Bill Gluck zl

Camp Smart

Bill Gluck saved himself on more than one occasion by being “camp smart.”

The first time that Bill (Bela) Gluck had the presence of mind to lie, he was 13 years old.

Bill Gluck, from Satu Mare in northern Transylvania, Romania, arrived in Auschwitz- Birkenau in 1944. Upon arrival, knowing that the younger children were marked for death, Bill told the camp guards that he was 17 years old, a tinsmith by trade, and a good worker—lies on all three counts.

Bill was given a prisoner number and sent to a work camp called Muhldorf.

The prisoners’ task was to build an underground cement aircraft maintenance bunker. Being smaller than the average prisoner allowed Bill to survive on the meagre amount of food he received. He quickly became “camp smart.”

In 1945, Bill and other prisoners were loaded on cattle cars and transported toward an unknown destination for mass execution. When Bill’s train stopped at the station, all the guards had disappeared. At dawn, a column of tanks approached in the valley below. Recognizing the white, five-star markings on the tanks, a prisoner screamed, “Americans!” The Americans transported Bill to a nearby military hospital and then to a displaced persons camp, where Bill slowly began to regain strength.

Bill arrived in Halifax in 1948, and boarded a train to Montreal. He received clothes and pocket money from the Canadian Jewish Congress. Bill enrolled in English classes and took full advantage of the swimming pool, gym, and other facilities offered for free by the YMHA to refugees. There Bill met Shirley Rosen, and they married in 1962. Bill and Shirley had two children, Stephen and Yael. Bill and his family later moved to Vancouver. In 2012, Bill and Shirley celebrated 50 years of marriage. Today Bill’s great joy is watching his four grandchildren grow up.

Sadly, Bill Gluck passed away on Jan. 28, 2015.