SHOREWOOD – Tauba Biterman does regular activities during the day, meeting friends for lunch three times a week and doing tai chi.
Yet she is celebrating a milestone birthday and she is a Holocaust survivor.
“I don’t feel like a hundred,” she said. Her apartment complex in Shorewood threw her a 100th birthday party on Sept. 10.
Biterman was born Sept. 10, 1918 in Zamość, Poland. She was 21-years-old when detained by the Nazis in a Polish ghetto. “I was ‘decorated’ with the arm band. A yellow star here—a yellow star here,” she said, pointing.
Biterman went to work in a laundry during the day. She saw a former boss of hers from a previous job at a restaurant whom she calls “a righteous gentile” and asked for him to take her out of the ghetto. “I put my life in his hands,” she said. He housed her in his basement for three days.
He gave her his wife’s birth certificate and he drove Biterman through one empty village after another until he stopped. He blessed her and let her go, taking back his wife’s certificate. “I was left between Heaven and Earth, not knowing where I am,” she said.
For the rest of the war, Biterman took on his wife’s name, Maria. Her alibi to the Germans was that she was from the Black Forest and she could not go back home to Russia, for fear of her life and that she was looking for a job, she said.
Biterman spoke only German and worked for the German army doing various jobs, including cooking in a moving hospital, traveling to Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. A Ukrainian woman accused her of being a Jew and Biterman denied it. “When you say ‘yes,’ you’re dead,” she said.
Regarding her survival, Biterman said she is no smarter than anyone else. “Only The Almighty led me through my way,” she said.
At the end of the war, she was about 27-years-old. “When the Americans came to liberate, I was standing scared, I thought I was the only Jewish person left in the world,” she said.
Biterman set out to find her family. She went to a displaced persons camp and met her future husband, Edward Biterman. Through word of mouth, she found out that her father and mother and her siblings were alive. They all immigrated to New York in 1948, but her family members died shortly after, due to illness. Biterman said she has one sister who lives in Los Angeles, California.
Biterman and Edward relocated to Milwaukee after one year. They had two children together, a son and a daughter. Edward died in 1975. “I think he died of a broken heart; he never got over the Holocaust,” Biterman said.
Biterman had a career in sales. She remembers that at 75-years-old, she took an assessment of her life. She concluded that she’d reached two achievements: “I survived the Holocaust. I raised a beautiful family.”
Biterman attends The Shul Bayside for Friday night services or lights candles at home. Her life today is “very busy,” she said.
“Make the best day of it, because no one knows what tomorrow may bring. The past is gone, and the future is ahead,” she said.
When asked what advice she could share to the younger generation, she said “keep your faith strong. Never give up if you want to achieve something and have hope.”