« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 197]

Destruction

 

The Destruction of Serock

by Moishe Gudes/Godes (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Pamela Russ

I arrived in Serock on Monday, 22 Kislev (Hebrew month), December 4, 1939, one day before the expulsion, and heard that in Nazielsk they had expelled the Jews that day. My brother Yankel was in Nazielsk for business and was expelled with the other Nazielsk people.

I was with my ailing father, Reb Yitzkhok Hersh, and my sister Khaitche Jonisz-Gudes that night. They started banging at the door at dawn. We already knew that they would force us to leave. My mother and my sister then took some clothing with them, and I took from my sister-in-law Yokheved a sack with bed linen and clothing. When we opened the door, the Germans came in and ordered us to go to the marketplace. When we said that we couldn't leave our sick father, they said that he would follow after us. We approached our father and kissed him good-bye. He could already hardly speak, but he said to us: “How can you leave me alone?” The Germans were standing by, but because of their orders we had to leave.

When we arrived in the marketplace, there was already a big crowd. Soon there was an order from the SS men that anyone with a horse and wagon should go home and hitch up their wagons to gather up the sick ones with their bed linens. I suffered terribly for having left my father alone, so I said that I had a horse and wagon. I went back home alone to see what was going on with my father. As I approached the house, two SS men came over to me, and one pointed his gun at me, ready to shoot. The second one stopped him. I had to go back to the marketplace without ever seeing my father again.

There was a young man in town, the son of Efraim Sendler, the melamed (teacher). While standing in the marketplace, two SS men went over to him with revolvers, put them to his head to shoot, and then began to laugh uproariously. They kept the revolvers at his head for a few minutes. The young man …

[Page 198]

… was sobbing and looked to the side. After that, they left him alone.

When it was daylight, the marches began. Five in a row, we left Serock. The train was a very long one, and behind us were wagons carrying the sick: Mendel Markewicz the butcher, Rokhel Zlals, Faige Wenger, and others.

Yisroel Iser Hiler, a cloth merchant from Serock, who was held up several times before in order to squeeze money from him, was released at the time of these marches and he came bareheaded with us, directly out of prison and straight into the rows.

The German people warned us that whoever would be found having some money on him would be shot. The Jews were terrified and emptied their pockets, giving everything away.

All the elderly who stopped and didn't have the energy to continue on, were beaten to death. That's how the older teacher, Yitzkhok Blakhman, was beaten, wanting to see my father on the way and staying behind as one of the last. With all my energy, I pulled him deeper among us in the crowd, until we were lucky to seat him on a wagon. When we arrived in Nazielsk, it was already evening. They chased us with beatings to the Nazielsk shul.

In front of the shul, there were two rows of SS men and Volksdeutchen[1] and they were beating people over their heads. The entrance to the Nazielsk shul had several steps to go down. People didn't notice these steps out of fear, and one person fell on top of the other.

The horses and wagons and all the belongings were very quickly confiscated in Nazielsk. I did not remove my brother's sack with his linen from my back, even as we entered the shul. That's how I saved his bed linen.

There were many Jews among us from Pultusk, Popowa, Zator, Zegzhe, etc. When we entered the shul, we saw a swastika on the place of the Holy Ark (place where Torah scrolls are kept). Everything else had been removed from the shul.

Soon, the SS men came into the shul. We didn't know for what reason, and everyone pushed himself closer to the wall out of fear. In the end, they…

[Page 199]

… took ten men out to work. Among them were Laybish Shmerl Winogard, the kvass maker [kvass is a common fermented drink used in Russia, non-alcoholic and beer-like] (Mendel Hiler's uncle), and Yeshayohu Bobek (a cousin to Yehoshua Dovid Bobek). The work entailed digging a large ditch not far from the shul. They had to take down all the sick people from the wagons and lay them out in rows in the ditches.

Yeshayohu Bobek (the shoemaker) heard talking between my sick father and Mendel Markewicz.

Mendel the butcher said to my father that he was cold. My father answered him that soon we will all be warm…. That means he understood that they were going to be shot. Furthermore, I was told that Mendel the butcher cursed and swore at the Germans, and assured them that they would have an ugly ending.

The shooters were young non-Jews boys (shkotzim derogatory term) from the “lakhe” (A German neighborhood near Serock), and were under the command of an SS man.

They told these ten Jews to turn around during the shooting. After the shooting, they were ordered to throw in the dead and then say kaddish (prayer for the dead). They were then ordered to go into the shul where they told everyone what had happened.

This took place on the 24th of Kislev at night in the shul.

They rarely let anyone out to take care of personal needs, and so, not being able to help themselves, people relieved themselves in the shul. The following day, at daybreak, they chased us out with sticks and beatings for four kilometers to the train. They kept back many people to clean the shul. They were ordered to use their nails to quickly clean the walls and floors, all the while being beaten. Among these who were held back was my cousin Shloime Zalkes. Afterwards, he told us everything. After all that, they had to run four kilometers to catch up to the crowd.

The border guards from the General Government[2] were already standing at the train. Serock and Nazielsk were now joined under the German Reich and the Jews were under a protectorate. The murderers performed the most sadistic acts against the Jews. They told the Rav's son, Shlomo Morgernstern, to put on his tefilin, and Yakov Leviner, to roll in the mud outside in the cold. He wanted to remove his outer clothing…

[Page 200]

… so that later he could put back on his dry clothing, but they didn't let him do that. The one who was tortured paid dearly with his health and with great humiliation. So, he didn't live long after that.

In Nazielsk, while waiting for the train, the border guard searched everyone's packages and took many things away, and then beat the people over their heads, chasing them to the wagons. I, looking through my things, received a beating over my head with a stick. The train was locked. We had no idea where they were taking us. Three days and three nights we went from station to station. For that time of three days, we were without water. The little children's terrible cries for water and bread went directly up to God. They tried to save those children who were breastfed by spitting into the babies' mouths. In many places, the Polish people would try to bring us water for money, but the Germans didn't let them through. In one station, at night, we heard the wagons opening and then we heard shooting. It was dark and airplanes were roaring. After opening the wagons, they chased us into the open without escort to Biale-Podlaska. The Jews from Biale-Podlaska really deserve praise. Almost the entire town came out and brought us whatever we needed. The poor man brought water. In a short time, the Jews were satisfied and had their thirst quenched by the Jews from Biale-Podlaska.

Everyone took families home with them as many as they could. As for me, a certain religious Jew, Yakov Kano, set me up with him. I told him that I also had a mother and sister, so he took them in as well.

Since I was in Biale-Podlaksa for two weeks, I saw the lot of the Serock Jews. Very quickly, a kitchen was organized by Menakhem Kronenberg and Yakov Dovid Wolman at the head, and whoever wasn't embarrassed would go there and have a meal.

