After the transportation from Vishogrod to Dzialdovo we came to Slupie-Nowa, after a succession of troubles, blows and murders by the Gestapo in Vishogrod.
It was nearly dark when we arrived at Slupie-Nowa, and we had dismal forebodings. Wolf Karp approached me and said, let's go home.
Not in vain I was called old calamity boy, so I asked only, when shall we go?
The same day we were away to the railway. It is a distance of 10-20 km. from Slupie-Nowo to the railway station, a small one. We kept hidden behind trees and waited for the train to come. We were waiting for three hours, maybe. A goods train arrived; we jumped on it and went to Warsaw.
It was already dangerous to be in Warsaw. But Wolf knew Warsaw very well; so we went to the Central railway station and rode to Sochaczev. We intended to reach Mlodziszyn by way of the Protectorate border.
On the frontier they caught us. They asked us were we were going. So we said, we are going to Warsaw. We understood that should we say we go to Vishogrod, they would transport us to Warsaw.
And so it was. The watchmen shouted at us: -- You must go to Vishogrod, to Hochburg! You must not go to Warsaw!
They took us to the commandant's port. We got sound blows there, went through a hard day without food, and at the end of the day they allowed us to go to Vishogrod.
In Vishogrod Wolf Karp went to his family, and I who had nobody left, decided to go to a village, to hire myself out to a farmer for work. A friend of mine from the shoemakers' lane took me with him to Roszewo. I started grazing cattle with one Stanislaw Wolski. At a neighbor's farm Mendel Forshtat's grandson grazed cows.
In harvest time I helped my landlord with mowing the corn and he came to like me thanks to my good work. I got good food and clothes and also a couple of zlotys in the pocket.
At that time my father came back to Vishogrod. He told me they had caught my mother and sent her away into the camp. What could I do, a boy of fourteen. I related it to my landlord; he gave my father a loaf of bread and butter and a little money, and father went away, for the farmer was afraid to keep him. As soon as he was away, they said I knew: he is gone to the ghetto.
Once, I was sitting with my landlord, they told us that all Jews had been transported to Czerwinsk; my father and my young brother, Yankale, were there, too.
Once, at night, a car drove up to our farm. Two policemen got down and started searching. The coachman, a Jew who name was Jacob Kiepchak, asked my landlord:
We want to know whether there are no Jews with you.
My landlord became pale as death; I was just together with all of them, eating. But he answered there were no Jews with him.
Jacob threatened him that should Jews be found, he would be shot. But he kept his wits about him.
Jacob then ordered to prepare for them two ducks. I was sent out to fetch the fowls. I caught them and hacked off their heads, as Gentiles use to do, brought in the ducks and went back into the fields to my work.
Till this day I don't know whether Yacob Kiepchak knew I was a Jew. But the farmer took it amiss and reproached me with the conduct of my brethren.
Once the longing for my father overcame me. I told it to my landlord, and he said:
It is dangerous to go to Czerwinsk, there is danger for you, too, in the ghetto there. The Jewish police will catch you to press you into work and send you into camp.
But I begged him, I want to go to Czerwinsk to the ghetto; so he gave me bread and sugar and flour, and let me go.
I the ghetto I found my little brother and my father. There were in great distress, starved out, broken, lonesome without the killed mother.
In their place there were two long bunks. With them were Raphael Kalman Grosman, and the rope maker of Rembow Street. Their condition was more than bad. I gave them the food, and went back to the village.
Thus I did each week and brought food to my father and brother.
Once I was caught by the Jewish police, and brought before the Jewish Council. There sat the Jewish elder man, Mr. Neuberg, and the police commander Hazkel Braverman (now in Canada). They said to me:
You must remain in the ghetto, we must not let you stay outside the ghetto, for we pay a 10,000 mark fine for every Jew outside the ghetto.
I explained to them, I'm not on the lists of the ghetto, and I am not obliged to remain there.
I got a warning from both, left their office, and away and back to my landlord. But a fortnight later I longed again for my folks. I went another time to Czerwinsk, carrying food, and was caught again, but this time I remained in the ghetto.
I was taken to work on the other side of the Vistula, and a few days later I was arrested.
In prison there were already some thirty Jews. Another 20 were to be added; they wanted 50 victims.
At nightfall the prison was filled with people. I decided to escape. I told my little brother to go to Ruben Kurshtein's sister, a cousin of mine, and ask her to bring me food before the departure.
Soon she brought the food. Haskel was on duty in prison on that day. I asked him if he doesn't mind, if we go outside to eat, for there is no place inside.
Haskel allowed me, and I went outside. As soon as he turned away, I wasn't there any more.
I jumped over the wires, and up a tall tree, up to the top. I fastened myself with a belt so I wouldn't fall down, and sat on the treetop the whole night.
From the tree I saw everything that went on in the ghetto. Hazkel was running around like mad, looking for me. About four o'clock in the morning wagons arrived, and all the 50 were taken away. And I was forgotten.
At 7 o'clock in the morning, when everything had quieted down, I climbed down from the tree and went towards the Vistula to wash my face. Somebody saw me and went to inform. So I kept hiding and, much later, went to the village.
