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Mount Sinai Obituaries and Services » Dora Holland

Dora Holland

June 15, 1923 - May 2, 2021

Service Information Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills - Mount Sinai Chapel

Service Date: Friday May 7th, 2021

Service Time: 10:00 am

Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills - Mount Sinai Chapel

5950 Forest Lawn Drive

Los Angeles, California 90068

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Dora Holland was born on 15 June 1923 in Stanis?awów, Poland, a town outside of Warsaw, to Mendel and Laja (née Torfstein) Szafran. It was her father’s second marriage. Dora had two step-sisters from her father’s earlier marriage, and eventually four full siblings: in order of birth, Saba, Moses, Hannah, and Libel. Dora was the middle child.

Her father owned property and was once well-to-do, but lost almost everything after the Russian revolution because most of his money had been in rubles. Saba was a talented seamstress though, who could copy the latest fashions from Paris after one glance. At a young age she opened a dress shop in Warsaw and it was so successful it essentially supported the family.

They lived at the intersection of Zelazna and Chlodna in Warsaw, which would turn out be a block away from a main gate into the Jewish ghetto, cordoned off from the rest of the city in 1940. She and her brother Moses had actually welcomed the war; it seemed like the only solution to what was already, by the summer of 1939, an increasingly difficult situation.

Her father died during the bombardment of Warsaw when the Germans invaded in September 1939. Moses, who “didn’t look Jewish”—his hair was blond and straight—could pass on the outside of the ghetto as a Pole. His smuggling of leather and gold from inside the ghetto helped the family survive the first 2½ years of the war.

In the summer of 1942, her two sisters were included in the first large deportation from the ghetto to Treblinka. A year later, in May 1943, along with her mother and Moses, Dora was deported first to Lublin, then to the Majdanek concentration camp. Her mother died en route; Moses had a premonition he would not survive Majdanek and wanted to try an escape. Dora begged him not to risk it, so he didn’t. His premonition proved correct and he did not survive Majdanek. Her youngest brother, Libel, did jump off a train, but was captured and died at Be??ec. After seven weeks, Dora was transferred from Majdanek to Auschwitz-Birkenau, arriving 10 days after her 20th birthday. There she received her tattoo: 47308. She eventually went to work in the Weberei, making cloth straps and belts for the Wehrmacht.

As the Red Army approached, Dora was evacuated west into Germany proper. The train stopped at numerous camps, including Ravensbrück, but the prisoners were never let in until they arrived at Bergen-Belsen, in the heart of Germany, in mid-January 1945. The Germans began to desert the camp in early April, leaving mainly Ukrainian and Lithuanian guards. Dora was liberated by the British 11th Armoured Division on 15 April 1945, and hers was one of the first birthdays the surviving camp inmates celebrated that spring.

In September 1945, Dora testified at the trial where Josef Kramer, a former commandant at Auschwitz-Birkenau and the last commandant of Bergen-Belsen, and “Forty Four Others” were charged with war crimes. The trial, held in Lüneburg, about one hour from Bergen-Belsen, in the British zone of occupation, was a frustrating experience. “You saw so much, you remembered so much, and they wanted you to tell a fraction of it,” she later recalled. Kramer and ten of the forty-four others were hanged; the rest received prison sentences ranging from life to one year.

Towards the end of 1945, she met Bernhard Holland, a fellow survivor from ?ód?, Poland. They were both living in the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons camp, operated by UNRRA. While waiting together on a train platform, he struck up a conversation with her about a book she was carrying. Their relationship blossomed when he lent her one of his books. She was taken by how neat he and his Hungarian roommate kept their barracks room, formerly occupied by German army officers. It even had curtains.

Dora became Mrs. Holland on 8 May 1947, exactly two years after V-E Day. Their first child, a daughter, Laja Linda, was born in April 1949. Later that year they immigrated to the United States. Dora didn’t think she had the strength to live a life in Israel, although at times she would regret not going there. And their first choice had been Canada, where some good friends from the DP camp had already settled. But Bernhard could not pass the tailor’s test—he didn’t know how to fashion a pants pocket—and one had to have a pre-arranged job or profession. So they went to the United States in November 1949, settling in Providence, Rhode Island, where their son, Max Mendel, was born in 1950.

The Hollands moved to Los Angeles in 1952. Bernhard worked as a machinist and then shop floor foreman at the Burgmaster Corporation, and Dora was a homemaker until his retirement, after which they traveled to Canada, Europe, and Israel whenever they could. A life member of Hadassah, she liked nothing more than to read a good book.

Dora is survived by her daughter Laja and a grandson, Samuel F. Nicholson, and by her son Max and a granddaughter, Nora B. Holland, all of whom appreciated her sublime chicken soup and marble pound cake.