The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Joseph Beker

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Born
April 01, 1913 Kozowa, Poland

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1948 Toronto, Ontario

Bronia and Josio (Joseph) grew up in Kozowa, a shtetl filled with lively culture, eccentric characters and extended family. When Bronia met Josio, she was charmed by his confidence and fearlessness. Separated when Josio was drafted into the army, reunited amid the chaos of war, their connection endured as their persecution intensified. When everything they held dear was lost, together they built a future.

About Joseph

Joseph Beker was born in Kozowa on April 1, 1913; Bronia (née Rohatiner) Beker was born in the same town on December 9, 1920. They married in 1945 and came to Canada in 1948, where they raised their two daughters, Marilyn and Jeanne. Joseph died in 1988; Bronia in 2015.

Photos and Artifacts

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    Joseph Beker (standing, right) with his immediate family before the war. Left to right: Joseph’s brother Shmuel; his sister, Esther; mother, Gitl; and brother Srul Hersh. Kozowa, circa 1927.

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    Bronia and Joseph after the war with Elke Shütz, Bronia’s maternal great-aunt.

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    Bronia and Joseph. Lodz, 1945.

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    Bronia (left) and Joseph (left) with their first daughter, Marilyn, great-aunt Elke, and cousin Cyla and her husband, Mechel. Austria, circa 1946.

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    Joseph, 1940s.

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    Bronia (far right) with her daughter Marilyn, her uncle Isaac Gold and his wife, Bayla, who sponsored the Beker family and helped them immigrate to Canada. Toronto, 1948.

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    Joseph, 1950s.

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    Bronia and Joseph with their daughters, Marilyn and Jeanne. Toronto, 1952.

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    Bronia and Joseph's daughters, Jeanne and Marilyn, circa 1955.

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    Joseph and family, 1950s.

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    Joseph and family, 1950s.

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    Joseph and family, 1960s.

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    Joseph and Bronia, circa 1985.

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    Bronia and Joseph with their first granddaughter, Bekky. Toronto, 1987.

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    Bronia and Joseph with their first granddaughter, Bekky. Toronto, 1987.

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    Joseph's granddaughters, Bekky (right) and Joey, daughters of Jeanne. 1990.

The Book

Cover of Joy Runs Deeper

Joy Runs Deeper

I started to feel anxious about trusting my six Ukrainian companions. All I could think of was escaping. Still, they didn’t give me away. I do not know, to this day, why they did not hand me over to the Germans. For this reason, I have to believe that there is a God.

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Joy Runs Deeper

The Soviets and the Germans

We sat in the field until dusk. Just before nightfall, large trucks arrived. We were told to climb on the trucks and were driven to a small town called Starokonstantinov. There, we were ordered to get off the trucks and again sit in a field because there was a large hole in the road, which had been recently bombed by the Soviets. Then I saw with my own eyes how the Germans took about one hundred Jews, beat them and forced them to dismantle their houses and use the bricks and rocks to fill in the hole. Only then did I understand that I must not say I was a Jew. I went over to the six Ukrainians and asked them not to tell anyone that I was Jewish. I had a silver wristwatch and I wanted to give it to one of the Ukrainians in exchange for the cross he was wearing, but he assured me that no one would reveal that I was Jewish. And, indeed, that is what happened. Before then, I would not have believed that six Ukrainians would protect me and not turn me in.

We were led away to a large building in some sort of an army camp. The Soviets had stored grain there but it was now completely empty. Approximately five thousand captured Soviets were packed into the building. There were also Uzbeks, Ukrainians, Poles and, of course, Jews. The Germans were especially interested in finding the Jews. At first, the Germans asked the prisoners of various nationalities whether any of them could speak or understand German to help them translate. Many of the prisoners called out that they either understood or spoke it.

We were locked up in the building, without food. After two days, people became like wild animals. We had to relieve ourselves where we were, one lying beside the other. It stank so much that I could not bear it any longer; I decided that I had to escape. I had noticed that each morning at 8:00 a.m. the Germans opened the door. They would only ask if there were any Jews and, without fail, the Poles and the Ukrainians would point a few out. The Jews were then beaten so badly that blood flowed.

One time, someone pointed out a Jew to the Germans, who then proceeded to severely beat this man. This time, however, there were non-Jews who were very annoyed about this. The next morning, when the Germans opened the gate and asked who was a Jew, these non-Jews pointed out the man who had given up the Jew the previous day. The Germans beat this non-Jew mercilessly. He shrieked, but they kept on beating him. They killed him like a pig. I will never forget this.

I worried about how I could avoid the same fate from such German bandits, especially when I was a Jew. I started to feel anxious about trusting my six Ukrainian companions. All I could think of was escaping. Still, they didn’t give me away. I do not know, to this day, why they did not hand me over to the Germans. For this reason, I have to believe that there is a God.