George J Elbaum

George J Elbaum

1939 – Hitler invades Poland.  I am 1 year old with an extended family of 12.  Within three years everyone has perished in the Holocaust except my mother and me.

1942 –   We escape from the Warsaw ghetto and my mother places me with a series of Polish Catholic families who raise me for the next 3 years.

1945 – The war ends.  I am reunited with my mother and she informs me that I am Jewish.  I cry.

1947 – Fearing another Holocaust, my mother sends me with a group of children to Palestine, but a broken leg in France sends me back to Warsaw.

1949 – My mother and I come to America. I am 11 and bewildered by the new culture.  Gradually I shed my accent and things European and absorb the mentality that defines America.

1955-1973 – After high school in Oregon, I attend MIT (BS, MS, and PhD in Aeronautics & Astronautics and Nuclear Engineering) and work in the aerospace industry.

1973-1997 – On a fluke, I fly to Moscow and with 2 colleagues begin representing American firms in the USSR, selling industrial equipment and instrumentation.  When the USSR dissolves, I launch Reebok Russia to sell athletic shoes and clothing to fashion-seeking Russians.

1997-2009 – After 150 trips to Moscow, I quit international trade and turn to real estate investing and development in the US.

2009 – For 60 years I keep a safe emotional distance from my Holocaust memories and my past.  Then a film “Paper Clips” and the tears of Tennessee middle school teachers and students move me to record my memories.  I recognize that we who survived the Holocaust have a responsibility to tell our stories to give hope to the slogan “Never again.”

31 Responses to Biography

  1. Colleen Melott Winrich says:

    I am a classmate, 1955. I had no idea you had suffered so..we just had our 60th Reunion, I read about you in our class book. Please let me know that you are alright. I saw the film , also .

    • gelbaum says:

      Thanks for your message, Collen. Yes, I am alright, and I get much gratification from the feedback (via letters) I receive from the students after my talks. Their understanding, compassion, and self-reflection shown in these letters dispel the image of callousness that’s applied to American teenagers, and it gives me hope that I am making a small but positive difference

      • Colleen Melott Winrich says:

        How I admire you! I spoke to Dorene Dunlap Horn …She and John were divorced many years ago and he has died, also Gary Helmick, I hope you are getting the class book…many of our class are or have accomplished some very wonderful things…Jerry Schimke, being one. I look forward to reading your books! Blessings to you and you family, and thanks for responding, Colleen

  2. Colleen,
    I didn’t know that Dorene and John had been married, but I did receive the list of 44 of our classmates who had died and it truly saddened me that it was so many, such a high fraction of our class. Sad, truly sad!

  3. Colleen Melott Winrich says:

    Jerry….an idea…contact Rodney Goff and see if you can get a copy of the class book! Think you would REALLY enjoy it. also have him put you on the e mail list..there were some fun comments from Jerry Shrimke and Barton Bobbitt about the reunion. please do keep in touch!

  4. Carolyn Miller Williams says:

    I just browsed through your web site and am so impressed with what you are doing to make today’s students aware of the past. I feel a sense of regret that I never knew your life story until now. I don’t know if you didn’t share with your classmates, or if we were just too self-involved to be open to what you had gone through. Keep up the good work!!! Carolyn Miller Williams, class of ’55.

    • gelbaum says:

      Thanks much for your comment. Indeed I didn’t talk about my past, keeping an emotional distance from it, until 6 yrs ago when I saw a documentary film which made me realize that my story has value to today’s young generation. I immediately wrote my 1st book and started speaking to student groups – about 90 so far. I’ve also learned since then that such decades-long silence is more typical than not for survivors of the Holocaust as well as hard combat.

      • Carolyn Miller Williams says:

        I just ordered your first book…should arrive Friday. I’m in a book group that has read a lot of books pertaining to WWII and this should be an interesting addition to our discussions.

      • gelbaum says:

        Thanks, I hope you and your book group like it. BTW, both this and the 2nd book are available on the free-access website However, I still prefer reading a paper page than a PC screen.

  5. Carolyn Miller Williams says:

    Just finished your book and am even more impressed with what you are doing about making the past come alive for today’s young people. It’s scary to me that there are actually intelligent, well educated people who don’t believe the holocaust ever happened.

  6. Yosef. EREZ. Elbaum says:

    I born in Kutno Poland in 1926. My name yosef Elbaum. Now I live in Israel from 1948. My Family who live in kutno murder. My be you are my Family.

