Ya'akov Janek Hollaender was born in 1929 in Krakow, Poland, to a family of five.
In 1940, the Jews were exiled from the city, and Janek's family was forced to sell its property to survive. In 1942, they were taken to the Krakow ghetto, where Janek Hollaender and his parents were separated from his two brothers. With rumors of an imminent aktion, they hid themselves in a basement, where Janek's father had installed a special lock on the door so it could not be opened from the outside.
Janek recalls their subsequent imprisonment in Plaszow because of the terror created by the camp's commander, Amon Goeth, who regularly shot randomly in all directions. Janek and his brother Benek were later sent to Starachowice, and then to Auschwitz, where they looked after each other as best they could.
In the winter of 1944, the prisoners were marched to Mauthausen. Benek had difficulty walking because of a leg injury sustained while selling coal in Rideltau. Urged on by Janek, he managed to reach the camp, but then collapsed, and Janek never saw him again.
In April 1945, the prisoners were taken on a death march to Gunskirchen. As news spread that the Germans had fled, Janek, weighing just 33 kilograms (70 pounds), managed to crawl out of the camp. He was taken to a Red Cross hospital, where he met soldiers from the Jewish Brigade. He decided to travel with them to Italy, joining a group of Jewish war orphans that was sent to a Youth Aliya camp in Selvino. There some 800 youngsters were trained for life in Israel.
Meanwhile, Janek learned that his father had been murdered in Auschwitz, his mother had died in Plaszow, and his brother Dolek had been shot in Bergen-Belsen, three days before the war's end.
In 1947, Janek arrived at Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon. After serving in the Palmach's Harel Brigade, he helped found Kibbutz Tze'elim in the Negev, along with other former children from Selvino.
Today, Ya'akov Janek is a well-known composer, musical arranger and choir conductor.
In 1955, he married Devorah. They have two children and a granddaughter.