Translated from Yiddish: Yehusua Pinchas Spiegel
Translated by Sara Mages
For me and for my people
Introduction in Yiddish for In struggle for my young life:
In 14.9.64, the history of the life of a 15 year old young Jewish man who began to bear his pains, the pain the Germans inflicted on the Jews, was printed in the newspaper.
In his struggle for his young life, and his wanderings through forests and fields, the young man encountered battles with the Germans. He remained alive because he introduced himself as a Soviet soldier who fled from the camp, and because the Germans were afraid of Soviet revenge.
This young man, who is today a father to children and works in the Port of Haifa, is called Binyamin Eichner, and he's a native of the town of Dubiecko.
In his story, In struggle for my young life which was brought into print by Levi Papyerniḳoṿ, and translated from Yiddish by Yehusua Pinchas Spiegel, the writer is telling: since I didn't have a rifle in the place to get rid of the German… I took a bottle from my sister's coffee house, which still existed in Warsaw, Wolska 6, I broke it and stuck its pointed neck in the German's heart and he died.
What happened next, you will read in the story itself.
When I walked on the road from Berezhany to Ternopol I met two Russians my age. From word to word, it turned out that they also walk with such a plan we decided to walk together. When we passed a certain village, after the city of Berezhany, we were stopped by Ukrainian militants and they asked us, who are we and where are we going? We answered: our parents moved to Russia and we stayed we decided to go out looking for them and reunite.
You will not see Russia before your eyes, and you will not see your parents anymore…the militants replied.
We were locked up in the cellar of the militia building.
The next day, a truck arrived at the building and under their guard we were taken to the train station where, on a side rail, a lot of weapons and Russian rifles were left. Most of the rifles were dismantled and destroyed. Now our job was to sort and classify all that, and load them into the car.
In sorting the rifles we found a good dismantled automatic rifle among them.
One of the two young Russians, a former Komsomol, who was knowledgeable and knew how to handle various types of weapons, suggested, that we should take advantage of the opportunity that the Ukrainian militants who guard us stand quite far from us and try to escape. His plan was: we will assemble the automatic, put a ribbon of bullets, and eliminate the two militants. You really have nothing to lose. Here, it's a sure death! If we try to escape there's still a chance to stay alive the Komsomol declared.
When he made this offer he surrounded me, and the other Russian, with a deep and serious look and suddenly fell silent. The problem between life and death was at stake. In these few moments of deliberation, my heart responded with high blood pressure…
The other Russian and I raised our eyes and answered loudly together: Yes, we agree with you!
I was assigned the role of examining every movement of the militants. As they worked on sorting the rifles, the two young Russian assembled the automatic, covered it with a rag and one of them called me in a whisper: hey, we're done!
The three of us examined the area on all sides, and decided in direction to run after carrying out the daring act.
The Komsomol took on the elimination of the two militants.
And now, one militant approached the other to light his cigarette from the other's cigarette.
The Komsomol, who waited for them to come closer to one another, shot them. After the two fell flat on the ground we quickly jumped on them, pulled out the automatic from one and the bayonet from the other and fled in the direction we agreed on.
We ran for a long time through the fields until we arrived exhausted to the forest where we tried, after a short rest, to discuss the matter seriously, but, at the same time, men in Soviet uniform surprised us with a strong command: hands up! and approached us quickly as if they were ready to shoot with the automatics.
They were as it turned out later Vlasov soldiers, who decided after they tended to side of the Germans to fight against them and against the Russians. They were referred to as Valsovtsy and their slogan was: Independent and free Ukraine.
They stopped us and took us with them.
The Valsovtsy, like the two young Russians, didn't suspect my nationality because of my Aryan appearance. I was accepted everywhere as a Ukrainian, Russian and even as a German…
At first we worked in the kitchen. Later' they took us to various missions such as: blowing up the enemy's food and rifles camps, opening holes in the Germans' gasoline barrels, arson and other operations.
I was with this partisan company for six months, and in the end because of a tangible feeling that I would be a victim in their hands, I escaped from them in December 1941.
