Survivor Profiles: Mitchell Winthrop
The trick was to endure. Endure hunger until the next meal, often days away, endure exile until quotas stop, endure the shootings, the hangings, the deaths of loved ones.
Mitchell Winthrop was born Mietek Weintraub in Lodz, Poland, in November, 1926. Although he was an only child, he had a large extended family. His grandfather owned a textile factory, and the family was well-off.
The German army occupied Lodz in September, 1939. The Lodz ghetto was formed in early February, 1940, when Mitchell was 13, and sealed on April 30, 1940. Mitchell worked as a carpenter in the ghetto, and in an electrical plant. Although schools were forbidden, he and other teenagers were able to take clandestine classes, studying math and sciences such as metallurgy. Mitchell remained in the ghetto until it was finally closed and the surviving Jews were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in August, 1944. Mitchell was liberated by the US Army at Mauthausen and remained in a DP camp in Germany.
With the help of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (“the Joint”), he was able to come to the US in 1948, first to New York, then to Toledo, where he worked cutting fabric in a clothing factory. Five years later, when the factory closed, he moved to Chicago, where he worked while earning degrees from Wright Junior College and Roosevelt University. Mitchell earned a master’s degree in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Chicago. He taught at Purdue University and in the Chicago Public Schools. After retiring, he served as a Polish language translator in the Federal Court system in Chicago. He now lives in Arlington Heights.
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Photo credits: John Pregulman