We Remember Millie Zuckerman
USC Shoah Foundation is saddened to hear of the recent passing of Millie Zuckerman, Holocaust survivor and longtime friend of the Institute.
Millie was surrounded by her family when she passed away on August 9, 2020 at the age of 94. She was born on September 25, 1925 in Humniska, Poland and was a hidden child of the Holocaust.
Her small town of Humniska had a population of only five hundred families of which less than thirty were Jewish. She grew up with a sister named Anne, and her parents Sabina and Abraham. When the war began in 1939 and the Nazi’s invaded Poland, her family was allowed to keep their home but with restrictions. In a sudden shift, her formal education was dissolved, all Jews were forced to wear identifying armbands, and they were made to perform forced labor for the Nazi’s.
At the time, they believed the occupation would not persist past a handful of months. In 1942 conventional wisdom shifted as life in Poland changed for the worse. The family was no longer allowed keep its grocery store open for business and the Nazi’s mandated the removal of all Jewish people from the village, all of whom were arrested and moved to Brzozow, a larger village where they were forced to do hard labor. While in Brzozow, the family lived cramped into schoolhouses until they were once again moved to another town. One Sunday in late August of 1942, the Nazi’s ordered that all Jews were to assemble in the town stadium. Her father, sensing and fearing the gathering would be a mass execution decided that they would not go. Instead he formed a plan for his family to escape back to Humniska and seek refuge at the home of Michalina Kedra, a Polish friend and widow.
Michalina was a friend of her fathers who was widowed with four children. Before the occupations she often shopped at the family’s grocery store where Abraham would sometimes give her credit when she couldn’t afford her grocery’s. The family had only planned to stay at Michalina’s for two days until they could figure out their next move. The family stayed in her attic for two years. The straw filled attic was a cramped space where they made the best of rationing what little food they could gather. Michalina would often visit the family to help pass the time.
In August of 1944, the family was liberated by the Russians. Their new-found freedom was coupled with a range of emotions from joy to apprehension. While they were overjoyed by their liberation, the family still faced tough decisions on what their next steps would be. Aided by Russian soldiers, Millie and her family left for Budapest, Hungary where they were assisted by a Jewish agency that covered housing and meals. Shortly thereafter, the family left to a displaced persons camp in Bindermichel, Austria that was established by the United States.
It was at this camp that Millie was able to regain some of the youth that was robbed from her. She met her husband Abe at this camp as well. They were married in August of 1947 and began building their lives together. They had their daughter, Ann, in 1949 and two months later the small family emigrated to the U.S. on May 29. The family settled in Newark, New Jersey.
The Zuckerman’s never forgot the people who had helped them survive the Holocaust. Millie was instrumental in having the Kedra family recognized at Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. As a successful developer, Abe worked hard to honor the legacy of Oskar Schindler who helped him and countless other Holocaust survivors. Every new housing division that Abe worked on contained some form of a tribute to Schindler; dedicating 24 streets named after him. Abe and the family even made an appearance in the film Schindler’s List as it detailed parts of Abe’s survival story. The family was also instrumental in the publishing of USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th-anniversary book Testimony: The Legacy of Schindler’s List and the USC Shoah Foundation, which was dedicated in honor of Millie and Abe. The book chronicles the making of the film along with the establishment and evolution of USC Shoah Foundation, which was founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg after the making of the movie. Millie and Abe devoted their lives to honoring the six million who were murdered during the Holocaust. They played a role in supporting and building numerous remembrances across the country including The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City and The Shoah Foundation, to name a few.
Millie lived out her life as a beacon of kindness and joy. She made it a point to focus on the good in the world and to live every day in the present. She is survived by her daughters Ann and Ruth and their husbands Bernard Sklar and Steven Katz, her son Wayne and his wife Deborah, ten grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. A true treasure, Millie will be deeply missed and forever in our memories.