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{493}

Memories from my Time in Hiding

Tzvi Taubenfeld

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I was in Warsaw when the war broke out. I took part in the defense of Warsaw. Only 21 remained of a company that numbered 224 soldiers. Then I was taken captive and was taken to Lowicz. I remained there for six days, and then succeeded in fleeing to Sochaczew.

I found the entire family living together in a small room. A worker who had worked for us for fourteen years occupied the bakery. He did not even let us into work, claiming that as long as the Germans are in Poland, we have no more rights. Finding myself in the ghetto, I opened a bakery in partnership. It lasted for two weeks, until I was driven out to Warsaw along with all the Jews.

In Warsaw I lived without any means, and life was especially difficult. Having no choice, I along with my brother registered to work as bakers at Hrubieszow Lubelski, for the military. This work gave us the means to support ourselves and our parents. This lasted for eight months. Feeling that liquidation was awaiting us, I decided to go to Warsaw. My brother did not agree, and he remained in Hrubieszow. I miraculously arrived in Warsaw.

I thought and hoped they would not kill an entire city of Jews. Two days later, I contacted Hrubieszow by telephone. My acquaintance Brand told me that they had expelled all Jews. Then I registered with the Germans to work, which gave me the possibility to smuggle in a few products for my parents, for my sister, and for the Lewkowicz family. Thus did I work for seven months, until they began the so-called “lapankes” (conscriptions), which caused a panic. I worked with a different group in the Fli-Platz[1] in Okecie. We worked it out that they would permit us to remain in that place, in order to avoid entering the ghetto.

{Photograph page 494: Berish Lewkowicz with his wife Gittel (nee Taubenfeld).}

In 1939[2], we, four young lads – Gelbsztejn, Janowski (Bendet's son), Berish Kac (Aharon's son), and Meir Blumental's young son – were sent by the Jundenrat to work in Lublin. From there, we were sent to Parzniewice, near the Russian border. We lived in broken barracks along with thousands of Jews, in horrible conditions. The barracks had no doors or windows, and one person was on top of the other. Food consisted of a bit of watery soup. Many people became ill, and hundreds of Jews died every day. After four days, Janowski contracted a terrible case of dysentery, and through influence, he was allowed to stay in the barracks. However, he died the next day.

Berish Kac designed a plan to remain in the trenches and go over to the Russians at night. I do not know if his plan succeeded. I fled from the camp after being there for ten days. I went from town to town, from village to village, and thereby came to Sochaczew.

I came into contact with the German army in Okecie, and they surrounded us with a fence. They took us to work every day at 7:00 a.m.

There I came into contact with someone who was friendly with the head of our work, and worked out with him that he should open a canteen, of which we, along with two other people, would be the directors. We concerned ourselves with relieving the need. People were able to purchase various items through us. Thus was I able to make various connections, including with the Christian Jozef Kaleta, who promised to give me help.

In 1943, when things became worse and worse in the camp, I decided to hide. I organized a group of seventeen people, and turned to the aforementioned Christian. We set up two cellars with a disguised entrance and paid monthly rent. We also set up a kitchen in the bunker. After remaining in the bunker for a month, we heard that they had liquidated the entire camp and sent everyone to the Belzec death camp. We were discovered by the Polish police after being in the bunker for three months. They entered the bunker, beat us, ordered us to hold up our hands, and drove us from the bunker. They requested 1,000 Zloty a month from each of us, and if not, they would turn us in to the Gestapo. We collected 9,000 Zloty, gave them the money, and told them that we did not have any more. They, however, demanded the rest. After they left, Kaleta came to the bunker and declared that we must leave the place after the night. If not, he would take an axe and cut all of our heads off.

After his departure, we were left in despair. We wept and lamented, and did not know what to do. Finally we decided to leave the bunker at 4:00 a.m. Six of the eighteen people who had money decided that they were able to stay. Then, “acquaintances” entered the bunker, took them in a car, and transported them to Zoliborz. We later found out that they were soldiers, who took them out to the forest, stole everything from them, including their boots – and shot them.

