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Irving Milchberg, the Holocaust survivor known from Joseph Ziemian's book The Cigarette Sellers of Three Crosses Square, used to sell cigarettes to Nazis in Warsaw as an oprhan during the Second World War.
Milchberg, leader of a group of orphaned Jewish children hiding their identities, used to gather at Three Crosses Square, the centre of the German occupation of Warsaw, to sell cigarettes. They went wandering around under the very noses of policemen, gendarmes, Gestapo men, and ordinary spies.
Before joining the cigarette sellers, Milchberg twice escaped from the Nazis. The first time he scaled a fence and fled the Umschlagplatz, where Jews were put aboard trains to the Treblinka death camp. The second time, he managed to break the bars of the train taking him to Treblinka and scramble out. His father, mother, and three sisters were all murdered by the Nazis.
In 1945, Milchberg made his way to Czechoslovakia, then Austria, then to a camp for displaced people in occupied Germany, where he learned watchmaking, his lifelong occupation. In 1947 he moved to Canada, ending up in Niagara Falls, where he opened his own jewellery and watch business. In 1953 he met his wife, Renee, who had survived the war. They had two children and three grandchildren. Milchberg died in January 2014 at the age of eighty-six.