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Meet Harry Kamel

This Month's Spotlighted Resident

Harry Kamel is a proud centenarian, who shows no signs of slowing down. “I will be 101 on July 1 st ,” said Harry. “I’m busy all the time. Maybe after I finish writing my second book, I will take it easy. But there’s still so many things that interest me.”

Harry Kamel was born Chaim Kamelmater in Rozyszcze, a small town in Valhynia, Eastern Poland on July 1, 1922. “Our family of seven lived there very happily until 1939, when Nazi Germany attacked Poland,” said Harry. “Our area became part of the Ukraine. I went to a Ukrainian high school where the language was Russian. When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, I was afraid to remain with my family for fear the Germans would think I was a communist, as I attended a communist high school. Seven of my friends and I clambered aboard a train in Maniewicze bound for the Soviet Union. My family ultimately perished at the hands of Nazi and Ukrainian collaborators — Awrum, my father, Leah, my mother, Symcha Wolf, my brother, Chana, my sister, and Motl and Mendl, my twin brothers. I survived the war in Uzbekistan, one of the Soviet Republics. I fought in the Red Army in the 370 Infantry Division. After the war, I spent 5 years in DP (Displaced Persons) camps in the Germany US Zone, supported by UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration). The Jewish organization ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation through Training) taught campers a trade. I learned electronics, fixing radios and the first televisions. The knowledge served me well when I finally emigrated to the United States, in 1951. I got a job fixing car radios, and two years later I was in business for myself. I put myself through night school to finish high school and get a college degree. It took me 17 years to get my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but I finally became an industrial arts teacher in the Bronx. I taught students how to work with wood, metal, and clay, and how to fix car engines. And it all started in the DP camps.”

Chaim Kamelmater took the Americanized name “Harry Kamel”, when he arrived in Kansas City to live with his cousins. After two years, he moved to the Bronx. “A friend set me up on a blind date,” said Harry, “and I married my beloved wife Trudy, after just 2-1/2 months. Trudy and I were married for 42 years before she passed, in 1996. We had two sons and two daughters, and now 7 grandchildren. All of them are college graduates. Now that is something to be proud of.”

Harry moved to Pomperaug Woods seven years ago, and his days are full. “I am a sculptor and an author,” said Harry. “I wrote a book titled ‘If the Train of Maniewicze Could Talk,’ about my experience as a Holocaust survivor, and right now I’m writing another book about my life memories. I also wrote 100 poems in Yiddish. I speak seven languages — Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, German, Hebrew, Yiddish, and English. There are so many things I know, and so many things I would like to know. I want to keep my brain active.”

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