We, the surviving twelve people, left the bunker in the morning and went into a village, not knowing the way. We obtained spades and dug trenches in a certain place, where we hid for a brief period. Among us there were women with a Christian appearance, who brought us food. However, we could not remain there for long. We suffered greatly from the cold. We then decided to go where our eyes would take us.

I, with a certain Menachem Pioro, set out for a village. Along the way we encountered some concrete pipes. We hid in them, clasping each other and trembling with frightful cold. At night, a farmer with a wagon of cabbage passed by. The farmer noticed us as he descended from the wagon. He immediately came up to us and told us that he knew we were Jews. We began to weep, and begged him to help us, for we have not eaten for a long time. The farmer went away, and came back with a pot of cabbage and bread. We indeed did not know how to thank him, and we said to each other that it was for us like Simchat Torah… We remained there until the morning. However, we were not able to hide there anymore, for it was terribly cold in the pipes. In the meantime, children who were playing football noticed us. They were astonished, and shouted out “Jews are here!” They immediately ran home and reported this to the village. Soon, 10-12 farmers came and said to us: “Flee immediately from here, for the Germans will burn the village if they find Jews here. If not, we will immediately inform the Germans”.

Having no choice, we returned to the bunker. My friend Pioro knocked on the Christian Kaleta's door, while I hid in a toilet. He opened the door for him and immediately asked him: “Pioro, do you have money?” He answered that he did. The farmer then immediately allowed him in. Pioro paid him 500 Zloty and told him that Hershel Taubenfeld is here, in the toilet. The farmer than called out loud: “Heniek, come”. He led us to a hayloft, and we thought that we were saved. Two more Jews came the next day. During the course of a few days, ten Jews whom he was hiding gathered together.

Our situation was terrible. We were left without money. We had sold all of our clothing. Miraculously, one of us found his wife on the Aryan side. She worked for a captain of the Polish underground movement. The wife knew that the captain was receiving money from England to support the partisans and those in hiding. Thanks to her, we had a contact with the outside world.

After a month, we were out of money to pay for the bunker. Then Kaleta warned us that he would throw us out if we did not pay him. We told this to Mrs. Goldman when she was visiting us. The next day, she came along with two women from the underground, gave us 5,000 Zloty and told us that each of us would from then on receive 50 Zloty a month. Our joy had no bounds.

However, our joy did not last for long. Six weeks after we established links with the underground, we again saw six Polish policemen in our bunker. “Jews, give money, for we do not want to turn you in”, they shouted, and they beat us murderously. They were close to me. They tore at me and beat me, so that I was wounded on my entire body. Blood flowed from me. Without any option, I took out 1,500 Zloty and gave it to them. However, they demanded a monthly payment of 10,000 Zloty. Having no way out, we told them that we would give them the money.

Afterwards, Kaleta came to us, and ordered us to leave the bunker. We had to obey his orders. We hid ourselves in the attic in order to stay over for a day to avoid the hooligans, who were going to come to take the rest of the money that we had told them about. That is what indeed took place. They came and did not find us in the bunker. They went in to Kaleta and asked him where we are. Of course, he told them that he does not know anything. We heard the entire conversation between them as we were sitting in the attic.

That same evening, we, with the agreement of Kaleta, returned to the bunker. Thanks to the assistance of the underground committee, we were able to hide for six months. However, as fate would have it, due to our difficult conditions with hunger, terror, tribulations and anguish, the wife of our friend Menachem Pioro became ill. We could not summon any doctor, and she died a few days later after terrible suffering. We buried her in the bunker.

That is the way our life continued until the end of the war.

We were liberated by the Russians in January, 1945. We were all broken and ill as we left the bunker. I could not walk. I could barely drag myself along while supporting myself on a cane. We had nowhere to go and nobody to turn to. I went by foot to Warsaw, and from there to Sochaczew.

I found Sochaczew completely destroyed. There was no sign of Jewish life. The area of the ghetto was flattened. Trees were planted, and a garden with benches, where there used to be Jewish houses. Then I went with my friend Menachem Pioro to Lowicz. We found our bakery whole, and we quickly began to work. Later we went to Lodz, and spent a bit of time there before continuing on our way. I went to Israel, and my friend Pioro went to Australia.


TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

  1. 'Fli-Platz' may mean Flight Place – i.e. aircraft factory – but I am not sure. Return
  2. I am not sure how this story fits in with the above description. My guess is that the date here is incorrect. I would think it would be about 1941 by now. Return


{499}

A Letter to the Grundwag's Children

by Yozka Grossman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Your letter arrived and I wish to respond to you. Why? Because this was the request of your father and my friend.

Warsaw looked like an inferno in 1942, during the large blockades. There was no place to hide. There were workshops, and one would give anything in order to be accepted to work for the Germans.

It was a terrible time. The blockades came day in and day out. Children were snatched from parents and parents from children. Everyone was sent to Treblinka. Among them were your beloved mother and sister Esther.

It is very difficult for me to write about this. However, unfortunately I must fulfil my obligation. They went with thousands of people. There was no salvation for them once they arrived at Umschlag Platz (the gathering point for deportation).

We, that is my husband and I, also worked in such a shop. My two children Tolle and Rene were in Wyszogrod. When that day came, we took a chance with their young lives and sent them to Wyszogrod. I cannot write about their departure. My heart was telling me that I was seeing them for the last time. A smuggler came, we bid farewell, and off they went. I did not weep, but I let out a scream.

They could not remain in Warsaw, because this time they were snatching children. There were risks even with their departure. What could I do? The situation was difficult. After much torment, they left for Wyszogrod.

In the meantime, the situation in Warsaw became more and more serious. Thousands of people were sent away every day, and thousands of victims fell every day. They buried people alive, and old people were buried half-shot. The city became a slaughterhouse.

Our turn came – that is, the shop workers. We had good bunkers. The bunkers were under the earth, where there was no light of day. There was no light, no air, no food and no drink. From the outside, all we heard was shooting, shouting, running, and the banking of locks. It was terrible. That is how we lived for days, weeks, months.

Your father also worked in the same shop as I did. When it was calm, he would eat with me at midday. His life was broken. I would say to him, “Nachum, do not be so much in despair. It is lost. But perhaps they live?” To this he had one answer, “I do not have Rivka and Esther. I do not have a life. I am already old and broken. Remember when they will take me to the blockade. You must remember the last thing that I ask of you. Write three letters for me: the first to Yossele in the Land of Israel, the second to Manie in Russia, and the third to Moshe Schwartz in America. You should write about our pain and our tragic life. They should take revenge for their parents, sister, brother and family.” I said to him, “Why do you talk like this? And I will not go? Are we not all going the same way?” He said, “No, I am already old and broken, with swollen feet. You have more possibilities of remaining alive.” He said, “If only I could see my children one more time, and then I would die in peace! It is so hard to remain alone! Where is my wife and my child?”

The heart was bursting from longing. The eyes were not dry. I had no words of comfort for him.

One day later, after a large blockade, my last friend, my last buddy was also snatched away! Nachum, where are you? Everybody was now gone! Lipman, Aharon Kohn, Machla, Mania Knott, and on and on.

My husband and I could not utter a word. Forlorn and alone, we could not control ourselves. I wept for an entire day. Where were those who were close to me? All of them were dragged to the crematoria of Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz.

Suddenly, a letter arrived from my children. “We are travelling in a transport, to where, we do not know. Let us hope that we will see each other again.” Then I knew very well where my children were. Together with my sister, brothers, and all the Jews, they were going to Auschwitz. The way was already very familiar to me. Everyone knew well what was going on the Auschwitz death camp.

I can not write any more, as my heart is bursting. My eyes are dripping blood. I have no more tears.

A few days have passed, and I am writing more. Now, our turn came. Lying in the bunkers, we have heard that Warsaw must become Judenrein, and everyone must leave. Like mice in a lair, we were taken out and taken to the designated Umschlag Platz on Nowolipki. We were surrounded with machine guns on both sides until we reached Umschlag Platz. The entire area was burnt, and we were dragging burnt people with us. They beat, they shot, and they murdered. The air was suffocating. We could not catch our breath. We saw that this was the beginning of our end!

