Uri Urmacher

Uri Urmacher was born in  1935 in the town of Siedlce, in eastern Poland.

"My family consisted of my father, who was a optic lense maker and photographer, my mother, a homemaker, and my younger sister, Ruth. My paternal and maternal grandparents owned properties and businesses, in nearby in Biala Podlaska, Poland, and I had numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, on both sides of my family.  Everyone perished, except for my father, sister and I.

Of Siedlce’s 30,000 inhabitants, around fifty percent were Jewish, working professionals in the arts, theatre culture, business and government positions - many held political offices. They financially supported, and funded public rail travel, secular hospital and schools, libraries and museums.

Our families had lived in this part of Poland for hundreds of years, and men in each and every generation served in the Polish army and infantry, during Europe’s multiple wars. 

My paternal grandfather was a professor at the Warsaw University who spoke six languages, and taught Esperanto, among other subjects. He was a specialist in optic lenses, had the first movie studio and theatre in Warsaw, and would have been considered a “Renaissance Man” by the standards of the times,"  recalled Mr. Urmacher.

The family spent the war hiding in Poland, trying to make their way to Russia.  When Uri Urmacher was five years old, his mother died, and he was placed together with his sister in an orphanage run by Jewish partisans. The children survived the war hiding in forests.

After the war, with help of former survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising,  they were smuggled across the borders of many war torn European countries to a displaced persons camp in Rosenheim, Germany. It was here that they were to wait a further journey to what was to become, The State of Israel.

It was in Rosenheim, Germany, that Uri Urmacher lived in an orphanage, and was trained in an ORT machine shop. "While waiting for transportation to Israel, ORT took us in hand, and began to teach us how to make metal parts, tools, ice-skates, and the likes. The basics of tool and machine making. We were given materials, assigned tasks, and our work critiqued. We were provided warm clothing, shoes, boots, and special holiday gifts," he fondly remembered.

From Rosenheim, Uri Urmacher together with other orphaned children embarked to Israel on board the  ‘Exodus 1947’, memorialized in a book by the same name, by author Ruth Gruber. The historic journey of The Exodus became the symbol of the struggle of Holocaust survivors in post war Europe. Amidst wide media coverage, and despite international protests, the ship was stopped on the way by the British Royal Navy. In the fight which emerged during taking over of the ship, a crew member, and two children were killed, and many others injured. All of the passengers were deported by the British back to camps in Germany.

Finally reaching Israel, Uri Urmacher continued his education while living in a kibbutz. In 1961, he met and married American born Glenda Eiss, and settled with his wife in  Long Island, New York, and became a successful engineer.

Source: World ORT Archive: Uri Urmacher interviewed by Katarzyna Person, March 2009