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Survivor Profiles: Aaron Elster

We, as survivors, have made this our mission to stand and speak out as loudly as our voices will carry and to those that will listen, that the atrocities committed against us and our families must never recur to any people – “Never Again.”

Aaron Elster

His Story:

Aaron Elster was born in 1933 in the small northeastern village of Sokolow-Podlaski in Poland and was 6 years old when the war started. He, along with his parents and two sisters, were forced into a ghetto in their hometown where they lived for two years. As the ghetto was liquidated, Aaron fled and was able to reunite with his mother. Aaron’s mother had arranged for a Polish family, the Gurskis, to take in Aaron’s older sister. Aaron’s mother told him to go to the Gurskis who agreed to hide him in their attic. That was the last time he saw his mother. He lived in hiding for two years until he was liberated by the Soviet Army in 1945. After the war, Aaron’s Uncle Sam (who had fought for the Russian Partisans during the war) arrived in Sokolow Podlaski to take care of Aaron and his sister. From 1945-46, the three of them went through a series of displaced persons camps in Germany. In 1947, Aaron and his sister left Germany for the United States, arriving in New York, and eventually settling in Chicago. In 1954, he as drafted by the U.S. Army and fought in the Korean War.  He married Jacqueline in 1954, and they have two sons and 3 grandchildren. Aaron was an active member of the community, serving as Co-Chairman of the Speakers’ Bureau and Vice President of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. Additionally, he served as Chairman of the Speakers’ Bureau for the Hidden Children Association. He also chronicled his Holocaust experiences as co-author of I Still See Her Haunting Eyes. Aaron spoke extensively on the local and state level about his survival and lessons of the Holocaust. Aaron passed away in April 2018, but his hologram continues to tell his story through Illinois Holocaust Museum’s Abe & Ida Cooper Survivor Stories Experience.

Learn More:

In Our Voices: Aaron Elster (WTTW Documentary) I STILL SEE HER HAUNTING EYES: THE HOLOCAUST & A HIDDEN CHILD NAMED AARON, BY AARON ELSTER & JOY ERLICHMAN MILLER WGN Interview Smithsonian Magazine article USHMM Testimony

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