Adam Shtibel

Borrowed Identity

By assuming a Polish identity, hiding in the forest, and scavenging for food at night, Adam, aged 13, managed to escape the tragic fate of the rest of his family.

Adam Shtibel was born on October 21, 1928, in Komarów, Poland. He lived with his parents, Basia and Chaim Simcha Sztybel, and his older brother, Shmuel. His family was very religious, and Adam attended both a cheder and a public school before the war broke out.

In 1941, when Adam was 13, his family had to move to a ghetto in Komarów, where they suffered from cramped, unsanitary conditions and constant hunger. Like many others in the ghetto, his father died of typhoid fever. His mother was so frightened by this that she instructed Adam to escape from the ghetto to the nearby village of Borki to find a farmer she knew named Józef Recuniak to help him.

After staying with Józef for one month, Adam was asked to leave since the villagers were forbidden to hide or help Jews. Then Adam hid in forests and begged for food in various villages while pretending to be a Polish boy named Józef Recuniak. In 1942, the remaining Jews in the Komarów ghetto were deported to concentration camps. Adam’s mother and brother were murdered at Belzec camp. Adam was the only Holocaust survivor of his entire family.

After the war, Adam lived in an orphanage and attended an engineering and mechanical school in Warsaw. In 1950, he enrolled in the Polish Air Force Academy in Deblin, where he learned about the theory, construction, and navigation of planes. He then worked for the Polish Air Force, first flying a small plane and then a fighter plane. In 1956, Adam married Rachel Milbauer, also a Holocaust survivor, and they moved to Wrocław, Poland.

A year later, the couple immigrated to Israel, where Adam worked at an aviation company as an airplane parts inspector. When the Six-Day War broke out in 1967, Adam served in the Israeli army. In 1968, Adam, Rachel, and their two daughters, Barbara and Iris, immigrated to Toronto, Canada. Adam got a job with Douglas Aircraft, where he worked for eight years. In 1975, he opened his own business, Adam’s Auto Repair. In his spare time, Adam enjoyed camping with his family throughout Ontario, Quebec, and the United States.

In 1991, he sold his business and retired. In 1997, he participated in the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive program, leaving a record of his Holocaust experiences.

Adam’s days are now filled with playing pool, swimming, and spending time with family. He is blessed with five granddaughters and three great-grandchildren.