« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

Chapter Two

Memoirs*

Translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen

Dr. L. Frim

It was the year of destruction – 1939.

On September 8th, 1939, the first bombs were dropped on Przemysl. Fear and panic struck both the Jewish and the non-Jewish population. At that time I was living at 33 Slowackiego St. in the Teich house next to the high-school. My father and my younger sister, Jozefa1, moved in with me from their residence in the dangerous Mickiewicza St. All the coaches and carriages in town began to travel eastward, carrying the belongings of the "fortunate ones." I began to consider whether my family and I should be doing the same. I had only 900 zloty in my possession, and needed 1,000 zloty in order to travel to Stanislawow2. Vehicles were fast becoming a rare commodity. I hesitated until evening time. I tried to reach my brother, Adolf, on the telephone, but he did not answer. Meanwhile, after hearing noises in my house, I realized that a number of the inhabitants had managed to obtain tickets for the last train heading east. Among the happy few was the youngest son of the Teich family. Suddenly someone announced that an order had been issued for any army veterans to leave town immediately and head east. Like most of the Jews, I too decided to walk, and I was accompanied by my wife and fourteen year old son, Karol.

We walked eastward along Mickiewicza St. Behind us raged the flames of the Gans Passage3, which had been damaged by the bombing. We walked mostly in groups. A soldier passing by told us that he had been ordered to wear an army uniform and to march, but had been given no direction. We had to move quickly, as we were sheltered only by the dark. It was not long before people started to complain of exhaustion. I pulled my wife and my tired son along, because I wanted to arrive at a populated place before dawn. We passed Dr. Morgenstern and his son, who were walking with the last of their strength, and as dawn broke we made it to Mosciska.

After a light meal at a hostel, I went to look around. The village was full of Jewish refugees. We went into the office of Dr. Goldberg (Dr. Tauber’s son-in-law). There we met, amongst others, Dr. Gans (from the Passage4) and Dr. Eisner (my childhood friend), who intended to return to Przemysl because he had left his wife there. (We later learned that approximately 80% of the people who left with us, returned to town). Other groups who had arrived in the meantime told us that they had been shot at and bombed on the way. With the help of an acquaintance who lived in Mosciska, I managed to rent a wagon for 200 zloty. The wagon driver was to wait for us until sunset in a pre-arranged spot, where we did indeed meet. We took along with us, at their request, young Braunstein5, the son of the town hall clerk, and the daughter of the dentist, Karsten, and we drove east. Our plan was to reach Horodenka, where my wife’s family lived, and from there to go to the Romanian border. We traveled until Komarno, sheltered by the night, and then kept going east. Only from Tluste did we travel during daylight too. Here we met Dr. Ludwig Grossfeld and Dr. Zygmunt Kupfer, who accompanied us, and in this way we arrived at Tlumacz and from there we barely made it to Horodenka (the police had blocked off the roads leading to Horodenka so that we would not notice the escape of president Moscicki and minister Beck6 with their parties).

My wife’s relatives in Horodenka, Dr. David Cohen and Dr. A. Hassel7, advised us to travel to Strzylczeto the estate of the Goldbergs, Margalit and Rosenbaum, relatives of my wife. We took their advice and after walking briskly for an hour we arrived at the castle.

During the midday hours the Germans bombarded us, and after a while the Polish tanks arrived at the castle

[Page 395]

and sought shelter under the trees in the orchard. The tank forces told us that the Soviet army, which was waiting at the border, was apparently joining forces with the Polish soldiers. (This was after the pact between Russia and Germany had been signed8.) Since the border was only 4 kilometers away and we were extremely tired, we decided to leave the next morning at dawn.

How disappointed we were when at dawn, the Russian tanks prevented us from going any further and demanded that we return. A Russian soldier urged us – myself, my son, Margalit and his wife and a number of other men I did not know – to set off to Horodenka. The soldier confiscated the wagon in which we had been driving aimlessly. When we crossed through Horodenka the people we passed – among them young Eisner – turned their backs to us out of fear that they might know some of these "dangerous people" (who were leaving the Russian occupied territories).

Within a small distance from the town the wagon was stopped and we were ordered to descend.9 In the field where we were stopped there were already groups of Polish officers and policemen who had been disarmed. As the rain poured down, my son and I sadly looked at each other without saying a word. Suddenly we saw my wife running across the barren path towards us. We were happy but also worried, as we understood from her conversation with the Soviet camp officer that she had been permitted to join us, on condition that she remain here and share our fate. Then we were marched back to town, taken into the courthouse building and directed towards the adjacent prison. At the request of my wife, who spoke Ukrainian fluently, the officer allowed us and the Margalit family to remain in the courthouse room, where we spent three days and nights, and Dr. Cohen and Dr. Hassel provided our meals. At midnight of the third night, after being investigated, we were released.

The town of Horodenka was a sorrowful sight. The streets were filled with Russian soldiers leading prisoners, mostly Ukrainians. Jewish refugees walked the streets, aimlessly and with no protection. From among the residents of Przemysl, we met the daughter of Grossman (the coal dealer) and the wife of Dr. Krog. After the High Holy Days, which passed in a most foul and somber mood, I discovered that there was no chance of breaking free from this trap, so I decided to return to Przemysl, particularly in light of the rumors that the town was under Soviet rule.

