Geddy Lee of Rush Talks About His Family’s Harrowing History With the Holocaust

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2019, bassist extraordinaire, vocal genius and rock legend Geddy Lee of Rush sat down with host Shelli Sonstein of Q104.3 New York’s Sonstein Sunday to talk about his own family’s harrowing experience with the Holocaust. Lee’s parents Manya and Morris were born and raised in Starachowice, Poland and knew each other before the war. When the Nazis invaded Poland, they were both sent Auschwitz before being split up – Manya went to Bergen-Belsen and Morris went to Dachau.

Somehow, they survived and when the camps were liberated, they found each other once again. Morris and Manya got married at the Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons Camp and emigrated to Toronto, Canada, where Geddy (born Gary Lee Weinrib), his older sister and younger brother were born. The Weinrib children were never shielded from their parents’ past, but rather were openly told what happened and how it must never happen again. Morris died in 1965 due to medical problems that arose from his imprisonment. Geddy was 12 years old.

Geddy knows his family story well because his mother never kept the details from he and his siblings. It was Mary’s duty to make sure her children knew where they came from and why they should be grateful for what they had, growing up in suburban Toronto, Ontario. His earliest memories are of his mother recounting what she endured during World War II. As a child, the stories gave him nightmares, but as an adult Geddy learned to be thankful his mother didn’t hold back. ‘I remember my mother constantly reinforcing the idea that we had to keep the family together because these terrible things can happen.’

Manya’s history has found its way into rock history. The song “Red Sector A” describes a first hand account of prisoners behind barbed wire. Lee explained the song in a 2004 interview with J Weekly.

Though “Red Sector A,” like much of the album from which it comes, is set in a bleak, apocalyptic future, what Lee calls “the psychology” of the song comes directly from a story his mother told him about the day she was liberated.

All that we can do is just survive
All that we can do to help ourselves is stay alive

Ragged lines of ragged grey
Skeletons, they shuffle away
Shouting guards and smoking guns
Will cut down the unlucky ones

I clutch the wire fence until my fingers bleed
A wound that will not heal, a heart that cannot feel
Hoping that the horror will recede
Hoping that tomorrow, we’ll all be freed…

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.