We arrived at the place where thousands of people were waiting for us. I cannot describe the scene. All of Warsaw was ablaze. Every minute, we stumbled upon blackened, burnt corpses. They shot, they murdered, and they took everything that we had. We were living through atrocities. Then they stuffed us into wagons. People died, choked and suffocated. We traveled on and on. To where?

Majdanek, Auschwitz, it drilled through our heads. We regretted that we had not brought along poison like the others. We were jealous of those who had poison with them, and put an end to their lives.

Thus did we travel day and night. It seemed like an eternity. In the wagons, most of the people were already dead. Those alive were almost like dead. With his last strength, my husband said, “Lets persevere, maybe we will survive”. He was speaking with his last strength. Thus did we travel on farther, and then we stopped. Where were we? In Majdanek?

“Move forward!” It was dark in the eyes! A noise rushed through the head as we stumbled on our feet. All around, we saw a black mass of men who were waiting for us with sticks and weapons. We were placed five in a row and told to walk. Beaten, sick, half wounded – we must all walk. Where were we going??? We all together said quietly: to the gas chambers…

Despite the fact that we were all half dead, nobody wanted to die such a terrible death. We moved on and trembled. People who still have their children hid them in their knapsacks during the selection, hoping that they could save their young lives. They lost them, and they were trampled underfoot.

Suddenly and order: stand still! We stood still. They divided us, men to the right and women to the left. My husband and I parted from each other. We already knew where we were going. We were going to where our children and friends had gone. My husband said that he would die calmly. He begged that I hold him, then he went right and I went left. It was a dark night. Even the moon did not shine. They could not see our pain. We went on and on without stopping. People screamed, people wept, until we arrived at the death place, where the men were already waiting for us. Our joy that we met up again with the men was indescribable. We lay down as if on hot coals. We knew that this was our last night. We had so much to say, but we were silent. Waiting for death was terrible! Even more terrible than death – – –

It started to get a bit light. We saw our murderers coming from afar. We were all asked to stand up. They lined us again in 5s, and the tragedy began. They divided us up, men together, women together, and children together. They tore children away from their mothers, they beat and they shot. Mothers sacrificed themselves. Old people were shot immediately on the spot. Younger people who were fit for work were left alive for the time being. The moment of separation was terrible. Thousands of people were searching for one another. We searched for people we knew. I did not take my eyes off my husband. I wanted to see to which category he would be assigned. To life or to death. However, I was not able to notice. Our eyes met. From afar, we expressed to each other the wish that we would see each other again, and then we went our separate ways.

I do not wish to write any more about my life in Auschwitz and Majdanek – about the hell and torture that I endured. Now I know only one thing, that I am in Sochaczew completely alone. No husband and no children. Everything is a bad dream. How terrible is my life. Of my entire family consisting of 36 people, I alone remained alive. Everything that I endured in the camps is nothing compared to today. Today it is worse. Where is my home? My children, my husband. I no longer hear “mother”. The heart breaks. The head aches. My eyes have dried up. My Tolle would have now been 18 and Rene 16. How can one live? I live in the past. The nights are good, as I see my children. My life is completely empty. I am alone and forlorn. What can I hope for? Yes, one thing. I have a sister in America, but I do not have her address. Perhaps I will see her once again. I also have a brother-in-law in Israel, in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. His name is Izak Saposznik from Wyszogrod. If I could get out of Sochaczew, far far away, perhaps my heart would not be so broken. I want to get away from here, so I can perhaps forget. Do for me what you can.


{504}

In the Ghetto

Mordechai Gebirtig

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Straight as steps on a sandy path
From the camps come tired slaves,
Dragging themselves into the ghetto for another day
Our sleepless nights…

The hours drag on, heavier than lead
Minutes full of terror and fear
For the time when the day will already be over,
The night will pass in peace.

One does not sleep at all, one listens and lies awake
Lest something terrible occurs
Upon whom will the lot fall this night
And become a victim…

Thus one lies, and the fear is great
Hearing the creaking of a door
The heart flutters when from hunger a mouse
Nibbles a piece of paper.