On the train we learned that the Germans had gone wild in the town for several days, and that before they retreated beyond the San (according to their agreement with the Soviets), they murdered some 300 Jews, among whom were attorney Bethauer, attorney Fenster, the engineer Bleicher, Moshe Grossman (my classmate), and others. These rumors made a terrible impression on us and we therefore terminated our journey at Sambor. Here we stayed with Weiselberg, the uncle of my late sister-in-law. Among the Przemysl refugees we met were Mrs. Bucholter-Pinkas, my father’s landlady. After spending three days in Sambor we calmed down a little and returned to Przemysl. We headed towards our former apartment, which had been occupied by our maid and her sister. They claimed the Soviets had given them the apartment, as they said that I was supposedly one of the Jews who had been murdered by the Germans. My wife obtained an order to reclaim the apartment from the Soviets, but since we feared that we would be assigned an undesirable lodger due to the size of the apartment, we asked a refugee from Zasanie, Mark Tepper, and his family to share the apartment with us. Meanwhile, I had been ordered to report immediately to the office of a Soviet official, who informed me that my office, including all furnishings and equipment, was now state property.

Almost all the Jewish stores in town were open. (The Strangs—father and son—were still there, as were Pamstein, Eisner and his son, Adolf Dromelschlager and others.) The stores were bustling with Soviet soldiers and officers who were buying up everything. Our daily visitors were Dr. Schenker Sawrin, the physician, who had left his family in Pabianice, Dr. Gustaw Taubenschlag, a judge from Lodz, Dr. Rudolf Weinberg and Dr. Kreig from Bircza. We also became friendly with Dr. Jozef Mieses (the chief rabbi of the Polish army).

[Page 396]

My father, who must have realized that I was penniless, asked me to work in his factory, which manufactured glass signs. Although my output was small (sometimes my father would redo my work when I was out), he paid me 10 zloty a day. One day, when I took a commissioned sign to the housing office, a young, short man took the order and paid me for it. His name was Kastner, he was the chief manager of registration at the housing office. He informed me that he had been born in Krakow and had moved to Przemysl after marrying the late Dr. Bethauer’s daughter. As he continued his story, he hinted that he knew me, laughed at my new profession, and proclaimed that he was appointing me as his assistant, because I could speak Ukrainian. From then onwards, he would dictate to me and I would make notes in Ukrainian in the books, and I learned the art of bookkeeping. In the meantime, a senior Soviet officer had taken a liking to Kastner’s apartment and when Kastner would not give up his apartment, he was dismissed from his job and transferred to Lvov. The office manager called me in and appointed me chief bookkeeping manager. I told him that I was not knowledgeable enough about bookkeeping, that I had performed all my work under the guidance of Kastner, and that I could not accept the position. He told me angrily that declining the offer would be considered sabotage. I explained to him the impossibility of fulfilling his demand. He wanted to have at least a partial victory, so he appointed Dr. Weinberg, and a week later, Dr. Blech, as the chief bookkeeper and myself as auditor. There were 21 bookkeepers in the housing management and I had to audit their books and report to the chief bookkeeper. Among the bookkeepers were Dr. Mark, Ignatz Tuchman and others. The office was relocated from Dworskiego St. to the Roman-Catholic cardinal’s palace near the "Zamek."10

It was not long before I too ran into trouble with regards to my apartment. The Tepper family was transferred to a different apartment and was replaced by a Polish worker family of four, and two additional lodgers, forcing my family and myself to crowd into the main room. After many requests I was allowed to leave my apartment and we moved into a separate room in a house at 5 Radylowskiego Street11., near Wladycze. In this house lived Dr. Wolfstahl with his parents and a Jewish family from Zasanie. In the Zasanie quarter, which was under German rule, few Jewish families remained, mostly women, and there were various rumors about their fate. Only a few attorneys in town were recognized and certified to practice law in Przemysl – Dr. Oberhard, Dr. Tenenbaum, Dr. A. Pfeffer and Dr. Drzewicki. Dr. Wolfstahl was in Nizankowice, and Dr. Goldberg in Dobromil. Dr. Morgenstern worked as a bookkeeper at a cooperative. My brother Adolf was employed in a food supply office. My sister, Mrs. Strudler, was an administrator at the cooperative and my younger sister, who had taught at a Polish high-school in Zasanie before the war, taught mathematics at a school on Dworskiego St., where Rimer and Dr. Kreig also taught. All the physicians were authorized to continue practicing, mostly at the policlinic. These were: Dr. Ekiert12, Eisner, Ibrel13 the dentist, Biber the laryngologist, and others. After a while there began to be mass deportations of people who were disliked by the authorities. These people usually got word beforehand from reliable sources, that something bad was about to happen to them, and so they left town secretly. Among them was the attorney Dr. Teich, a Poalei Zion14 leader, who reappeared later as a notary somewhere in eastern Galicia. Salik, the owner of a leather goods store, went to Dobromil. My younger brother (who now lives in Holon) went to Lvov. It was said in town that the attorneys Dr. Eugeniusz Eisner and Henryk Blatt were deported to Russia. Even the local journalist, young Loos, who was at first a supporter of the new regime, was forced to escape. The next cleansing included the former judges and army officers. Among the Jewish judges was Dr. Hornik, and among the Jewish officers was Klausner. The families of the deportees, whose fates are still unknown, were also deported later to Asia. That is how I lost my brother-in-law, Emil Henner, who was deported from Buczacz. His wife—my sister Roza (now in Wroclaw), and his elderly mother (who later lived in Nahariya) were deported to Kazakhstan. Those who remained in Przemysl were given passports. Schenker and Taubenschlag, who were so-called foreigners, were not permitted to remain in the border town and moved to Lvov. This idyllic state continued until the spring of 1941. Then the authorities declared a conscription, from which I was saved by Dr. Schattner (now in Tel Aviv), who was then serving as a physician on the recruitment board.