Many Serock youths crossed over the Vistula River into Brisk on the Bug River, many through other means. Some died in Biale-Podlaska; some I among these went to Warsaw through Miedzyrzecz.

[Page 201]

There were two trains from the Nazielsk train station: one to Biale-Podlaska and another to Lukow.

 

The Warsaw Ghetto

My in-laws crossed over with their button factory from Neustadt to Warsaw and worked with thread buttons. At that time, when I went to my father, may he rest in peace, in Serock, they took away my factory in Nowidwor. Because of the denunciation, my wife had to give the motor that I had hidden to the Germans within one day. Since I had nothing to do in Nowidwor, she left to her parents in Warsaw.

When I returned from Biale-Podlaska, my blood turned foul from fear. I lay sick at my in-laws' house on Karmelizka 8 for a few months, and couldn't do any work. After that, I went to work with thread buttons.

When there was discussion about a ghetto, they started to bring food products into Warsaw, and whoever had the good sense, strength, and money, prepared enough food for himself. I myself prepared three kilo potatoes, one kilo carrots, and a small grinder to grind barley cereal that was cooked together with the potatoes.

While the Germans locked up the ghetto, they looked for ways to close off any means of entering or leaving. Had they not forcefully chased the Jews out of the ghetto maybe we would have found some sort of solution about getting food that was smuggled in from the Polish side to the Jewish side. Kozhe Street was Jewish on one side and Polish on the other. The Germans closed the windows on the other side so that food wouldn't pass to the Jews. Nonetheless, food for the entire Jewish Warsaw passed through on wheels. Jewish carriers worked hard at this, risking their lives.

Each day, life in the ghetto became worse. People died in the streets from hunger. The Khevra Kadisha (Burial Society) had to take ten bodies at a time in their wagon. In every house, each day, you could find someone dead from starvation.

[Page 202]

Very soon, there was an epidemic of typhus and other diseases.

After each time that a yard with typhus was cleaned, there were still another two weeks after that where the people would be forced to the baths. Many died of starvation in those times. After that, they started to snatch young people for work, from which they didn't come back.

 

In the Neustadt Ghetto

I myself changed my pass to make my age older, but when I saw that they are also taking older people, I began to hide. When I saw that the Jewish police came with their list at night to take Jews, I hid in the self-built bread oven. Many times I would go on the fourth level (floor) and hide there under the boards of an attic.

When I saw that I could no longer stay in the Warsaw ghetto, I left for Neustadt.

On Mjodowa Street, there were three guards. On the Jewish side, there were Jews, and on the Polish side, there were Poles and also a German. The Jewish policeman took five Marks and divided them among the three, and I went through just showing a piece of paper.

As I came to the Polish side wearing a long winter overcoat and carrying a bundle, soon two street boys on Mjodowa Street came to me and said point blank, without any pity, that soon I would be snatched up because I am dressed in a long coat and am carrying a bundle. They offered to take me over to Praga. I presented them with a price (5 zlotys) and they took us in and we went to Praga. Under a bridge, they robbed me of everything, even my talis and tefillin, and threatened that if I would say even one word, they would take me right to the Germans. They searched me and took away all my money, and so I was able to say “…with my staff alone I crossed this Jordan….”[3] When I came to Pelcowizne, there were German guards, but they were preoccupied with a big smuggling deal going on with a Polish man, so we passed through peacefully to Legionowa.

We spent Shabbos in the Legionowa ghetto. I went to pray…

[Page 203]

… in a home and there I met many Serock Jews: Henokh Paskowicz with his children and grandchildren, Pesakh Kanjer, and others. I ate at Faivel Hiler's place.

On Saturday night, after Shabbos, I joined a smuggler's group to go to Neustadt. I sold my last shirt and for that money I received one kilogram of bread that I and my wife ate on our way to Neustadt. We passed through forests en route, until we arrived at the Narew River. There, there was a border between the Reich and the General Government. Through signals with flashlights, the non-Jewish smugglers helped us cross in a small boat and took five Marks per head. At dawn, we entered the forest of Nazielsk. There, the head of the smuggler's group left us, and we made our way through the forest on our own until we reached the edge of Neustadt.

Behind the town, there were 100 young men working, that the Judenaltester (representative of the Jews, responsible for the Jewish prisoners) had to put up for work. The work consisted of taking out of the fields the huge rocks that interfered with the ploughing. We had to carry the heavy, huge rocks to one place and make meter-sized rocks to sell and to send over to the train. The German mayor took away all the money that was earned. The mayor was from Silesia, spoke Polish and German, and was a fiery anti-Semite. He did not move without his rubber truncheon. After work, the Jews would “organize” whatever was possible trade something or buy something from the non-Jews and bring it into town to eat.

I joined up with these Jews and then after work went back with them to the town. The same way, I went with them to work, because I wanted to do some sort of business and make some money. Local Polish non-Jews kept guard over us.

Many times it happened that the mayor met us after we left work and searched us, but his attendant and escort was a Polish boy who was paid very well by the Jewish community. When the mayor told him to harness the horses, he did that for as long as it took him to warn the Jews not to take anything back on this trip.

[Page 204]

With time, the boys didn't want to let us get off from work anymore. Because of that, we couldn't do any more business on the way to work. I decided to go into the villages myself to do business there.

At 12 o'clock at night, I crawled through the fence that surrounded the ghetto, and I found myself on the Polish side. My wife, who escorted me until the Polish side, for sure could not sleep that night. Coming into the pharmacist's house on the Polish side, I looked around to see if I could see anyone, and then entered the churchyard.

Once, while crossing over onto the Polish side, they found me and shone a lamp right onto me, then started to chase me. I went to the organist's house in the court, and hid in a pile of chopped wood. I stayed there for a few hours listening to hear if anyone was walking around. When I saw that it was daylight and that if I was caught they would grab me for work on the Polish side, I decided to go further. I went on all fours, and went out of the court that way. I approached the fence of the church and in that manner, lying flat down, crawled quite a distance. Suddenly, someone jumped me. I thought I was now lost for sure…. This turned out to be a Polish guard from the ghetto. I gave him something and also told him that I would be back the next day.

Through paths of cornfields, I walked for eight kilometers. As I was going through a forest, I lay down to sleep. This was my first restful sleep without any fear. Then I continued on until I came to a village. There I sold suits of clothing, plush blankets and tablecloths, and received eggs and chickens for them. I didn't go around in the village the entire day, but I stayed in a stable and slept there. When I learned that SS men were in the village, I went into a bathroom.

In the evening, when things calmed down in the village, I went out again to do business. It was dark when I was on my way home, and you couldn't see anyone in front of your eyes. I followed a star. Once, when there were no stars, I used my memory, and because of a crossroad in the path, I ended up in an unfamiliar village. In that area, there were many villages of German people.

