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Chaim (Henry) Ferster was born in Sosnowiec, Poland in 1922. His father, Wolf, ran a brush factory in the same apartment block as their home.
When war broke out in 1939, Chaim was 17. The German forces entered Sosnowiec early in September and took over Wolf’s factory. The family would pray in secret as synagogue attendance wasn’t allowed. During this time, Chaim’s uncle taught him to be a mechanic – a skill which would prove very useful to Chaim. In 1943 the family moved into a ghetto created a few miles from Sosnowiec living under terrible conditions. Later in the year, Chaim was taken to a labour camp called Klettendoff, working as a bricklayer before a transfer to Faulbruck camp where he worked in a factory making bullets for the German army. After a few months he was transferred again, to Gräditz labour camp and then Annaberg camp in April 1944.
In September 1944, Chaim was sent to Auschwitz, arriving at midnight to receive his infamous uniform and tattoo and be placed in a barracks. Chaim was ‘lucky’ to be selected for engineering work for an aircraft assembly plant and could therefore leave Auschwitz, travelling to Nieder Orschel camp where conditions were better. But by mid-March 1945, as the Allied forces were approaching, he undertook an 18-day march to Buchenwald. The camp was liberated on 11th April 1945, the day after he arrived.
He remained in the camp but had freedom of movement and food provided by his American liberators. After a week, his sister, Manya, found him. Only roughly knowing the address, Chaim remarkably made contact with an uncle, Bernard, who had been living in Manchester since 1912. He and Manya arrived in England in February 1946. Chaim found work repairing sewing machines. He would eventually go on to design his own sewing machine.
Chaim met his wife, Nan, in 1947 at a dance at the Ritz and they married a year later. The couple had three sons, Warren, Stuart and Jonathan, in the 1950s.