[Page 397]

On July 21, 1941, we suddenly heard the thunder of cannons and hand grenades in town and for a whole week we hid in the cellars.

I would like to emphasize the serenity and composure of Rabbi Dr. Jozef Mieses, with whom we hid on more than one occasion in the cellars. As we wondered from one shelter to another, we met Strang and his family and my brother Adolf. My father and sister Jozefa hid in the cellar of their house. In the meantime, the Soviet army began to retreat eastwards and one morning we learned that the Germans were already in town. We were aware of the immediate danger for the men and therefore, in accordance with Dr. Diamant’s agreement, I was transferred to the temporary Jewish hospital as a "patient," and was visited twice daily by my wife and son. Other such "patients" were Dr. Oberhard, Dr. Mark and others. Dr. Eisner and Dr. Steinhardt acted as physicians. It soon transpired that it had become dangerous to stay in the hospital, and I therefore left and returned to my apartment.

The Judenrat was organized quickly, and lead by Ignacy Duldig. As far as I can recall, other members were the elderly Mark, Dr. Kronberg, Goldman and others. The first orders required that we wear armbands and hand over our radios and furs.

As German speakers, Jewish people were almost exclusively active in the Przemysl census, which was carried out as ordered. When I finished my job in the Podzamcze quarter, I was summoned to the county office (starostwo), where I was ordered by an unknown officer to organize the administration of confiscated houses, according to the Russian model. I tried to take along Dr. Weinberg as an essential assistant, but I was unsuccessful. Since I feared this was a trap, I declared that I was unwilling to work under the management of a Ukrainian (because I wore the yellow armband), but the German officer replied curtly that he was ordering me to perform the administration. In order to conserve manpower in the accounting division, the officer complied with my proposal that the house managers would fill out the appropriate forms, but demanded that I be responsible for the bookkeeping.

There were 853 houses. I recruited 63 house managers, 15 of whom were Jewish. I determined the rent for the houses and the necessary repairs and made sure the rent was paid in a timely manner to the county office. During the Soviet occupation my office had been in the cardinal’s palace. After the palace was returned to its rightful owners, my office moved to the county offices.

My son, who as a Jew was not permitted to study in school, would visit his grandfather’s workshop daily and learn the painting trade. Rumors were spreading that a Jewish ghetto would soon be established. My sister, Mrs. Strudler, took offensive action and rented an apartment in the Garbarze area, to which my whole family moved. My father continued to maintain his workshop on Mickiewicza St., however he was badly affected by the move to the new apartment.

In January, 1942, my niece ran into my office, shouting "Uncle, grandfather has died!" He was 76 years old, and died in his sleep. His coffin was carried on a farmer’s cart, followed by the members of the family, six in all (only five Jews were permitted to accompany the dead), others sneaked into the cemetery secretly. That day marked the end of one period in the Frim family’s life, and the beginning of another: the ghetto, and the dismissal of myself and the 15 other Jews from our positions.

I managed to find work in a building on Dworskiego St., and my son was occupied as a sign painter in the army offices. Along with me, in the factory, the engineers Gottlieb and Windling and my son-in-law Krener worked.

One day in July, 1942, the Judenrat office informed me that there would be an aktion the next day, and that official stamps had been obtained for my wife and myself from the welfare office manager in the ghetto, and for my son by the artisans’ guild, which was managed by my brother-in-law, Strudler. It is interesting to note that he neglected to provide a stamp for himself, his wife and his daughter, who were therefore forced to live in hiding from then onwards.

[Page 398]

My brother Adolf, who did not know that he also had a stamp, hid in town with his son. My younger sister (who was married to Prof. Rimer in the ghetto) was saved from the deportation because she worked in the ghetto kitchen.

On the deportation day the unfortunate ones were gathered in the square outside the linen factory and were informed of their journey to Biala Podlaska, where they would work under the supervision of the German police.

