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{437}

My Frightful Days

Tauba Moszenberg

Translated by Jerrold Landau

After the capture of Warsaw by the Germans, I did not leave my home in Sochaczew as all the Jews had done, but rather remained back in my old place and childhood home on Leszna 124. I went home to my parents shortly after the creation of the Ghetto in Sochaczew, and experienced the expulsion to Warsaw. There, I returned again to my childhood home, which located on the Aryan side on Dzelna 35. I worked there until the first “expulsion”. As is known, children went to the first fire [1] . Our children, with Janusz Korczak[2] at the head, were taken away to Umszlag Platz. Having nothing more to do, since aside from me, only four staff member remained from the entire personnel, I went over to Szultz' shop on Nowolipki 25 and worked there until the complete liquidation of the large Ghetto.

During that time, I experienced numerous blockades. During one blockade, I was able to let myself down from the first floor. When the day of the liquidation arrived, I went to the designated bunker earlier, together with the remaining residents. However, we did not remain there for long, for after two days of sitting there, they mined the bunker and ordered everyone to leave. They told us that we would not suffer, that they would transport us to Trawniki[3], also a Szultz shop. Everyone came out, but resistance immediately broke out. Many people fell there. They took us to the "Umschlag-Platz", where we were left without a slice of bread or water. We remained there for two entire days. The beat us murderously as they loaded us into the wagons. They stuffed 100 or 110 people into each wagon, of whom only a half remained alive.

{Photo page 438: Hersh Nathan Moszenberg}

Our “trip” to Majdanek lasted for two days. There, they divided up the women separately, and mothers with children separately, and sent them immediately to other barracks, which were completely surrounded by wire. I, having no child, had to part from my sister, who had come here along with two children and went to a separate barrack. They immediately took me to the most difficult work – such as carrying rocks. Quickly, I was in a position to be able to buy a roll and an egg for the children. However, after three weeks, they put an end to the children. They were loaded onto heavy trucks together with the mothers and taken to the gas chambers.

In that time, there were no crematoria there yet. The poisoned corpses were brought to an empty field and thrown into dug out pits, where they were burned. At the same time, selections were conducted on the remaining women who did not have children. Those fit for work were taken to various other camps.

I and other friends who were also from my city, including Roza Rozenkop, were taken to Osweicim (Auschwitz). We had to remain in quarantine there for four weeks, as we were put to work immediately dragging wagons of garbage. After the quarantine, we were again taken to a work camp, where I had to port lime and bricks. Our block was directly opposite the crematoria. At that time, I took ill with malaria and was taken to the quarter[4]. Due to the good attitude of the Jewish doctors to me, I succeeded through various means of riding out seven selections that took place in the hospital. I was greatly weakened when I returned to the barracks, and I was afraid that they might take me, as they did to all of the ill people, to the 25th block, where they kept the candidates for gassing. I was registered in the 19th work crew, which also worked in lime and bricks outside the camp.

Already on the first day when I came to the place of work, I was not capable of moving my hands. However, the German chief, who was by chance a good man, spared me from the work and ordered me only to sit with the spade and give notices, so that no other German would realize this. I did not remain there for long, for that same German was not able to watch as I tired. I was sent to a second work crew – the 18th – the worst in the entire camp. There, I ported wheelbarrows with lime, and was administered terrible beatings. With time, I became ill from the beatings. The work crew got smaller with each day. Some were killed on the spot, and others simply died.

I went to the authorities and registered in a different work crew, which also worked outside of the camp. The work was somewhat lighter. They did not administer beatings there. In the worst cold and frost, I went about barefoot and naked, with rags wrapped around my feet, for the two pairs of trepes[5] that my friend had given me, after having stolen them from someone else, were taken from under my head at night. There, I became ill again. I got a rash on my foot. I went to work for a few days with my ill foot, until the chief told me to go to the hospital.

I was unwilling to go there. I gave up my portion of bread to the block commander, who sent me to a block that she knew about where there was a Polish doctor who cured my foot.

As I was sitting thus on a bench with the Polish doctor, an S. S. man entered the hospital. When he saw me, he registered me into a different Jewish block, where people were taken for gassing. There, they took naked people and loaded them into automobiles. One early morning, they took us to the transport autos and drove us to death. There were four S. S. men in each auto, who guarded us to ensure that we would not escape. I jumped off the auto about 20 meters before the crematoria, and the S. S. men did not notice. I hid in an iron wagonette that was standing by the side. I lay there naked for an entire night in the severe cold and frost.