[Page 205]

The only thing that is left for me to do is open a door somewhere and go into the home of a German person. So, without any other option, when it was already daylight, I decided to go ahead and go in. I opened a random door, and to my great fortune, I met familiar non-Jews. I apologized, said that I had gotten lost, and soon left with the intention of going home.

Once, it happened that I met a person at night that was standing at a distance and not moving. It was very dark and I remained fixed to my spot. Seems that the person thought that I was an SS man, and I was thinking the same of him. But after standing there for ten minutes, the man disappeared.

Once (this was before Pesach of 1941), I went to a village and was carrying a suit of clothing to sell, and a raincoat, a piece of material, and a plush blanket wrapped around myself. When I arrived in one house, I presented the things to sell. There was a Jewish boy who joined me, Plutnik from Neustadt, and together we bought 150 eggs. At a distance, a German property manager noticed us and started to shout: “Halt!” He was about 200 meters away from us. My friend said to me: “Let's run away.” I said we shouldn't because the German certainly was armed and in this field there was no protection for us. We started to run and hid the 150 eggs in the yard. The evil man also went into the yard and caught us. He noticed the hidden eggs and asked what we were doing here. We replied that we worked in this area. He took us into the home of one of the non-Jews, made him responsible for us, and went to get a wagon to take us away. During this time, I hid away our things in the home of this non-Jew. When he came back with the wagon, I had only the suit and the raincoat on me. He told us to get onto the wagon, and we asked where we were going. He said, “to Szczecyn.” We told him that we lived in Neustadt and that he should take us to our mayor. He didn't want to do that, we pleaded with him again, but he remained stubborn. So, giving us no choice, and with a gun in hand, he took us to the commando in Szczecyn, and we were convinced that there we would be killed. The police commandant searched us and found a package with eggs.

[Page 206]

He begins to scream: “Our soldiers in the hospitals and on the front need these and you are smuggling them!” They search us and also find a few German Marks and take them away. The German man opens up my coat and shows the commandant that I am wearing two suits and a coat. “He's a smuggler!” The commandant replies, “He's in my hands now, you can go.” Then he says to us, “Take these eggs into the kitchen to the cook of the command center. It's a shame to waste all these eggs.”

The commandant locks us up in a village “koze,” a temporary prison. My friend begins to cry and scream: “Mama, help me!” I tell him to recite some Psalms, pleading to God for salvation, saying: Mi'maamakim, korosikho hashem (from the depths I call to you, God). Soon, the door opened and the commandant came to us and said that if we were willing to chop up the logs that were in the yard, we could go free.

There was work there for two or three days. The commandant ordered us to bring tools for work.

We asked the messenger that brought the tools to tell the commandant that we were hungry and had not eaten in two days. The commandant ordered that whatever was left in the kitchen, the cook should give us to eat.

It had been three years since I had eaten such food potatoes, soup, meat, white bread. After the three days of work, we were notified through the cook that our work was over. Then we asked her if there was any other work for us. She asked us to wash the floors, then she went in and said that we were asking to get our passes back so that we could go home in an untroubled manner. He assured us that if we would not leave immediately, he would kill us. We ran off right away and were reunited with our commando, then together left to Neustadt.

The praise and joy at home was great. I even managed to conduct the last seder on Pesach with the four cups of wine, using red borscht.

After the holiday of Sukkos 1941, they closed up the ghetto with SS guards and armed German citizens, and ordered us not to leave. During that time, I and a few other Jews continued to work in Pultusk and the surrounding areas until the end of the year 1941. There were no Jews left there, and all the shuls …

[Page 207]

… had been burned down. We worked as planters (turning over the soil).

In the final days of the year 1941, when the order was given to liquidate the Neustadt ghetto, they sent us back to Neustadt.

The ghetto was closed down. We knew what was coming. I planned with the entire family to sneak out at night into a forest behind the town, and to take along shovels and dig ditches for us. We would live in there, and from time to time go out to the villages and find food. But when it was the last minute of completing this plan, my hands wouldn't work [I couldn't do it] and we did not go out.

For two weeks, we were captive under the uniformed German people. In the last few days, an order came to the senior Jews [those that took responsibility] that they should bring out all the handicapped and elderly. The old, religious families left for the assembly place. They also took the senior Jews.

All the elderly Jews and the handicapped were loaded into the farmers' wagons, and driven to the nearest train station, then with Jews from other cities, they were all taken to Auschwitz.

During that time, Jews from Drobnin, Sczeczyn, and some from Czekhanow were all forced into the Neustadt ghetto. The space in the ghetto was extremely small. Seven or eight families lived in one room. With me, they placed a few families a hat maker from Drobnin and his five grown daughters. His entire fortune consisted of a bed that was a few boards banged together and a little bit of straw. The entire family slept on that with all the children. In another corner, there was another family a woman, two children, and a niece.

Once, early in the morning, an order came that they were going to take us all out in the middle of the night. This was the last time that the baker baked bread. In the middle of the night, they gathered us all into the marketplace. The Jew hater, the mayor, ordered that in all the villages they should set out farmers' carts. We left on foot with the bed linen on the carts. On both sides of us we were guarded by armed German people and SS men, and they herded us towards Plonsk to the Jewish ghetto.

[Page 208]

We were quartered in Jewish homes, and there was no food in Plonsk. Suddenly there was an order that all Jews should assemble in the marketplace. There we received an order, under penalty of death, to hand over all German money. The German people went around with suitcases and everyone threw in whatever he had. After some time, they began physically searching people for money. They pulled out one Jew from his row, searched him, found some small change, then shot him on the spot.

Since my wife was dressed well, it seemed as if she was rich. They took her away into a room with other women and searched her for money in hidden places. I thought I had lost her, but she came back. After that whole scene, we were told to go back home.

A day or two later, they told all those from Neustadt to come forward and they told us that we would be taken to the train. We went to the loading place. There, on the boarding place, they gave us some bread. I took along two bottles of water because I had already been through this in the Serock herding nightmare and knew that thirst was worse than hunger.

Being chased on foot for four kilometers from the Jewish ghetto until the train station, they set us out in fives. The SS men moved us quickly, and no one wanted to be the last in line. In my row, there was a woman a widow with a six-year-old child. It seems that her husband was no longer alive. When the SS men herded us and we had to run quickly, the small boy, weakened and hungry, had no energy to run. The screams from the child to his mother went directly to Heaven. The child asked his mother to pick him up, but the mother herself had no energy, and she dragged the child by the hand and screamed at him. I saw this whole thing, so I picked up the boy and quietened him down. When they warned me that I would stay behind and be beaten, I didn't answer. I carried the boy for some more time and wiped his tears.

[Page 209]

When we came to the train station, they chased us with beatings into the wagons. One bottle of water got broken in the process. I remained with one bottle, locked in the wagon for two days.

