Bluma holding up a thank-you-letter she received from a high school senior senior.
On the left, Bluma and her grandmother Rachel in 1936. On the right, Bluma in Gmunden, Upper Austria in 1948.
Bluma with her future sister-in-law Minnie at the DP camp in Wels, Austria in 1946.
On the left, Bluma's family picture from 1939 just before the war broke during a summer vacation. On the right, Bluma at the ruins of her house
after the war in 1945.
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Bluma Shapiro was born on August 28, 1923 in Bialystok, Poland. She was born into a middle-class family with five older siblings: Sarah, Josef, Aaron, Fanie, and Moses. Bluma's father, Baruch David Erenkranc, worked as a partner in a loan association, and she remembers her family as "a very close-knit family." Bluma attended a private Jewish school where she was very active in the Geographical Club, the Textile Club and the German Club. Unlike Leo, Bluma does not recall feeling any anti-Semitism from the people of Bialystok.
After the Soviet occupation of Poland from 1939 to 1941, Bluma graduated from high school and applied to study chemistry at Leningrad University. But the Germans had already occupied the city of Bialystok, and at the end of the school year she was ushered into the Bialystok ghetto together with her family. Because of her fluency in German Bluma was able to work outside of the ghetto, and in 1942 she was sent to work for a man by the name of Otto Busse, a German member of the Nazi party who treated her with respect, as she recounts, and helped her during the Holocaust by giving her extra food and looking out for her.
In August of 1943 the ghetto was liquidated. That was the last time Bluma saw her family. She was sent via Treblinka and Majdanek and other concentration camps to Auschwitz Birkenau, where an estimated 900,000 people were gassed upon arrival and another 200,000 people died of disease or labor. Bluma participated in the death march that ensued when Auschwitz was closed and landed in the women's concentration camp of Rafensbrück. From there she was taken to the labor and transit camp Malchow, where she stayed until the liberation of Germany by the Russian army in Brandenburg on May 2, 1945. With the help of Jewish soldiers in the Red Army Bluma and others were brought back to her hometown Byalistok, which had been liberated in August 1944. Back home she learned that her brother Aaron, who had been taken to Siberia, was one of the liberators, but later found out that he was killed on the front.
In 1946 Bluma met her husband Philip, who had been in hiding the entire time, and left with him for Wels, Austria, where they stayed in a DP camp until they emigrated to Brooklyn, New York, in August of 1949. Together with four other families, Bluma and Philip bought a chicken farm in NJ, where they raised eggs. Shortly thereafter they moved to Baltimore, where they owned a kosher meat market.