A limb withers away as is dragged around outside
Little pieces of paper in the courtyard by the wind
One sighs without any language, as a mute –
With mothers, wives and children.

And thus does one lie, with fear and terror
Driven and persecuted as slaves
And thus drags on our days
And our sleepless nights.


{505}

Numbers – Thousands, Millions

H. Lejwik

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Numbers – thousands, Millions,
All of the ways are filled,
One – and after them columns
Zeroes, zeroes, zeroes, zeroes.

All of the bodies are freezing,
All of the pupils of the eyes pass away,
When a one starts to march
With the long rows of zeroes.

Out with the essence and out with the form,
Out with the fullness of things,
When the zeroes in one row
Span over empty unpaved roads.

Forest – and trees, city – and houses,
Earth – and heavens without gods,
Dead lie in all the groups
On the level pages of numbers.

Also the numbers of the hours
Break out in a dance, in confusion,
Shouting and cracking like the crows
After the march of zeroes, zeroes


{506}

What I Saw and Heard in Sochaczew in 1939

Yitzchak Tilman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I was freed on November 27, 1939 as a Polish captured soldier in the hospital of Rawa Mazowiecka. I traveled through Skierniewice. As soon as I set foot in the station at Sochaczew, I immediately felt the Nazi regime. Seeing myself as a captured soldier and finding myself in the hands of the Germans did not have the same strong impression upon me as seeing myself as a freed soldier. I found Sochaczew in the following situation:

Nothing could be recognized of the ruined houses up to the gymnasium. I saw the first one from afar (because going near was not permitted – Germans were found there). Almost no monuments could be seen in the cemetery. If one saw a stone, it was broken and crushed. Only the burnt, crumbling walls remained of the house of Sara Ajzman. No trace remained of Sara Ajzman's wooden workshop. The same was the situation with the wooden workshop of Deichus Ajzenberg. Germans, may their names be blotted out, lived in the house that was formerly the library. The house of the gentile Zwierzechowski was destroyed. The house where Rabbi Frenkel had lived was demolished. The Yavneh School, the synagogue and the Beis Midrash were all completely crushed. The building that housed the community offices and the areas near the Polish public schools and the castle – all were destroyed. The house in which I had lived was destroyed.

A Polish worker, named Kalski, worked in Taubenfeld's bakery. He drove everybody out and said: “Now is the time to take revenge upon the Jews. You must now pay me rent, and you can work for me as workers.”

I asked about my friends Gutglas, Holcman, and Fursztenberg. I was told that they all went away to Bialystok.

The next morning, I set out to see what was going on in the city in general. None of my friends who remained in the city wished to go with me, because I wore a military uniform. I went out into the street alone. From where I was standing, I heard a shout and the sound of fleeing of the Jews. Suddenly, young Polish lads surrounded me and shouted: “Are you a Jew?”. I answered them, “Yes, I am a Zyd”. They immediately grabbed me and took me to the room of a German S. S. man with a black uniform. He asked me “Are you a Jew?”. I answered “Yes”. “Why have you remained and not fled?” I answered “I am a wounded Polish soldier, and have just been released from the hospital.” The Germans immediately found me a place to sit down and continued to ask me: “Why are you still wearing a military uniform?”. I answered them: “Because I have no other.”

The young Polish anti-Semites immediately began to make noise. They shouted and ordered me to go with them. One motion of the hands and they would beat me. This was my first reception by my Polish brethren for whose fatherland I was willing to spill my blood and give my life.

After that, I went to the magistrate to give a report. As soon as I gave my report to the official Kranc, may his name be blotted out; he opened up his mouth to me with invective. I wished to respond to him but he did not allow me. He shouted out “Shut up Zyd!” Then some Gestapo agents came in and honored me with “Jew dog”. They asked me why I was wearing a military uniform. I showed them my papers and demanded to speak to the mayor. They immediately took me to him. At the mayor's office I met his assistant Prauza who had worked for him before the war. The Jews had to dance “Mah Yafit” [1] before him. He treated me even “better” than the anti-Semite Kranc, with terrible curses. I was happy that he did not arrest me.

