Holocaust Story

‘This is heaven:’ Baycrest gives Holocaust survivors their prom

Mendel Good is among the Holocaust survivors staying at Baycrest’s Apotex Centre. At the age of 92 he finally got his prom day.

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Mendel Good has been through hell, but he’s found heaven at Baycrest’s Jewish old age home.

On Thursday, Baycrest hosted a prom for nearly 300 patients and residents, including many who were unable to attend their own because of the Holocaust and the Second World War.

Good, now 92, was among them.

Born in Poland in 1925, he endured two ghettos and five concentration camps as a teenager and young man from 1939 to 1946.

“This is supposed to be an old age home but it is heaven. I’ve been to another (old age home) which was very nice; I couldn’t say one bad word, but no comparison to what we have here. This is heaven,” said Good, crying from his wheelchair, a fedora on his head and a flower in his lapel.

“The staff is loving. When I sit there and have lunch or dinner or breakfast, I look at the attention that people are given and my heart grows.”

The 1950s-inspired day included era clothing, dancing, blackjack tables and music from an Elvis impersonator at the Apotex Centre in North York, home to one of the largest groups of Holocaust survivors in North America. It’s the second time Baycrest has hosted a prom.

“I had the longest time in the concentration camp,” Good said of his seven years in Auschwitz and other camps.

Adela Grinbaum, seated to his left and dressed up by her daughter in a dark blue gown, was in Auschwitz at the same time as Good. Now they live on the same floor and sit at the same table for meals.

On his first day at Baycrest, another man said he recognized Good.

“He recognized me from the day of liberation. He came over to me. He says ‘you were liberated with me, I know you!’ It’s incredible. We became friends,” said Good, tapping his heart and pointing around Baycrest’s auditorium to others who were with him in the camps.

Now, once a month, all of the other Holocaust survivors get together for what they call “café.”

“When I see those people, I cry,” he said, pushing up his glasses to wipe away a tear before reaching over to hold Grinbaum’s arm.

“I am so happy.”

Even in their 90s, prom holds a special meaning to Grinbaum and Good.

“When these people were at the age of prom, they were actually slaves,” said Nechas Jakubowicz, Grinbaum’s daughter, lifting her mother’s sleeve to reveal the branded number that remains in her skin.

“They didn’t have any formal schooling. They didn’t have any fun.”

“To see all those people smiling, there’s nobody here less than 90,” Good added, laughing and noticing Jakubowicz’s raised hand.

“I see those people enjoying, clapping, dancing and their smiles make me very happy.”

But the survivor’s bond means more than any ceremony or celebration could.

“Three times a day they’re together, which is nice. It’s camaraderie,” Jakubowicz said on behalf of Grinbaum, who now struggles to speak.

“Just the fact that she was dressed the way I dressed her. That was enough to put a smile on her face.”

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