I saw how the empty autos without people returned from the crematoria. Throughout the duration, the guards were changed. One of the S. S. men noticed me lying there. He quickly came to me and asked me what I was doing. I told him that I had escaped from the transport because I did not want to be placed alive in an oven. I fled because I preferred to be shot. He removed his military overcoat and took off his jacket. He gave them to me so that I could wrap myself up. He then took me to the “writing office”. I was already black from cold, and could not move at all due to my sick foot. He took the jacket from me in the “writing office” and they took me to the sick block.

I received a bed on the third floor. The block commander, a woman from Slovakia, beat me terribly because I was not able to go up that high. When the German doctor came on the second day, she informed him that I had fled from the crematoria. The doctor “calmed” me by telling me that in the next three days, a second transport was being set up, and I would be selected as one of the first. I recognized the Polish block commander whom I knew from there. She came to the sick block and requested from the Jewish-Slovakian block commander that she should place my name on the second list as a blind or an old woman who would sooner or later be burnt. The Jewish block commander refused. Having no other means, my acquaintance went to the camp commandant Alej, and requested that he permit me to be discharged from the hospital, saying that they would yet see that I would be healthy.

After this intervention, I was indeed taken to a new work block, and I had to go to work every day. After being there for not more than two days, they conducted a “entlazung” (delousing), and took us into the bath. An acquaintance from Warsaw worked there, but as if out of spite, I did not make a point of encountering her at that time. I decided to flee from there because they were going to conduct a selection in the bath. With my sick foot, I would have surely been selected to go into the oven. They took our dresses from us, leaving us only our trepes[5] I took the trepes in my hand as well as an overcoat that I found, and went out through the corridor. The guards did not allow me to go further, but when I mentioned the name of my acquaintance and told them that she was my sister, they let me go. At the second end of the corridor, I climbed up the wall, made a hole in the pane of a small window, and escaped. My objective was to reach the hospital, where I had my acquaintance, the good block commander. At that time, there were “spares” in all the blocks, so they were making selections everywhere. I did not have anywhere to go. Dead bodies lay under the new block, with chlorine poured over them. I slipped in between the corpses and lay there hiding for over two hours.

As I was lying there, I heard the call “mitog holen” (“midday call”). I understood that the selection had ended. I went back into the bath, took my attire, and when asked if I had been registered, I answered that I had. Three days later, they came into the barracks and took out the people. One of the registered was hiding. When they could not find her, the block commander pointed to me. However, my number saved me, for the hidden person was registered in the books under a different number.

Through that time, my foot had healed, and I entered the best work crew of the entire camp, a leather factory. There I was a sorter of the garments of the gassed people, and also in the laundry of the S. S. that was used part time for “haeftlinge” (inmates). There, things were finally good for me. I was able to help other people. After six months of working there, the entire camp was liquidated and people were sent to other camps.

By my luck, I was taken to Ravensbruck. This was in the middle of winter, January or February. The journey lasted four weeks, for we went by foot as far as Leslau (Wlocklawek). We traveled over the snow, and whomever could not go further immediately received a bullet in the head. Several hundred people fell there, and the entire route was demarcated with human blood and scattered pieces of brains. When we arrived at Ravensbruck we were not given any water. When they finally brought a barrel of water, one person fell over the next. Many people died, and nobody got any water.

We received food once a day, mostly at night. It was a bit of dirty soup-water. From Ravensbruck we were sent to Malchau, but this time it was in a passenger train. We were given food for two days on the journey: a half a loaf of bread and a piece of sausage. When we reached our destination, we were led to the barracks. The beds were covered with straw, and we were told to lie down. Before going to sleep, the S. S. men conducted a search. We were left with only those items that were necessities. Everything else was taken away. The next day, we were led to the square and were given a lecture. Then we were given one loaf of bread for every ten people, and a bit of soup made of rape[6] and salt.

We suffered greatly from hunger there. Once, I suffered a misfortune. A friend and I went to the obikatzia[7]. I did not notice that a board was broken, and I fell into a deep pit of garbage, 8 meters deep. I would have drowned there, but people came in response to the shouts of my friend, and they pulled me out using ladders. I sat under a fountain for a couple of hours and washed myself. I washed my clothes at night with fresh water that I had prepared in my shoes. I left them hanging up at night so that they would air out. I sat on the doorstep of the barracks all night and aired myself out as I was naked, even though it was still winter.

(Photo page 443: The sister of Yossel Chazen with her child.}

After being there for a few weeks, they sent us to a camp near Leipzig. There, it was already a different world. We had a loaf of bread for eight people. We were able to wash up when we wished, and we received soup at a table. However, this good did not last for very long. After being there for a few weeks, the front approached and they drove us on further, rushing us on foot. Many people fell along the way. The American and Russian airplanes flew low over us, but when they saw that we were people from the camps, they did not shoot any of us. We were given nothing to eat, and the hunger was great. The “leaders” were afraid that we would be scattered, so they forced us to spend the nights in empty fields. The S. S. men, seeing that things were going badly, quickly changed their clothes into “pashkan”[8]. Many of them left us and fled. However, a portion of them remained and guarded us. The “haeftlinge” (inmates) remained mainly in groups.

