Walter Karliner was born in Peiskretscham (Silesia), Germany on August 11, 1924. He was the second of four children born to Joseph and Martha Weissler Karliner. He had an older sister, Ilse, (b. 1923), a brother, Herbert (b. 1926) and a sister, Ruth (b. 1927). The family owned a grocery store, which Martha managed much of the time while Joseph was engaged in the horse trade. On Kristallnacht the store was destroyed and Joseph was sent to Buchenwald. He was released two months later after Martha secured a visa for him to travel to Shanghai. Since the visa was for Joseph alone, the family sought other means to emigrate. The Karliners booked passage on the St. Louis to Cuba. When the ship was forced to return to Europe in June 1939, the Karliners were given refuge in France. Walter and his two younger siblings, Herbert and Ruth, were placed in an OSE children's home near Paris called the Villa Helvetia, where they remained until September. After the outbreak of the world war, the children were removed to the Chaumont home in Creuse. There, Walter worked for a cabinet maker and Herbert, for a baker. Ruth returned to her parents and older sister in Mirebeau. In 1941 Walter moved from Chaumont to Montintin, another OSE home, where he would be able to study cabinetry. In August 1942, however, he had to leave abruptly when French gendarmes informed the home that all boys over the age of sixteen would be sent to Germany. Walter spent the next two years in many settings, including a mental asylum in Narbonne and a farm in Castelsarrasin. In 1943 or 1944 the Eclaireurs Israelites de France underground sent Walter to Saint Junien [Haute Vienne] to live at a home for boys run by the Vichy paramilitary youth movement, Moissons Nouvelles. Approximately six hidden Jews lived among the eighty boys at the home. After the liberation Walter was reunited with his brother in Paris. They were the only survivors of their family. Their mother and sisters had been deported to Auschwitz via Drancy in October 1942; their father met a similar fate a year later. The brothers went to live at the Hotel du Moulin, a home for boys run by the Eclaireurs Israelites in Moissac, where Walter worked as an instructor in cabinetry. In December 1946 the two brothers immigrated to the United States.
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