years of his childhood when he was hidden among Gentiles and lost years of schooling, he did not understand the question and in general, he did not like to talk about himself and what he had accomplished in life. He prefered to talk about G-d’s grace on him and the wonderful family he had built:

In 5723 (1963), I merited to build a family with my dear wife, who was also present at the conversation, but she avoids publicity and being in the spotlight. She was born in Poland and as a little girl fled with her family to Russia, where she went through the long and difficult period.

Their married life went well, and the young man, born in Czechoslovakia, who spent his childhood in Belgium and was educated after the war at the Lucerne yeshiva, built a wonderful home with his wife, the “Polish woman” who escaped to Russia and from there immigrated to Israel.

In the old bookcase in their modest home on (…) Street in Bnei Brak are some very beautiful Torah books written by the sons and grandsons of the dear Holocaust survivor.

He was indeed blessed with true Jewish pride and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren fill his soul with emotion and enjoyment.

[1] During the Nazi German occupation in World War II, Wezembeek was an orphanage established by the Association of Belgian Jews (AJB), a Judenrat-like authority organized by the German occupation force, and it worked with the Nazis. The orphanage was intended for Jewish children whose parents were murdered in the Nazi extermination camps. From August 1944, the AJB decided, under severe pressure from the Committee for the Protection of Jews, to hide the children until the end of the occupation. The children were scattered to Catholic schools, orphanages and other places. During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and January 1945, the children survived bombing by American and British forces while in the basements of homes, schools and orphanages occupied by Nazi forces resisting the Allied forces (Wikipedia).