Holocaust survivor, husband, brother-in-law, cousin, uncle, friend, rescuer, hero. Born Oct. 15, 1920, in Lublin, Poland. Died July 17, 2011, in Toronto of cancer, aged 90.
Peter Jablonski was born Nachman Fryszberg in Lublin, Poland. He was the only member of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust. His parents, Etla and Yankel, as well as his beloved sister, Regina, perished in concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Peter survived the Lublin and Warsaw ghettos as well as Majdanek and Trawniki concentration camps. Toward the end of the war he changed his name with the help of the Polish underground so he could pose as a gentile.
Peter's selfless acts of kindness, generosity and bravery during the war saved many people's lives. He persuaded his uncle to let him smuggle his seven-year-old cousin George Mandelbaum out of the ghetto. Peter took advantage of his job as a forced labourer transporting goods out of the ghetto to hide George so he could hand him to someone from the Polish underground.
At 23, Peter rescued and protected an orphaned Walter Saltzberg, who was 13 and treated him like a father. Peter dug Walter out of a bombed building and hid him along with three other people in a sewer for five months until liberation by the Russians in 1945. He saved Walter's broken leg and they survived on a sack of rotten onions for food.
After the war, Peter placed Walter in the Jewish orphanage in Otwock. He then began to rebuild his life. On a chance visit to a post office, he met the love of his life, Sabina, with whom he spent the next 65 years. They found his cousin George and raised him for a short time before sending him to live with family.
Peter and Sabina went to Israel before coming to Canada in 1952 with the help of Sabina's sisters, who had moved here a few years before. Peter worked for 32 years in the commercial air conditioning and cooling industry. He started as an apprentice and ended his career with Dunham-Bush in 1984 as a field supervisor. He spent his retirement years working with Sabina in their beautiful garden in Thornhill, Ont., and volunteering together.
In 2000, Peter wrote his yet-unpublished autobiography. He knew the importance of telling his story to young people and was part of the annual Dinner of Miracles sponsored by Yad Vashem. In 2008, he was recognized at a ceremony at Queen's Park sponsored by Yad Vashem and the Government of Ontario. George and Walter proudly attended the ceremony.
Peter nursed Sabina, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, for 10 years before finally agreeing to move her to a nursing home. The same week Sabina moved he learned that his prostate cancer had spread to his bones. He lived in the same home until his death.
Peter touched many lives. May we all learn from him how to be better human beings.
George Saltzberg is the son of the orphan Peter rescued during the war.