Slowly, after two long days of passing through many different stations, we were all drained, and arrived late at night to the tragic place of Auschwitz. This was in the first half of January in 1942.

 

Auschwitz…

[This moving paragraph is written in Hebrew]:

I am the man who saw the pained ones suffering by the wrath of the stick. If only my eyes could become a stream of water and a source of tears and I could cry day and night for the destruction of my nation. If only I could have wings of an eagle, I would be alone on the mountaintops and I could release the cries of my brothers and sisters who, with my own eyes, I saw how they burned and how they were strangled in the furnace of flames.

After they chased us out of the wagons, when we arrived in Auschwitz, they put me together with my wife among older people who would go directly to the crematoria.

The SS men who worked with the trains, searched the people. When they liked a face, they sent this person over to be with those who would go to the labor camps. Even though at that time no one knew yet where they would be taken, I still noticed how many people wanted to run from one side of the rows to the other, how many had to go to the camps, but the SS men ran after them and beat them with their machine gun butts and dragged these people back to the right places. After looking through all the people, one SS man came over to me and told me to go to the other side with the workers. Then I said to my wife: “I'm not leaving you. Wherever you go, I will go.” My wife answered: “Moishe, go to the other side. Maybe you'll remain alive and be able to take revenge for my blood.” During that speech, an SS man ripped me away and I went to the row that was going to work.

Women were taken to another side; about 100 young women were put separately to go to the labor camp. I, the believer, saw a miracle happen right then.

The Jewish commandos, that were called “Canada,”[4] forcefully…

[Page 210]

… took the children away from their young mothers and gave them to the older women or grandmothers so that the young women could go to the working camps. Or, because of the young children, they also sent young mothers to the side of death. Heartrending scenes played out there. Of the 1800 Jews that came from Neustadt, 350 men and 100 women went to the camps and among them were my wife and I. Of all of these, after the war, there were only a few men and twenty or so women. From a town of 1800 Jews, approximately three minyanim (quorums of 10) remained.

Going from the train on foot in the middle of the night to the camps, they herded us into a Block. There was no talk of sleep. We were standing on our feet all night. From time to time, a Kapo (inmate in charge of work team) came running in with a long whip, and all of us would huddle against the wall. Jewish prisoners would approach the windows to try and “organize” some food from the newly arrived. They told us: “Soon they'll take everything away from you, so you may as well give it all to us.” That's how people began parting with whatever they had.

They following morning, they took us to the baths. They took away everything from us and we received camp clothing from material made of wood. We almost froze to death from the cold. We were kept locked in quarantine for two weeks just in case there was any typhus in the ghettos, but they didn't let us rest. When all the prisoners left in the mornings to go to work, we were set out on the yard in the Block, and that's how we had to stay for eight hours until all the commandos arrived in the evening back from work and did a roll call to make sure no one was missing.

When the numbers added up correctly for the entire camp, then everyone went into their Blocks. In the evening, we received a little of the bad food from lunch, and they began teaching us how we had to stand with our bowls by the boilers. The senior Block person poured in a little soup and we had to leave right away (that was in the Block). In a very few minutes, all the food had to be distributed. Our hands were trembling with fear. If someone didn't put his cup exactly in the right place for the food on the rim of the boiler the murderers used the spoon …

[Page 211]

… to pour the hot food over the person's head, and he did not get any more food. Some didn't want this bit of food so that they wouldn't have to get hit by these hooligans the Block elders.

In the two weeks of quarantine we did not have any information about our families because no one was allowed to come near us. After the two weeks, when we already had gotten the numbers on our forearms (the numbers were given by pricking the arm with a needle and using dye for the number formation), and when we were now dressed like all the other prisoners, we were now told that we should go work.

Kapos came from all kinds of terrible commandos, and people fell like flies because of them through beatings and hunger, from cold, and from the difficult work. They came to find new victims among those newly arrived.

The first day I fell into a commando whose job it was to drag sand out of water using a machine. For about six or seven kilometers, hungry, we had to carry hammers and all other types of iron tools to the job site and back. On the way back, we each held onto a friend, or a friend held onto us. Often, not going to work was even worse. Coming back to my Block 10 (Auschwitz 3, a duplicate camp), we had to stand for roll call for a long time until all the commandos had come back and had handed over all their accounts to the Nazi officer at the gate, and miraculously, everything tallied correctly.

In our Block of the newly arrived, I heard someone call out: “He who is a tailor should raise his hand!” They counted all those who raised their hands and told them to go out of their line after eating and to register in the administration room. Then they called out: “Whoever is a shoemaker, electrician, or has other skills should also raise their hands.”

I thought: Dear God, if only my father would have taught me a trade, I would be able to survive, because to work the way I am now, it's impossible to survive.

A minute later, they called out: “Whoever can make baskets, raise your hands.” I had forgotten that I once learned how to do this …

[Page 212]

… as a khalutz (pioneer) in Hapoel Hamizrakhi, preparing to go to Israel and work in agriculture. My parents had convinced me to learn a trade and I went to a Polack and paid 200 zlotys so that he could teach me to weave baskets. (Before that, my trade was oil-maker.) When they called out: “Whoever can weave baskets raise your hand,” this came into my head, and after I raised my hand they told me to get out of line. They told me to go to the administration room right after lunch. When I came there, the writer, a Pole, said to me in Polish: “A Polish Jew is a basket maker?” But when I told him that I paid 200 zlotys for a Polack to teach me this trade, he believed me and he gave me a note and told me to go to the Block. The Block manager gave me a large portion of bread for the next day, and some soup to eat and told me to go from Block 10 to Block 4, among only Poles. Block 10 was made up of only newly-arrived Jews, under a Polish Block guard, a cruel man, worse than Haman. For no reason, he would use his truncheon. We would cower between the beds, terrified of taking a step forward, terrified of uttering a sound. The fear of death in the Block was unimaginable. For any little thing, we would get beaten: for eating, for making the bed badly, etc. For every little thing, he would taunt us with disgusting words. When they took me over to Block 4, it was as if I had left hell for freedom.

In Block 4, there were only Poles and Ukraines. They played harmonicas, moved around freely, spoke freely and loudly. I one Jew got lost among them. The following morning, they took me away to work at a company called “Kommando Gertnerai (Gardners of) Rajska” (name of a Polish village). The basket makers were sent ten kilometers to the Vistula River to cut reeds (thin sticks). When we arrived at the shore of the Vistula, my strengths were not those of the non-Jews, so I got beaten by a Kapo, a terrible Jew-hater. After that, they tattled to the sergeant that the Jew didn't do any work.

The sergeant came over to me and began shouting: “Cursed Jew! You lied! I'll teach you. You'll get shteibunker!” (standing cell)[5]

The hooligans laughed at me. When lunchtime came (they didn't bring any lunch),

[Page 213]

… there was an hour's rest. The workers made a fire, warmed themselves, and told many anti-Semitic stories against the Jews. The SS men did this: they said, “Soon we will chop you up and burn you on the fire.” I am one Jew among so many wolves.