Gestapo officers roamed the ghetto streets. The atmosphere was morbid. Many committed suicide, including the elder Amster, Stadtler-Kessler, and my brother’s mother-in-law (Mrs. Schwartz). We were afraid to return to our apartments, and hid in the Judenrat chambers. In the basement with us were Dr. Morgenstern, Dr. Silberman, Dr. Halpern and their families. When the sun began to set, someone whispered that there was no one left in the ghetto and that along with the deportees, the Gestapo had left the ghetto too. We returned fearfully to our houses. Among the deportees were Dr. Brenenke with his family, Dr. Weinberg and his wife, Prof. Teich, Dr. Silberman, the elderly Wolfstahls, the Silber sisters (coal merchants), Mrs. Trau and her daughter, and the Bilt15 sisters (from the newspapers). A few days later, the Gestapo summoned the Judenrat head, Duldig, young Rechter (the son of the former cobbler), Dr. Dawid Landau and the engineer Kreisler, and they were all shot. Every day we were lead in groups to our places of work and returned to the ghetto at night. In November, 1942, we heard that all the laborers would be concentrated in the barracks and others would be deported. Without confirming the rumors, my son and I smuggled my wife into a group that was being led into town. We hid there until evening. After work, when the sun had set, we were led into the barracks in the suburb of Przekopana . My sister, Strudler, and her daughter managed to leave Przemysl through Arian owned fields. A Polish woman, the friend of an apprentice of my father, had to come to the ghetto to take my younger sister out. But we later learned that she did not want to abandon the twins whom her husband (Rimer) was taking care of, and she returned to the ghetto. (Everyone, apart from Rimer, was killed at Belzec). When we returned a few days later to the ghetto with the group, I discovered that the Gestapo had returned my wife and some other women to the ghetto. The next day, on the way to work, my son managed to narrowly escape the group and transfer his mother to the factory. We were supposed to meet in Lvov and she managed to make it there. But three weeks later she was denounced as a Jew and killed.

A short while later I was moved from the barracks to the workers’ ghetto. I lived in the kitchen of Mrs. Eisler, who told me that my wife, before my son had taken her out of the ghetto, had lived there too. My son managed several times to escape the barracks and visit me in the ghetto, and return by dawn, an act which risked his life. I worked with Mrs. Kastner (of the Kupido family) sorting the linen of the deportees. One day she did not come to work and a few days later we learned that she had died of typhus. This disease also killed the engineer Gottlieb and Dr. Herschderfer, in February of 1943. My next job was at the library, under the management of Matityahu16 Mieses. I knew him well, I became very friendly with him and I admired him greatly. He became the central figure of that section of the ghetto. Thanks to his personality, his knowledge and his personal charm, he managed to gather around him the Jewish intelligenzia. Even Dr. Morgenstern the skeptic became one of his disciples. I did not work in the library for long, as I was soon transferred to work in the laundry. Other workers there were Dr. Oberhard and his family, Dr. Schattner’s daughters, and Moshe Gottfried’s wife. I soon became ill with typhus too, and my friend, Dr. Eisner the physician, took me to the hospital in the non-workers’ ghetto. I was treated by Dr. Schattner and Dr. Mayer.

After three weeks, when I had only just regained consciousness, Dr. Eisner took me out of the hospital, because there was to be a test in the laundry the following day, to determine whether its employees were qualified. I barely managed to get to the laundry the next morning, leaning on Strudler. But the Lord granted me strength during the moments of crisis. When my name was called I ran briskly past the testers and withstood the test. I must mention that my son, when I was ill,

[Page 399]

risked his life several times during the nights, as he stole into the ghetto from the barracks and brought me sugar, fruit and so forth, which he had been given, I later found out, by Mrs. Schattner.

Again we heard terrifying rumors of future deportations. In the meantime the camp at Przekopana had been dismantled and my son returned to live with me in the kitchen. I had to hide him, so that he would not be transferred to the non-workers’ ghetto. He ate breakfast with me in the ghetto kitchen (which was managed by Zak), and I brought him lunch after coming home from work.

One morning, on our way to the kitchen, we heard a shot. The Gestapo had shot and killed Mrs. Eisler, who lived with us, while she tried to sell something by the fence. Her husband had been killed a few days before, and their eleven-year old son remained with us. One bright day, when I returned home, my son was gone. I learned from a Jewish policeman that he had been taken together with the Przekopana group and lead to the non-worker section of the ghetto. I immediately ran there and saw my desperate son in the group. I explained to the head of the group, an S.S. soldier, that there had been a mistake, because my son had been accepted to work at the locksmith’s. I was relying on Dr. Kronberg, who immediately came out of the workshop and confirmed my words, managing to take him out of the group.

In August, 1943, my brother Adolf appeared, after having hid for six months in the town with his son. I urged him to shave his head (this was the identification of the workers), so that I could get him onto the list of workers, but he refused. We could sense the imminent disaster. On September 1, at midnight, Strudler’s nephew, young Orenstein, who was a policeman in the ghetto, woke us and told us fearfully that something was about to happen. My brother and his son ran to the ghetto gates, but there were guards surrounding the ghetto. By midnight, there were hopeless groups of people walking the streets. Dr. Eisner advised me to go to work. I asked my brother to go to the laundry with me but he refused. He and his son went into the cellar of the laundry building. We heard that the non-workers’ ghetto residents had been deported to Auschwitz. After a sleepless night we were also ordered to board the train carriages, which were locked shut.** We were accompanied by a guard of Estonians in S.S. uniforms. At night, we were taken off the train at the Szebnie station near Jaslo, and given over to Ukrainians in black uniforms. Our path lit by torches, we ran through the woods chased by these murderers, who were screaming "Los!" – the only German word they knew. On the way, we heard a shot. One of the oppressors had shot Mrs. Astel, who no longer had the strength to run with us. We were captured and taken into a camp, where we were searched and even our wedding rings were taken from us. Our coats were taken off, and at dawn we were lead to filthy huts, which were overcrowded and fights broke out over any available space. We could now see who was with us: Matityahu Mieses, Mark (from the flour mills), Dr. Mark with his wife, young Kronberg, and Dr. Oberhard and his family. After many efforts I managed to obtain work at a painting factory run by Mr. Steinlauf from Krakow. There we found the painter Finkel from Przemysl. In the evenings we gathered around Matityahu Misez whenever possible, who always had some news from the press.

