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Holocaust Survivor Oral Histories

From 2003 through 2013, Professor Uta Larkey from Goucher College (Baltimore, MD) conducted a class that required students to interview Baltimore-area Holocaust survivors.

INTERVIEW 1: Life Before World War II

INTERVIEW 2: Experiences During the War Years

INTERVIEW 3: Liberation and the Aftermath


Avi Niv was born on February 22, 1937 in Gheorgheni, Romania, where his grandfather owned a successful timber business. Gheorgheni was under Hungarian rule and although World War II only became physically present in Hungary in 1944, between 1940 and 1944, the government enforced many anti-Jewish policies. Avi’s father was taken by the Hungarians from the family and forced to do labor on the German front, supporting Hungarian soldiers. When the Hungarians began to retreat, so did the forced laborers, and it was on this journey that Avi’s father collapsed and died of pneumonia in January of 1943. After his father’s death, the Niv family moved to Debrecen, near the present day Hungarian-Romanian border. In 1944, Avi and his mother, grandfather, and grandmother were forced by the Germans to move into the Debrecen Ghetto. They were later moved to a brick-laying factory and then to the Strasshof Labor Camp in Vienna, where they were imprisoned until Ally troops liberated Austria in 1945.

After World War II ended, Avi moved with his family back to Gheorgheni, at that time under Soviet rule. All of their possessions and property were stolen during the war. Avi’s mother remarried and in 1950, the family gave up their citizenship and moved to Israel. Avi attended Hebrew University for medical school. He met Yaffa, his wife, in Israel and they had three children. They moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1977 after Avi was accepted to Harvard Medical School. In 1979, after working at Johns Hopkins, he opened an orthopedic surgery private practice in Baltimore.

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