In that time, I took a few reeds and began weaving the frame of a basket. The scoundrels came and grabbed away the cover (of the basket) and laughed at what “the Jew” had made. They took this over to the sergeant. When he sees the work, he came over to me and said, with these words: “Jew, you're lucky that you know how to work. Otherwise, I would finish you off.” After lunch, they didn't bother me anymore. In the camp, they no longer gave me work of only carrying things.

The next morning, there was an order that the workers would no longer be going to the Vistula to collect reeds, but we would be going along to the garden market. They gave us a room there and built some work tables and we sat down and began weaving baskets. Of all the Polacks who passed themselves off as workers, there was only one young Polack who worked well, who had completed trade school. I was in second place. The other non-Jews had smuggled themselves in for work. Through using their “connections” there was a Polish professor and a Polish captain who also smuggled themselves in for work, and they knew nothing. It was warm in the room. In order that our hands do not slow down, it had to be warm.

When I started the work, I saw that I had already forgotten a lot, but by watching how the master worker did his work, I copied him. The others sat and pretended to work. The SS men came in every five minutes to see how the master worked, and I am weaving a basket and the others are sitting like dummies and are still at the beginning. He began to understand what was going on. From then on, they started treating me a little differently. The other scoundrels were very afraid that they would be thrown out of this commando. So, whom do they approach? In time of need, they go the Jew. They did a trade with me, for the bread that they got in their packages. That which I finished, they would take from me, and that which they made, I would complete. Meanwhile, I had bread …

[Page 214]

… and a warm room. I was very nervous about the lot of my dear ones and my acquaintances. My peace was ruined.

 

The Sonderkommando (these were prisoner-laborers attached to a specific “special action” or task) dragging the gassed Jews to the crematoria

 

Once, when I went out at night to find out how things were going for the residents in Block 10, they told me who was in the hospital. The Jewish doctors who worked there saved people's lives with whatever they could, but then the hospital filled up, and SS men came with buses and ordered the doctors and their aides to leave. The SS men brought thugs with them and they chased out the sick people into the cars and drove them off to Brzezinka (Birkenau -- a forest a few kilometers past Auschwitz). That's where the crematoria were. When the hospital was empty, people still kept coming there all the time until it would be emptied again. Meanwhile, some people had the good fortune of getting better and of coming back to the camp. When I would tell all the Jews: “Jews, don't go to the hospital. You'll all be taken from there to the crematoria.” Many of them laughed me off and said: “You see, people are coming back.” But in truth, only a small number came back. When the hospital filled up again, they were all taken again to the crematoria.

[Page 215]

And so, in that way, of the 350 Jews, within about one month, there were not even 100 left. When we came back from work, I asked what had happened to the women. If they told a Jew that he no longer had a wife or children because they had all been burned, the Jew would spit into the other person's face. They had convinced themselves that the women were sent to another work camp and that the children, in groups of five, were being cared for by another woman.

During that time, I received a message from the men who went to work that they had seen a commando of women pass by as they were going to work, and that my wife was one of these women. When I discovered that my wife was alive, I began to look for ways to be able to see her. Through the men's commando that came to the women's camp electricians, locksmiths, cabinetmakers, etc. I sent a letter that I was still alive and I was in the gardener's unit, so she also put herself in the group that went to work there.

I “bought” a few potatoes for a portion of bread and put them into my belt. That's how I went to work and I gave my wife baked potatoes. Once, my wife told me she had no shoes. She came to work with rags bound on her feet, and she was afraid that she would be sent to the crematoria. I then organized a trade in my Block for a pair of shoes. The next morning, I squeezed the two shoes under my belt and brought them into the Rajsko gardens for my wife. This is what happened: I took a bucket, put the shoes in, and covered it. I went to get wood and coal to warm up the workroom. I went especially near the women's commando, turned over the bucket, and said not one word to her. My wife picked up the shoes. With time, she had a better commando and they told her to say that she had a husband in the “Canada” commando. Maybe the female Kapo would permit her to work there.

The first few months, I worked in the Rajsko gardens. I had a warm room, baked potatoes, and even from time to time received something from the “higher up” people.

[Page 216]

Once, when I was standing at roll call, there was an order to give in our caps to be washed and to go bareheaded. And that was in the middle of winter.

They put aside boxes, and everyone had to put in their caps. Here the non-Jews, the hooligans, began to have some fun they didn't put their caps in, they threw them. For that we all got a punishment that everyone should lie down on the ground. The SS men were standing by with revolvers in their hands. We had to roll around outside for an hour's time, so much so that I was left breathless.

In order not to forget, I have to give over in a few words about a duplicate camp (a copy) that was not far from me, whose goal was to cynically fool the world and particularly, to fool the Red Cross.

In these Blocks, there were beautiful, red-colored floors, beautiful waiting rooms with mirrors, the food was clean and there were no crematoria. This is what they showed to the foreign visitors from the Red Cross as a sample of a labor camp.

I remember once there was supposed to be an important Nazi guest, and they mentioned the name of Eichmann, may his name be erased. They cleaned the camp for a few days. In these festive moments they let us bathe after work. We had to strip naked in the middle of the winter, leave our clothing near the bed, and run in the frost for a few streets to the baths. And all sweaty, come back to a sparkling barrack.

One day, an order was given that the gardening commando of Rajsko would be transferred to Birkenau, another camp near Auschwitz, because the Rajsko gardens were closer to Birkenau than to Auschwitz. As I came to Birkenau with my commando, I was once again among non-Jews, but the regime was a little easier. After work, I went out to see what was going on with the other commandos, and saw that the horrors were tremendous: people were sleeping in the holes in the walls. They were being beaten to death, and the worst was to stand for general roll call for 4 to 5 hours after work. There was never a shortage of “reasons” for this:

[Page 217]

… an error in calculation, “deserters,” and besides we were all superfluous in this world anyway. Standing in these rows with terrible stomach cramps and horrific pains, the only thing that churned around in my mind, back and forth, was: Eli, Eli, Lama Azavtani? Me'ayin yavo ezri? (God, why have You forsaken me? From where will come my salvation?)

Before the victims went to the crematoria, they were first tortured by the Block supervisors. Even today, before my eyes, stand the naked, emaciated people (skeletons) like herring, sacks of bones without even a drop of meat on them, lying every morning in groups in front of the Blocks. The managers and cleaners had thrown them out. If a person had diarrhea and could not make his way to the bathroom, the supervisor and the cleaner would beat him with sticks and throw him out the door where he would freeze. In this camp, there was no sanitation system in the entire region there was only one water pump.

After eight months of work in the garden commando of Rajsko, along with many Polish doctors, military personnel, teachers, and guards, the entire commando consisted of about 100 men.

