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Hymie Adler died last Wednesday and was buried on Friday in upstate New York.

Hymie was a kosher butcher. I met him in 1969 when I was 17, and he was around 50. I accompanied my mother to Hymies shop to pick up some Kosher meat. He was a very warm individual and was immediately friendly to me, asking me questions about where I wanted to go to college, what shul I went to, did I have a girlfriend, etc.

Hymie was born in Poland in 1920. When He was 19, the Nazis occupied Poland and Hymie escaped and lived in the woods. He joined the Polish partisans and spent the next 5-6 years fighting the Nazis and try to prevent his comrades from starving. They lived in the woods eating anything they could get their hands on, picking off Nazi soldiers and officers when they could, staging hit and run guerilla activites, etc. Somehow he survived.

After the war, he went back to his home town and discovered that everyone in his family had been murdered by the Nazis, including his parents, little sister, cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, etc. He was the only one left.

A few weeks later he met a Russian colonel who was part of the Red Army occupation force. The colonel and Hymie were walking through a wooded area. The colonel didn't know Hymie was a Polish Jew, he thought he was a Polish Catholic. They were swapping war stories when the colonel remarked that the only good thing the Nazis did was kill Jews, and perhaps the Russians liberated Poland too soon and should have let the Nazis finish the Job first.

Hymie told me that at that moment, all he could think about was his 8 year old sister who had been gassed at Auschwitz with their mother. Hymie took out his revolver and shot the Russian through the head and left his dead body in a ditch by the side of the road.

Hymie decided that Poland had nothing left for him. Most of the Jews were dead and the Russians, under Stalin, were running the show, so he resolved to leave. A few months later, Hymie met Helen, a young Jewish Polish woman whose family was also murdered. They fell in love and got married. Helen got pregnant and gave birth to a boy. Helen nursed the boy for almost 2 years because of the food shortages after the war.

There was an anti Jewish pogram in 1947-48 in Poland and over a hundred Jews were murdered. Hymie and Helen decided to get out of Poland anyway they could and somehow they were able to get out of the communist controlled part of Europe and they made their way to the US.

Their son, whose name is Mel, grew up and married my cousin Karen. I went to their wedding in 1975. Mel was in the US Army at the time and was married wearing his uniform. After his service, he became a doctor.

10 years ago, their daughter Debbie was Bas-Mitzvahed. At the party after the service, Hymie sang a sad song in Polish that he and his comrades used to sing about the pain of the Nazi occupation and how they would fight the Nazis until the were dead or liberated. It was a moving moment (even though none of us knew Polish, but the melody was so poignant and Hymie later told us the meaning of the words).

He told me that day that whenever something good happened in his life, like the Bat Mitzvah of his beautiful grandaughter, he always felt like crying because he couldn't forget his mother, father, sister and the others who were dead in Auschwitz.

Hymie and Helen retired to Florida after that and were good friends with my parents down in Ft Lauderdale (also known as little Tel Aviv). Whenever I went to visit my parents, I always made sure I saw Hymie and Helen. I never knew nicer people then them.

5 years ago, Hymie was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, and he slowly lost his memory and eventually didn't recognize anyone, including Helen and Mel.

Two weeks ago, Debbie got married. Helen was at her grandaughters wedding, but Hymie was too far gone to attend. And then last week he died.

Rest in peace Hymie. Those of us who knew you honor your memory. We admire the heroism you showed fighting the Nazis back in Poland. We admire how you went on and made a life and family for yourself here in America, despite the terrible emotional pain you always carried with you.

God bless you.

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