Sidney Zoltak is a child survivor of the Holocaust who regularly shares the lessons of the Shoah by speaking about his family’s experience.
Sidney was born in 1931 in Siemiatycze, Poland, a small town that was under Soviet control from 1939 through 1941, prior to the Nazi takeover. Sidney and his parents were under the occupation of the German Third Reich beginning in June of 1941 and a year later were forced into a ghetto within the town. He and his parents escaped the ghetto the evening prior to the start of its liquidation.
After being on the run and in hiding for almost two years, the family ran into a young shepherd boy named Zygmunt Kryński on the outskirts of the village Krynki-Sobole. Sidney’s father Israel struck up a conversation with Zygmunt and asked if his family could help them. Zygmunt went and got his oldest sister, Stanislawa, who recognized Sidney’s mother Henia as the owner of a clothing store before the war. Stanislawa remembered her fondly because Henia once let her buy a coat at a significant discount when she did not have enough money to pay full price.
Sidney and his parents were sheltered for 14 months; the last seven months were spent hidden in an underground bunker where they did not see daylight.
They were liberated in July of 1944 and returned to their hometown where they learned that less than 70 Jews remained from the 7,000 prior to the war. By then the family home was occupied by others, and the locals did not accept them. None of his classmates or friends survived. Most Jewish residents were murdered while on the run or were deported to Treblinka.
Sidney and his family spent the next four years in displaced persons camps during which time his father passed away. Sidney kept in contact with his family’s rescuers, and in 1997, upon receiving an invitation from them for a reunion, he returned to Poland along with nine family members. In 2011, the Kryńska family was honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among Nations.
Sidney is on the board of directors of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) as well as a member of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). He is also a past president of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants. From 1993 through 2007 he co-chaired the Yom Hashoah and Remembrance committees of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre (MHMC) and continues as a member of its speakers committee.
In 2013, Sidney wrote a memoir entitled, My Silent Pledge: A Journey of Struggle, Survival & Remembrance.
Sidney ultimately settled in Montreal where he lives today along with his son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.