Tosia Schneider

Born in 1928, Tosia (Szechter) Schneider grew up in Horodenka, Poland, with her parents and younger brother, Julek. When the Second World War began in 1939, Schneider’s childhood came to a hasty end as the Soviets took control of her town. As the war progressed and the Nazis pushed east into the Soviet Union, Schneider’s family avoided several mass shootings by hiding in a flour mill where her father worked.

After her family was forced into the Horodenka ghetto, her mother conducted a secret school for Schneider and her friends in violation of Nazi law. When the ghetto was liquidated in 1941, Schneider moved with her mother and brother to the ghetto in nearby Tluste. Her father was allowed to stay behind at the flour mill, but he was soon arrested and killed. Schneider's mother died of typhus in the winter of 1942, and she and her brother made their way to the Lisowce Labor Camp. During an SS raid in 1943, Schneider’s brother was killed, leaving her alone. She wanted to join a partisan group, but narrowly avoided death when the group she made contact with was ambushed by the Nazis.

After the war Schneider lived with cousins in Czernowicz, Romania. There, she met Alfred Schneider who taught her English. After she immigrated to the United States in 1949, Schneider reconnected with Alfred. They married the following year and eventually settled in Atlanta, where Alfred worked at Georgia Tech as a nuclear engineer. Schneider raised three sons and became an active member of The Temple on Peachtree Street in Atlanta where she taught Hebrew School for many years.

A Happy Childhood

"I was born in 1928 in a little resort town Zaleszczyki on the Dniester River, in Poland. Today this is part of the Ukraine. In that little town lived my [paternal] grandmother, my uncle Rosenbaum and two cousins. My father worked in export…

A Holiday Memory

"One beautiful memory is going traveling to the neighboring town of Horodenka, my mother’s home place, for a Passover seder-- for a Passover meal. And the whole family, my mother’s family was there. My grandfather in a white silken robe as was…

Moving to Horodenka

"When I was six we moved to my mother’s hometown of Horodenka., At that time I started elementary-- Polish elementary school-- every morning, and every afternoon from three to five, Hebrew school."

Anti-Semitism in Poland

"It was subtle but it was there. In 1935, when President Piłsudski died, and the right wing party took over, there were some, laws propagated that were definitely anti-Semitic, like ritual slaughter forbidden. What I recall that was really painful…

Expelling Polish Jews from Germany

"I had an uncle who lived in Leipzig, Germany, and the letters were coming from him, and the family would get together and worry what’s going to happen. And he used to say that his boss was a Nazi but that he would protect him. He liked him…

World War II Breaks Out

"In 1939, I was eleven years old, and our family happened to be vacationing in the Carpathian Mountains... Life seemed absolutely beautiful. I splashed in a brook, and I just thought the future was full of promise. Somehow in the middle of…

German Occupation

"Well, the first week that they were there, they erected eight gallows in the city center and just randomly selected eight Jews and hanged them. They came to the Jewish synagogue and trashed it, burned the Torah scrolls and the prayer books, and…

The First Akcia

"December 4, the issue was ordered that all Jews must assemble in front of the great synagogue to be inoculated against typhus. It was raging in that part of the world, but some of the people, like my father, were skeptical. Why would the…

Belzec

"One more time our father hid us in the mill in the attic, and I recall waking up to the most plaintive whistle of a locomotive, and I didn’t know then that my dearest friend Genia Reis was on that trip to Belzec Extermination Camp. At the time,…

Life in the Tluste Ghetto

"It's almost impossible to describe. If there ever was a hell on earth this was it. There were a few narrow streets in that ghetto, thousands of people were brought in from other surrounding towns and villages, Typhus was raging-- my…

Lisowce

"Lisowce labor camp-- this was a group of five agricultural villages where the Germans had a group of forced labor Jews working in agriculture, and so did my brother and I. It so happened that the commander of our camp, Mr. Frank, was a pretty…

Liberation

"Well, before the liberation, there were five agricultural villages [where] the Jews worked. We decided all to come to one of the larger ones in the town of Tluste, where the ghetto was, for our safety. And strangely enough, the German Commander…

Czernowicz

"So, with a Russian army truck, we made our way across the border to Romania, and there I remember being very tired and falling asleep on the floor of some empty apartment. I remember waking up in the morning and looking in the window I thought…

High School in Germany

"I was in high school there, in Germany, which was-- I could write another book on a Jewish kid in a German high school-- and of course none of them knew anything that was going on. But the thing I remember most about that period is that I was…

Coming to America

"Well, we started off in Bremerhaven, and I remember we were on the S.S. Marine Flasher... As we approached the Harbor of New York, and we saw the Statue of Liberty, it was really a feeling of a new life beginning-- perhaps a life of freedom. I…

Moving to Georgia

"Way back in Poland, he was my first English teacher... I was sixteen, and he was eighteen, but there were no schools. It was 1945, and everything was destroyed, and he happened to have the best education during the ghetto because Czernowitz was…

A Promise Kept

"[I became} a member of the congregation of The Temple on Peachtree Street... I taught Hebrew there for twenty years... Started in 1975 or 1976. I remember the Bremen asked me once to speak... and I said, 'No, I can never do that. This is beyond me.'…
Watch Tosia Schneider's Legacy Series videos here.