My friends and I decided to flee. We broke loose from everyone and came to a German house. There, we changed into civilian clothing, and we wore the concentration camp clothing underneath. The army of liberation was already close by and around us, however the neighborhood was still in German hands. Therefore, we were still afraid to say that we were from the camps, so we posed as refugees. In a German house we washed up, got undressed, washed our clothes, and cooked some stolen potatoes. Then the German woman sent my friend with a bag to the bakery. There I requested a loaf of bread, and my friend also got a loaf of bread for herself. We were overjoyed when we saw the bread. We came home with our treasure, and went to the stable where the remaining women were waiting for us. The joy on account of the bread was very great. We ate it with cooked, peeled potatoes. That was the first night in some many years of torture that we went to sleep satisfied, slept through the night without beatings, and did not have to present ourselves to roll-call.

The next day, we continued on to a second German peasant, and received a bit of potatoes and cream from him. This was not very far from the city of Ushatz[9] . There were rumors that the city had already been taken by the Americans. Early the next day, we left from where we were to go there. As we went a few kilometers, we saw along the way “Häftlinge” (inmates) with guns in their hands, who were stopping all German cars. They stopped us, but realized who were, they let us continue on further. The found a Polish camp not far from the city. The refugees procured horses and wagons, and drove to the city, where indeed nobody was present, for the Americans had not yet arrived, and the S. S. were stationed two kilometers from the city. They grabbed up the military magazines and loaded the best that the eyes could see onto the wagons. I also found such a “ridiculous convoy”. They gave us something to eat and took us into the camp.

Above all, we did not identify ourselves as Jews. We desired to go into the city, and also to fetch something from there. In the street, we encountered four S. S. men dressed in full military uniform with guns and grenades in their hands. They called us over and asked us where we were going. We told them that we were refugees from a city that was taken over by the Russians, and we were going to search for something to eat for our children. After a brief conference among themselves, they permitted us to go further. They themselves went by bicycle into the forest.

On the same day, we saw Americans and Englishmen on the way to the city. This was shortly before May 1, and Berlin was soon to fall. This went on for two or three days, and we saw Russian soldiers who were returning from Berlin travelling though the town. They made a ruin out of everything. We decided to return home to Poland. No trains were running, so we went a few hundred kilometers by foot. In the meantime, the Russians captured us, took everything from us, and wanted to take us to a camp. At the same time, we encountered Polish soldiers. They realized that we were going to a camp, and they said that they would take us to Poland, not as the Russians had assured us. We escaped from the Russians, and followed after the Polish army.

Thus, we made our way to Poland. Lodz was the first city where we stopped to search for our relatives.


TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

  1. Probably referring to the tragedy that was to overtake them after the expulsion. Return
  2. See biography of Janusz Korczak at http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/biography/Korczak.html. Return
  3. Trawniki is a labor camp near Lublin, Poland for Soviet prisoners of war and Polish Jews. In November 1943, 10,00 Jews were brought to the pits outside the camp and murdered. Return
  4. 'Revir', usually means quarter or precincts, but perhaps here means the infirmary. Return
  5. I am not sure of the meaning of this word. It is seemingly some type of undergarment. Return
  6. Grape stalk. Return
  7. A Pashkan is some type of clothing – probably civilian clothing. Return
  8. I am not sure of the meaning of this word. It is obviously some location or venue. Return
  9. I could not identify this city. It does not seem to be spelled like Auschwitz, and in any case, they were already near Leipzig. Return


{446}

My Experiences Under the Nazi Regime

by M. Sh. Frejdenberg

Translated by Jerrold Landau

On May 5, 1941, my family and I decided to steal our way out of the Warsaw Ghetto. We succeeded. We went to a village near Bieliny. When we arrived in the village, we met up with our fellow natives: Dawidowicz, Hersz Rojtman, Korfiu, Goldman, Arkiewicz, and Bargoda. Ajzele's three children were also there, working as tailors. Tailors and shoemakers had much work with the farmers. However, we were very afraid and had to hide. Later, still more Jews from Sochaczew arrived. Among them were Izraelowicz's two children (tailors). His wife arrived from Sochaczew and died of hunger. In Sochaczew itself, the Jewish craftsmen (tailors, shoemakers, and carpenters) worked for the Germans, led by Balas. At a certain point, all the Jews were taken to the forest and shot. Things took a turn for the worse in the village. The Germans posted signs noting that the punishment for hiding Jews would be death. As time went on, the farmers themselves would capture Jews, bind them by their hands and feet, and give them over to the murderers. They would receive sugar, money and various other things as a reward. Among others, the farmers captured the son of Moshe Sztrykmacher[1] , tied him up and gave him over to the Germans. They also gave over Ajzele's three children to the Germans. As the children fled, the farmers chased after them and captured them.

