Ben Kibort and Reva Kibort

a family survives

When the Russians invaded Ben’s hometown they confiscated his father’s store and closed the Hebrew school. One year later, the Germans came and things got worse. They moved the Jews into the ghetto and deportations started.

In 1944, with the Russians again advancing on Siauliai, the Kiborts were shipped through Latvia to Stutthof Concentration Camp and then on to Dachau. The Germans needed to keep the inmates moving and began a push to the Alps. In Bucholz the men found themselves in a park, surrounded by Nazi soldiers with machine guns. As the gunners took aim, the mayor arrived, calling off the killing. Ben, along with his brother, father, and uncle, was spared as the Nazi soldiers fled form the advancing Allied armies.

The American officer who liberated them was Jewish. He asked if anyone had relatives in the U.S. Ben’s mother had told him of his cousins the Edelmans in Buffalo, MN. The army contacted Rabbi Minda of Temple Israel and arrangements were made by members of the Edelman and Moses families for Ben and his family to come to Minnesota. Miraculously, Ben’s mother also survived camps in Poland and the family was reunited. “My family was one out of 10,000 that survived intact. People couldn’t believe it.”

the road to freedom

Reva was only six years old when the Nazis marched into Poland. Within weeks her father died in a bombing raid, leaving her mother alone with six children. When the Warsaw ghetto was built in 1940, the family was moved into a small apartment with several other families.

On the eve of the ghetto’s liquidation, Reva’s mother urged her daughters to flee before it was too late. They joined their siblings outside the wall and fled to the countryside. There they were rounded up with other Jews and sent to a series of camps. “I was only 11 years old and the oldest of only 11 children who survived the transport.” Reva took care of the youngest, a six-month old baby born in the camp. “I was holding the baby and the German guard told me to drop the child and run. I don’t know why he said that… but I set the baby down and ran. The guards opened fire and killed all the other children; only I survived.”

After liberation, Reva was sent to a DP camp for orphans. One day an American from UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) asked Reva if she wanted to go to America. “I didn’t know what to say, so I asked my sister. She said that we would go only if they took both of us.” In Minneapolis, Reva was placed in a foster home and at 14 she was finally able to attend school for the first time.