Later I went again to the ghetto with food. My father baked matzos and was somewhat relieved; and I thought I would be at peace for some time and should not be obliged to run into danger in the ghetto.
A few weeks alter I felt I had high temperature. I was afraid to tell my landlord lest he turn me out. I went back into the ghetto to my father, into bed.
This was typhoid fever, but my father did not drive me out of his bed, the bunk. My good father.
After 8 days I let myself out, and back to the village. The landlady understood that I had been ill. She asked me, and I related everything to her. She took all my clothes, washed them, and said nothing.
As soon as I felt a little better, I went again to the ghetto.
It was the last day of Passover 1942. I found my father dead. He had died a natural death. He had been 56-58 years old. He was duly buried, and Kaddish was recited for him by me. This was called a happy death: dead in a natural way, brought to a Jewish tomb, with a kaddish, like a Jew, and got rid of a senseless life.
Meanwhile the Nazis transported all inhabitants of the Czerwinsk ghetto to Nowy Dwor.
In the meantime I recovered, ate well, became a real worker, and kept on working.
After the harvest was over, the farmer was afraid to keep me any longer. He told me about the danger he was running into and told me to go into the fields.
This was about October 1942. It was very cold during the nights; I used to come at nighttime to sleep in the cowshed, and at daytime I was rambling through the fields. I was fed up with this. I went to the farmer and asked him to sell me some victuals, and I would leave the village. I bought some sugar and meat and flour, and went to Nowy Dwor, to the ghetto.
With 40 kg. on my back, I walked through the whole night. About three o'clock in the morning I was in the ghetto.
There I found my little brother, my grandmother, my aunts and uncles. They received me like an angel descended from heaven. I gave them one half, and the other one I sold in the ghetto. Jews were grateful to me, and I had some earnings.
Thus I became a smuggler of the ghetto.
After two days in the ghetto I was away again back to the village; rested myself, bought food and back again to the ghetto. This time I was caught, together with other Jews from the ghetto and pressed into forced labor. The Germans required 400 men, the Jewish Council had only 350, so they arranged a raid, and I was trapped.
Each Vishogrod man knows what happened. It was hard work, without food, accompanied with murders. People fell down dead from the Gestapo blows. This happened to one of the Buchner family. Not everybody was able to stand it. Many died, others were shot.
When we were back in the ghetto, I son slipped away to the village. I had met again Wolf Karp, my old partner, and we went both. At midnight we left the ghetto, and in the morning we were in the village, with my landlord Wolski.
He was afraid to sell us food. We made the round of other Gentiles whom I knew. We bought good, wrapped them, and at night set out on our long walk. At 4 o'clock we were already in the ghetto.
So we went smuggling twice a week. We took with us two more fellows, and did quite extensive business.
We were caught once by the Gestapo. It's a mercy we heard them approaching, so we threw everything away, and were caught empty handed.
First they beat us within an inch of our lives, then they put us into a cellar fill of water, and kept us in the cold water until noon. Only then they handed us over to the Jewish police in the ghetto, and these put us into prison for a day. When we were let out, we were away, Wolf and me, the same night, to the village. The two other men were too afraid. When we came back, they were not there any more. They had been sent to Auschwitz.
We continued smuggling. Now across the frozen river Narew, through Modlin and Zakrocin.
Once we were told that just that day a transport would be sent. So we got up at night and away. Across dense watches of the S.S. and S.D. Germans we tore and over the ice on the river. We lay low for a time, and took up smuggling again.
The last time we came back to the ghetto, we found there scarcely anybody of our relatives. Also not my little brother, Yankele. Only my cousin, David the policeman, was still there. He told us in the morning the ghetto would be cleaned up. I took counsel with Wolf Karp what we should do. Says he, why shall we be left alone here without Jews, better let us go with the transport.
Two days later we were deported. This was the last transport.
The drive in the chockfull cars we shall not forget. We made up our mind to jump out and to escape.
We were standing already on the steps, ready to jump off, when the guard saw it and started shooting. So we went in again, and decided to go with all of them, although we had very sad forebodings.
We arrived in Birkenau. This hell has been described already. From Birkenau to Bona, on foot. In Bona we were put into quarantine. After being washed and disinfected, we were transported into the workers' blocks. I and Wolf happened onto block 12, later on block 10, and there I remained until the end. The German decided before their collapse to extirpate all Jews, so that nobody would left to bear witness against them.
The deportation from that place was on the 18th of January 1945. Everybody was then taken from Birkenau, and we did not know where we were going.
Before the departure Shaya Lichtenshtein suggested that we should have ready civilian clothing, and escape during the transport. Towards morning I had a pair of trousers and a jacket. I was always light on foot.
On the way they allowed us to rest in a brick factory. We saw this was the time to run away.
When we were out of the brick factory, it was entirely dark. According to our understanding, we were to wait until the whole transport had passed, and then we would meet and go together, and see what we should do later.
WE passed a small bridge over which went the highway, and under it went a way for horse carriages. I jumped off and hid under this bridge. Shaya was a bit late; when he jumped off, he was seen and shot.
For two hours I remained lying alone under the bridge. When the night became very dark, I entered a coal-shed and remained all the night. Before morning I started on my way back to Auschwitz, because the Russians were about to arrive there, and Germans were not there any longer.
