2015 Holocaust Luncheon

2015 Holocaust Luncheon

Paying Tribute to Survivors

2015 Clara Miles. Holocaust Brunch At first glance, Revitz House resident Clara Miles, 91, is a striking blend of graciousness, vigor, and intelligence. It's then jarring to learn that she endured years of unspeakable hardship, deprivation, and loss during the period of the Holocaust. Born in 1924 in Lodz, Poland, the eldest of three children, she grew up in comfortable affluence with devoted parents (her father was a successful textile manufacturer), the influence of a grandfather who was a noted rabbi, and every educational and material advantage.

But the world as she knew it vanished in 1939. Despite her father's best efforts to protect the family, by 1941, at age 17, Clara was imprisoned in a slave labor camp in Poland, assigned the task of polishing bullets at HASAG in Skarzysko-Kamienna, a German-owned armaments plant. There she subsisted on a single slice of bread per day, stubbornly refusing the dirty soup with potato peels swimming in it. She was later transferred to a second HASAG camp, in Czestochowa, from which she was liberated.

Released in 1945, Clara returned to Lodz only to discover that her entire family had perished and her home was occupied by Poles who slammed the door in her face. Advised to seek shelter at a neighboring residence, she met Abraham Milewski (whose name was later changed to Miles), an Auschwitz survivor. Together they left Lodz, crossed the German border, and entered a Displaced Persons (DP) camp near Stuttgart.

Jointly concluding that Europe offered no future for them, the couple received generous assistance in securing ship passage to America; they married May 6, 1946, while on board the vessel. Settling in Queens, Abe began working at an uncle's firm in New York's garment district. However, propelled by ambition, he enrolled in night-school classes to become a professional pattern maker for the fashion industry. Smart, creative, and highly skilled, Abe advanced to top design positions in large companies including Ralph Lauren. As for Clara, after raising three children, she began a career in sales at Alexander's Department Store in New York. In retirement, she stepped into volunteer roles, earning awards for her dedication from the New York City Council.   

On April 19, Clara was one of 160 guests at the fifth annual brunch organized to pay tribute to Holocaust survivors in the local community and living at Charles E. Smith Life Communities, home to the largest number of survivors in the Washington region. The event was hosted by the Progress Club Foundation, with its co-chairman Joel Appelbaum as the driving force. 

"There is no better way to learn about something than to talk with someone who has experienced it," said Hyattsville teacher Billy Shulman,Holocaust Survivors, 2015 Brunch who provided introductory remarks. "And, the teachers are in the room sitting next to you," he added, referring to the elderly Holocaust survivors, accompanied by relatives, who came prepared to share searing stories.

After hearing survivors speak, Donald Shulman, President/CEO of the Association of Jewish Aging Services (AJAS) and Billy's proud father, suggested the idea of replicating this type of moving event at Jewish senior residences nationwide.


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