Then, a senior SS leader (First Lieutenant) came and saw that people were wandering around idly, so he asked that the commando be reduced to 30 people. That small piece of bread that we had received in the evenings along with the soup and a small piece of margarine, I had to sell in order to get fifteen potatoes from the commando that did the peeling. Many of them died from the beatings they got for “organizing” potatoes from the kitchen. Despite this situation, people risked their lives. On the day that there was no inventory taken, they “organized” again. I took the fifteen potatoes under my belt in the morning to work, baked them in the ash from the oven, and ate this twice a day along with the margarine. There was a Polish captain with me. He could not make any baskets, so he would switch with me. I would give him the beginnings of a basket that I had made and for that he would give me part of his package that he had received from home. The Germans wanted to have a Polish allegiance, so they made concessions with the Polacks and permitted them to receive packages. I told my wife, who was…

[Page 218]

… in the women's camp in Auschwitz, to present herself to the women's overseer of the gardeners of Rajsko, and that's how we would be able to see each other. The contact was through the men who went with the men's commando to the women's camp to work as locksmiths, electrical mechanics, and carpenters. The best organizers were the water pipe cleaners when they cleaned the reservoir and the bathrooms in the women's camp. In the large reservoir, all the letters that husbands and wives and friends wrote to each other were hidden. They bought things of value and paid with food (this commando comprised only Jews). The exchange went through some civilized non-Jews who worked as laborers in the camp. Also, these non-Jews were searched at the gates and risked their lives with this.

Once, at a meeting, my wife said to me that she won't be able to come to work because once again she had no shoes. Her feet were wrapped in rags. Just at that moment, a Kontrol went by the women's camp. They gathered together all the women that did not go to work, among whom was my wife. She pleaded with the women's kapo: “I can't go to work. Why are you sending me to be burned?” He replied because soon he would have to send them all to the crematoria. Then, the junior kapo walked by and saw my wife whom he did not know, and told her to run away. That's how she was saved from death at that time. She let me know right away that she was playing with her life because she didn't have shoes.

I told her to come to me quickly with the rags on her feet, because I managed to “organize” a pair of shoes. It happened when we exchanged shoes at night in the Block. I took a pair of new shoes and did not part with the old ones. In the morning, leaving for work, I carefully brought the shoes to the commando, and hid them under the reeds (we were not permitted to speak to the women). I took a bucket, put the shoes in, and pretended to go bring wood and coal. I went near the women and turned over the bucket

[Page 219]

… and my wife grabbed the shoes. That's how she once again regained her wits.

The Jewish women's commandos were from all kinds of places. There were women from Paris, but within a few days they all died from walking ten kilometers to work every day to the gardens without any food all day, and from dysentery as a result of the dirty water that they had.

The commandos again filled up with women from Greece, but within a few days they disappeared. In the Rajsko commando there was a terrible Kapo, a former thief and then camp prisoner. This murderer killed many Jews. He would beat them with a board at work and in the fields. Once he took me out into the snow and said: “You didn't wash yourself today.” He pushed me into the snow and rubbed my face. I could hardly catch my breath. But he got his end as well. One fine day, he began to have stomach cramps. He was taken to the hospital and never seen again. It was said that the underground of Polacks who worked in the camps, had poisoned him. Once, a sergeant came to me and ordered that I make him a whip. When the whip was ready, he told me to bend over, and he began beating my behind with the whip. At first, I remained silent, but soon I began to scream. That's when he said: “Now I know that the whip is good.”

 

In the Potato Hall Commando

After they threw out the Jews from the gardening commando of Rajsko, it became very bad for me. I became part of a commando that built cellars for potatoes, and labored hard for a year. Meanwhile, my wife moved to a better commando for sorting packages that the newly transported brought with them. At the stations, these packs were loaded onto buses, driven to stores, then to Germany. When I worked with the potatoes, they selected a Sonderkommando for the crematoria because the former commando had already been alive for too long. The Germans didn't want the world later to be able …

[Page 220]

…to find out anything from those who did the burning. So, just about each half year they would burn the old Sonderkommando (about 200 men) and choose new ones from the camp.

My wife found out about this and wrote me a letter with these words: “Moishe, I heard that they are going to select a Sonderkommando. If you get chosen as a Sonderkommando, go over to the electric wires that surround the camp and end your life. I don't want that my husband should be one of those who set fire to the Jewish nation. If I will hear that you've done that, then I will also go to the wires and do the same.” I thought about it at that moment and decided that if I would be chosen, I would say: “Shoot me! I'm not going!”

On the day that they chose the Sonderkommando, an order was given that the Jews should not go out to work and have to assemble in the large yard.

I went to a different Block, went to hide under a bed, and stayed there deathly afraid until the Polacks came from work in the evening (forget about eating any food since the fear was greater than the hunger). So I gave praise to God and went back to my Block. The Sonderkommando had been chosen. I informed my wife that everything had passed in peace.

Work in the potato commando ended and those left were assigned the job of filling the cellars with potatoes. All day we had to carry heavy and long sacks and all the while we were beaten and chased by Polish Kapos and SS men.

Then my wife suggested to me that I go work in the Canada commando (called “Canada” because Canada is a rich country) at the train station receiving the transports.

I made it through three selections in Block 31 in Birkenau. The first time, of 300 Jews, half remained. After the second selection, a little over thirty remained, and the third time it was already too horrific I didn't want to remain alive. I was completely scratched up and the Germans hated that. When Dr. Mengele noticed that a body was bloated and swollen or looked like a sack of bones …

[Page 221]

A gas chamber

 

… without any meat the person was ready for burning. A Polish writer went along with him. We ran naked across the Blocks, and whosever number the doctor asked to be written down, that person was already finished. At night, they called out all these numbers from the Blocks and these people were taken to the crematoria.

At the last selection, the Polish writer grabbed me by the hand and wanted to write my number. I pulled myself away from him, and the head bandit gestured with his hand that he should let me go. That's how we were the last sixteen Jews that remained from several hundred. It didn't take long, and soon the Block was filled again with newly-arrived Jews.

 

The “Canada” Commando

My sister Khaitche, Jonisz-Gudes, came from the camp Majdanek. When the Russian front was coming closer, they did another selection: the weak ones had to march in one row and the healthy ones …

[Page 222]

… in another row. My brother-in-law, Yekhiel Jonisz, fell in with the weaker ones and my sister with the stronger ones that were sent over from Majdanek to Birkenau. Some 20,000 weakened Jews, among whom was Yekhiel Jonis, were all shot to death.

My sister was in a good commando in Birkenau. Their job was to clean the bathrooms and toilets. She brought two American gold dollars with her. These gold dollars were given over through a middleman to the Block elder, a German Volksdeutch who later ordered that I be moved over to the Canada commando.

