Rabbi Philip Lazowski
Utility NavTop NavContentLeft NavSite SearchSite SearchSite Search

Rabbi Philip Lazowski

Philip Lazowski Born: 1930, Present-day Belarus
Went into Hiding: 1942
Liberated: 1944
Immigrated to America: 1947

Interview Videos

Philip Lazowski was born in the small town of Bielica (present-day Belarus) in 1930, the son of Chaya Gitel and Josef Lazowski, and older brother of Rachmil, Abraham, Aaron, and Rachel. His father was a fisherman and his mother owned a fabric store. At the beginning of WWII, their part of Poland was occupied by the Soviet Union and they lived under Communist Russian rule until 1941.

With the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, German forces marched into Bielica on June 28, 1941 and began to slaughter the Jewish population in a mass killing operation.  On November 10, 1941, the remaining Jews of Bielica, including Philip and his family were banished to the Zhetel ghetto. On April 29, 1942, the Germans carried out a round-up in the Zhetel ghetto, driving Jews from their homes to the central marketplace. Philip’s family managed to hide in a cave under their home, but Philip was caught by a German soldier before he could hide and forced to the market place where a selection was underway. He was saved from the selection thanks to the intervention of a kind-hearted woman, named Miriam Rabinowitz, who pretended Philip was her son to protect him from the round-up.

After surviving the first selection, Philip, reconnected with his family and introduced his mother to the kind lady who saved his life. The second liquidation began on August 6, 1942, and after five days hiding in the cave again, Philip, his mother, and siblings were caught and forced into the Kino movie theater in the town. Philip’s mother pushed him from the second story of the movie theater, encouraging him to flee to the nearby forest where his father and a brother were in hiding. That was the last time he saw his mother or three youngest siblings. A short time later they were among several hundred Jews forced into trucks by Nazi soldiers. When Philip’s mother pushed him from a second-floor window of the Kino, she told him “I want you to live. My son, may God show you the way. The world will someday need you.” Philip, 12 years old at the time, escaped death that day and managed to reconnect with his father and younger brother, Rachmil; they would go on to live in the woods for two years with others trying to survive the Third Reich’s attempt to liquidate the Jews.

After the war Philip, his father Josef, and younger brother Rachmil (Robert) made their way to a displaced persons camp in Austria. In 1947 they traveled by train from Bad Gastein through Germany to Bremen where they boarded a ship for the trip to the United States. He continued his education in New York City graduating from Yeshiva University. At a wedding in New York he met a young woman who told him about a family in Hartford that had once saved a “boy from Bielica” in the Zhetel ghetto. Knowing that he was that boy, Philip called the Rabinowitz family, eventually traveling to Hartford where he was reunited with Miriam who saved his life in the first selection in the Zhetel ghetto.

He began dating her oldest daughter Ruth and they were married in 1955. He was ordained in 1962 and earned his doctorate in Jewish Studies eight years later. Brought to Hartford as Education Director for Beth Sholom Synagogue, Rabbi Lazowski became its rabbi several years later. When Beth Sholom later merged with Beth Hillel in 1969 he remained as rabbi for the following forty years. Rabbi Lazowski is the author of several books including, Faith and Destiny, an autobiographical account of his Holocaust experience. He has been active in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. He has served as a Hartford Police Chaplain, a member of the Board of Commissions on Aging, and was a past president of both the Educators' Council of Connecticut and the Jewish Education Council of Hartford. He is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly of Connecticut and serves as Rabbi Emeritus of The Emanuel Synagogue.