After a few weeks a new transport of Jews from Przemysl arrived in Szebnie, including Ignatz Tuchman, his son and Dr. Kries. The latter told us that he and my nephew, who had returned to Przemysl and hid there, and my brother, who had not returned to town, had jumped off the train during the last transport. Dr. Kries himself had also returned to Przemysl, but he was then deported to Szebnie. The tailor, Salzburg, who was brought in this transport, was shot to death a short while after arriving, when he was discovered to have some money in his pockets. The guard who brought this transport took Matityahu Mieses out of Szebnie in order to return him to Przemysl. According to the story told by Dr. Kries, the Gestapo gathered all the people who had been hiding out in bunkers during the September 2 deportation in one house and lit it on fire – they were all killed, including Famstein and his family.

[Page 400]

One day at dawn some 3,100 of us were taken out of the factories to the field, and made to stand in rows. A Gestapo member walked through the rows looking at each person, asked a number of questions and decided: these will remain and these will leave. Some 450 people were taken away, put on trucks, transferred to the nearby woods and shot. Among those were Dr. Oberhard, the painter Meister and Dr. Mark’s wife.

One autumn day we were taken out of the huts into the field at dawn. It was raining and we were slipping in the mud. Around us were Gestapo men and Ukrainians in black uniforms. They aimed their mortars towards us. Our first thought was that our time had come. Many nerve wrecking hours passed. Suddenly a rumor spread among the 3,000 gathered people: 120 artisans would be chosen who were still considered essential. Meanwhile, a table was brought. Behind it sat the S.S. gang holding a pile of papers. Our hearts were pounding, as if with a hammer. Suddenly I heard my name, I left the rows and stood along with the others whose names were called out. When I then heard another strange name, I meant to return to my son, who was holding out his arms. Then his name was called too. We hugged. We were among the survivors. My son asked me to try and save the young Oberhard girls and their mother. I wrote their names on a note and gave it to one of the Jewish ordnungsdienst and asked him to deliver it to the people sitting behind the desk. The next day, the policeman told me that this errand almost cost him his life.

It was a terrible night, after only 120 of us were left in the abandoned huts. We walked through the huts as though we were shadows. The next day we returned to the workshop and started the painting work. Someone told us that the carriages had returned from Auschwitz with the clothes of the deportees. There were 14 of us working as painters in the factory. One day a German Jew from the camp administration came into the factory and announced that a certain camp had asked for a number of workers, among them 4 painters, and that my son and I had been chosen. We were led along with some other people, including Lieber, to Pustkow17, near Debica. There we were kept far away from the "locals," who looked liked ghosts, because we had not been disinfected. At night we were locked in the bathing room, without being able to lie down. The next day we had to run some 8 kilometers to the disinfection station. On the way we were severely beaten, and one of the boys who could not withstand the beating died.

We were taken into the camp, where we met Hirschorn, a former apprentice of my late father. He was serving as the head painter in the camp. There were 400 people living here, only Jews, and they all worked for the army. The Kapo18 was a young man from Vienna, Poldi Waldhorn, and his deputy was Strauber from Przemysl, who claimed that shortly before the war broke out he had learned how to paint in my father’s workshop, because he planned to immigrate to Israel. He tried to introduce some social life into the camp, and even managed twice to secretly organize a Jewish theater performance in a closed off hut. We lived in this camp for nine months. One night, Strauber called me to discuss planning an escape or resistance, as there was information that the front was nearing and that they were going to liquidate the camp and execute us. But the very next day the Gestapo marched us to the train station. Among us were Hirschorn, Lieber, Dr. Zalanfreund and Dr. Scheingott19, a physician from Wadowice. One-hundred of us were put into one cargo carriage which was opened only once a day, under heavy guard. It was during July and the conditions inside were hellish, unbearably stifling. We took off all our clothes, and were unable to eat even a crust of bread. For two days and nights we were transported, and on the second night the train stopped. When we screamed to have the doors opened, the Gestapo man answered softly and indifferently: in a few moments you will see what we will do with you. We realized that we were in Auschwitz, and with our last strength we yelled "massanmardar". My son lay unconscious. The factory manager in Pustkow,20 who had accompanied the transport, had meanwhile persuaded the Auschwitz people that this was a transport of specially qualified artisans. An S.S. officer appeared and interrogated each one of us. I announced that I was a skilled painter and that my son was a specialized and exceptional assistant. We were taken aside, and a little hope glimmered in us. In the dark we could see that there were another few men among the chosen ones, including Hirschorn. We waited fearfully in a large hall, fearing this was a trap.

