Szaja Aron (Alex) Knobler was born in 1921 in Bedzin, Poland to Moszek and Jocheta Knobler. Szaja had three older sisters: Ita, Ester and Leah. The family moved from Bedzin to Chorzow, near the German border, in 1931 and Szaja became active in the Akiba Zionist Youth Movement. In 1938 Szaja joined the agricultural training farm, Akiba hachshara, in Bielsko. He also made plans to immigrate to Palestine but the start of World War II put a stop to these plans. Instead, Szaja fled to the Russian part of Poland and started exploring possible routes to Palestine through Romania for the growing Zionist underground. In 1940 Szaja was caught and forced to settle with his family in the Sosnowiec Ghetto, and later was deported to the Blechhammer labor camp where he remained until 1945 when the camp was evacuated. During the death march, Szaja and two of his friends fled. The German soldiers shot at them and both of his friends were killed. Szaja managed to hide until the end of the War by posing as a refugee with a German farmer until liberation. After liberation Szaja discovered that he was the sole survivor of his immediate family.
After the War, Szaja took a leading role in organizing Zionist collectives throughout Poland. This included an active role in both Bricha and Aliyah Bet, two organized groups of illegal immigrants to Palestine. His involvement led to his arrest in Sosnowiec by the NKVD, Narodnyĭ Kommissariat Vnutrennikh Del (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs). Szaja was not imprisoned long and when he was released he left Poland for Germany where he organized Zionist activities at both Foehrenwald displaced persons camp and at the displaced persons camp at Bergen-Belson. It was at the displaced persons camp at Bergen-Belson that Szaja met his wife Pola (Paula) Blichblum (they were married in the summer of 1947). In March of 1946 Szaja joined a group of immigrants to Palestine on the Tel Hai, which sailed from Marseilles. The ship was intercepted by the British and all the passengers were held prisoner for three weeks. Once released Szaja settled on Kibbutz Masada but by the end of the year was back in Germany as an emissary for NOHAM (Noar Halutzi Meuchad), a Zionist youth umbrella group. Szaja and his wife moved to Palestine where they lived until immigrating to the U.S. in 1958.
After immigrating to the U.S. Szaja changed his name to Alex.
Alex Knobler died in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2008.
More about the Akiba Zionist Youth Movement can be found here.
Thank you to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for much of the biographical information for Szaja (Alex) Knobler. The following links are to pictures donated to USHMM by Mr. Knobler.