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Helen and Sol Krawitz Holocaust Memorial Education Center

Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center

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Descendant Profile








    Peter Hercky was born in Zilina, Czechoslovakia after WWII. While his older brother, Noach, was sent to Israel ahead of the family, Peter and his parents followed two years later.  In 1956 the family came to live in the Weequahic section of Newark, a neighborhood made famous in Philip Roth’s many novels.  Noach stayed behind to serve in the IDF where he fought in the Sinai Campaign and joined the family in 1959.  Peter attended Rutgers University in Newark and went on to earn an MBA degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. In 1983, Peter married Debbie (nee Bloom) and moved to Bridgewater where the couple raised their three children.  Sari is Head of Operations at a New York hedge fund and is the mother of two.  Rachel has three children and lives in Yavne, Israel.  Noah is a therapist in Philadelphia. 

    Peter is an active member of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, New Jersey where he taught  for decades a popular elective in the Hebrew High, “What is Newish?” about Israeli current events. He is also an active member of the SSBJCC where he can be found either exercising daily or leading his adult education seminar “What is Newish?” on global current Jewish events.


    For Descendant Submission, Select Interview Above



    Date: June 27, 2017

    Location: Temple Sholom Synagogue Library

    Interviewer: Nancy Gorrell

    Q: Describe your father’s background.
    My father, Ernest was born in Topolcany, Czechoslovakia. He prided himself as a gentleman. He was always well dressed, and based on his dress, he was well-off. He was one of 11 children. My father was a child of the second wife of my grandfather. Topolcany was a city of some size. I have no idea what my father or grandfather did for a living. After the war, they moved to Zilina. There, they were part of society. There was no ghetto in Zilina.

    Q: Was he a religious man?

    Q: Did he speak about any anti-Semitism before the war?
    Yes. The way he would tell the story, neighbors would be friendly, but as soon as the Nazis came in, they didn’t hesitate to turn in the Jews. The Czechs wouldn’t hesitate to turn in Slovaks.

    Q: What was his education like?
    He was a chemist, so he must have had some education. In Israel, he worked as a chemist and when he came to the United States, he worked as an assayer on 47th street, the diamond district.

    Q: How and where did your parents meet?
    My mother Greta, was born in Zitau, Germany. I have no idea how they met, but they got married before the war began. My mother did not talk about any of her Holocaust experiences.

    Q: What happened to your father when the war began?
    The story was they got notification to turn up at the train station for deportation. My father knew this was not going to be deportation to just a work camp. He picked up my mother, my brother, my aunt and uncle and instead of going to the train station, they all went into the woods, and they lived there with the help of others for remainder of the war. None of them was ever captured. They all survived.

    Q: Did your father ever speak about how they survived?
    Constantly, but I don’t remember much detail. I do remember catching him in Israel reading a book about the Holocaust. I could never understand why he was looking at that book. When we were living in Israel, every other person had a tattoo. But my father didn’t have one because he hid out. He would say he would tell me about it when I got older.

    Q: What happened to your father and his family in the post war period?
    He went back to Zilina to either open or purchase a battery factory. I don’t know exactly which. The city of Zilina was not impacted by the war. I was born on August 3, 1946. My family lived there until 1949 when we left for Israel.

    Q: How and why did your family go to Israel?
    My family left because the communists were taking over Czechoslavakia.

    Q: How did your father and mother adjust to life in Israel?
    My family settled in a town called Kiryat Motzkin between Haifa and Acre. I was three years old at the time. We stayed a few days in a tent. And then I remember we moved to an apartment. My father’s first job in Israel was paving roads (refer to photograph). He wasn’t much of a Zionist, and he resented having to pave roads after owning a factory. He was looking to move to the United States right from the beginning.

    Q: How long did your family live in Israel?
    We lived there until I was in 4th grade, from 1949 to 1956.

    Q: Where did your parents go after living in Israel?
    I had an uncle living in the US. He was one of my father’s brothers, Theodore Hercky, and he sponsored us.

    Q: Where did you settle in the United States?
    We settled in Newark, New Jersey in 1956. I was ten when we arrived. The biggest culture shock for me was television and movies. We didn’t have that in Israel. My uncle had a box in his living room. I learned the English language in six months, but at the same time, I forgot my Hebrew. My father always worked as a chemist in the States. He worked in the diamond district for 15 years. My mother was a factory worker and a housewife.

    Q: What happened to your brother?
    My brother was in the Israeli army when we came to the United States. After the army, he came to join us in the US. Then after the six day war, he went back to visit Israel and decided he wanted to stay there for good. He took his whole family back with him to live in Israel. 

    Q: What do you think your father’s message would be to future generations?
    He was a cynic. He would probably say, “Everyone has the potential to be anti-Semitic.”

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  • Sources and Credits:


    SSBJCC Survivor Registry Interview with Peter Hercky, June 27, 2017; Interviewer: Nancy Gorrell; digital historic family photographs donated by Peter Hercky.