[Page 401]

In the morning we were dressed and divided among the huts, in which resided groups of Jews from France and Greece, who had been waiting without food for two days, and asked us for bread. We saw the smoking chimneys around us and forgot our hunger. We were there for two days. On the third day they tattooed numbers on our arms and lead us to different camps. Hirschorn and I were transferred to Gliwice. As head painter, I was order to decorate the walls of the camp’s spacious dining hall. I suggested using the four seasons as a theme, and my idea was accepted. My son and Dembicer from Ropczyce were appointed as my assistants. We worked for three weeks. Once a Gestapo man looked at our work and asked me who my assistant was. When he heard that it was my son, he started to shout: "this is not a sanitarium!" and immediately ordered that he be taken away. I ran to the camp commander, who admired me for my beautiful work. He assured me that he would send my son to do painting work in the town. When the painting in the dining room was finished I worked in the cellar, underneath the hut, drawing signs and painting pictures for the camp commander and his assistants. I was forced to work until 11 at night.

American planes began to circle over our heads frequently. Each time this occurred, we were locked in the cellars. We felt that the Germans’ bitter end might be approaching. We hoped that salvation would come soon. On January 19, 1945, at dawn, we were each given a loaf of bread and informed that we should prepare for a long journey on foot. We passed Gliwice and at night, after the marching had stopped, we discovered that two loafs of bread had been stolen from us, our only food. Fortunately, we arrived at a camp a short while afterwards. There we were given some "soup." The next day we were taken in an unknown direction. We walked day and night. Tired and weary, we reached a camp in Blechhammer21. Here too, we were given soup, and after spending a night in terribly crowded conditions with the "locals," we went outside to take stock of the conditions. We were in a camp surrounded by a high wall with guarded turrets. Prisoners from other camps, skeletons dressed in rags, were streaming into the camps, and there was chaos everywhere. Shots echoed from the turrets. One of the camp residents told us that our commander, Oberscharfuehrer Spiker, had chosen his fifty favorite men in order to take them out of this hell, and he was looking for 59 strong men to be porters. I had a feeling that all the prisoners would be executed before the Russian army arrived. I felt an instinctive motivation to act. Although the commander doubted our ability to withstand the hard work, he allowed us to join the group of porters. We were ordered to carry the carts bearing the property of our oppressors. Frozen and hungry, we walked for three weeks and pushed the carts with the remainder of our strength. In this way we passed by the towns of Nysa, Frankenstein22 and Legnica and arrived in Saxony. At nights we were kept under heavy guard, and only seldom were we given any cooked food – a few potatoes, "soup," or "coffee." Only once, when we passed by a castle, did we find a place to lie and were given real soup. Our strength was waning from day to day. Those who could no longer walk were shot mercilessly and their bodies were thrown into ditches at the side of the road. Many times, my son carried me and whispered to me: be careful, they are watching you.

At the end of January, 1945, we reached the camp at Gross-Rosen23 in Saxony. We spent a night in roofless shacks, the floor covered with cold mud. The next day, after a meager meal, we were placed in open platform coaches. Some of us had to stand, and in that way we traveled for four days, with no food or sleep. We quenched our thirst by eating snow off each other’s clothes. Our destination was Buchenwald.

After we were taken off the coaches, it transpired that many people had frozen and remained on the platforms. We were kept at the gates of the camp for a whole night. Even afterwards, we were forced to spend five whole days and nights out in the open, as we had to be disinfected. Finally we were put in a shack occupied by skeletal people who had somehow managed to stay alive. We barely found any room on the "third floor" of the "beds" of planks, and we had to fight our neighbors for space. At night my son told me that our acquaintance, young Tuchman, was advising us to leave this camp, as we faced certain death there. We were to try and join the groups being sent to work.

[Page 402]

But unfortunately, my son and I were declared unfit for labor. From then on, we lay in the shack with the others. Once in a while we were taken into the yard, despite the freezing cold. Every day at three, we had to line up in the snow, frozen and exhausted, until six, when an S.S. man would sort us and distribute ration coupons for the next day’s lunch. Apart from that, we lay motionless on the planks of wood. My son began to complain of pains in his chest, and at my request he was given a physician’s exemption from the lineups. Once, when I returned to the shack, he assured me that he was only complaining to get out of the lineups. Unfortunately for us, this was not the truth.

He started burning up with a fever and was transferred to the handicapped hut. Later, according to the doctor’s orders (a Jewish doctor from Greece), he was lead to the Revier.24 We exchanged a final glance. Every day for three days I asked the orderly (a POW from Poland) how my son was. Any affirmative answer would breathe life into me.

It was the end of February, 1945. Five days after my son was taken to the Revier to be cured, I heard the terrible news of his death. With my last remaining strength, I crawled to my spot on the floor. I fell to my "bed," I did not hear my neighbors cursing me for disturbing them. For seven nights after that I crawled outside the shack on all four. And there, in the dead of night, I cried out loud as I recited the kaddish25. Three weeks went by as if in hallucinations, and only occasionally did I regain my awareness and begin to feel strong pains in my legs. Fearfully, I noticed that my toes were jutting out at the bone in both feet. This was the result of walking for three weeks in the snow. The neighbors told the doctor, who detected early signs of gangrene. The next day I left my bed to see the "surgeon." Two young Polish men stood by the operating table. One of them asked me some questions and then remarked to the other: it is a waste of work, he won’t withstand the operation, and in any case his days are numbered. At my request, he bandaged my feet all the way to my knees, where the black marks ended. A week later, when the bandages were removed, it turned out that the black marks had disappeared and I had regained some feeling in my feet. A week later, the "head doctor," who was a Czech, came and advised the Jews in the shack to hide where they could not be found for the next few days, because something was about to happen.

