Witelson and Laks families collection

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2018.480.1
1 Jan 1922 - 31 Dec 1957, 1 Jan 1922 - 31 Dec 1998
Level of Description
  • Swedish
  • Polish
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium


oversize box




Biographical History

David Wolf Witelson (ca. 1890-ca.1942) married Rela Abromczyk (ca. 1892-1942) and they lived in Pabianice, Poland. David worked as a shopkeeper and Rela was a housewife. They had at least six children including Zoshia Witelson (later Zoshia Zarska, 1907-1944), Pinkus Witelson (ca. 1912-1939), Morris Witelson (ca. 1914-?), Joseph Witelson (ca. 1916-?), Ruska (later Rena Frieberg, 1918-?), Hela Witelson (later Helen Laks, 1922-2017). Zoshia Witelson married into the Zarska family. She had a daughter, Helinka Zarska (1935-1944) born in 1935. After September 1939, during the Nazi occupation of Poland, the three Witelson sisters were sent to work. Hela worked in a factory making army uniforms, Zoshia worked in a factory that made furniture which was shipped by Nazi soldiers to Germany, and Rushka worked as a hospital nurse. In February 1940, the Pabianice ghetto was established. Nazi soldiers raided the family’s apartment and demanded the crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. David Witelson was ordered to remove it, but while trying to unhook the chandelier, a crystal fell to the floor and shattered. The soldier screamed that the chandelier was ruined, and the family feared they would be shot. Instead, they were sent to the ghetto. Zoshia already had an apartment within the walls of the ghetto, so the family moved into her apartment. In May 1942, the Pabianice ghetto was liquidated. Fearing for the lives of her mother, sister and niece, Rushka brought them to the hospital where she worked. However, all the patients of the hospital were rounded up, forced to dig their own grave, and executed. Their mother, Rela Witelson died along with over 150 hospital patients. Zoshia and her daughter Helinka survived because a German soldier decided to send them to the Łódź ghetto along with the other healthy hospital workers. Hela Witelson remembered being marched out of Pabianice to the shouts and jeers of their onetime neighbors and acquaintances. The Witelson family was sent to the Łódź ghetto where the family resorted to begging for bread. David Witelson died in the ghetto. In August 1944, the Łódź ghetto was liquidated. Ruska and Hela Witelson and Zoshia and Helinka Zarska were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The three sisters were selected for work, but Zoshia refused to be parted from her daughter, and they perished together in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. After ten days in Auschwitz, Ruska and Hela were sent by train to Ravensbrück concentration camp. In September 1944, the sisters were sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp where they worked in an ammunition factory. In February 1945, they arrived at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where Hela contracted typhus. After being recognized by a doctor from their hometown, Hela was admitted to the camp clinic. Ruska was sent to work in the kitchens and smuggled soup and coffee for Hela. Soon, Ruska also contracted typhus. On April 15, 1945, Bergen-Belsen was liberated by British soldiers. Through the efforts of the Red Cross, Hela and Ruska Witelson were sent to Falun, Sweden to recover. While in Sweden, Hela met Richard Laks and they married on February 27, 1949. Hela (now Helen Laks) and Richard Laks immigrated to the United States in December 1951. Their daughter Rita, was born in January 1952. They also had a son, David Laks. Helen Laks died on June 10, 2017. While in Sweden, Ruska Witelson met Abraham Frieberg. They immigrated to the United States in 1950 and married in 1951. Ruska (now Rena Frieberg) and Abraham Frieberg’s daughter, Shirley Frieberg was born in May 1953. Of the Witelson family, Ruska and Hele Witelson were the only survivors of the Holocaust. Pinkus Witelson (ca. 1912-1939), joined the Polish army against the family’s wishes and was killed fighting the Russians in 1939. Morris Witelson (ca. 1914-?) and his brother Joseph Witelson (ca. 1916-?) were found by German soldiers while hiding in a barn in Russian occupied Poland. They were interrogated and immediately shot after informing the soldiers they were Jews from Pabianice, Poland. The family was informed by an unnamed eyewitness to the boys’ execution who had also been hiding in the barn with the Witelson brothers.

Rachel (also known as Roza Rusia née Eisenman) and Alexander Laks lived in Radom, Poland. They had two sons, Richard and George Laks. George Laks (1919-2013) was born on February 9, 1919. He married Joyce Laks (née Tyldesley, 1923-2015) and they had a daughter, Sheila Rosalind Marland. George Laks died in 2013. Richard Laks married Helen Laks (née Hela Witelson, 1922-2017) on February 27, 1949 in Falun, Sweden. Helen and Richard Laks immigrated to the United States in December 1951. Their daughter Rita, was born in January 1952. They also had a son, David Laks. Helen Laks died on June 10, 2017.

Archival History

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of David Laks

Funding Note: The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

David Laks donated the Witelson and Laks families collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2018.

Scope and Content

The Witelson and Laks families collection includes biographical materials related to Hela Witelson (later Helen Laks) and Richard Laks. The collection includes the Swedish marriage certificate of Hela Witelson and Richard Laks, February 23, 1949; Helen’s reissued Polish birth certificate which states her given name was Chaja Szajndla Witelson, 1998; and Richard Lak’s R.E.M.E. Record of Service card, 1947. The collection also includes a includes a photograph album and loose photographs related to the Witelson and Laks families of Poland. The photographs include pre-war and post-war photographs of the families in Poland, Sweden, and Israel, as well as studio portraits and candid photographs, 1922-1957.

System of Arrangement

The Witelson and Laks families collection is arranged in two series. Series 1. Biographical materials, 1947-1998. Series 2. Photographs, 1922-1957.




This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.