After a day's walk in the snow, over fields in a strange country-side, I came upon a village. I knocked at the nearest hut. A woman came out; I asked her to let me stay overnight. She was afraid, her son was a German soldier; but when I showed her a good lady wristwatch, she agreed.
I slept in a cellar; she had given me to eat; I slept soundly. About 10 o'clock in the evening the son, the soldier, entered the cellar. He had lost a hand and an eye. He had quite a friendly chat with me; he thought me a Pole. I told him I was from Cracow, so he advised me to go by way of Katowitz Sosnoviec home to Cracow.
It was a very difficult road. In Dombrowa Gornicza was the war-front, so I was obliged to run back. On the way I was caught to dig ditches; I run away again. I spent the nights in ruins, and one night in a toilet. The Gestapo again, blows, trouble, until finally I cam to Rybnik.
The Russian army was there already close to the town. There were still some families there, so I hid with them and waited for the Russians to come. Unfortunately, they stayed for months outside the town. I started working in the coalmines.
After 4 weeks I was sent, together with 15 other workers, to a factory.
Only 6 weeks later Russians came in, and I was freed.
With my liberation, deep worries started: Where shall I go? Who has been left to me? Where should I make my home?
I went to Katowitz, Warsaw, Sochaczow. There I met a Gentile from Malewicz, one Yankowski, who had worked in the shoe shop of Yontze Levine. He told me my sister was in Vishogrod, and Yoske Levine was there, too.
I rode all night and came home. A home of danger and ruins.
On the Vistula shore like in old times. There are ferrymen, ferryboats. I boarded the ferry of our neighbor Wladarczyk and went over to Vishogrod.
My sister and Yoske were already waiting for me.
I lived to come to Israel by way of Cyprus, under troubles, but to the country. And here EZEL, and then ZAHAL. And I had become a free Jew.
On Sunday, the 3rd of September, Vishogrod was bombed for the first time. Bombs fell into the Vistula, opposite the firemen's hall. Panic broke out, and 60% - 70% of the Jews fled from town.
Monday the 4th of September 1939: All the authorities fled away and the town was left in anarchy. The vice-mayor Leibish Gemach together with the firemen put up a militia force to keep order.
Shabbat, the 9th of September 1939 another heavy bombardment, and Vishogrod was occupied. The houses from Kaminski's up to Mendel Firsht's were bombed. The first victims were Menashe Grosdorf's son, Hershl Lisser, Baruch Mordechai Kobelniker, Puterman, and the son the Yoshua Plum's. At the termination of Shabbat the German murderers fulfilled the Scripture of the Ki Tavo'u Section: Thy ox is slain before thine eyes and thou shall not eat thereof. They ass is taken away from thee and shall not be returned to thee. Thy sons and daughters are given to thy foe into slavery for scorn and derision and there is no savior. A shameless people is upon thee that will not respect the old and will not have mercy upon children. All the evil and distress unmentioned in the Book befell us, to our great sorrow. We were like slaves. We spent our strength to the utmost, just to survive. (Later, we were driven afoot to the crematory, to be gassed and burned.)
I and my family, my father and two sons and a daughter, my uncle Zacaria Natan with his family, my brother Yitzhak Ya'acov with his wife, and Shmuel Moshe, and Leibl Kopenhagen, all of us spent the first weeks of the war in the village Stare Wody near Mlodziszyn. We were there till Tuesday after New Year. Two days before Atonement Day we came to Vishogrod. I took at once the Torah scroll of Zeirei Agudas Israel to my house. We read from it all the time we were in the ghetto. We were soon taken to all kinds of filthy work, accompanied by blows. We also worked repairing the bridge.
On Yom Kippur part of is prayed in private homes, part in the synagogue. Amidst the prayer a t the synagogue, the Gestapo came, drove people out to work and beat them to death.
The day after Yom Kippur a goose disappeared at neighbor Shpitulski's, the manager of the landing pier. Police came and took ten Jews to shoot them:
Sukkot part of the Jews erected a sukkah, but they had to be guarded, like in the days of the Spanish Inquisition.
When the Germans occupied the village Sladow eight Jews were found in a cellar:
Hol-Hamoed of Sukkot all stores were plundered, and the goods were requisitioned. After Sukkot Mendel Firsht was arrested and deported to Dachau. Some time later the Germans brought a box with his ashes. They asked several hundred marks for it of the family. IT was buried at the cemetery.
Jews were compelled to wear a yellow patch, to take off their hat to every German. Part of the youth escaped to Russia. The rich fled to Warsaw. All businesses were liquidated. Workmen still had something to do. People sold household goods to buy food. Goods were expensive: They had to be smuggled from Warsaw, and therefore the prices rose. Two farms laborers from Grutkowa informed the commissar they had paid fifty marks for a pair of boots, and four men were arrested: Moshe Lipski, Ya'acov Shtern, Shimon Zayonc and his son Asher. They were held in prison in Plock, until all the Jews of the district were deported, it was made judenrein. Then they went together with me and another thirty nine Jews to Auschwitz.
