Fran Sonshine, National Chair

Norman Srebrolow

On The Move

Norman (Nachum) Srebrolow has been on the move for much of his life, at times narrowly escaping death.

Nachum Srebrolow was born on April 19, 1926, in Ostrów Mazowiecka, Poland, the youngest son of Josef and Elka. He had four brothers and three sisters. His mother passed away when he was three years old, and his father remarried a few years later.

Around September 1939, German warplanes flew over the town dropping bombs, so the family fled to Brok, Poland. There, German soldiers with machine guns were everywhere, breaking windows and rounding up people. Those who resisted were shot. People screamed and cried, and fires burned everywhere. Nachum and his family, who were crammed inside a church with the other prisoners, worried about being trapped inside should the church catch fire. The German soldiers threatened to kill everyone. Terrified, Nachum and others trapped there prayed and cried all night. Miraculously, the next day the prisoners were allowed to return to their homes.

Deciding it was unsafe to remain, Nachum’s family fled to Bialystok, Poland, where they stayed in a crowded synagogue. The Soviet Union was in control at that time. Nachum and family members who did not wish to renounce their Polish citizenship were forcibly exiled at night by the Soviets in truck convoys to the Northern Soviet Union. Nachum’s sister Esther, brother Zalman Zelig, aunt, and uncle, who stayed behind in Bialystok, which was overtaken by the Nazis in 1941, presumably perished in the Holocaust.

In a northern village in the Soviet Union, Nachum attended school, where he excelled. Tragically, in 1943, his father, Josef, and sister Marla died within one month of each other due to malnutrition. Nachum and his brother buried them.

In 1945, after the war, Nachum and his family returned to Poland and were then sent to a U.S. displaced persons camp in Germany. There, Nachum trained to become a mechanic. In 1947, Nachum joined the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organization of the British Mandate of Palestine, and went to France to train as a soldier. In 1948, he fought in Israel’s War of Independence as a paratrooper.

In 1952, Nachum, who changed his name to Norman, moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he worked as a mechanic. Around 1957, he met and fell in love with Michelle, and they were married. In 1959, the couple moved to Toronto, where Norman worked as a mechanic for a decade and then as a furniture salesman and store owner. Norman and Michelle raised four children: Ellen, Jimmy, Gary, and Sandra.

In 1974, Norman and his family joined Beth Emeth Synagogue, where they regularly attended services. Norman also volunteered at the synagogue for the Out-of-the-Cold Program.

At age 74, Norman embarked on a new career as a process server in his son Jimmy’s law firm, where he worked until the age of 87.

Norman and Michelle consider themselves very fortunate to have a wonderful family consisting of their children and their spouses and three granddaughters.