I started working in the warehouse with the packages. When I opened each package and saw pictures of families, my blood froze in my veins. I imagined each family alive and standing right before me. Because of that, I didn't want nor couldn't even taste any of the food that there was in these dead packages.

A long time passed and I didn't want to taste anything from these packages. Several of the religious Jews in the camp, after a serious legal debate (arguing the details of Jewish law), concluded that I was permitted to eat from these foods so that I could give away my portion of bread in the camp to another Jew and save his life. When I came home from work at night, my acquaintances were already standing and waiting for me, and asking, as if talking to their father: “Moishe, what did you bring for us?”

When I found sausages, I carefully placed them under my foot and would walk on my tip toes for one kilometer until I came out of the warehouse. In this commando, they searched you very carefully. At the doors, there were boxes, and they told us that if we found any valuable items in the packages, we should put everything into these boxes. Anyone found with anything on him, would be shot on the spot. Many Jews were shot in this fashion. I myself took food in the early times, because for that all you got were a few beatings. For the pieces of sausage that I took with me, I saved one Jew. If someone wanted to move to a better commando, he had to give something to the Kapo. You could buy him off with a sausage. Once I brought a few thousand pieces of stones for cigarette lighters (rods made from iron-cerium were filed down and used for improvised cigarette lighters), and with that saved some Jews. Lately, I started to “organize”……

[Page 223]

… valuable items and with that helped a cousin transfer to a better commando.

This is how I had seven good months. I was calm and was able to look around and see what was going on in the camps. I didn't want to go to the trains and to the warehouse, but I couldn't get out of it, so after many beatings from the Canada Kapo, I was dragged to the trains. A train arrived from Latvia and among them were many cold wagons and more than half the people had perished during the transport. When they took out those who were still alive and put them together in one place, I talked with them. An elderly khassidic Jew asked me where they were being taken. I froze and didn't know what to say. I decided to reply, and told him that he is going to his forefathers Avrohom, Yitzkhok, and Yakov, and he should tell them that it is already enough suffering for us….

 

The Jewish Uprising in Auschwitz

I lived next to the Block where the Jewish Sondercommando lived. Their task was to burn the gassed bodies in the crematoria and then to scatter the ashes so that there would be no memory of them. The Sondercommando were “changed” and shot every few weeks. Right after that, the murderers chose other healthy Jews in order to serve the Satan in hell down here on earth.

My eyes saw how the Jewish nation was being extinguished in flames and I was infused with a feeling to strengthen myself with all my energies so that I would be able to tell the world about this mass murder.

I did everything to get into the barracks of the Sondercommando at night. That's how we helped some Jews from Serock and Popowa that belonged to this tragic unit. I listened to their stories that confirmed everything that my eyes saw.

The Jews from Bedzin and Sosnowiec were of the last …

[Page 224]

The crematoria where the gassed Jews were transformed into ash

 

… to arrive in Auschwitz. They knew that they were being taken to their death. Right at the train station they protested and didn't want to go to Birkenau to the crematoria. The SS encircled the Jews and shot them all with their machine guns right in the train station.

The Germans in Warsaw and in the surrounding areas, wanting to fool those Jews who were hiding in the area or in bunkers, sent out Polish instigators to spread a rumor that for a specific sum of dollars these Jews will be acknowledged as American citizens and will be sent abroad.

Thousands of Jews were fooled with this. They paid huge amounts of money, seated themselves in comfortable wagons along with uniformed Germans, and were taken “abroad” to Auschwitz.

Once, a large transport of “American” Jews arrived. When all had disembarked from the wagons ….

[Page 225]

… they were asked politely to undress and go wash up in order that they could be taken to a “different place.”

These Jews began to scream: “No! No!” Among them was a woman, an actress. When they asked her to undress, she refused. A higher ranked SS officer wanted to know the reason. Her answer was: “You will not see my naked body.” She turned toward her husband so that he would react (support her). Then, the husband grabbed an iron object and threw it with force at the head of the SS man who became confused and fell over. Soon another SS murderer became involved, and pulled out his gun and shot the actress's husband. There was a big tumult, a large group of armed SS men ran over, and all the newly arrived were shot dead.

Once, a transport of Greek Jews arrived. Some of them were set up as Sonderkommando. In the crematoria of Birkenau, when a lot of burned bodies were gathered up, the ashes were taken out into cargo trucks and dumped into the Vistula River not far from Cracow.

In this kind of transport truck, two Greek and a few Polish Jews once went along. The driver and the escort were armed SS men. When they came to the Vistula to dump the human ash, the two Greek Jews attacked the two escorts, beat them up, took their weapons, jumped into the water, swam to the other side, and ran away. They were not caught. The Polish Jews, who didn't have the courage to do what their brothers from Greece had done, were taken back to the camp where they were murdered in a horrific way.

In mid-summer of 1944, they burned an entire Jewish Sonderkommando. On that same day, a new transport came, made up of Jews from Makow, Mlawa, Popowa, and Serock. Soon they did a strict selection and those who remained were taken as the new Sonderkommando. Among them was the dayan of Makow, Moishe Margulis from Serock, and the two Winekranc from Popowa. In total, there were approximately 200-250 men.

[Page 226]

Very often, I found myself with Moishe Margulis in the Block of the Sonderkommando. He said nothing, but raised his eyes to the heavens, nodded his head, and gave a profound sigh. Moishe Margulis, my relative and neighbor from Serock, was forced to become a servant in the hell of this earth.

On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur I prayed together with the Sonderkommando in their Block. They prayed fervently and everyone recited the kaddish yosom (prayer recited by one who is orphaned). The one who led the prayers was the dayan from Makow and his kaddish yosom unsettled me terribly. Until this very day, I hear his echoes. In middle of the prayers, one man, a terribly pained person, began to curse and blaspheme against Creator. We didn't say anything to this man; his pain was very deep: his pain our pain.

In 1944, between Rosh Hashana and Sukos, Moishe Margulis said to me: “Yes, yes, this Simkhas Torah I will dance with my father at the Amshinower Rebbe's.” I said to him: “Moishe, what are you saying? You'll survive the war!” Moishe placed his strong, blackened hands over his heart, lifted up his red-rimmed eyes to Heaven, and began to sing a khassidic melody: “Eli, Eli, Lomo Azavtoni?” (My God, why have You forsaken me?) I cried along with him.

 

The Revolt of the Sonderkommando

One late morning, Sukos 1944, I was occupied with cleaning water pipes, not far from the crematoria. Suddenly, I see one of the crematoria burning. It soon became clear to me that the Sonderkommando had made a revolt. At dawn there had been a selection and the entire commando and everyone else was incited to rebel. First, they suffocated the guards and threw a few Germans alive into the burning ovens, the worst of the Jew haters. Then they set fire to the barracks, the camp, and the crematoria. When everything was already burning, they ran off into all four corners to get out of Birkenau. The fire spread, and dense smoke covered the sky, and there was mass confusion.