The Rabbi of blessed memory said: Brother Jews, we are in a time of dire stress. We shall be able to ease our situation somewhat only if we help each other without any haughtiness. When two small points are at the same height, like this it is: God's name; when two small points are one above the other, like this: then God forbid! it means sof posuk, the end has come.
These words had their influence upon our town. We may be proud the Vishogrod people have followed his words.
The first Jewish Council (Judenrat) was asked to put up a list of people to be sent to Belsk. They did not do it. Thereupon the prominent Jews in town and part of the Judenrat were taken. The Gestapo demanded a list of 200 Jews to be deported to Slopie Nowa.
Till Passover the whole synagogue was pulled down, to its foundations. The source was closed up.
On the 8th of May 1940 all the houses below the castle hill were destroyed, from Reuben Haim Lebenzki's to Meir Yente's. Afterwards all Jewish houses in Shoemaker's street were pulled down, from the butchers' shops to Avraham Stoliarz', on both sides of the street. Then the old cemetery was desecrated, the tombstones broken, the place leveled, and the bones thrown into the Vistula. By means of a big bribe to the overseers the bones could be gathered and buried at the new cemetery.
The 9th of Av 1940 the Belsk camp was established. One hundred twenty Vishograders were there, until the camp was liquidated.
On the 6th of March 1941 seven hundred Jews were deported to Slopie Nowa, and an open ghetto was established: from the market place by Kobilinsky Monastery Street from the left hand; from the Plock Street to Yasieczek's and the place of R'Binyamin, with Moshe Hmiel's house from behind.
On the 9th of Av 1941 the ghetto was closed up, fenced in with barbed wire, and an order was issued, whoever would be caught outside the ghetto without a permit would be shot. 3-4 families were herded in one room. Life became hell.
In summer 1941 groups of one hundred people were taken out to rid them of lice. The people were driven to the electricity plant of Wita. There was a water tank, 100 m. farther there was a building. The Germans beat them terribly. And they were compelled to take their clothes off, men and women together, and run stark naked those 100m. The Polish inhabitants of the neighborhood peeked and looked. So we were humiliated. Such was Nazi culture. A physician had been brought over from Plock to direct the delousing. On the third day Yitzhak Bohl, the chairman of the Judenrat, managed to bribe the physician with a big sum to annihilate this decree.
In August 1941, many refugees returned to Vishogrod from Warsaw and from Slopie Nowa.
On a beautiful morning people were driven out in the street. One hundred twenty were loaded on three trucks, taken away, and nobody knows till this day where their bones lie. Fifty other Jews were driven to the Vistula, put on rafts, beaten up terribly, part of them thrown into the water, part driven to Warsaw.
On Thursday Parashat Vayetze all people from the Belsk camp were brought. On Friday it was already known that on Shabbat all would be deported from Vishogrod. At midnight a guard drew up at the ghetto. People started wailing, crying, saying good-bye to each other.
On Shabbat p. Vayetze all were driven to the market place. Six hundred Jews were sent to Czerwinsk on farmers' carts; Twelve hundred persons were herded on trucks. They were beaten, the knapsacks were cut off. A great part of them were left without anything, empty-handed. In the early afternoon we arrived in Nowy Dwor ghetto, broken, humiliated. We were crammed into the small ghetto, 3-4 families in one room. We slept on the hard floor. A committee of three was appointed: Leizer Rotbart, Yoel Lipa Kroy, Yoel Bohm. People were registered, got ration cards. The rations were very small. A soup kitchen was organized to distribute a little soup. A Vishogrod Jew, Hershel Fuks, was cook; he is living now in Israel.
Owing to overcrowding, filth and bad food, an epidemic of typhoid broke out. Several hundred Vishogrod Jews died of typhoid in the ghetto of Nowy Dwor.
Life was very hard. We sold our last belongings to keep living. Each day three hundred Jews were driven to the river port to work. Overseers were war invalids. They shouted Jews were responsible for the war and for having become invalids. They took revenge on us, beating and killing. We were compelled to roll the barbed wire rolls like a ball. Blood streamed like from a fountain. Men came home from work completely incapacitated. It was forced labor, unpaid.
Jews smuggled for a livelihood. Whoever was caught, was hanged. Once seven Jews were hanged, among them a son of Wolf Levin's; a sixteen year old boy. They were left hanging in the ghetto for 24 hours. All Jews were obliged to be present at the execution and to look at it. There were many such executions.
Jews created congregations and prayed under danger of life. There was one minyan at the Lanziner Rabbi's of blessed memory; another one at the ritual slaughterer's of Zakrocim. In the little ghetto there was a minyan at Shimshon Silberboim's, Avraham Grzywacz had a shophar, and on New Year he went from minyan to minyan to blow it.
Before Passover the Rabbi ordered baking matzos of the dark flour we received. I and Avraham Grywacz showed them how to bake the matzos in the kitchen.
After Passover people were deported to the camps. An order was issued to hand over money and rings. Should something be found with anybody, he would be shot.
