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This profile was last updated on 4/19/04  and contains information from public web pages.

Walter Plywaski

Wrong Walter Plywaski?

High-Tech Entrepreneur and Consul...

National Oceanic and Atmospheric
 
Background

Employment History

  • Phi Gamma Delta fraternity
  • US Air Force
  • Elektriztaet Abteilung

Board Memberships and Affiliations

  • Founding Member of the Ski Team
    OSU

Education

  • OSU
  • chemical engineering
  • electrical engineering
    Oregon State College
Web References
.: Corvallis Gazette-Times :. News
www.gazettetimes.com, 19 April 2004 [cached]
Walter Plywaski did not arrive at Oregon State University as a typical undergraduate.Much of his youth had been spent in a Jewish ghetto in German-occupied Poland and later several Nazi concentration camps.
He last saw his mother when she was forced into a line that led to the gas chamber at Auschwitz, and later witnessed the fatal beating of his father at the hands of a camp commandant.
But Plywaski managed to stay alive, along with his adopted brother.He made his way into the United States, and then eventually to Oregon.In spring 1953, he enrolled at what then was known as Oregon State College and, four years later, earned a degree in electrical engineering.
In an extraordinary homecoming, Plywaski will be a featured speaker at this year's Holocaust Memorial Program.His free talk is scheduled for Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the LaSells Stewart Center.
This will be Plywaski's first visit to OSU since graduating 47 years ago - and his first opportunity to tell his remarkable story to the campus community.
...
"My immediate family managed to survive four years in the ghetto, but we lost approximately 40 other family members," Plywaski said."Some were sent to extermination centers.Others died of starvation and disease.About 80 more extended family members also perished at Nazi hands, leaving no more Plywacki-named people in Poland by now, a name dating back to about 14th century."
The ghetto was actually worse than the concentration camps, Plywaski said.
"In the ghetto, we were still in family units and thus mothers had to watch their children and husbands starving to death," he explained.
...
This would be the first of many concentration camps to which Walter was transferred, always accompanied by Bill.
For a while, the brothers were able to stay together with their father, Maks (Maksymiljan Jozef Plywacki), but he later was beaten to death in the Riederloh "punishment camp."
...
The U.S. soldiers also gave them their American names, Walter and Bill. (Their last name became more Americanized later n from Plywacki to Plywaski - during U.S. citizenship proceedings.)
...
The U.S. soldiers also gave them their American names, Walter and Bill. (Their last name became more Americanized later n from Plywacki to Plywaski - during U.S. citizenship proceedings.)
...
Walter stayed behind in France, partially because he did not trust this American.
As it turned out, the Portland man mistreated Bill.He did not allow the brothers to communicate and "Bill was basically his indentured servant," Walter claimed.A child service agency intervened, removing Bill from this situation and placing him with a new foster family on a dairy farm east of Portland.
Bill was also the first to enroll at OSU.After graduating from Franklin High School in Portland, he came to the university in 1949, joined the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, became a founding member of the OSU ski team, and wrote a column for the Barometer called "Sitzmarks by Bill Plywaski."He earned his degree in chemical engineering in 1954.
A stowaway
Walter, meanwhile, arrived in the United States by stowing away on a freighter in 1947.Upon arriving in New York, he was detained on Ellis Island for six months by U.S. Immigration.
...
With the goal of enrolling at OSU, Walter began working to establish residency in Oregon, doing both radio and TV repair work and logging.When he enrolled at OSU in spring 1953, he first majored in English literature, studying with OSU's most famous writer-in-residence, Bernard Malamud.However, Walter found that English lit "wasn't challenging enough" and switched to electrical engineering.
He had discovered a knack for electronics when still living in the Lodz ghetto.Because he had family connections, he was able to earn some extra food for work for the Elektriztaet Abteilung, rewinding electrical motors and alternators.
"There are privileges even in Hell," Walter said of this experience."If you could get work, you could get some extra calories."
His brother Bill obtained work at the Metall Abteilung, operating lathes and other machine tools.
After OSU, Walter worked as an engineer for several defense contractors and for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and later became a high-tech entrepreneur and consultant.
Bill went on to earn a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, but while on a fellowship at the prestigious International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, discovered a passion for sailing.He went on to teach sailing and navigation, and became a marine-engineering consultant in areas such as charting, navigation and global positioning systems.
Today, both brothers live within a mile of each other in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, above Boulder, Colo.
