Meet Holocaust survivor Wolf Deane

Wolf Deane was born in Lodz, Poland, on 3 September 1925 to Jacob Fabiszewics and Sura Laya Springer. Jacob manufactured men’s ties and scarves and his mother kept a kosher home being the more religious of his parents. The family lived in an apartment in the city.   

Wolf was 14 years old when the Germans invaded Poland on 1 September 1939. Jewish businesses, bank accounts and radios were all confiscated. Then Jews were thrown out of their homes as they were all moved to the Lodz Ghetto. Anybody close to the fence was shot on sight. Families were allocated one room with no running water, no toilets and no cooking facilities. Wolf attended the “Ghetto High School” until 29 September 1941 when all able-bodied Jews were forced into slave labour at factories to support the German war effort.  

Wolf Deane on summer holiday before the war, 1939. Courtesy of the Deane family.

Wolf got a job in a factory making leather and canvas backpacks for German soldiers thanks to a childhood friends’ father.  His father worked in a metal factory. Factory workers received an extra slice of bread and a bowl of soup.  

On 18 August 1944, as part of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto, Wolf and his family were deported. Wolf followed his unwell mother slowly down the stairs frustrating the German soldier facilitating the move and he hit Wolf with a metal club over the head permanently damaging his hearing.  

The family was loaded into cattle trucks and transferred to a train, on which they travelled for two days without food or water. They arrived in Auschwitz on 20 August 1944.  Wolf was 19 years old.  Women and children were immediately separated and it would be the last time Wolf would see his mother, aunt and cousin.  

Thanks to his father’s experience in metal work, Wolf and his father were chosen to work for an army truck manufacturer near Braunschweig, in Vechelde where they worked 12 hours shifts. Wolf was appointed helper to the tradesman in charge, who was kind and brought him sugar beets from the fields. On the morning of 5 March 1945, Wolf’s father, Jacob, died. It was a week before his 50th birthday.   

On 21 March the inmates were marched to Braunschweig in the pouring rain over several days to Wattenstedt camp.  Two weeks later, after allied shelling, they were loaded into cattle cars and moved, finally reaching Wöbbelin on 27 April. One night Wolf and his fellow inmates were rounded up into the cattle carts to be taken for execution and left there overnight.  The Allies had taken out the tracks, and so the guards told the inmates they would take them on foot. When the guards realised the Allies were close, they abandoned the prisoners.  

Wolf lay starving when on 2 May 1945 the camp was liberated by American Soldiers. “Hope and determination replaced a feeling of emptiness.” 

Ghetto High School in Lodz. Wolf sitting fifth from left in the front row. Courtesy of the Dialogue Centre in Lodz.

Wolf decided to hitchhike to Poland to search for relatives and fell ill with typhoid and spent four weeks in Ravensbrück, which was converted to a hospital following liberation.  Once recovered, Wolf continued on his search but found no family.  He joined the Haganah (a Jewish military group) in Lodz, who smuggled a small group to Italy.  The false documents recorded the group as Italian prisoners of war and their leader was Wolf, now known as Fabisio Valdemaro. They remained in Reggio Emilia and then travelled to  La Spezzia where they boarded a ship, the Enzo Sereni, to Haifa in Palestine. 

On 17 January 1946 the ship was intercepted by the British and ordered to sail to the Port of Atlit where Wolf was imprisoned as an illegal migrant.  Following the internment, the Haganah took some of the travellers including Wolf, to Kibbutz Gesher near the Sea of Galilee. Wolf remained there for 18 months until leaving for Tel Aviv where he became a builder’s labourer and studied at night school to prepare for the London matriculation. On passing exams Wolf studied at the Imperial College London, in 1949 graduating with an Honours Degree in Civil Engineering.   

Immigrating to Melbourne, Australia in October 1955, Wolf joined his only surviving relative, Karol Liipszyc. He began working in engineering and later partnered with English engineer John Snowden in a steel factory. In August 1961 Wolf married his wife, Asya and had two children, John and Leanne. Wolf returned to Lodz three times after the war, and in August 2021, he was recognised by the Dialogue Centre Survivor Garden in Lodz with a ceremonial tree planting. 

Wolf has been a core figure at the MHM for many years, contributing his expertise and time advising on the construction of the previous Jewish Holocaust Centre, and regularly sharing his message with students and visitors to the museum:   

“The horrors and suffering that I experienced in my youth made me realise that family love and affection are the most important things in life. We should cherish and appreciate this every day. People in society should be more tolerant and understanding.”  

His story continues to teach thousands of students about the dangers of unchecked hate.