In the month of November 1942 all Jews from Czerwinsk ghetto were brought over. Twenty-thirty persons were herded in one room. They started sending transports to Auschwitz. On a certain day forty persons were wanted to fill up the quota; militia arrived and seized forty. Eleven of them succeeded in getting away. The remaining twenty nine were taken to a certain place to work. After work, they were ordered to dig a ditch, they were butchered and buried half alive. Two men from Vishogrod were among them: Shlomo Buchner and Moshe Puterman. At night, when the eleven returned to the ghetto, there was a great tumult there.
On the 12th of December 1942 the last transport was sent to Auschwitz, in the morning. In the afternoon, the 6th of Tevet, our nearest and dearest, fathers, mothers, wives, children, sisters, brothers, were gassed and burned in Birkenau. May the Lord revenge their blood. May their memory live in eternity.
There was money found with me and with my brothers. They kept asking for more money and jewelry, which we did not have.
On Sunday the 18th of January, in the morning all our bloc, two hundred men, were ordered out. My brothers and I were ordered to make penal exercises running, falling down, knee bending, for an hour. Afterwards we were taken to the bloc. They put all people in and put in a gallows. I and my brother were stood against the wall. The elder of the bloc said: Now the Daicz brothers will be hanged. You, the eldest dog he said to me shall hang first. I was ordered to take off the shoes and mount the hanging stool. I said the Confession prayer. They bound my hands behind me, I gave a last look at my brothers and my friends, and called our loudly Sh'ma Israel. The rope was put, not around my neck, but my hands. The stool was pushed away. I was hanging for fifteen minutes, suffering tortures worse than death. The bloc elder asked me every now and then where I had hidden the jewelry. After fifteen minutes my hands were freed, and he said that he was sure now the Daicz brothers had no more money. He shouted, all prisoners with whom money should be found, would be executed in this way.
After three weeks in quarantine, I was transported in a labor camp. We worked on hard jobs. Each day the reserve of 150-200 men were sent to the gas chambers.
Up to June 1943 my three brothers were destroyed, among the others. A small number of Vishogrod men were left; the rest had died of hunger and overwork.
In June 1943, by a miraculous stroke of luck, I was detached to the shoemakers' shop. That meant sufficient food, and even taking some for the hungry in camp. At that time I became aware that all the women of our transport had been destroyed on the 6th Tevet 1942; not a single woman had escaped. All the people who had been taken in reserve had been destroyed, so I had no relations left. I was in utter despair. I was together with Hershel Naiman. We comforted each other, we must live to see the fall of Nazism, and take revenge.
Yet another thing that kept us up was our religious life. When somebody's relative's death anniversary came round, Kaddish was recited. In High Holidays season we organized prayer congregations in the wash-room. We prayed in the morning before work. A man named Radzik, an electrician, who had a shed at his disposal, had pair phylacteries. We hurried there every now and then, put on the phylacteries and said Sh'ma Israel.
Before Passover 1944 we began to take counsel about matzos and holding Seder. I had some connections with the kapu of the kitchen: I obtained some flour. I spoke with Ephraim Buchner (from Vishogrod, now in America), who was servant and cook of the work leader at the Commander's post. I gave him instructions, and he baked matzos, under risk of life, and thus 200 Jews were able to fulfill the religious commandment.
We held Seder in the Bona-Auschwitz camp in the year 1944. We demonstrated and proved that we could be crushed in body, but not in spirit, and on the threshold of the crematory we did not lose faith in The Lord Blessed be He. I am thankful, too, to the elder of the bloc, Bernard Strauss, a Jew from Tchekia, who allowed to hold Seder in his bloc No. 60. I celebrated the Seder with tears and a bleeding heart; I prayed This year slaves, next year free men. This year slaves, next year in the Land of Israel. I think it is a great merit to me, to my family and the town of Vishogrod, that Ephraim Buchner and the present writer were the initiators of this Seder.
At the end of 1944 many were executed who tried to flee and escape the Nazi murderers. Most of them were caught, brought into camp and hanged, before the eyes of all, to put fear into our hearts.
On the 18th of January 1945 the camp was evacuated, and we were driven to Gleiwitz. On the way 50% of the prisoners were shot dead, after they had survived the years in camp. Zecharia Roch met a violent death. Yoshua Lichtenshtein tried to run away, and was shot.
From Gleiwitz Hershl Naiman and I were taken to Buchenwald, into Grauwinkel camp. This was a horrible concentration camp. We slept in airless underground bunkers, without drink water. At four o'clock in the morning we got up for roll-call.
Herschel Naiman and I were freed in Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. On the 20th of May 1945, we came to Warsaw on the 22nd to Vishogrod. We found there Yoske Levin and his wife Marysia, the later Yitzhak Pasternak, Ephraim Buchner, Israel Shvarzbart.
I married my present wife, established a new family.
The little town was empty without the Jews. In the morning I used to go the foundations of the destroyed synagogue, prayed, and had a good spell of weeping. Each other day I used to go to the destroyed cemetery there was no trace left of it, there was a coppice asked forgiveness of the souls of our martyrs, recited Kaddish, and my wife said Amen.
After 5 months we left Vishogrod for ever and went to Germany. We were there some time, and then we went home, to Israel, to the Jewish State, to stay here. We arrived in Israel on the 11th of May 1949.
