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.”