Jakob Kryszek (1918-2019)

Jakob Kryszek was born in 1918 in the tiny town of Podebbitz, Poland. He was the fourth of six children, three boys and three girls. He moved to Lodz, Poland when he was a young man and began working. When he was 21 years old, the Nazis invaded Poland and his entire family – brothers and sisters, mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – were forced out of their homes into the Lodz Ghetto, one of the hundreds of ghettos created by the Nazis to control the Jewish population. Jakob volunteered to do extra work for the promise that his family would receive extra food. He was put to work building the German Autobahn. Jakob spent more than a year moving from work camp to work camp building the highway.

He was then sent to Buchenwald and eventually to Auschwitz. Jakob survived five concentration camps, narrowly escaping death many times. He was shot in the leg by a low-flying Allied plane when being moved by train from one camp to another and spent the end of the war in traction in a camp hospital.

Jakob left Poland after liberation and went to Hannover, Germany to begin to heal and start anew. He married Sala Sarna, also a survivor of the concentration camps. They joined the Irgun, a Zionist organization. Sala and Jakob moved to Portland in 1952 where they had two children and made a life for themselves. Jakob purchased Columbia Knit Inc. and ran it throughout his life.

After Sala’s death in 1986, Jakob mairried Chella Meekoms. Together they worked with a group of survivors in Portland to create the Oregon Holocaust Memorial in Washington Park. He traveled with the seven-member delegation of local survivors who returned to the sites of their torture in Poland. There, they collected soil and ash that they brought back to Portland, to place beneath the large rock at the memorial.