Jack Meister (Icek Kapelmeister)


Jack holds a photo of himself, taken at the liberation of Buchenwald in April 1945. The American soldier who took the photo promised to bring Jack a copy. He returned the next day with this picture.

Sydney Jewish Museum Collection



Jack Meister grew up in Kielce, Poland. “We lived a simple, happy life with traditional Jewish values. I was 11 years old when the Nazis came, and that was the end of my childhood and my education.

In March 1941, my family was sent to the Kielce ghetto. I was ordered to do the menial and dirty jobs because I was a strong young boy, a good worker. Some of these jobs included helping on building sites, cleaning out sewers, cleaning streets, and taking headstones off Jewish graves and using them in the footpaths.

In August 1942, the ghetto was liquidated and when I came back from forced labour the next day my family was gone, without any word of their fate. To this day I do not know what happened to them.

I was transported to Radom labour camp and worked in a factory for a year before being transported to Auschwitz, where I was tattooed with the number B488 on my forearm. I was then transferred to Buna concentration camp, which was part of the Auschwitz complex.

At the end of 1944, we began a long march to Buchenwald. Many did not survive. German soldiers made us carry their backpacks and sometimes their guns, but we never thought of escape.

In April 1945, I was finally liberated by American soldiers. They came into the camps and gave us lots of food and drink. An American soldier gave me some chocolate, and a change of clothes. He took my picture, then came back the next day and gave it to me. I still have the picture to this day.”