Jack Mayden

Martin and Barbara Mayden honor Jack Mayden, who was born in Gerakalwaria, Poland. Before the war, the Jews and Gentiles mixed together well in this small town, commonly referred to as Ger, and there were few problems. Jack spoke Yiddish at home and Polish at school, and helped his father out in the lumber business. After his father died, Jack moved to Warsaw, and ran a store. When the war began in 1939, all Jewish businesses were closed, and the Germans put Jack to work elsewhere. He left for Russia and worked in a coal mine in Ural until he was injured. Later, he was captured in Russia for not carrying a Russian passport.  He was then sent to a prison camp in a remote area of Russia, where there were about 5,000 prisoners. Jack recalled, “When we arrived, there was nothing, only snow – it was dead of winter. No buildings, no nothing. We had to build our barracks, the whole camp. They gave each of us a shovel and a saw, and said, ‘make it.’ We walked to work every day, about 12 miles. We walked and we cut wood. They gave us bread to eat, and at night dinner was made from boiled fish bones. We slept outside in tents, there in the cold of the Russian winter.”

Mayden survived his ordeal at the Russian camp after a shortened sentence of a year-and-a-half, and he then found a job in Kirov. He eventually became the vice president of a factory that made belts, shoes, and jackets. Later, he joined the Russian army. At the end of the war, Jack met his future wife Esther. Jack Mayden has recounted his entire story to Barbara Mayden, his daughter-in-law, in a short work completed in 2000.

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