Aviva Blumberg (née Finkelstejn) was born in Warsaw, Poland on November 17. There are differing family stories that list her birth year as 1930 and 1931. Nine years later, while her father, Yiddish journalist Chaim Finkelstein, was in Switzerland at the World Jewish Congress, Hitler invaded Poland. Aviva, her mother, and her sister were imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto. Her father, unable to get back into Poland, found his way to America. When Aviva’s mother learned that there would be an uprising, she was able, with the help of friends, to place Aviva with a Polish family. Because Aviva was blonde and blue-eyed, and could speak fluent Polish without an accent, she was able to pass.
After the Polish uprising in Warsaw, Aviva was deported along with the family that hid her. Aviva snuck out of a detention camp with nuns who were rescuing children. She was ultimately able to locate her father after the war ended, who sent for her to join him in the United States. Aviva’s mother and sister did not survive.
On her 15th birthday, Aviva boarded a ship from Oslo, Norway for the United States and was reunited with her father in New York City on November 28, 1945. Upon her arrival, she was enrolled in the Robert Louis Stevenson School and, despite not speaking a word of English, graduated Valedictorian a mere three years later. Blumberg married Albert Blumberg in 1966 and as their family thrived, Aviva went on to build a thriving psychotherapy practice in Manhattan. She was still seeing patients at the ripe age of 89, only fully retiring finally in 2021.
Aviva’s children, grandchildren, and grandnieces were a source of supreme joy for her until her final days.
Aviva was actively involved in Holocaust education, combating Holocaust denial, and told her story to children. She often said that freedom and democracy require vigilance and hard work to endure. She was also a long-time member of our Speaker’s Bureau, and donated many objects to the Museum, including the small green suitcase that she used to carry her belongings out of Poland to reunite with her father, who had survived in the United States. Aviva’s suitcase, and other objects she donated, are currently on view in our exhibition The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do.
Aviva Blumberg passed away in her home on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 at the age of ninety-one.