At that time, above all, I noticed the destruction of the city. The houses in the area from the building that housed the pharmacy to the house where Moshe Nelson lived, including all of the houses that my father left behind, were smashed to the ground. The houses remained intact only on Trajanower (Stasziczer) Street. Christians lived in all the homes that Jews had lived in. All of the workshops that were not in the way were grabbed up by the Poles. There was a hodge-podge. Jewish children were going around in the street seeking their parents, weeping and lamenting. Parents were looking for their children. On primarily heard screams and weeping from the homes where Jews lived. People were afraid to leave the home. No Jew was seen on the street. Every day brought new attacks. Then I saw the ordinance that every Jew must wear a Star of David on the arm, or else he was no longer allowed to be seen on the streets. I did not wear a Star of David, for I went about in a military uniform.

{Photo page 508: Moshe Szwarc during his visit to the Sochaczew Cemetery in 1949 – standing next to the only standing monument. (From right: Yosef Grundwag, his wife, and Maya.)}

I could not remain sitting at home, and I had to go out to the street. I saw how they captured a Jew and gave him four cigarettes to smoke simultaneously. When he did this, they forced him to put the burning side in his mouth. When the pain from the fire became intolerable, and they threw the cigarettes out, they beat him with deathblows, as if the heavens might open up. They captured a second Jew, smeared his face with some type of grease, and made him run through the street shouting: “Thus did the Jews smear me!” He was then again dealt severe blows. My eyes were dark from shame, and I wanted to dispense with all joy. Thus I spent my time in great suffering during those fourteen days in Sochaczew. I thought about how to save my parents and myself, but I could not come up with anything. Around that time, an acquaintance, Tzvi Goldberg, told me that the entire Gothelf family, consisting of 31 souls, were killed in Warsaw by a bomb that hit the house on Orle Street.

And what happened with the entire family of Chaim Leib Liberman, who were neighbors of Nachum Grundwag? The family was away in Kampinos when the Germans entered the city. One son was in the army, and there they met up with their son. The Germans captured the entire family along with the sons. They took one son, Yehoshua, and ordered him to dig a grave. All of them were ordered to place themselves alive into the grave, and thus they were shot. Yehoshua had to cover them all, and when he finished, they shot him. However, he was only wounded, and he returned to Sochaczew at night.

After hearing such terrible things, I decided to flee to the Russians. I searched for a partner. I suggested it to Bergazen.. He did not wish to do so. Only Lewin, the son of the smith, agreed. We left Warsaw to Malkina. That was the border. From Malkina we went to Bialystok. There I met Nachum Grundwag's brother-in-law, Mendel Frydman and Manya, Mrs. Sender with Mendel Jakubowicz, and the families of Shmuel Holcman and Yosef Grundwag. I heard that many of them had already set off for work, such as: Puter, Tzvi and his wife, Nachum Tilman, Aharon and Leibel Fursztenberg with their wives, and others.

After I was in Bialystok for a few days, I wished to know what was going on in our town where I had left my family. After arriving in town I heard that they had captured the people of mixed background, and had murdered some of that group. I immediately returned to Bialystok, and from there I was sent to the far north. I came to Israel after remaining there for two years.


{510}

From the Last Days of the Warsaw Ghetto

Miriam Flajszman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

April 1943:

I alone remained of my entire family in Sochaczew. My sister Gittel, her husband Wolf Goldman and their children were already deported after the first aktions in 1942. My brother Melech, and my sisters Esther and Rachel with their husbands were deported at the same time.

I hid for a certain time with my sisters Chaya and Golda. When the situation became hopeless and it became murderously clear that the same end awaits all of us sooner or later, we decided to separate. My sisters, who were yellow-blond women with Aryan appearances, went out from the Ghetto to travel to Piotrkow, where they hid with gentiles in the surrounding villages. Unfortunately, no memory remains of them.

There in the Warsaw Ghetto, I met my cousin Shamai Flajszman, Avraham Shalom's son, by chance. He suggested that I should move over to Ostrowska 2, where he lives with his brother Yitzchak in the cellars of a shot out house. Those cellars were connected with the cellars of the ruins, and this would be a safe “hiding place”. I went over to there.

