Pawel’s Story

Pawel (pronounced, Pavel) was born on July 24, 1930 in the bustling city of Lodz, Poland, the first son of an upper-middle class family. His father, Alexander Hodys, was the director of a textile factory, and his mother, Regina, worked as a secretary and translator for an export-import firm. Pawel’s brother, Henrik, was five years younger. The boys attended a Jewish day school, and at home their family kept kosher and celebrated the Jewish holidays with their many relatives.

Lodz had the second largest Jewish population in Poland in the 1930s. The city was also an important textile and industrial center, and had a lively cultural life. Lodz had its own Jewish theater companies and many famous actors and artists.

Pawel Hodys, 1940s.
Pawel Hodys, 1940s.

“My father did not wear a yarmulke.”
—Pawel Hodys

Life changed for all of Pawel’s family and the entire Jewish community of Lodz within weeks of the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. Pawel was only nine years old at the time. His school was immediately closed down. Discrimination and humiliation soon became a constant of daily life.

Nazis began to round up Jews and take them into forced labor . Among those who remained, property was confiscated and many were expelled from their homes. Jews were forced to wear a special armband, and later a yellow star on the front and back of their clothes.

In the shadow of increasing danger, Pawel’s uncle fled to the Soviet Union and returned several times to urge the family to follow him. Despite wanting to go, Pawel’s father decided that the family must remain because Pawel’s grandmother was ill and young Henrik was only five years old. They decided that their chances of survival on the run were small, and so they stayed in Lodz and continued to witness the dramatic changes happening all around them.