On April 11, 1945, redemption came. We heard shots coming from the outside. Some young men from the disinfection service carried an American tank driver on their shoulders and lead him into the shack. There was shouting, noise and confusion everywhere. Some patients looked vacantly around them, as they leaned on sticks. But the bodies collapsing on the floor proved that this was "redemption" from eternal torture. Twenty-four hours later, the radio broadcast the news of President Roosevelt’s death. I felt that I would pass out. Leaning on the boards, I looked around and contemplated what was happening. Whoever was capable of walking, left the shack. At one point, the Americans brought a procession of Germans, mostly women and youths, and told them to look at what their fathers, brothers and husbands had done to us. Afraid, they turned their heads and swore, in their hypocrisy, that they did not know anything about what was going on. After a week I was declared fit for transportation, and I was transferred to the hospital building, a few yards away.

In the hall, there were 20 beds. Patients of all nationalities lay in them. The physician in attendance, the same S.S. man from before, suddenly announced that he was a Jew named Orlowski. After a while, an epidemic of typhus broke out in the hospital. I approached the doctor and told him that I was no longer receiving treatment, that I felt able to leave the hospital and that there was no point in my remaining there. I left the building on my own accord. The fresh air stunned me. It was the month of May. From passersby, I learned that aid committees had been organized in the camp, according to nationality, and that everyone had been housed in shacks according to their national origin. I managed to be appointed registrar of the block in which I resided, and I recorded all the newcomers. Everyone told me that their goal was to reach Israel, and even promised to take me with them.

[Page 403]

The Polish committee issued documents to all those from Poland, and I too was given an identity card signed by an American captain, the camp commander. (The Jewish committee handled the registration of the Jewish survivors from all countries).

In the camp office I found a list stating that my son had died on March 4, 1945, of pneumonia. I went to the crematorium and demanded the documents, and the only clerk on duty told me that if my son had died at the beginning of March, he had not been cremated, due to a shortage of gas, but had been buried in a communal grave. I drew a pattern of a gravestone and I went to Weimar together with my friend Gretenkraut26, whose son had also died. There we ordered gravestones. With the stones on our backs, we arrived at Bismarck-Turm and there, on one of the graves – and in my heart I felt that this was where my son was buried – I erected the stone with the engraving. This was the last grace I bestowed on my son.

After an examination, I was hospitalized again. I wanted to go out into the world, but I was bed-ridden again. I was overcome with sadness when I saw everyone dispersing to all corners of the land. At the end of June, 1945, someone announced that the Russians were about to enter Buchenwald, and that the last ambulance would be leaving the camp shortly. I sat up and in my striped clothes I ran to the ambulance. Dr. Orbach, who was in charge of the camp, ordered that space be made for me in the ambulance. I arrived at Wiesbaden, where I was admitted to the hospital. The diagnosis was furunculosis. I was given my own bed. This was the first time I lay on a bed as a free man.

[photo of a monument in memory of the ghetto victims]

 

Przemysl Today

Dr. M. Schattner

[according to the Table of Contents, this section was written by Dr. M. Schattner. No information as to authorship appears in the text.]

A Przemysl Jew who walks through the streets of Przemysl today, immediately senses the lack of Jewish identity in the town. In all the main streets, where ninety percent of the stores were always Jewish, you will not find a single Jewish store now. All the streets of the town—which once were bustling and lively—now seem to slumber. The large town seems like a small, remote village. There are a few Jews, altogether approximately one-hundred, of whom only 10 families—some 20 people—are from Przemysl itself, and the rest are Jews from the surrounding areas such as Bircza, Mosciska, Dynow and so forth.

Most of the Jews work as government clerks and cooperative laborers. There is no Jewish factory, no Jewish artisans, only one Jewish barber – Neubort. There are a few physicians – Dr. Susswein (who died in 1963), Dr. Zon27 (Soncki), Dr. Blech, a few lawyers – Dr. Turski-Teitelbaum, Dr. Hauft and his wife Dr. Halpern.

There is no cultural life. There is a branch of the Jewish cultural committee in Poland, lead by Mr. Jakub Wilner, however its only activities are to hold parties in honor of a national holiday or on the anniversary of the Przemysl ghetto. There is also a religious committee, with no leadership and no signs of activity.

All the houses which once belonged to the "community" have been nationalized. The Scheinbach synagogue has been converted to a textile warehouse28. The synagogue in Zasanie has been converted to a garage and the Great Synagogue and the Temple are no longer in existence.

The cemetery is completely neglected, there are only a few gravestones taken care of by relatives who are still alive.

The remaining population of Przemysl is waning. Those who remain have no wish to emigrate, either to Israel or to any other country. They have made up their minds to live out their lives in Przemysl.

Those who pass by the place where the ghetto used to be, will see a strange scene. Almost all the houses, which were all owned by Jews, have seemingly sunk into the ground and crumbled away, unobserved. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that fact that every night, the goyim came and looked for hidden treasures. But the survivors all see it as a sign of the curse that lay on the entire area.


