Photography by David Amoils
Martin was born in Wierzbnik (Starachowicz), Poland in 1930.
His mother’s entire family immigrated to America and Canada around 1918, except for Martin’s grandfather’s part of the family. His grandfather, a farmer, was worried that Canada and the United States would not be kosher enough. He and his extended family stayed in Poland and were killed at the Treblinka extermination camp on October 27, 1942, except for Martin, his parents and one uncle. His brother was among those murdered. Martin spent time in both the Auschwitz and Mathausen concentration camps during the Holocaust, before being liberated from Gunskirchen subcamp on May 4, 1945.
Along with other young people, Martin went to Palestine in 1946 on an illegal ship. He was about 15 years old and eventually joined the army.
After the war, his mother remembered the address of her large family in Canada and moved here to be with them. She always had a feeling that Martin had survived and went to the Red Cross, where they helped find him in Palestine. His relatives helped him fly to Canada in December 1949. He could
not speak English, but was supported by the many clubs set up at the time for all the refugees.
It was there that he met his future wife Betty; they were married in 1953. Martin got a job in a dress factory as a cutter for $20 a week. He became more skilled with time and advanced to $78 a week. He and his mother and stepfather bought a small grocery store on Sherbourne Street. Betty worked at a Jewish agency where she made $30 per week. He was able to borrow money from the bank without collateral, and with the help and advice of a very friendly bank manager, he eventually bought four stores. His oldest son, Murray, brought computers into the store very early. He was able to make other investments and was financially quite successful.
Betty and Martin had four children: Murray, Mark, Lenny and Marlene. Unfortunately, Murray died quite young of cancer. They now have nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Martin still takes groups on March of the Living. He speaks frequently about his experiences in the Holocaust and wrote a book on that subject called “Determined.” Betty volunteered at Baycrest for more than 40 years. They have had a good life in Canada.