    • gelbaum says:

      Yosef, I was born in 1938 and came to USA in 1949 with my mother. She and her family were from Warsaw but my father and his family came from Karzimiez-nad-Wislol (wrong spelling, I presume). From what my mother has told me about my father’s family, none of them came from Kutno, so we’re probably not related, at least not for several generations.
      My very best to you,

  7. Carolyne Geng says:

    Thanks so much for coming to Amador Valley today! Your words truly left a mark on all of us 🙂

    • gelbaum says:

      Thank you, Carolyne. I’ve had much luck in my life (also much hard work), and my talks to students such as yourself are my way of giving back to society.

  8. kellynnw says:

    I wanted to give you an update of what is going on with me. When you came to visit Spanaway Lake High School oh so many years ago to talk to my students, you and I had talked about grad school for me. Despite your help and connections, it did not materialize at that time. Since then, I got into the University of South Carolina in 2015. I earned an MA in Composition and Rhetoric May 2017. Throughout my studies, my papers and classes often circled around Holocaust topics and continue to do so even now as I am in the Joint PhD Program in English and Education at the University of Michigan (Class of 2022!). I just finished up my first year and have four more to go to become a doctor!. Currently I am researching online propaganda and how that functions differently than print forms…eventually I will tie it to my thesis involving Nazi propaganda posters. I just wanted to let you know that I did it…it might not have come at the time I desired, but with patience and hard work, all is possible. Thank you for your help back then and believing in me. More importantly thank you for being a role model not only for me but for my students of someone who is a survivor…one who works hard and perseveres toward their goals.
    Take care,
    Kelly Wheeler

    • gelbaum says:

      BRAVO! ….and thanks for your email. Success in most things comes from passion and perseverance, and when it comes to education, of your students’ and your own, you obviously have both traits, probably enough for two “normal” people. So, for your MA and the PhD in 2022, BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO!!! Please stay in touch, OK?

      • kellynnw says:

        Thank YOU! I promise that it won’t be so long between updates next time!
        Take care,

  9. Tarushka says:

    I am not sure how to email you via this blog, so I will post this here.
    I met a man on a train whose father was a Rubin Gerecht from Warsaw and whose brother-in-law was Moshe Elbaum, editor of a Jewish newspaper in Warsaw. They both survived the war – Gerecht in Poland, Elbaum in Shanghai.
    Are you related to this Moshe Elbaum?
    Tara Salman
    Montreal, Canada

    • gelbaum says:

      Sorry, but to the best of my knowledge I am not related to Moshe Elbaum. While I was only a child during the war, afterwards my mother told me that we had no surviving relatives in Poland.

  10. Tarushka says:

    I can’t seem to modify my entry, so I just wanted to add that I met this man Aug 3, 2018 on a train from Berlin to Warsaw. He got on in Poznan but lives in Warsaw. I was on my way to the 38th annual IAJGS Jewish genealogy conference in Warsaw.

  11. atalaya00 says:

    Hi Mr. Elbaum,
    Thank you so much for visiting Burke’s on Friday. Your story touched me and all of my classmates, and I have started reading your book on scribd! Thank you again!
    Ella Woods

    • gelbaum says:

      Thank you, Ella.
      With bigotry and hate-crime growing in our country we must acknowledge these for their danger to our freedoms and our way of life, and to speak out against these poisons to our friends and neighbors or via social media or publicly.

  12. Sam Hill says:

    Hello Mr. Elbaum,
    I found your talk today (4/29/19) at our middle school very interesting. I really appreciate your willingness to share your experiences with youngsters like us, as, like you said, there aren’t many survivors left today. Your luck and accomplishments amaze me as well. I have relatives, Louis, Garrett (a nickname), and Christiana Boermeester, who hid Jews in their apartment during the holocaust in Amsterdam. They have passed away, and thus I never had a chance to meet them. I cannot stress this enough, but to be able to hear from someone like you is a great privilege.
    Thank you so much,
    Sam (the kid in the Cubs sweatshirt in front of you in the photo you took with us)

    • gelbaum says:

      Thanks for your reply, Sam. It is unfortunate that you did not have a chance to meet these relatives and hear their story, how they decided to take the risk and hide Jews in their apartment, how they felt when danger was near and they might have been discovered, and how they felt when the war ended and they all survived. It would have been a wonderful experience for you to hear their story.
      My very best to you, George

  13. helene says:

    I only just saw a small ARticle in the Jewish Week about you. My father’s name was Elbaum – he was from Radom Poland, is there any connection? Thank you.

    • gelbaum says:

      Sorry for a much delayed reply, but I only found your comment today – it did not transfer to my email. Whereas I learned recently that Radom had a large Jewish community (and a Bar Mitzvah was held there recently by an American family with roots in Radom), my family comes from Warsaw and from Kazimierz Dolny, but no connection with Radom

  14. Nicholas Coddington says:

    Hope you are well and safe. I just wanted to reconnect with you and catch up. Been way too long. Please let me know your contact information and I’ll write a long, proper email.


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