A chronology of Walter and Bill Plywaski's personal and career histories, as well as photos of their post-war days in France, is at http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/recent/releases.htm.
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IN early September of 2010, Walter ...
www.veteranstoday.com, 30 May 2011 [cached]
IN early September of 2010, Walter Plywaski lost his home and virtually all his possessions in the Fourmile Canyon fire that devoured the Boulder foothills.
But what plunged other fire victims into deep despair rolls easily off this 81-year-old man’s proud shoulders.
“I had an advantage over the other people who lost their houses,†Walter tells the Intermountain Jewish News. “I’m used to disaster.â€
For him, the theory of relativity also applies to human loss.
“What is a burned house compared to a burned and gassed family?â€
Walter was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1929.
...
“Life is too damned serious not to giggle at it,†Walter says after firing a round of jokes around the IJN conference room
...
On Sept. 6, Walter was reading The New York Times online in his Sugarloaf residence when he started receiving reverse 911 calls to evacuate.
...
His Sugarloaf home, located about a mile away from Walter, did not burn down in the Fourmile fire.
...
This attitude helped save Walter on numerous occasions in the ghetto and camps.
...
Walter says that his paternal grandmother, whose name he’s forgotten, influenced him profoundly.
“â€My grandmother lived in a very small Polish village, in a straw-roofed house with no running water. She spoke five languages and taught me to read and write when I was five.
...
The ghetto was erected in Baluty, an old section of Lodz that Walter describes as “a slum even before the war.
...
Walter insists the ghetto did not frighten him.
“Not really, “he says, “because I was with my family.â€
When Walter’s cousin William lost both parents to TB in the ghetto, Maks Plywaski adopted him. “This was one of my father’s finest gestures,†Walter says, “given that we received so few calories a day.â€
...
Because his family spoke only Polish and dispensed with Yiddish, Walter became an unsuspecting recipient of Jewish anger.
“The first real beating I got in WW II was from five Jewish kids who were mad because I couldn’t speak Yiddish,†he says ironically. “Believe me, I learned Yiddish after that.â€
The Nazis designed the Lodz ghetto as a gradual, systematic killing machine, Walter says.
...
Walter and his father knew the truth. There was no resettlement, only death.
“My father taught me how to die about a year-and-a-half before we were sent to Auschwitz,†he says.
...
“We took out the insulation and hid between the beams,†Walter explains.
...
Walter, his father and brother were ordered to stand in one line. His mother was ordered to the other.
...
Walter and William spent a week in quarantine before being released into the men’s camp, where their father waited beyond hope.
...
This was the first time a non-Jewish Pole saved Walter. It would not be the last.
“Look, a Jew could not help a Jew,†he says. “We were at the bottom of the pile.
...
Taking a sip of strong caffeinated tea, Walter resumes his story.
WALTER watched out for his brother at Auschwitz, the labor camps that followed, and Dachau.
“Having my brother close to me helped, absolutely,†he says. “Protecting him gave me a mission outside of myself.â€
Relying on his innate intelligence and his father’s advice â€" “Don’t follow a crowd because they are probably doing something wrong; always look for opportunities to survive†â€" he repeatedly rescued William from transports and selections.
Walter relates a vivid memory at Auschwitz almost poetically.
...
Walter, his father and brother were sent to Landsberg-Kaufering 4 concentration camp in mid-September, 1944.
...
At Landsberg-Kaufering 4, Walter labored in the potato fields and constructed concrete buildings for the Nazis. The barracks “were rectangular holes in the earth with earth bunks and a roof at ground level,†he says.
...
Walter was a “runner†in Riederloh, carrying messages between the camp guards and SS officers.
...
WALTER and William were deported to Dachau I in January of 1945.
...
The men also told Walter that he was scheduled to become “a malaria guinea pig,†meaning doctors would test his body’s response to injections of malaria.â€
...
“All of us in the quarantine barracks were scheduled for extermination,†Walter says.
...
Walter wipes them away.
...
Walter refused to speak any German, fearing he would be mistaken for an escaping Nazi.
...
From May of 1945 to May of 1947, Walter accompanied the GIs to various units in Strasbourg, Aix- en-Provence and Marseille.
...
Walter worked as a printer in Philadelphia, where he stayed for one year, and served in the US Air Force from 1948-1952.
He then enrolled at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, with every intention of majoring in English literature.
...
In 1962, Walter moved to Boulder to join the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.
...
Despite his negation of religion, it’s an identity Walter holds close.
“I am a Jew â€" especially when I meet anti-Semites,†he says.
Walter, who has had threatening run-ins with the KKK, hurls vicious insults that send them running in the opposite direction.
IN early September of 2010, Walter ...
www.veteranstoday.com, 25 Jan 2011 [cached]
