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Short biography
Sidney Iwens was born Shaya (Shaike) Iwensky to a Jewish family in Jonava, Lithuania. His father Moshe Iwensky was head of the Folksbank, the nonprofit Jewish community bank in the small town. He learned to speak Lithuanian, Yiddish, German and Russian. His carefree childhood ended in 1940 when the Soviet army invaded his homeland. Then in 1941, when he was 17 years old, Nazi Germany attacked and the Soviets retreated. The Iwensky family traveled to Daugavpils, Latvia, hoping to avoid the German army, but were overtaken. All the Jewish males were imprisoned in the Daugavpils prison, then taken out in small groups to a nearby park and executed. Shaike escaped death when the killings were halted for the day, and he later found a hiding place in an empty cell. Eventually he found himself in the Daugavpils Ghetto. In 1942, he survived the liquidation of the ghetto by volunteering as a painter for a German army construction unit. He and two companions later escaped and fled into the forest, first joining the partisans, then hitching a ride on a freight train to the remote Siauliai Ghetto in Lithuania. In 1944, the Siauliai Ghetto was liquidated and Shaike was deported with the other Jews to the the Dachau concentration camp. He survived the death march forced by the Germans as the Red Army approached, and wound up at the Allach transit camp, which was liberated by the Americans in April 1945. He was the only survivor of his entire family. After the war, he emigrated to the USA with his wife Ida Tabrisky, changing his name to Sidney Iwens, and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The couple had two daughters. In 1991, he published a memoir based on the diary he had kept during the Holocaust, How Dark the Heavens: 1400 Days in the Grip of Nazi Terror.
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