As a result of the informings, the police Germans conducted a search of the village. They came fully armed, in great numbers, and searched for Jews. Hershel Tendel, his wife and two children were shot. My family and I hid in a field among the tall corn stalks and were thereby saved from a certain death. During the search, they also shot Zalke Jakubowicz and his brother. At night, when it was already quite dark, we came out of the field and went to a farmer that we knew who advised us to flee, since the nearby farmers were conducting a large-scale search for Jews throughout the entire area. We left Bieliny and went near Rokotow, where once again hid in the tall corn stalks. We spent nine days there in great terror. We were not able to obtain any food. The large-scale search by the farmers of Bieliny began shortly after our escape. With clubs and other blunt objects in their hands, the murderers searched for Jews in all the fields and roads, and murdered without mercy. They found Hershel Pinczewski walking along a road. The farmers began to beat him soundly, but one of them said that he was a Pole, for he was nicely dressed. However, the beaters claimed that he was a Jew. To his fortune, a Polish acquaintance came by, who told the beaters that he knew him as a Pole who was a member of the A. K. (Armej Krajowa). The Poles left him alone. At the same time, a large number of armed Poles arrived, fought with the local farmers, and went away. Simultaneously, a letter came to Soltis informing him that he must demand that the farmers keep the peace and not inform on the Jews. If not, they would burn down the entire village. That threatening letter was effective, and the farmers calmed down. (The authors of that letter were partisans.)

We returned to Bieliny. Partisans came there every night and took various things from the farmers that they had left lying around. Our situation was a bit easier, for we were not afraid that the farmers would kill us. We wanted to remain there and continue to work, but the farmers did not let us enter their houses, to sell us food, or even to talk to us. Having no other choice, we had to set out on our wandering once again. As we left Bieliny, we found out that many Jews had been murdered there, including Mrs. Skornik, her child, and Knobel's sister and her child. We searched for a hiding place, and lived off of rotten potatoes that we stole from the fields. It took a long time until the farmer's hatred of us cooled off.


TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

  1. This is not necessarily a surname. It may mean “Moshe the ropemaker”. Return


{448}

Memories

Moshe Gajer

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Five days after the outbreak of the war, the Jewish communal offices, Beis Midrash and synagogue were bombarded. This was the first bombardment. That day, all of the Jews fled to Warsaw with the thought that they would be able to save themselves there. The Hitlerist gangs entered on September 8, 1939. Since there were no Jews there, the Germans along with the local population robbed all of the Jewish possessions. As well, many Jewish houses and businesses were set on fire. The Jews of Sochaczew returned to their hometown after the fall of Warsaw. Along the way, the Germans gathered up all of the men and sent to them to camps in Pruszkow and Blonie. After three days of torture, they were released, leaving behind many dead. The first victims were the Liberman and Rozenperl families, who were shot in the village of Kampinos, 14 kilometers from Sochaczew. During the time of the bombardment of Warsaw, the Gothelf family and others, numbering more than 30 souls, were located in a house of Orla 11. The town was ruled by former secretary of the magistrate, the German Prause, who was nominated as mayor by the Germans. He manifested himself as an enemy of the Jews.

Formerly, he lived well with the Jews, to the point that the Jews helped him obtain a house. The mayor confiscated the remaining property for the magistrate. The returning Jews found their residences occupied. They were able to find rented premises with great difficulty. Immediately the next morning, a hunt started for the exhausted Jews, who were taken advantage of and conscripted into the most difficult and dirty of work. It is worthwhile to mention that the Jews bound their faces with kerchiefs in order to save their beards. Those people were persecuted more so than those who wore European clothing. The workshops and stores were not given back to the Jews. After a certain time, a Judenrat was created, headed by Liberman, the owner of the lumber warehouse. He fulfilled his role with great humanity. After him, Itche Gelbsztejn was appointed as the elder of the Jews, and his assistant was Moniek Libert. A certain group of Jews who were unable to tolerate the discrimination stole across the border to the Russian side. In February 1941, a ghetto was formed in the streets near the magistrate. The ghetto existed for three weeks in total. Then, the expulsion from Sochaczew took place. The Jews of Sochaczew were deported to Warsaw, and they suffered new anguish in that ghetto.

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