Adash Bulwa

One of “The Boys” who survived forced labour, concentration camps and death marches to build a legacy in Manchester


The Holocaust survivor Adash (Abraham) Bulwa, one of the group of 732 Holocaust orphans known as “The Boys”, has died aged 93, three days after the 75th anniversary of his liberation from Bergen-Belsen. His experiences in several death camps were not only about survival but about love, kindness and enduring hope.

In a recent book about his life produced by My Voice – established by Manchester’s Jewish care organisation, The Fed — Adash described terrible conditions at Bełžec Lubelsky — the first forced labour camp for Polish Jews — where he was sent at the age of 14 to build anti-tank fortifications.

Two weeks after the Second World War broke out in 1939, the first ghetto in Europe was established in Adash’s home town of Piotrkòw. He returned to the ghetto from the labour camp in late 1940 after being assessed by a German doctor as fit for work. Those who failed the assessment were killed with lethal injections. But conditions in the ghetto had worsened during Adash’s absence. There was no food and inhabitants faced shootings every day. His blond hair and blue eyes enabled him to escape from the ghetto, risking his life to smuggle in food from nearby farms.

Born in Piotrkòw-Trybunalski, Adash was the son of Yaacov and Sara Mindle (née Kleinberg). Sadly his mother passed away two weeks after he was born. He had two older siblings, David and Faigle Hannah. His father later remarried and had another son and daughter, Simcha and Rifka, with his new wife Mania.

Fortunately, Adash’s uncle Motel found him a job at the Kara glass factory, where he worked alongside his half-brother Simcha between 1941 and 1944. The factory was important for the Germans because they used to trade the window glass with neutral countries. In October, 1942 the Piotrkòw ghetto was liquidated. After the war, he discovered his father, sister and half-sister had all perished.

Adash stayed in Piotrkòw and lived in a small ghetto near the glass factory. One day as he walked to work, he was rounded up by the SS and taken to the main synagogue in the town. He was joined by his half-brother and around 140 of the remaining Jewish community. Fortunately, his uncle found out and told the manager of the factory, who called the SS and persuaded them to release the two brothers who were essential workers at the factory.

Three days later, the Jewish people from the synagogue were taken to the woods and shot.

Adash left the glass factory in October, 1944 and was sent to the Hasag-Rakow labour camp in Czestochowa, Poland, where he worked in an iron foundry. In December the Germans rounded up the camp prisoners and marched them to a railway line.

Adash was taken to Buchenwald in Germany, then to Mittelbau-Dora where he built components for the VI and V2 rockets. In a recording made by the Imperial War Museum, Adash recalled the two-mile walk to work from the camp, past the crematorium where he saw thousands of bodies piled up.

By April, 1945 prisoners could see fires around the camp as the Nazis sought to destroy documents. The remaining prisoners were divided into two groups: those selected to the left were marched out of the camp and loaded on to cattle wagons, while those on the right were taken to be gassed. Adash was selected to the left.

When the wagons arrived in Hamburg, the city was on fire from Allied bombing. At this point, the Nazis had planned to drown the prisoners by placing the wagons on to a ramp straight into the river. However, the driver warned that British battleships were approaching.

The Nazis changed tack and sent the prisoners on a 100km death march to Bergen-Belsen, where Adash remained until he was liberated by British soldiers on April 15, 1945. In his book Adash recalled that he and fellow prisoners were like skeletons and had not eaten or drunk anything for more than a week.

When he arrived at a displaced persons’ camp in Celle in Germany he was reunited with his half-brother Simcha, who had also been liberated from Belsen. Sadly, Simcha was very ill and was taken to hospital. Adash could not stay with him because of the typhoid epidemic and discovered years later that he had died in Celle.

Adash then headed to Poland with four boys he had met at Belsen, but on returning to his home town he found no family there. He ended up at a displaced persons’ camp in Landsberg and emigrated to England.

In October 1945, Adash travelled to Southampton in a Lancaster Bomber alongside 30 others. They were among the 732 orphaned child Holocaust survivors, known affectionately as “The Boys”, who moved to the UK. They forged a lifelong bond as members of an extraordinary extended family. Adash started a new life in Manchester, working as a tailor, and met his future wife Zena Goldstone at a dance in 1947. A year later he travelled to Israel to volunteer in the War of Independence. After returning to Manchester, he married Zena in 1950 and they had two daughters, Frances and Suzanne. After the war the Red Cross tracing office informed Adash that his cousin Aron (Armand) had survived the camps and reached Paris where, in 1954, he tracked down Adash’s older brother, David and facilitated their reunion after 22 years.

David, who was a member of the Communist Party, had been smuggled out of Poland in 1932 and ended up in France, where he volunteered for the French Army. Adash established a life, family and legacy in Manchester and will be remembered fondly for his kindness and generosity.

He is survived by Zena, Frances, grandchildren Adam, Danielle and Zoe and great-grandchildren Louis, Chloe and Leah. Suzanne pre-deceased him in 2017.


Adash Bulwa: born September 15, 1926. Died April 18, 2020

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