Israel Gruzin was born in Slobodka (Vilijampolė), Lithuania on December 28, 1928. He was the eldest son of Chaim and Chiene, and had one brother. Fearing the Germans’ arrival, the Gruzins left Lithuania for Latvia in 1941, but were forced to return to Slobodka due to bridge damage. Israel and his family were moved into the Kovno ghetto, where they endured forced labor. In 1943, Israel and his family were taken to Stutthof concentration camp in Germany. There, the men and women were separated, with both the women and young kept in Stutthof while the men and boys were taken to Dachau. In April 1945, Israel and his father were forced to go on a death march to the Steinberg mountain region near Bavaria. The death march was halted when American troops approached the location, liberating the prisoners.
On May 2, 1945, Israel was liberated and sent to Föhrenwald, a displaced persons camp in Bavaria, Germany. His mother, brother, and father also survived. Due to health complications from the concentration camps, however, both his mother and brother passed away shortly after the war ended. He met Adela in Föhrenwald and the two married in 1953. A year later, they gave birth to a daughter, Jeannie, and immigrated to the United States in 1955. They settled in Baltimore, where Israel opened Gruzin’s Custom Cabinets in 1985, and had two sons. They have lived in Baltimore ever since.
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