Jack Fruchtengarten (b. 1924)
Jack Fruchtengarten was born on August 28th, 1924 in Opole Lubaelski, Poland. He was one of five children in an observant family in a small town. He was educated through seventh grade there, and also sent to cheder for a Jewish education. But after the Nazis invaded Poland Jack and his brother were told to run. Their father had heard from business dealings that things were very bad for the Jews and the Nazis were approaching their town. The two boys ran for the Russian border and were the only survivors of their extended family in Poland.
Jack and his brother were separated but both made it to Russia, where they were imprisoned and sentenced to five years in a work camp in Siberia, with thousands of other Polish refugees, both Jewish and non-Jewish. He was a young teenager and many people took pity on him because of his age, a situation that he credits for his survival. He learned some tailoring skills along the way, and managed to survive until the Poles were released from Russian prisons and forced to sign up for military service, either in the Russian or the Polish Army. He chose the Polish army and took a very long train trip (over many months, when he was reunited with and then separated again from his brother) south to the Black Sea, where he was supposed to find the army.
Jack ended up in England, after a brief stop in Palestine, to be enlisted in the Polish army, which was operating in exile from England. He worked in Air Force intelligence from 1942 until the end of the war. After finding out that his family had not survived, he wrote letters to relatives in the United States and in Argentina. An aunt and uncle in Portland, Oregon responded and arranged for him to come to them. He was 25 years old when he finally immigrated to be with them.
His uncle and aunt had no children of their own. They owned and lived in a hotel in downtown. Jack lived with them and took care of them until their deaths. He went to school and became a businessman. After working for several discount clothing stores in Portland he opened his own clothing store downtown and sold only the finest quality men’s suiting. The store was called the Golden Bull and he owned it from 1965 until 1993, when he retired.
Jack married his wife Nancy in 1971, after his aunt and uncle died. He didn’t feel that he could divide his allegence between them and a wife. He had one son, Zachary, born in 1974. Jack and Nancy divorced in 1988.