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Adam Weisblatt, 75; survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto

Adam Weisblatt, 75; survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto

Article from:
The Boston Globe
Article date:
November 13, 2006
Bryan Marquard

The story began, Adam Weisblatt wrote, when Germany invaded Poland, his homeland, on Sept. 1, 1939.

"At the time I was 8 years old and living the life of a normal child that age," he recalled in a memoir of the Holocaust.

Childhood quickly dissolved into a swirl of horrors: bombing raids, the screams of neighbors dying in flames and rubble, "a horrible stench of burned and decayed bodies," Nazis executing Jews lined up against walls.

"For the first time in my life I knew the terror of crumbling walls, breaking glass, and blood flowing in the streets," he wrote.

Gestapo officers pulled Mr. Weisblatt's father out of the family's apartment in the Warsaw Ghetto and shot him to death in the courtyard as his wife and two sons listened and trembled in fear. The three escaped and hid in the cellar of a house outside Warsaw, where they subsisted on tiny rations of bread, potatoes, and water.

Months before the war ended, Mr. Weisblatt's brother became sick and died. Taking ill soon after, his mother went to a hospital, never to be seen again. At 14, Mr. Weisblatt was his family's sole survivor.

Reluctant to discuss his experiences and wracked by guilt at living when so many others died, he moved to the United States and built an aluminum business in Marlborough. Mr. Weisblatt died of congestive heart failure Oct. 30 in a hillside house in Sudbury that had become his refuge. He was 75 and also suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

"He had a real problem with survival guilt, I think," said Mr. Weisblatt's former wife, Marieke Hall of Wellfleet. "He punished himself. He could not allow himself to be happy, even though he had a very successful business and a beautiful, beautiful home."

"He was a determined individual," said his wife, Charlotte F. Broussard. "He had his goals, he reached his goals."

Still, she said, "he was complex because of what he went through in the war. He was very fearful of men - had no real male friends."

Hall said Mr. Weisblatt first wrote about his years in the Holocaust in the early 1960s, not long after they married.

"There was a chance that he would get some compensation from the German government," she said. "At the time, he was hoping to start his own business, and he thought it would help. The Germans sent him something like $600, which was a slap in the face, but he did use that to help start his business."

The money was scant recompense for what he had endured.

"One of the things that left a vivid impression on me was seeing a garbage truck full of bodies being driven to a common grave," he wrote of walking the streets of Warsaw as a child, weeks after the German invasion. "The bodies were covered with a canvas and from one ... stuck out a foot of a girl, probably my own age, with a tiny red shoe on it."

The image, he wrote, "has been plaguing me through all these years."

A few years later, then living in the Warsaw Ghetto with other Jews, he was rounded up with others in the street one day and lined up against a wall. A machine-gunner began firing.

"I heard the bullets hitting the wall behind me and the bodies of the people around me," he wrote. "I suppose from fright, I collapsed, and realizing I had not been hit, I pretended to be dead."

Breathing cautiously as blood flowed past his face and the Nazis kicked him for signs of life, he lay motionless among the dead and dying until the soldiers left.

"I was all of eleven at the time," he wrote.

A few years later, when his brother died, Mr. Weisblatt dug a grave in a nearby field.

"It was so horribly painful," Hall said. "One thing he told me that made me very, very sad was that he cried because he was so weak he could not lift his brother; he had to drag him by his heels."

"It is funny that after having fought like an animal to survive all these years of war, now that I found myself free, I was wishing for death," Mr. Weisblatt wrote. "The death wouldn't come."

Instead, he found his way to Berlin. A Jewish relief organization brought him to the United States, where he lived with relatives - his mother's parents had moved to New York City before the war.

Mr. Weisblatt learned English, attended a year of college, and decided to join the Army, Broussard said. He was stationed in Iceland as the Korean War was ending.

"He felt he absolutely, unequivocally had to go in because he had so many opportunities in this country," she said.

Back home after the Army, he began selling windows and doors. When he met Hall, she had two sons from a previous marriage, whom he adopted after they married in 1960. Mr. Weisblatt opened Universal Aluminum in Marlborough after moving his family to Newton, then to Sudbury.

In the mid-1970s, an operation was performed on an aneurysm found in his brain. While he was recuperating and others were running his business, Universal Aluminum faltered, according to Hall and Broussard. After returning, he rebuilt the company, which now operates as Universal Window & Door.

"Adam lived a life of a cultured European in Sudbury," said David Levington of Sudbury, who met Mr. Weisblatt in the early 1970s. "He had a lovely home and entertained beautifully."

Mr. Weisblatt "was very charming," his wife said. "He had a voice that was very commanding, charismatic."

"He was a very wonderful, warm, loving man," Hall said.

A lover of classical music, Mr. Weisblatt was a devotee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

When "Schindler's List" was released, he did not go to see the movie, having heard about the scene with a girl in the red coat - a visual echo of the red shoe he had seen on a dead girl in Warsaw years earlier. He was moved by the soundtrack, though, and stayed up late the night the Academy Awards was broadcast to ensure it won the Oscar for best original score.

Mr. Weisblatt had lived in Sudbury on land where he could ride his horses and his dogs could roam.

"That was his love," his wife said. "It was like a little castle with panoramic views. He said, `I will die here.' And he died very peacefully."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Weisblatt leaves three sons, Paul of Charlton, Jon of Oxford, and David of East Calais, Vt.; four granddaughters; and three grandsons.

A service has been held