The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Johnny Jablon

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Born
January 20, 1926 Krakow, Poland

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
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.

About Johnny

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.

Photos and Artifacts

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    Johnny’s mother, Dora (née Ormian) Rothbaum (front, left), holding Johnny (then called Jan), with Johnny’s uncles before the war. Krakow, Poland, circa 1930.

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    Johnny’s father, Schulem Rothbaum, with two of his sisters. Krakow, Poland, circa 1920.

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    Roman (Romek) Rothbaum, Johnny’s older brother, in front of their house on Zamenhofa Street. Krakow, Poland, circa 1938.

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    Johnny’s prisoner identity card used by the Germans during the war. The name on the card is Jan Rothbaum and it notes that he is a Polish Jew who has been in Plaszow and Auschwitz concentration camps.

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    Johnny’s refugee identification card, issued by the International Refugee Organization Austria. The card notes Johnny’s new name, Ephroim (spelled Efroicer) Jablon, and a false birthdate. Documents courtesy of International Tracing Service (ITS) Bad Arolsen.

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    Johnny Jablon after the war. Austria, 1946.

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    Johnny and his friend Joe Hefter in the Bindermichl DP camp. Linz, Austria, 1946.

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    Johnny studying electronics in the ORT school. Bindermichl DP camp, Linz, Austria, 1947.

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    Johnny (front) with friends at ORT. In the back row, third from the left, is Johnny’s friend Joe Luden; and in the back, second from the right, is his friend Mayer Friedman. Bindermichl DP camp, Linz, Austria, 1947.

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    Johnny with Sylvia Margulies, who organized the ORT school in Bindermichl. Linz, Austria, 1947.

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    Johnny (crouching in front) with friends from ORT, welcoming Sylvia Margulies. Linz, Austria, 1947.

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    Johnny (far right) with friends on the ship General Langfitt on their way to Canada. September, 1948.

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    Johnny (front row, third from the left) on the General Langfitt with his friends Joe Luden and Mayer Friedman (back row) and Charlotte Wolf. September, 1948.

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    Johnny on Mount Royal. Montreal, 1949.

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    Johnny (in back) with his friends in Montreal, 1949.

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    Johnny (right) with his friends Joe Luden (left) and Mayer Friedman (centre). Montreal, 1949.

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    Johnny and his fiancée, Sally Pancer. Montreal, circa 1951.

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    Johnny and his fiancée, Sally Pancer. Montreal, circa 1951.

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    Johnny, Montreal, circa 1951.

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    Johnny's fiancée, Sally Pancer. Montreal, circa 1951.

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    Johnny and Sally with friends at their wedding. Montreal, January 20, 1953.

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    Johnny outside his business, Magic Touch TV Sales & Service. Montreal, 1954.

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    Johnny and his business partner, Alex Kurzman, inside their store. Montreal, 1954.

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    Johnny working in his store. Montreal, 1954.

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    Johnny and his daughter, Debbie, on her wedding day. Montreal, 1995.

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    Johnny and his grandson, Daniel. Montreal, 2017.

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    Johnny and Debbie. Montreal, 2016.

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    Johnny’s daughter, Debbie, his grandson, Daniel, and his son-in-law, Jack. Montreal, 2014.

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    Johnny on his return to his childhood home on Zamenhofa Street, seventy-five years after the war, as part of the educational tour March of the Living. Johnny is holding a photo of his brother on a bicycle in the same spot before the war. Krakow, Poland, 2018. Photo credit: Naomi Wise.

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    Johnny with others from the March of the Living in front of the barracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Oświęcim, Poland, 2018. Photo credit: PBL Photography.

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    Johnny at the Tykocin synagogue, where he celebrated his bar mitzvah with the March of the Living. Tykocin, Poland, 2018. Photo credit: PBL Photography.

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    Johnny at the Tykocin synagogue, during his bar mitzvah ceremony. Tykocin, Poland, 2018. Photo credit: PBL Photography.

The Book

Cover of A Lasting Legacy

A Lasting Legacy

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.

Explore more of Johnny’s story in Re:Collection

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A Lasting Legacy

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.