After we had arrived and were still standing together, I wearing my white nurse's apron, suddenly I heard calls: Berliner, Berliner. I looked in the direction of the call and saw Hirsh Lipsker standing with a S.S. man, a clumsy giant, whose name was Dr. Ruder. I did not know what to do. Hirsh said to him: That's her! He introduced me as his sister and as a medical nurse. He explained to me that he heard they looked for a nurse and he told them I was his sister, in order to enable me to leave the column. He had some sad premonitions and he said:
You will now be important and in demand. Please, don't forget what I did and help my wife and children.I promised him.
Unfortunately, I did not fulfill my promise. The same day all of them, the people of my transport, were sent to the gas chambers.
I was left alone and solitary in the Birkenau camp. We spent the night in the bathhouse, and in the morning we were taken out to the showers. They shaved us and placed us on benches and showered us with cold water; afterwards they kept us under steam. Whoever was not able to bear it fell down and did not rise any more.
They took our clothes and gave us a striped uniform of the camp. And I was given shoes, both of them left ones.
Thus we were sitting from Saturday till Sunday without food. At noon they gave us a tumbler of soup, 200 gr bread, 20 gr margarine, 20 gr sausages. We were confused. We didn't know whether to eat it or leave a reserve to still the hunger later on. We did know we would suffer more hunger.
That giant S.S. man Dr. Ruder appeared at the door and asked for that nurse of the name of Berliner. When they pointed to me, he shouted:
What did you do to this nurse? How dare you?He showered heavy blows on all the workers in the bathhouse who dared to shave my head and all the time he shouted:
Who gave the order to shave her?He took me and brought me to block 27 which served as transitional hospital for one night.
It was a brick room 25.30 m long, its small windows 20 x 25 cm. It was 10 m wide and was divided into two by a stove, which was nothing more than a concrete ditch; it was stoked at one end, and at the other the smoke was passing and warming the block.
There were no arrangements in it suggesting its use for medical purposes, except a table at the entrance, used for dressings. The patients lay on concrete bunks running alongside the walls. They were in triple tiers. In the bottom tier lay the Muslims, that is the men reduced to skeletons, who had no strength left to go up higher. They were lying in fives on one bunk. On the whole there were about 600 men placed on 120 bunks.
We were received at the entrance by the woman appointed to in charge of the block, Bertha Unger, a kind-hearted Slovakian from Chomna in Slovakia. She tried to help us as far as possible and will remain remembered by us as one of the righteous of the Gentiles.
I worked there for three months, made injections, made dressings, made the beds for people, looked after them, together with the others, with true devotion to our fellow-men. And our hearts ached because we knew all our care was for 24 hours, and after that they would be sent, most of them, to their death.
The arrangement was known: If somebody fell ill and did not report to work, he was taken at once to block 27. On the next day giant Dr. Ruder appeared, looked at the faces of the hospitalized and determined who would remain and who would go to the block 25 of ill fame, whence people would be taken directly to the gas furnaces.
Day after day death took its toll of precious, guiltless people; Dr. Ruder, the ambassador of death and its satanic messenger, officiating devotedly and tirelessly to Moloch.
Now Dr. Mengele began to appear among the physicians, together with Dr. Ruder, to supervise our work. This human monster I was seeing for days on end and he keeps haunting my nightmares till now.
Dr. Mengele was a handsome man, broad-shouldered and tall, with dark blonde hair and very beautiful smiling eyes. Nobody would ever catch him angry or enraged.
Dr. Ruder was in charge of the women's camp with Dr. Anna, a Slovakian Jewess, as assistant; Dr. Mengele was the chief physician of the whole camp, with innumerable helpers. Sometimes it looked as if those monsters were self-appointed physicians without any professional qualifications. But from their talk it became clear that they were real physicians, even good ones. Till now I am not able to understand how a man studies medicine for so many years and applies his knowledge to being cruel to men.
Once Dr. Mengele and Dr. Ruder entered my block quietly, as if playing at a genuine hospital call. They approached my table very closely and looked around. My heart jumped madly. I was dressing wounds of the patients. Dr. Mengele took down my number and said:
Tomorrow at the roll-call you'll report to me.I reported to him the next day and he sent me to the registry. He told me to go there at once, to report to the person in charge and to say I had been sent by him.
In the office there was a Slovakian Jewess named Edith. On hearing Mengele sent me, she went simply into hysterics:
Away with you! Don't remain here a single moment! Don't say to anybody you were here. I'll fix it so you won't suffer. Don't be afraid.She knew for what purpose I had been sent there, and this horrified her. The same day Dr. Mengele performed his experiments in sterilization of women.
She was a true Jewish woman, religious and observant. She never was without a head-cover, lighted Sabbath candles on each Shabbat eve. All the time she was in the camp she never ate meat and subsisted on bread and tea. She kept all fasts of the Jewish religion. She knew their dates and kept them over-strictly. On Passover she arranged Seders in our block, where she was at night. During my stay there the Seder was celebrated twice, and those two times I was only an eye witness. Everything was prepared by Edith with a heavenly zeal and under danger which is unimaginable nowadays. She was ready to pay with her life for saving anybody. And for Jews she was doing more than humanly possible.
So did Cilly, too, the other just one, also a Slovakian. These two women stirred in all the spirit of hope and faith, silently, by being there, they encouraged people to live. Edith saved my life.
