Arbeiter family papers
Israel (Srulek / Jolek) Arbeiter was born in Płock, Poland on April 25, 1925 to Hugara and Yizchak Arbeiter. Israel was the middle of 5 siblings: Elek, Matek, Israel, Aaron, and Yosef. His father worked as a tailor. Sometime in 1941 Elek Arbeiter, the eldest son, fled to the Soviet Union. In February 1941, the Arbeiter family was deported to the ghetto at Starachowice. It was in the Starachowice ghetto that Israel met his future wife, Chanka Balter (Anna, b. 1925), who was from Łódź, Poland. In October 1942, the ghetto was liquidated. Israel, along with two of this brothers stayed in Starachowice as forced laborers. Israel’s parents and seven year old brother Yosef were sent to the gas chambers at the Treblinka concentration camp where they perished. Chanka Balter’s family also perished. In Starachowice, Israel contracted typhus and was moved to the quarantine barrack. The commandant of the camp issued an order that everyone in that barrack was to be shot. Those too sick to walk outside were shot in the barrack. Israel mustered the strength to jump out a window and escaped. According to the camp leadership, Israel was declared dead with everyone else in the quarantine barracks and his name was removed from the camp registers. Israel’s brothers covered for him but food was scarce. Chanka Balter had a job working in the kitchens of the labor camp. She stole food and gave it to the Arbeiters to help Israel recover. In July 1944, the Starachowice labor camp closed and the prisoners were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Israel was tattooed with the number A-18651 and assigned the job of shoveling and removing human waste. In November 1944, Israel was sent to the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig where he was assigned prisoner number 40452. In January 1945, he was sent to Dautmergen concentration camp. In April 1945, he was sent on a death-march. He was liberated by the Allies on April 25, 1945, his 20th birthday. Chanka Balter was also sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in July 1944. While imprisoned in Auschwitz, Israel stole bread and shared with Chanka. In January 1945, Chanka was forced on a death-march to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The camp was liberated on April 15, 1945. She and other inmates stayed at the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp. Israel was eventually reunited with one of his brothers and Chanka Balter. Israel Arbeiter and Chanka Balter were married on August 1, 1946. Their first child, Henia (later Harriet), was born in Germany in 1948. The family immigrated to the United States aboard a U.S. Army transport ship in May 1949. They arrived in Boston and settled Massachusetts. Israel served as the President of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Boston. The fate of Elek Arbeiter remains unknown.
Donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum collection, gift of Israel Arbeiter
Funding Note: The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
Israel Arbeiter donated this collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Nov. 28, 2005. He is the President of the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors of Greater Boston.
The Arbeiter family papers consist of wartime correspondence, a newspaper clipping, and pre-war family photographs relating to the Arbeiter family, originally of Płock, Poland. The later correspondence relates to inquests into the fate of Elek Arbeiter, born in 1919, who escaped to the Soviet Union, but had not been heard from since 1941.
The Arbeiter family papers is arranged in three series. Series 1: Correspondence, 1940-1974 Series 2: Printed materials, undated Series 3: Photographs, circa 1920s-1930s