Born in central Siberia: a child of the Holocaust

Rotblat, Zev

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Like so many others, Zev Rotblat’s parents fled Poland in 1939 after the German invasion, with a small son, Josek, and an uncle, Avram. They ended up in Barnaul in the Altai Krai region of Siberia.  Zev’s mother was pregnant and working on building sites when his father was sent to a remote camp as punishment for trading, a capitalist act.  Zev arrived in October 1942.  In due course they received news he had ‘died of a heart-attack’. It was hard to get food and religious observance was banned, so he did not have a bris until decades later.

The family returned to Poland in 1945 and lived in Łódź where his mother remarried.  Zev writes in detail about life in Siberia, his early years in Łódź and school life.  Anti-Semitism stained everything. The family lived and worked in one room, but there was also courage and joy.  He learned of his relative, Leyb (Lutek) Rotblat, a hero and martyr of the Warsaw Uprising.

In 1958 the family, with Josek’s new wife, migrated to Melbourne and lived in Elwood.  Like his stepfather, Zev became a professional knitter, though he longed for higher education. The pair saw both success and failure in their knitting business, which led Zev to finally seek the education he craved, completing a bachelor degree and post-graduate subjects.

While knitting for others, Zev became expert in Taekwondo, married, and had two daughters, Miriam and Havah, both talented musicians.