I escaped at once back to my block as Edith had ordered. As nobody had registered my number; nobody paid attention to me. Edith hushed up everything and the matter was forgotten.
At the beginning of 1944 we were sent to Brzezinki. It was a place affiliated to Auschwitz and all the hellish functions of this town.
There were four large furnaces, in the people were burned after being killed in gas chambers. Two were in Birkenau, one in the field between Birkenau and Brzezinki, and another one, the fourth, in Brzezinki.
When the martyred Jews were brought over from their places, Dr. Mengele together with Dr. Ruder used to appear to see the import. Dr. Mengele did not utter a single syllable. He never made a remark, never gave an order or rebuked anybody. He walked about among the people, looked at each of them, mentally taking their picture. He was silent, and afterwards gave orders to Dr. Ruder, written and oral.
I used to observe his face. IT seems to me the man was over-complicated, towards others and within himself. Sometimes a foolish smile of self-satisfaction appeared on his face when he saw a Jew dying.
Sometimes Dr. Mengele turned his eyes away disgustedly from a half-dead body, frowned and passed quickly, as if deliberating: What shall I do, speed up his dying or enjoy its prolonged lingering and prolong it with the help of my medical science?
On a day Mengele appeared in the camp, all inhabitants were forbidden to leave the blocks. People got scared when news got round of his arrival. Nobody was told this, but always a curfew was imposed in all the area, and all knew then death was stalking about in the camp.
Never will the survivors forget the days of ghastly ceremonials those idiots arranged for their teacher and master murderer. I shall never forget my meetings with them together with Dr. Mengele.
When one speaks of Mengele as a physician, as engaged in a scientific employment, one might come to suppose, that here was a scientist, who for the sake of progress sacrificed the man, or that he availed himself of the given opportunity for humanity's sake. But we saw he was not engaged in scientific research, for no notes were taken about his experiments.
It is doubtful whether Mengele was a physician at all. This remains to be looked into. It is to be doubted if he was sane. It seems to me he was an unhappy man who tried to forget his unhappiness in atrocities, and in the sufferings of his fellow-men he drowned his own pains and sufferings.
Another trait to Mengele's image:
In the Brzezinki camp the commander was a S.S. man, most cruel, named Wunsch. He had a mistress, a most beautiful Jewish girl, brunette, with raven-black locks, burning eyes, and shapely like a statue. As soon as she appeared, the savage was calmed down and we could do as we desired. We did not work then, we did not do anything, and he did not, too. He was like wax in her hands.
She used to say:
When I am here with Wunsch, you may rest yourself; but when Mengele appears, try and work double, and try not to see him.She heard that a transport from Budapest had arrived, and her sister was in it. The transports passed through our camp. We were the last ones who had a look at them. She was affected very much realizing her sister would be burned, and she would rest with the Gentile. She jumped up and told Wunsch that if he would not save her sister, she herself would follow her. And she began running towards the train as if aiming to join the death convoy. He was afraid, ran after her and promised her to fulfill her request. I saw when she ran like one mad, and also backwards, when he brought her back. He implored her, kissed her and begged her to stay alive. He would do anything. I saw it from my window.
The next day he went and took the sister out of the crematory completely naked. She had been undressed and was in line for the furnace. Compelled by his love, this fiend endangered himself and pulled her out from there.
And here is the tale related by the girl herself: Wunsch went up to the stoker who put the people into the gas chamber, and before he closed the door, stopped him and said to him, let out this woman. The order was given in a commanding tone, so that the man did not know what to do, and let her out; but as she was naked, they told her to sit down, and she, the sister who told the tale, went to fetch her clothes. Meanwhile the executioner recovered his self-possession and refused to obey the order. There was a commotion, the two S.S. were seen in hot discussion. They thought a riot had broken out and informed the commander's office. Mengele appeared at the head of armed men, to quench the riot. When he learned what had happened, he asked Wunsch:
Why did you do it?He answered:
"That's my wife and this is her sister!Mengele was silent, took his men and went back. Before he went, he told her to come with him.
In his office he told her to relate the whole truth, and not to lie. She said to him:
It's not him who wanted to save her, but me, I'm guilty, for I told him, if he would not pull her out, I would go and be burned. So he pulled her out.Mengele did not speak so she related showed no reaction, he stood stock-still and looked as if surprised all the time she was speaking. But when she ended her tale, he stood still a moment, and suddenly rushed upon her, seized her hair with one hand, showered upon her with the other hand terrible blows, again without any change of expression in his face. Then he stopped, stood a moment, and shouted:
You damned Jewess, out with you, and double quick!
In September the rumors grew stronger, that had been abroad for some time already, American planes were nearing. There were some who had seen them flying every now and then. The crematory crew was by now more at liberty and mingling with the Germans and spirit of revolt arose in them. They were also physically rather fit, as they got not too bad food. They felt strong enough, and they decided to revolt.
The Jewish woman, who worked at sorting out ammunition, hearing of it, brought those arms and ammunition. The objective was to join the Americans from inside, to blow up the crematory, to save by means of it the remaining Jews destined to be burned, and to make hard for the Germans the work of mass liquidation.
