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Johnny Jablon

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Né(e)
20 janvier 1926 Krakow, Poland

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

immigré(e)
1948 Montreal

In the Krakow-Płaszów forced labour camp, both Johnny and Sam quickly learn of the brutality of the new commandant, Amon Göth. At sixteen years old, both feel like they are walking a tightrope, where one wrong move can make them the target of Göth’s unpredictable volatility. Carry the Torch and A Lasting Legacy are the different yet parallel stories of two men who, as the sole survivors of their immediate families, must find their own way after the war and decide whether to keep their histories in the past.

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Johnny (Ephroim) Jablon (né Jan Rothbaum) was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1926. After the war, Johnny lived in the Bindermichl DP camp in Austria. In 1948, as a war orphan, he immigrated to Montreal, where he still lives.

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Le livre

Cover of A Lasting Legacy (traduction française à venir)

A Lasting Legacy (traduction française à venir)

Commandant Göth singled out a man from the line and shot him for no apparent reason at all. Göth then turned to the next person and asked, “Why are you staring at me so stupidly?” And he shot him as well.

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A Lasting Legacy (traduction française à venir)

The Aktion

And then came the bloody day of October 28, 1942, which I will never forget for as long as I will live. It was a beginning in my life and the day that I changed from a child to a serious man who survived four years in many concentration camps, and who survived only with the thought of revenge on the bloody German murderers.

Now I will describe that one day:

We got up that morning to go to work, when all of sudden we heard our mother screaming as she looked through the window (our window was facing outside of the ghetto). We all ran to look and we saw what we had been afraid of for quite a while. The ghetto was surrounded by SS troops specially trained for “liquidations” (killings) of Jews. What the word Aktion means we now know very well. It means hundreds of dead people and thousands taken for transport to an unknown destination (later on we found out that the unknown destination was the crematoria in Bełżec, Treblinka, Majdanek and many others, where we lost millions of our brothers).

You have to forgive me, dear uncle, for the chaos in my writing, but when I start to remember the horrible times, then I can write only the way that I remember. Well, let us continue.

We are sitting and huddling together in one room, because we’re not allowed to go out, and listening to any noises coming from outside where, in the meantime, it was very quiet (quiet before the storm). Mother is crying very quietly; she knows that something very terrible is coming. We are trying to assure her that everything will be okay. I felt like a grown-up person, although I was only sixteen years old.

Our thoughts were with you in far-away Palestine, where most likely you had no idea what was going on here.

All of sudden, we start to hear a few shots and then a whole volley. It had started! We hear crying, yelling, moaning, and we know for sure that there must be many dead. Mother is crying together with our small cousin, who was living with us with his mother, Aunt Sally.

Then we hear heavy steps of the SS coming to our door. They are here! We are sitting together hugging each other, waiting for something terrible to happen. Then, the steps stopped right in front of our door ... a big bang and they are in. Sadistic faces with sadistic smiles slowly coming toward us.

One of them gives a yell: “Now I’ll deal with these damn Jews!”

One of the beasts started to beat my dearest mother. Then something snapped in me. Blindly, and with the most hate I could muster to the animal who could raise a hand to my mother, I threw myself on him with the fist. Me, a sixteen-year-old boy, trying to fight the big German.

I can still hear his sadistic laugh together with my mother’s scream. Then I felt a blow to my head and I lost consciousness. I was left for dead. They left me bleeding on the floor. In the evening, a few of the boys, who were working in the Gestapo headquarters (cleaning the toilets), found me on the floor. They said that I was very lucky (lucky, who in few minutes had lost everybody). I did not cry. I swore to myself that if I survive, I will seek revenge.