Jack was born in a Ukrainian work camp on March 18, 1945. His mere existence is a miracle. Although he never knew the uncertainty and hardships his parents experienced, he lives with that legacy every day.
The story begins in Rowno, Poland where Jack’s father, Chaim, was born in 1906. The Nazis invaded in 1939 and anti-Jewish legislation resulted in Chaim’s expulsion from medical school. In 1941, 15,000 Jews of Rowno were killed. During one of these purges, Chaim lost his wife and two young daughters. He was left for dead but rescued by a Catholic family. Chaim fled Poland and eventually ended up in a work camp in Cherson, Ukraine.
Jack’s mother was also from Rowno, born in 1920. After the Germans invaded Rowno, Chana, her mother, and her sister with her year-old baby had to separate and go into different hiding places. Chana was hidden for a year by a Christian farmer. She lived in a pit in the ground, emerging only at night. She later learned her mother, sister, and little nephew and been captured and killed; she was the only survivor from her immediate family. Although the interim events are not known, Chana was in the Cherson work camp as well, where she met and married Chaim. Jack was born in the camp three months before the war ended. The young family was able to escape one night, ultimately ending up in Germany after the war. Jack’s brother, Abe, was born in Ulm, Germany, two years later. A third brother, Steve, was born in the U.S. in 1955.
The Schnipers came to Birmingham in 1950, sponsored by the Jewish community. Chaim and Chana loved America. They learned English in night school, but still spoke Yiddish at home. Chaim packed home furnishings in a warehouse, and with help from the Jewish community, opened Schniper’s Dry Goods. In 1955, the Schnipers became U.S. citizens.
Jack grew up working in the family business. He attended the University of Alabama, UAB, and Samford University and served in the Air National Guard. A retail man like his dad, Jack started his career at Blach’s Department Store while in school, and later became an independent wholesale representative. He married his wife, Leigh, in 1969; they have three sons and two grandsons.
Chaim and Chana rarely discussed their past with their children. Jack says he survived only because of his parents. Their story is his story.