Israel Chojnacki Identified
June 26, 2011
Israel Chojnacki remembers this photograph very well. In fact, he even remembers it being taken in 1945 or 1946 in the Wezembeck Orphanage in Belgium run by the Association of Belgian Jews (AJB). He said it is hard for him to see the photo again because it brings back a lot of memories of the family he lost. “How would you feel?” he asked.
Israel was born in 1934 in Brussels, Belgium. He was the youngest of six children. Israel’s parents, Rachel and Majer Chojnacki, were deported from Belgium to Auschwitz on Convoy 11, which left Belgium on September 26, 1942. Rachel was never heard from again. Majer was registered as a prisoner in Auschwitz and was later transported to Ohrdruf, and finally to Bergen-Belsen, where he is believed to have died. Israel’s brother Abram and sisters Blima and Sylvia (Cywja) were deported to Auschwitz on Convoy 1, which left Belgium on August 4, 1942, and did not return. Blima had been engaged to a non-Jewish man named Serge Delacroix before the war. Blima and Serge joined the Belgian resistance but were eventually caught. Serge died in Gusen on December 15, 1942.
Israel and his brothers Marcel and Jakob went into hiding. He remembers being hidden “all over the countryside, in convents and orphanages.” He was able to stay with his two brothers during most of the war. After the war, they boarded the second children’s convoy to Canada. Israel’s only language when he arrived in Canada was French, and he vividly remembers being enrolled in summer camps by the Canadian Jewish Congress so that he could learn English.
Eventually, Israel went to trade school and earned his auto mechanics license, which he stills holds and uses today. Israel lives with his wife in Ontario, Canada, and has three children and four grandchildren. He is still in contact with the Delacroix family in Belgium today.