Footnotes

*   Translated from the Polish by Joseph Altbauer Back
**  Only a few remained behind, including Strudler, Eisner, Kronberg and Dr. Schattner with his family. Back
Editor's and Translator's notes
1.   Pronounced: "yoozefa" (ed). Back
2.   Presently Ivano-Frankivsk (ed). Back
3.   In Polish: Pasaz Gansa (ed). Back
4.   Most probably, owner of the passage (ed.). Back
5.   Or Bronstein (ed). Back
6.   Jozef Beck was responsible for foreign affairs. This is a reference to the fact that, after the German and Soviet attack on Poland in September, 1939, some members of the Polish government, including President Ignacy Moscicki, escaped from Poland to Romania (ed). Back
7.   Or Hessel, Hesel (ed). Back
8.  This is a reference to the Ribentropp-Molotov Pact, signed in August, 1939 (ed). Back
9.  The original text is somewhat confusing with regards to the order of the events concerning the wagon (tr.). Back
10.  The castle in Przemysl (ed). Back
11.   ul. Biskupa Antoniego Radylowskiego no longer exists on the map of Przemysl. Thanks to Jack Fields for clarifying this (ed). Back
12.   Or Ekert (ed). Back
13.   Or Eibrel, Abrel (ed). Back
14.   An organization promoting Zionism and Socialism, established in the late 19th century (tr.). Back
15.   Or Billet (ed). Back
16.   Mateusz in Polish (ed). Back
17.   In the original, the name of this town is written as if it could have been Pustkowie ("pe, vav, samekh, tet, kof, vav, bet, yod, hey"). However, Pustkow is the only town near Debica that resembles this spelling. The ending -owie may have been added as a Polish influence. Polish is an inflected language and the name of the town would have been declined grammatically as Pustkowie in this case.

I have received the following information about the Pustkow camp from Jack Fields:

"I was together with Dr. Frim and his son in the following camps: Pustkow, Auschwitz, Gleiwitz III and Blechhamer. Dr. Frim's son and I have gone to the same school in Przemysl and his son was my friend.

In the first half of 1940, the Nazis have started to build training camps for SS in the Debica region. The camp leaders have arranged for a number of German building firms to start the work there. In the beginning, they employed free workers. In Autumn the same year near the railway station of Kochanowka they started a Jewish camp. Jews from Debica and Tarnow worked there as free workers and in the days free from work they visited their homes.

The Polish name for the camp was Pustkow.(apostrophe over the letter o) The German name for the camp was "Heidelager".

In 1941 this camp became a forced labour camp. The condition have worsened. The SS started beatings and shooting. A lot have died because of illness and lack of food. The numbers have been filled with new transports of Jews from Debica, Jaslo, Krakow,Rzeszow, Mielce, Wieliczka and Zywiec...7000 Jews have gone through that camp.

On 16 September 1942, the Jews were sent to Belzec for gassing, some were shot in the forest nearby and 446 tradespeople were left behind and transported to another camp about one mile away.

One thousand Polish people have arrived. The camp was divided into 3 parts. In the biggest camp, there were the Poles. They had 10 prefabricated tin barracks and there were 300 Poles in each barrack. The next was the Jewish camp which had 2 barracks and the next was the tradesman camp where the Jews were working during the daylight hours. The conditions have improved slightly.

In the camp there was a "bunker" punishment structure. Inside there were cells about half a square meter big. There was no ceiling, just a tin cover. It was cold there and rain and snow entered through the gaps. There was barely any food there In the cell, it was only possible to stand. The people were often tortured and murdered there. In charge of the bunker was sharffuhrer Ernst Harke a former coalminer and specialising in hanging people.

The rapportfuhrer of the Polish camp was Karl Czapla, the prewar editor of the "Kattowitzer Zeitund"(the newspaper of the Polish city of Katowice}.

The commander of the Jewish camp was Sharffuhrer Rouf."


Also see http://www.jewishgen.org/ForgottenCamps/PustEng.html for more information about the Pustkow camp (ed). Back

18.   A concentration camp prisoner chosen by the SS to head a work gang made up of other prisoners. Back
19.   Or Scheingutt (ed). Back
20.   According to Jack Fields, this refers to the commandant of the Jewish camp in Pustkow, Sharffuhrer Rouf. Back
21.   Presently Blachownia Slaska in Poland. For more information about this camp see "http://www.jewishgen.org/ForgottenCamps/BlechhammerEng.html" (ed.). Back
22.   Presently Zabkowice Slaskie in Poland (ed). Back
23.   Presently Rogoznica in Poland. For more information see Simon Wiesenthal Center website at "http://motlc.wiesenthal.org/text/x09/xm0932.html" (ed). Back
24.   Military infirmary (tr.). Back
25.   The Jewish mourning prayer, recited every evening during the seven days of mourning (shiva). (tr.) Back
26.   Or Gartenkraut (ed). Back
27.   Or Sohn (ed). Back
28.   Now a public library. See the Przemysl ShtetLinks website http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetLinks/przemysl/photos.htm for a contemporary photo of this building (ed) Back
« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Przemysl, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Mike Kalt

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 30 Dec 2007 by LA