Kurtz, Irene

Irene Kurtz was born February 2, 1928 in Warsaw, Poland.  She grew up with lots of extended family, and was living a happy life, going to school and celebrating shabbat.  The coming of war in 1939 would shatter that life; it began with restrictions and shortages, and it quickly escalated as the Nazis and their collaborators began the process of creating ghettos.  Once that fateful step happened Irene and her family faced the daily dangers of round-ups, starvation, slave labour and murder.  During that time, Irene’s sister and mother were selected and taken away; Irene and her father continued to face the random existence of the ghetto, relying on smuggling and bribery to stay alive. They witnessed the fateful uprising of 1943, and Irene even visited Mila 18 at one point. As the uprising reached its inevitable conclusion, Irene was deported to several of the camps, including Madjanek, Skarzysko, and Czestochowa, where she was a slave labourer. After her liberation by Soviet troops she worked in a hospital before she was able to leave Poland and eventually emigrate to Israel, and then Canada.  Irene has become an advocate for Holocaust education, and was first interviewed at Baycrest’s Cafe Europa by Crestwood students So Hee Pyo, Jenny Son, Lauren Engeland, and Emma Myers.  Irene visited Mr. Masters’ History 12 class in person in April 2023, sharing her testimony with Grade 11-12 students.