1927 Kolbuszowa, Poland
Kolbuszowa Ghetto; Pustkow Slave Labor Camp
October 27: Max Notowitz was born in Kolbuszowa, Poland.
September 1: World War II began; the Germans came to the little town where Max and his family lived. The Polish army kept retreating; caught in the fight, 162 Germans were killed. The Jews were taken to a field, men and women separate from one another. They spent the night in the field enduring cold and worried for Max’s father who then appeared in the morning. The Germans destroyed 162 homes and looted the homes of everyone in the town, Jew or non-Jew.
Germans posted proclamations that all Jews must wear white armbands with the Star of David.
Pulled from school, Max decided to volunteer to work to remove the pressure from his father.
September: Kolsbuszowa Ghetto was established and Max and his family were forced to live there. His father was taken to Auschwitz; Max was forced to take the role of head of the family.
September: Kolsbuszowa Ghetto was liquidated and Max was sent to Pustkow Slave Labor Camp while his parents and family were taken to death camps. Before their deaths he received a letter from his mother, detailing how his friends were jealous that he knew where he was going. Lies had led his family to believe they were going to work on a farm.
Max worked cutting trees and building roads in the camp.
Complications arose in the camp as the Russians were approaching and the Germans were planning to take them to the Belzec Death Camp. Based on this new-found knowledge, Max and others planned an escape. They remained in hiding until the Russian liberation in 1944.
Liberation finally came but Max found himself alone.
March 14: Max moved to New York and immediately looked for a job.He also attended night school to continue his education. He had been removed from school in the fifth grade and wanted to better himself.
Max began working with a relative, and married.
Max and his wife visited his wife’s relatives in Memphis, Tennessee. Aunt Esther convinced him to stay and enrolled him in Christian Brothers High School where he graduated in two years. He then received a scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University. Max honored his mother’s memory by getting the education she always wished he could have.
Max Notowitz resides in Memphis, Tennessee. In his eighties, Max, accompanied by his daughter, Ida, speaks at schools in the Memphis area about his experiences and the value of an education.