At the night of April 19th, a friend of ours who was a Jewish policeman informed us that the ghetto was besieged by heavy military troops. We went into the bunker with great fear. We were 70 people in total, men, women and a few children. We had electric light and also water there. We obtained air from a pipe that was connected to a tunnel.

For a few days, we had already been trembling in fear about the difficult uprising that was going on around us. We were lying pressed together, afraid of uttering the minutest rustle.

There were a few underworld personalities in our bunker, who had arms. They played the role of our “protectors”. A sharp debate broke out among them over some shady matter, and the defeated one, Yisraelikl, was threatened with revenge.

Outside, we heard the shooting and bomb explosions from quite near. Houses were burning around us. The smelly smoke came in from around us. The air in the bunker was difficult to breathe. The eyes were tearing, the throats were strangling, and we were all choking. At night we opened the secret trap door to get some air. This also let us see what was going on outside. Suddenly, Yisraelikl was snatched out of the bunker. He disappeared. We had a suspicion that he would betray us. During the day we heard a strong explosion, and the lights went out. We were overcome by great terror. We heard Yisraelikl's voice near the trap door: “Here you have the group to be annihilated!” At that moment, the trap door opened and the order was issued: “Out!”. A hand grenade fell into the bunker with a bang. There was a terrible stampede. We crawled out of the bunker with the fear of death. The wounded were dragged out by the Germans with terrible beatings from their guns and whips. Encircled by the armed Germans, we were taken to Umszlagplatz [2]. The entire way was flowing with blood. Dead bodies were wallowing in the streets. People were jumping from the balconies and windows, and smashed themselves on the cobblestones. Thus were we forced along our route of suffering to Umszlagplatz. There we found large masses of Jews surrounded by Ukrainians. It is hard to describe the cruelty of the Ukrainians. They drove us into buildings under the lashes of their whips. There they held us for 24 hours without water. The filth from the toilets overflowed to the floor. We stood in the filth and waited in rows to be loaded onto the cattle cars that were returning from their previous transport.

The next morning, the Gestapo and the Ukrainians began to lead us with murderous blows from the houses to the wagons. People fell and were trampled by the rows behind. Thus were we stuffed onto the wagons. The shouting and weeping of the women and children intermingled with the shooting.

Weakened and half dead, we stood, stuffed body to body. Finally, the train began to move. Among us there were a few doctors who had cyanide capsules. They swallowed them and extricated themselves from their cruel fate. The surrounding people in the wagons looked upon them with jealousy.

A few of us decided to tempt fate by jumping off. My cousin Shamai had a steel file hidden on him. At night, he began to file the bolt of the wagon door. A few other men helped him. The men filed endlessly all day. We waited until late at night, when the guards were napping in their guard cubicle. The finally succeeded in filing through the iron bar, and the door cautiously slid open. Shamai and a few others were the first to jump. After them, I did.

We heard shouts and shots. Obviously, when I jumped out I fell on the railway tracks and bumped myself badly. I do not remember for how long I lay unconscious. When I regained consciousness, I found myself in a thick forest. It was dark, but I felt as if I was completely covered in blood. I remained there for a certain amount of time. I heard the crowing of roosters. That meant that there was a village near me. I stood up with great difficulty and began to walk in the direction of the crowing roosters. I was terribly thirsty, and I wanted to go to the home of a farmer in order to quench my thirst and wash off the blood. I wanted to enter the yard and knock on the door. Then suddenly, a large dog fell upon me and bit me all over. Aroused by the barking of the dogs, a farmer woman came out and drove me away. I found a second cottage not far away. I knocked on the door. A farmer woman opened up the door and let me in. I washed up and rested a little bit. The farmer was away from home. He returned with a gang of shkotzim [3]. He demanded that I leave the house. I went out, and the entire gang went after me.

As we neared the forest, they demanded money from me. I had a few thousand Zloty on me, which I gave to them.

{Photo page 513: Melech Flajszman.}


TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

  1. A Sabbath song. Return
  2. The depot in Warsaw from where the Jews were gathered for deportation to the death camps. Return
  3. A derogatory term for gentiles. Return

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