[Page 227]

The sirens soon started to blare and the entire huge military might was mobilized and set on alert. Hundreds of SS men on motorcycles began to chase us, shooting those on the run and searching for those in hiding.

Many of those who were running were shot and those who were captured and brought back were beaten and assembled together on an open place not far from the burned camp. Not one of those who ran off merited to live until they were free.

Everyone was forced to lie on the ground face down. Among those, was also Moishe Margulis, and the SS men shot them all with their machine guns.

Moishe Margulis's promise was fulfilled. This Simkhas Torah he was freed…

 

I Leave Auschwitz

At the end of the year 1944, the Russian and Polish armies moved closer, up to 60 kilometers before Cracow. From a distance we could already hear the shooting of cannons.

The murderers decided to evacuate all the healthy people from Auschwitz. The weaker ones, those who couldn't march any more, were put aside, taken to the forest, and murdered there.

One day, they chased us out of the barracks and told us to get into our rows. I went into the train that took me, along with hundreds of other Jews, to the very sad camp Stuthof, near Danzig. I was there for three months, worked at digging up potatoes, and did other hard work. We were given only enough food to sustain our souls.

After three months, we were taken over on foot to a miserable camp in the village of Rybno (?) near Danzig. We all agreed to work in Danzig in the factories that produced secret military materials. As an electronics technician, I worked by the underwater …

[Page 228]

… boats (submarines). They taught me how to weld, but after that they regretted doing so and later did not allow me do the welding for the secret materials.

In those times, in the military factories in Danzig, there were tens of thousands of vocational workers from all the nations of Europe. These aforementioned had a large dining room where they were served well, but the Jews did strenuous work and were given a very meager diet. Our energies began to give out. Lunchtime, when the civilian workers finished eating, we snuck into the dining room and like cats licked all the plates and gathered up the garbage….

But even this pleasure the SS men would not allow us and with beatings they chased us out of this Garden of Eden. When the Russians began to bomb Danzig, our situation improved. From that time on, we ate together with everyone else in the large room.

We, the starved 1500 Jews, could not stand still in the rows for food. We simply went crazy from starvation. The SS men, with their manner, tried to quieten us and the civilian Germans begged us to calm down.

When Danzig was heavily bombed and the city stood in flames, the Germans evacuated us from the camp. In middle of the night, 1500 half dead Jews began a march, but it was already without organization again, we received no food. Hundreds died en route from weakness. The SS escorts were confused sometimes beating us, sometimes complimenting us. We spent nights in churches and also under the free sky and no one from the German village population brought us even a little bit of water. Not one camp wanted to take us in. Airplanes were constantly bombing.

A commandant from a large SS camp not far from Konigsberg had mercy on us. He gave one large barrack for all the Jews.

In the barrack there was a lot of pushing, a narrowness, and suffocating air tens died each night. In the surrounding area of the barrack ….

[Page 229]

… there were also no washrooms and no water. They didn't let us out of the camp because of the epidemic of typhus.

We were like lepers.

The Germans were afraid to approach us and in the last two weeks we didn't even get our bread rations.

When the hunger became terrible, we pleaded with the Germans to release us and let us cook the carcasses of the horses that were lying in large numbers on all the roads. Sometimes the SS men allowed us to do this.

Even the carcasses of the horses began to disappear. Once I bought a bottle of horse blood from a Polack, warmed it up and drank it …. I searched the camp for all kinds of horses' bones and gnawed at them all night and by doing that ruined even my good teeth. When not even bones were left, I searched for grass, but in the winter it was all mouldy. I cooked this mouldy grass, added noxious bones, and said: “Master of the Universe, You can sustain me even with grass.”

 

Before the End

We started to hear cannon shots. The Russian artillery had bombed the entire area. Our camp was in a valley, so miraculously we were saved. The mayor of a nearby town decided to dig a long, deep canal in order to stop the oncoming march of the Soviet tanks. He mobilized the civilian population and also asked us for a large portion of bread and meat to go along with it, because the majority of the Jews were in a situation of fighting off their own death.

I was also drained, my feet were swollen from the cold, I couldn't move, and was waiting for death.

***

One day, before dawn, I looked through the window of the barrack and saw that all the roads were black with people. All the village Germans had begun to ….

[Page 230]

… run some on foot and some in wagons. That's how we ran from Serock and from Nowy Dwor to Warsaw a few years ago. That same day it was March or April 1944[6] the commander of the SS came and told us that the Germans were leaving this place and anyone that wants to join them could do so.

I and the majority of the Jews decided to stay, not looking at (caring about) the consequences.

In the middle of the night, a military patrol arrived and took the SS men and left quickly. The SS men who were supposed to shoot us, this time did not follow through, wanting to get an alibi for themselves. Only the Jews were left in the huge camp. Soon a Russian intelligence group arrived, and waiting for my death, I heard cries.

“Jews! Gevalt! Our friends are here!”
We told the Russians about the canals set for the Russian tanks, and they quickly went to investigate.

In the morning the Russian military entered the camp we are now free people!

With our last energies, we stood up from our cots, went outside, and put out our hands for food. The Russians gave us marmalade, and cans of preserved meat and bread.

Everyone grabbed the food but our intestines couldn't handle the food. Soon dysentery broke out from which 75% of those remaining alive, died.

After the Russians had arrived, they took us over to the hygienic homes of the SS and brought local Germans to take care of us. I was hardly alive, but in these final moments, I strengthened myself. I started by drinking only tea with sugar cubes until my stomach cleaned itself out. After a few weeks, I was able to stand on my own feet. All those who died in camp from dysentery were buried in a communal grave.

After I got better, around April 1944[6], I went to Poland to look for my brothers and sisters, but I never found anyone.

 


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Referring to ethnic Germans rather than German citizens. Return
  2. This was an area of the Second Republic of Poland under Nazi Germany during World War II, designated as a separate region of the Third Reich between 19391945 Return
  3. Book of Genesis, 32:11, “Now I have nothing and I need your help” as Jacob pleads to God for His help. Return
  4. The workers in “Canada” sorted out the belongings of incoming prisoners, taking everything that could have been of value for the Third Reich. Return
  5. Behind an opening in the wall, through which only a bowed man could go, there was a cupboard-like space of 80 x 80 centimetres, 2 meters high, so that you could stand freely. Four prisoners were pushed in there with the help of a stick, and, the door locked with bars. They remained there until morning. In the evening they were released and taken to work, but for the night they were again pushed in, like sardines, and locked with the use of iron bars until morning. Return
  6. The author indicated 1944, but clearly it is the end of the war, so, the correct year should be 1945 Return

« 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.

  Serock, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 18 Aug 2013 by MGH