Bill Morgan was born in Czerniejów, Poland to very pious parents who struggled to put food on the table for their seven children. Although his mother and father rarely had the time or energy to show him physical affection, Bill knew that they loved him and his siblings. After all, they gave the children food from their own plates when they were hungry.
When Soviet troops arrived in Czerniejów in September 1939, most Jews looked on them as the lesser of two evils. Bill and his family did not know much about Hitler, but they were certain that German occupation would be far more awful for the Jews. Less than two years later Germany invaded, confirming their worst fears. “The first week I remember they drowned a religious Jew, cut his beard and drowned him, threw him in the water. And my grandfather had a long beard and they were pinching him so he couldn’t walk down the streets,” recalled Bill. Together with hundreds of other Jews, the family was jammed into the ghetto of nearby Stanisławów. One day, the Germans ordered Bill to dig holes in the cemetery. Then they brought in a truckload of Jews, shot them and let them fall into the pits. Horrified, Bill returned to his family and told them he was going to flee.
Bill spent the rest of the war posing as a Polish farm worker and moving from town to town. Thoughts of his family tormented him: “They gave their bread to us when we were starving and yet I walked out on them,” he reflected with deep regret. After the war, he spent years searching for his family only to find that no one had survived. It was also a time of spiritual searching for Bill, who questioned his faith in the aftermath of the devastation. “I asked a lot of questions and got no answers why I ended up an orphan and why the world has hated me so much and why nobody interfered to help. . . . And why did I want to be a Jew?”
In 1949, Bill came to the United States where his faith in Judaism slowly began to flourish again as he witnessed the freedom and vitality of American Jewish life. He settled in Houston in the early 1950s and established himself in business, working first in the wholesale meat industry and later as a real estate developer. Bill served on the boards of several Jewish organizations and as the construction manager of Holocaust Museum Houston, which he has generously supported. He and his wife Shirley have five children, in whom he is proud to “have instilled a lot of Jewishness.”
Yitzhak Margulies, d. in Holocaust
Ettel Gabirer Margulies, d. in Holocaust
Sarah, d. in Holocaust
Solomon, d. Stanisławów Ghetto, 1941
Bunya, d. in Holocaust
Byla, d. in Holocaust
Two other brothers, d. in Holocaust