Their skill in construction not only saved brothers Irving (Izak) and Sam (Shlomo) Bart’s lives during the Holocaust, but helped them to rebuild their lives when they immigrated to Canada.
Izak and Shlomo were born in Lodz, Poland, on November 27, 1923, and June 1, 1926, respectively, to Bina (née Breier) and Rachmiel Bart. They had an older sister, Gitl, and a younger one, Zysl Dina.
At the onset of the war in 1939, Izak was 15 and Shlomo was 13. Their family was moved to the Lodz ghetto in 1940. Their father, Rachmiel, was a certified master builder. This skill, which was useful to the SS, kept Rachmiel and his trained assistants—sons Izak and Shlomo—alive. For four years in the ghetto, they worked in construction.
When the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto began in June 1944, Rachmiel, Izak, and Shlomo were transferred to various concentration camps in Dresden, Germany; Obrzycko Poland; Flossenbürg Germany; Stutthof, Germany; Oswiecim, Poland (Auschwitz-Birkenau,); and Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia. At the camps, they were forced labourers.
Tragically, Izak and Shlomo’s mother, Bina, and sisters Gitl, who was eight months pregnant, and Zysl Dina were killed in Auschwitz.
When Dresden was heavily bombed by the British and U.S. Allied forces in February 1945, Rachmiel, Izak, and Shlomo narrowly escaped from the burning munitions factory where they were working.
After the bombing, Shlomo, Izak, and Rachmiel were force-marched, along with the other prisoners from Dresden, Germany, to Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia, through brutal winter conditions. During the long journey, many prisoners died due to starvation, dehydration, exhaustion, disease, and extreme cold. At one point, Shlomo attempted to escape and was shot by a soldier. He carries the bullet in his leg to this day.
In Theresienstadt, Izak, Shlomo, and Rachmiel all contracted typhoid fever due to the unsanitary water conditions. Liberated from Theresienstadt by the Soviet army on May 8, 1945, Shlomo, Izak, and Rachmiel recuperated in a displaced persons camp in Landsberg am Lech, Germany.
Shlomo chose to immigrate to Palestine in 1948. When the State of Israel was declared, he fought as an infantryman and participated in the Battle of Latrun, where many new arrivals from the displaced persons camps in Europe perished.
Izak and Rachmiel joined Shlomo in Israel in 1950. There they served in the Israeli army. All three worked in construction, building the first houses in Beersheba, on the northern edge of the Negev desert, where conditions were very harsh.
Shlomo met and married Rachel Feyerman, a sabra of Polish-Jewish descent, and they became the proud parents of two children, Benjamin and Shifra.
Sponsored by an aunt, Izak—who became Irving—immigrated to Canada in 1952. Embarking on a ship in Naples, Italy, Irving eventually arrived at the port of Halifax, where he boarded a train to Toronto.
In 1958, Irving sponsored and brought to Toronto, Canada, via São Paolo, Brazil, his brother Shlomo, who became Sam, together with Sam’s wife, Rachel, and their two young children.
Irving married his sweetheart of six years, Ellen (also a recent immigrant), in Toronto in 1959. Together they had two children, Sharon and Steven.
Sam and Irving worked for many years in the construction trade, Sam becoming a project manager and Irving a general manager. They helped build the first poured concrete and steel high-rise buildings in Toronto, and their many buildings dot the skyline from London to Oshawa.
Irving also helped his nephew and others establish themselves in business. Sam was very active in the Warsaw Lodzer Society helping other immigrants.
Sam suffered a debilitating stroke in 2006 and has spent the past nine years convalescing.
Irving’s wife, Ellen, passed away in December 2013.
Irving and Sam are proud grandfathers of three and five grandchildren, respectively.