And the planes appeared, in fact.
On the eve of the transportation day and the changing of the guard, the Jews blew up the crematory, broke through the fence and swept across to escape. But somebody seemed to have informed against them, and when the planes went away, they found themselves surrounded by Germans. They were caught some distance from the crematory and shot dead. Among those shot were Goldfarb and Moshe Leib Diamant (I do not remember Goldfarb's private name).
This killing was executed by Mengele, with his own hands.
At night, when the disturbance had died down, Mengele appeared in the women's camp and began to examine us, to investigate and to ask, what was going on in the camp.
When he entered our room, we were lying in our beds, I, Dr. Rosa and Dr. Blimko. He ordered us to rise and to remain standing. We stood up, half-naked and were standing. We waited for a long time, and Mengele did not come back. We were standing so till 4 o'clock in the morning.
The 16th January 1945 all women in the camp were assembled, put into ranks and ordered to follow the German conductors.
We were several thousands. We were led like cattle. We walked eight days from Brzezinki to Leslau in Germany. The frost chilled the last of the blood in our veins and hurt our bodies with its stabs, making us weep. We did not know which hurt more: the hunger or the cold.
At rest-time we licked the snow to still a little our hunger and thirst.
We were concentrated in miserable shacks that were not heated, in some deserted shack camp.
On the 3rd May 1945 there came many S.S. men, surrounded the shacks, locked the doors and shuttered the windows with barbed wire. We were trapped, caught.
In the evening the doors opened suddenly, and the Germans appeared. They were very, very quiet. All of a sudden their tyrannical boisterousness had disappeared. They moved about humble and trembling. Their clothes were neglected and they wore a wretched look.
They brought us a large kettle of coffee, but had forgotten to bring a ladle and cups. Out of shock and dismay they had forgotten them in the kitchen.
On the 4th May 1945 we saw no guards at the gate; the camp was not being guarded any longer. We felt that an important change had happened. In spite of it we remained apathetic with blurred mind and in stupor of senses. We had no strength or energy left. We were lying in a heap, our eyes nowhere. Even the will to live had deserted us.
The day before the Germans came and took away our clothes, the remains of it. We were left, the majority of us, half-naked. We stood up, and the feeling of nakedness stirred our activity anew. We were irritated, like one is who wants to rise, has to rise, has no clothes and how can he stand up!
This irritation was a good sign for us. I had been with an old winter overcoat. I collected the last of my strength, ripped out the lining and put on the latter like a dress.
On the 5th May 1945 we waked hearing noise and rattling. We looked through the windows and saw Russian tanks approaching.
A few minutes later Soviet soldiers opened the shacks and on of them announced:
You are free!
I already had told him who I am. It appeared that he was well acquainted with my grandmother Royze Yanushev of blessed memory. In the course of our conversation, on hearing I was there with wife and baby, asks he: How old is the baby? Who is circumcised it? Upon hearing he was three months old and as yet uncircumcised, he was entirely shocked. How can it be, a native of Vishogrod, and uncircumcised? An unheard of thing!
He suggested we circumcise the child at once.
And already we were back at the railway station, to talk over his suggestion with my wife. He came later in a cab, together with another Jew, took us with him, and we were off. We came to the synagogue; the rabbi and a circumciser were already waiting for us, and some other Jews. A meal had been prepared, whisky and herring and bread, and Jews beamed looking forward to attending to the religious command. We were united in a great secret for a crime was about to be committed (Heaven forbid!) against the Russian empire to join another Jewish child to the Jewish people.
The child was circumcised with all the trimmings. The people enjoyed this bit of Jewishness, finished off with herring and whisky. There was great and true rejoicing.
The same day I went to Krasnodarsk, and those precious Jews went each his own way.
The manager found lodging for my wife and son with a Jewish family where they spent three weeks, until the child recovered.
In his childhood Haim Joseph emigrated with his parents to America and there he spent his life, learned, studied, acquired high education, and was preparing for a normal happy civilian life.
When the Second World War broke out, Haim Joseph enlisted in the U.S. Army and went to fight the Nazi vandals, more as a Jew than as an American. According to a pronounced Jewish upbringing in the spirit of national pride, Haim Joseph, the young, beautiful, blooming, strong and brave young man wanted to do his share towards the victory over the murderers of the Jewish people.
Haim Joseph was on the most dangerous war-fronts where the Americans were active, to hasten the bloody march to victory.
On the 20th of October 1944, a few months before victory came, Haim Joseph, the son of Gutman and Golda Holender, fell in battle of Balches-France.
In him another Nazi victim from Vishogrod was added. We will remember the sacrifice of his young life together with the other martyrs.
In 1953 we named our Loans Bank in Israel after him together with the name of Shmuel Buk of blessed memory.
As is well-known, our Golda Holender, Haim Joseph's mother, donated a considerable sum to our Loan's Bank during her visit in Israel in 1953 and thus enhanced the Banks importance. She also activated other Vishogrod people in America to interest themselves in the Bank with money and donations; and all this to spread Haim Joseph's name.
Also in the Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan there is a picture of Haim Joseph, in acknowledgement of his mother's activity and donation.
Blessed be His memory.
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