by Mosze Sztylman
Translated by Hannah Berliner Fischthal
In the year 1939, being a boy of 15, I already felt strong anti-Semitism. A month before the breakout of the Second World War, we prepared receivers. We also cleaned out a cellar, in order to have a place where we could hide. We then lived in Sztorchajn's house on Sobieskiego 15. A part of the house was sold to the Christian Józef Plochewicz. He was a well-known Endecja [Narodowa Demokracja an extreme right wing Polish political party] leader in the Polish Businessmen's-Association. He actually organized the boycott against Jews, and he called on the Christians to not buy anything from Jews.
It might seem improbable that the hatred towards the Jews and all the propaganda would go so far as to take vengeance against a small, helpless boy. As I mentioned, we cleaned out a cellar and whitewashed it with lime. All the boys in the house did the entire job. When my turn came to whitewash, suddenly the 13 year-old daughter of the owner came running in from the house, in order to watch how we work, and also to ridicule us a little. The wide brush, which I held in my hand for liming, splattered a little onto the girl. She quickly ran home to complain. Her father, the sadist, cold-bloodedly came into the cellar with a whip, closed the door behind him so that I could not escape, and began to murderously whip me. My screams of pain were terrible, but they did not bother him at all. Luckily, somebody opened the door and I managed to run away. I ran like a crazy person to the police to make a complaint. They saw a beaten young child with horrible marks on his body, so one officer sat down by the typewriter to write a report. He asked me my name, address, and so on. And then he asked me: And what is the name of the man who beat you like this? When I said Józef Plochewicz, the officer remained as though limed, and told me to go home, saying that he would call the owner to come to him.
When I went home in this condition, my sister Lola saw me. She was then 19 years old. Looking at my appearance after the beating, she quickly ran to the owner to complain. He took out a revolver and said: Quiet! If not, I will shoot you like a dog!
Some time later we were sent to the ghetto and also to the camps. The owner became a Volksdeutsch [ethnic German]. After the war I found out that he lived very well all his life until he died.
I was sent to the camp Gleiwitz II; that was in the year 1943. People from the Zagłębie area were there, by the production of soot and in other factories. We made synthetic rubber out of them. In the year 1945 our camp was evacuated. First of all we marched two days through unknown routes. Afterwards we were packed into open wagons. Inside we were very squeezed, in order to make room for the Kapo's barber, tailor, shoemaker, and camp-maid.
Among us was our very ill friend, Heniek Manhajmer from Będzin. So that we
would not suffocate him, all of us friends created a fence around him (he was
lying on the bottom). The privileged bunch pushed the entire crowd down with
force. We pushed the entire mass back, so that all from the middle were moving
the entire time.
We did not receive any food, drink and we also could not sleep. People actually became crazy from exhaustion; one suffocated another. The barber cut the throat of another out of great anger. The dead were thrown out of the wagons.
At that point I decided to organize a group of 10 boys to devise a plan for
running away; the wagons were open, and we could jump out. Observing the road
when the train changed, that from both sides of the train-line the ground was
higher and covered with deep snow, I decided to be the first to jump out.
I had been used to sitting behind wires and dragging myself from one camp to another, hungry and thirsty, and here suddenly the whole world free! I could drink the snow, as much as I wanted! But the happy joy of freedom lasted only a few minutes. I had to quickly think about what to do next. I wanted to hide myself in a nearby forest, but I was scared to meet Germans. This was in Sudetenland (Slovakia). I decided to go into the city. The train line was populated and besieged by Slovak Volksdeutsche. Suddenly a dog began to bark at me. I quickened my steps and heard someone screaming to me. However I didn't pay any attention, because I already had nothing to lose. It was evening, and I quickly walked further until it became quiet. I crossed the turnpike and saw a small house in the city, in which there was still light. I went to the door and knocked. I heard someone asking in German who I was. And I answered that a wanderer is begging for water. I waited. Meanwhile, a door on another side opened, and a young Christian stood in front of me with a rifle. He shot into the air. Afterwards the door opened, and an elderly man, a woman, a young girl, and he with the rifle appeared in front of me. The old man took away the rifle, and he searched me to see if I did not have any weapons. The girl observed me with pity; she brought me a drink of liquor and a piece of cake, and I was happy! Warmed up with the whisky, I hungrily began to eat the cake. They asked me if I was a Jew. I said, no. They do not believe me. They said I ran away from the Jew-transport, and that the war is the fault of the Jews. They told me to go quickly ahead. Since his son needed to be at the front in Stalingrad, the old man followed me with his rifle. He explained that he must bring me to the Kommandant.
Going like this with him, I looked at this old person, who could scarcely hold
the rifle in his hands. I tore the rifle out of his hands and said, you
see I could shoot you now and go on, but I will not do this, because I am not a
murderer. Why would you want to turn me over to the hands of the police?
I spoke to his understanding: Imagine if your son runs away from
Stalingrad, in order to come home to his relatives and family, and he meets a
person like you, who wants to turn him over to the hands of the police.
Then I gave him back his rifle. He began to explain himself, but unfortunately, as I noticed, we were already 50 meters from the police station. When I was led inside, I met all the boys who had jumped out of the train with me. Our joy was great. The night there was terrible! They bound us with wires in order to shoot us and the screams and violence broke us down. The Germans screamed that none of us would remain alive. First around 11:00 in the night, when the commandants started to go home, and just one of them remained to guard us, it became a little quieter and we all fell asleep from exhaustion. After three hours we were woken up, because an order came to attach us to the transport to Auschwitz, which would arrive in the train station in an hour. With that transport we were taken to Mauthausen, where our real troubles and pain began, and which is already familiar to everybody.
I was liberated by the Americans in the city of Gusen [Gusen is the name of the biggest and most brutal Nazi concentration camp complex on Austrian territory. Originally called "Mauthausen II", the camp consisted of three camps and toward the end of the war, was annexed to Mauthausen concentration camp]. From my entire family, I alone remained alive.
Now I find myself in Frankfurt with my wife and daughter and from time to time
I visit my relatives and townspeople in Israel.
|Jewish fear in the city when the Nazis occupied it|
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