IN early September of 2010, Walter Plywaski lost his home and virtually all his possessions in the Fourmile Canyon fire that devoured the Boulder foothills.
...
Walter was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1929.
By age 15, he knew the filth of the ghetto, the stench of cattle cars and the nightmare of Auschwitz and Dachau.
...
On Sept. 6, Walter was reading The New York Times online in his Sugarloaf residence when he started receiving reverse 911 calls to evacuate.
...
His Sugarloaf home, located about a mile away from Walter, did not burn down in the Fourmile fire.
...
This attitude helped save Walter on numerous occasions in the ghetto and camps.
...
Walter says that his paternal grandmother, whose name he's forgotten, influenced him profoundly.
""My grandmother lived in a very small Polish village, in a straw-roofed house with no running water. She spoke five languages and taught me to read and write when I was five.
...
The ghetto was erected in Baluty, an old section of Lodz that Walter describes as "a slum even before the war. There were no sewers, no running water."
Between 35,000-40,000 Jews and Christians lived in Baluty before 1939. That number soared to 130,000 once the ghetto walls closed.
Walter insists the ghetto did not frighten him.
"Not really, "he says, "because I was with my family."
...
Because his family spoke only Polish and dispensed with Yiddish, Walter became an unsuspecting recipient of Jewish anger.
"The first real beating I got in WW II was from five Jewish kids who were mad because I couldn't speak Yiddish," he says ironically. "Believe me, I learned Yiddish after that."
The Nazis designed the Lodz ghetto as a gradual, systematic killing machine, Walter says.
...
Walter and his father knew the truth. There was no resettlement, only death.
"My father taught me how to die about a year-and-a-half before we were sent to Auschwitz," he says.
...
Walter, his father and brother were ordered to stand in one line. His mother was ordered to the other.
...
Walter and William spent a week in quarantine before being released into the men's camp, where their father waited beyond hope.
...
This was the first time a non-Jewish Pole saved Walter. It would not be the last.
"Look, a Jew could not help a Jew," he says.
...
Taking a sip of strong caffeinated tea, Walter resumes his story.
WALTER watched out for his brother at Auschwitz, the labor camps that followed, and Dachau.
"Having my brother close to me helped, absolutely," he says. "Protecting him gave me a mission outside of myself."
Relying on his innate intelligence and his father's advice - "Don't follow a crowd because they are probably doing something wrong; always look for opportunities to survive" - he repeatedly rescued William from transports and selections.
Walter relates a vivid memory at Auschwitz almost poetically.
...
Walter, his father and brother were sent to Landsberg-Kaufering 4 concentration camp in mid-September, 1944.
They had been in Auschwitz less than two months - an eternity.
LANDSBERG, Kaufering and Riederloh ("They called Riederloh a 'punishment camp,' if you can believe it") operated within Dachau's nefarious network of camps scattered throughout Germany.
At Landsberg-Kaufering 4, Walter labored in the potato fields and constructed concrete buildings for the Nazis. The barracks "were rectangular holes in the earth with earth bunks and a roof at ground level," he says.
...
Walter asks.
...
Walter was a "runner" in Riederloh, carrying messages between the camp guards and SS officers.
...
WALTER and William were deported to Dachau I in January of 1945.
...
The men also told Walter that he was scheduled to become "a malaria guinea pig," meaning doctors would test his body's response to injections of malaria."
The holes in his legs began healing in two or three days.
The Kapos put a corpse in Walter's bed and smuggled him out.
"Then I rejoined my brother in the quarantine barracks," he says.
...
Walter wipes them away.
...
Walter refused to speak any German, fearing he would be mistaken for an escaping Nazi.
At US field headquarters, he met a Polish sergeant from Chicago.
...
From May of 1945 to May of 1947, Walter accompanied the GIs to various units in Strasbourg, Aix- en-Provence and Marseille.
He arrived at Ellis Island on Dec. 16, 1947.
Walter worked as a printer in Philadelphia, where he stayed for one year, and served in the US Air Force from 1948-1952.
He then enrolled at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, with every intention of majoring in English literature.
...
In 1962, Walter moved to Boulder to join the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.
He relocated to the foothills in 1965.
THE Germans "never asked me whether I daven," Walter says. "They didn't ask me whether I studied Torah. They just said you're a Jew."
Despite his negation of religion, it's an identity Walter holds close.
"I am a Jew - especially when I meet anti-Semites," he says.
Walter, who has had threatening run-ins with the KKK, hurls vicious insults that send them running in the opposite direction.
...
Filed under Activism, History, Peace, World War II · Tagged with Andrea Jacobs, Auschwitz-Birkenau, holocaust, Judenrat, Lodz ghetto, Maks Plywaski, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, Peace, Plywaski brothers, Racism, USAF, violence, Walter Plywaski, William Plywaski, WLADYSLAW Plywacki, Wlodzimierz Fialko
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