Morris Blum was one of seven children born to Milech and Brana Blum, shopkeepers in Płońsk, Poland. Pious and generous, the family opened their home on Shabbat to fellow Jews who could not otherwise afford to eat.
Soon after Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the family was confined to a ghetto where they endured extreme violence and cruelty at the hands of both the German conquerors and some of the local Poles. In 1941, Milech and Brana learned that they were to be deported. “All of us wanted to be with our parents because regardless of what was going to happen we wanted to be together,” recalled Morris. “Life or death, we didn’t know what it was going to be. But we were such a close-knit family we wanted to be together, so we went with them.” The decision cost most of Morris’s siblings their lives. With the exception of Lee, all of them were murdered together with their parents when they arrived at Auschwitz.
The surviving brothers became slave laborers at Buna, part of the Auschwitz camp complex. When Morris was chosen to sort the belongings of the dead, he knew he was doomed. Most members of the Sonderkommando, as the group was called, were eventually sent to the gas chambers. However, he ingratiated himself with the guards. First he smuggled them some of the valuables he discovered in return for food. Then Morris refused to reveal to the SS—even under torture—that the guards were the source of his contraband rations. When the Russian Army approached in 1944, Morris and his fellow inmates were shipped first to Buchenwald and then to Dachau. As Allied bombs fell on his transport, Morris fled, posing for the remainder of the war as a non-Jewish German.
Liberated by American troops in 1945, Morris and his brother headed to a camp for displaced persons in Landsberg, Germany. It was here that Morris met his future bride Ann Wachsberg, a fellow survivor from Poland. At first her protective older brothers were skeptical about Morris’s intentions, but Morris persisted, eventually following Ann to her new home in Pittsburgh and proposing marriage. The newlyweds settled in the Houston area where they opened a series of successful furniture stores and raised three children. Morris described fondly that Ann served as a constant inspiration while they rebuilt their lives together.
Milech Blum, d. Auschwitz, 1941
Brana Buki Blum, d. Auschwitz, 1941
Shmulek, d. 1941
Shania, d. Auschwitz, 1941
Esther, d. Auschwitz, 1941
Lee (b. Leizer), survived
Haskel, d. Auschwitz, 1941
Zalman, d. Auschwitz, 1941