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Michel (Mendel, Misha) Mielnicki was born in Wasilków, a suburb of Białystok, Poland on March 20, 1927 to parents Chaim (b. 1895 Russia, d. 1942 Birkenau) and Ester (Esther, née Kulecka, b. 1903 Michałowo, d. 1942 Birkenau). He was the youngest of three siblings, with an older brother, Aleksei (Aron) and a sister, Lenka. Mielnicki studied at the Jewish high school in Białystok and was president of the student photography club. He spoke Yiddish, Russian, Polish and German.
In June 1939, after the German invasion, the Mielnicki family fled to Zabłudów, where Michel’s mother’s brother and sister lived. The family eventually returned and were ghettoized in Białystok for one year. They were transferred to the Prużana ghetto and lived there for just over a year. In 1941, the family was arrested and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau; Mielnicki’s parents died shortly after their arrival. Mielnicki and his siblings were selected for labour and separated; Mielnicki worked at Auschwitz III-Monowitz, also known as Buna.
From 1943 to 1944, Michel laboured as an electrician in the IG Farben Buneverke rubber and synthetic methanol plant. He was transferred to Mittelbau (Dora), near Nordhausen, and worked in an underground factory producing rockets. In March 1945, Michel was transferred from Mittelbau to Bergen-Belsen. He was liberated from Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945.
After liberation, Mielnicki found his sister Lenka in Czechoslovakia; they were unable to find their brother. He and Lenka survived with the help of the Haganah and moved to Paris together in 1945. In Paris, Mielnicki apprenticed in the fashion industry; he married Fredericka (June) Frischer, who also survived the Holocaust, in 1949. The couple had two children: Alain and Vivian.
The Mielnickis moved to Canada in 1953. They settled in Montreal, where Michel worked as a fur designer, and in 1966, moved to Vancouver. In Vancouver, Mielnicki worked in the fashion industry and later, in real estate.
In June 1991, Mielnicki testified at the trial of an SS officer, Heinrich Johannes Kuhnemann, Unterscharfuhrer, who had selected his parents for death at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Mielnicki witnessed Kuhnemann killing a friend of his. With the help of the prosecuting attorney at this trial, Mielnicki located his brother, Aleksei Mielnicki, who was living in Ivano-Frankivs'k, Ukraine. The brothers reunited in 1992.
Mielnicki volunteered with several organizations, including the VHEC, where he served as an outreach speaker and board member. In 2000, he put out a biography, as told to John A. Munro, co-published by Ronsdale Press and the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. He died in 2016.
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Updated by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre in October 2021.