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Isabelle Choko

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by John Bain

Isabelle Choko survived Auschwitz–the Nazi extermination camp, became a successful chess player and eventually won the French Women’s Chess Championship.

Isabelle was born in Lodz, Poland on September 18, 1928, as Izabela Sztrauch Galewska. In 1940, the Nazis rounded up all the Jews in Lodz including 12-year-old Isabelle and her family. The Nazis de-possessed them of their wealth, and forced them into a ghetto that the Nazis had set up. Imprisoned in the ghetto, they suffered from hunger and illnesses–and Izabela’s father did not survive.

Isabelle Choko black & white portrait looking at the camera

Four years later in 1944, the Nazis sent Isabelle and her mother to the Auschwitz extermination camp, and then to the Bergen-Belsen camp.

Isabelle’s mother died in the Bergen-Belsen camp. During the Bergen-Belsen camp’s existence, approximately 50,000 persons died there, including Anne Frank. In addition, after liberation another 13,000 former prisoners, too ill to recover, died. Most of the victims were Jews.

Isabelle barely survived the Bergen-Belsen camp herself while suffering from typhus. Amazingly, the adolescent Isabelle found the strength to survive by helping her fellow prisoners–values that her parents had instilled into her during the darkest of times.

Weakened by typhus, she was saved by an American army doctor after the British liberated the Bergen-Belsen camp. At that time, 16-year-old Isabelle weighed only 55 pounds.


The French Chess Champion!

Isabelle Choko seated at chessboard behind the white pieces black & white photo.

The American doctor sent her to Sweden to convalescence and regain her health before joining her uncle in Paris in 1946.

When Isabelle
 arrived to her uncle’s home in Paris in 1946, she pursued chess, and eventually became the French Women’s Chess Champion in 1956 at 28 years old.


French Women’s Chess Champion Isabelle
Isabelle Choko at simultaneous exhibition 1955

In her new life in France, Isabelle promoted chess as well being a spokesperson on behalf of the millions of victims murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.


Isabelle Shares Her Stories

Isabelle Choko elderly in skirt and maroon top

In France Isabelle built a new life, encouraged by the values of her parents. In Paris, she met Arthur Choko, married him, and had three children.

She continues to honor her parents and the millions of other Jews exterminated during the Holocaust–also known as the Shoah–by evoking their memories, their lives and telling their stories.


Isabelle Choko in fur coat color portrait

Isabelle Choko

1956 French Women’s Chess Champion

Born: September 28, 1928

Lodz, Poland


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Isabelle Choko Plays Chess!


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An instructional workbook containing 434 carefully selected problems presented in worksheet format.

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