After wanderings through Brzeżany, Pidhaitsi, Rohatyn and other settlements, I arrived in Bircza near Przemyśl, and Dubiecko the town where I was born. There, I came to the Judenrat and asked them to arrange a place for me. Their answer: go there where you came from!… I moved to a village named Chuta Bezezaoska and entered the home of a Jewish family, which consisted two elderly and a daughter. The husband was arrested by the Germans and was in Przemyśl prison as a communist who worked for the Russians when they lived in Przemyśl.
When the head of the village learned that I lived with this Jewish family, he ordered me to leave the village in 24 hours, otherwise, he'll hand me over to the Germans.
I started to walk back to my town, Dubiecko. When I crossed the rickety wooden bridge the ice cracked under my feet. I drowned in water and called for help. A farmer, who transported lumber on a sled, heard my voice, got closer to my place, lowered the reins, threw one end at me and got me out of the water.
His first question was: who are you and where are you headed?
My teeth were chattering from the cold and it was difficult for me to talk I answered him that I was the son of Velve Kaniush (that's how my father was called by the gentiles).
The farmer looked closely at me and recognized me.
If I knew it is you he said with restrain I wouldn't have pulled you out…the militia in the village informed that whoever meets a Jew must deliver him to their hands.
Even though my entire body was shaking from the cold and wet from the river's water, I left the place and walked fast to Dubiecko. There, I found eight Jewish families who returned from the Russian side after the Germans occupied the area. Among them were my father, mother and sister.
When I knocked on the door of my house (that my parents built a year before the war broke out) instead of my sister, or my parents, a gentile named Reptchuk, who once worked for my father in the horse trade, opened the door for me.
When he saw me he announced: You have no place here anymore ugly Jew!
At that time my parents and my sister lived the second room of this house, and when my sister heard my voice, she came straight out to me. Only then the gentile let me in.
I found my parents and my sister bloated with hunger (Jewish families didn't receive food allowance). They lay on the floor. With tears in their eyes they told me what they are going through from Reptchuk, and more than that from his wife, who devotes herself to the Germans. A suffering of torture, insults and beatings my sister told me in tears…
I directed my steps to the town's slaughterhouse, where cattle was slaughtered for the Germans, and asked one of the workers to give me something, but they refused for fear of the Germans. With no choice, I was content with what I got out in the garbage. At home they cleaned and cooked I couldn't wait for the meat to be kosher and drank the salt water from the pot.
Two days after my arrival in Dubiecko, my father received a note from the mayor Rop (a Volksdeutsche who owned an estate in Iskan before the war and bought horses from us), to report for work at the Gestapo's yard. When I saw that my father was physically broken and totally bloated, I went to work in his place. I cleaned cars, cleared the snow, chopped wood and cleaned the toilets…
For this work I received terrible lashings. I fed my parents and sister with stolen frozen potatoes that were given to the horses. In addition, I picked muddy wheat, which grew under the snow, and tucked it into my pockets. At home we cleaned and cooked it to revive our souls.
A short time after I came to my parents in Dubiecko, someone suddenly knocked on the window of our room. We were scared because we thought it might be the Gestapo…
But, when we opened the door we saw before us a civilian who looked like a Christian. His first question: does the Eichner family live here? We gave a positive answer. Later, he said that he was sent to us by my eldest sister, Yehudit, who lived in Warsaw, to bring us there. While talking he gave us signs, what my sister looks like, where she was born, what she was doing before the war, and now she has a small restaurant in Warsaw Ghetto on Nowolipki.
The next day, a farmer took us to the BuchachPshevorsk train for a payment of beddings, expensive household items and other belongings that we gave him.
When we arrived in Pshevorsk we separated in the car from our escort who bought us tickets for the train leaving for Warsaw. He sat separately and hinted us that if something would happen we don't know him… we also removed the Star of David symbols from our clothes.
All along the way we my parents, my sister and I, sat gripped with horror and fear, even though their faces didn't testify that they were Jewish, and certainly me with my Aryan look…but the reason was that in Pshevorsk several Christians recognized us before the train moved.
Among them was the son of Dubiecko's chief of police who was a typical antiSemitic. When he saw me sitting the car, he shook his head slightly and called me to come to him. When he heard where we were headed he handed me half a loaf of bread. We arrived in Warsaw through the main train station. When the passengers started to get off the cars, we were ordered by the German railway policemen to stand in a long line, facing them so they can check who is a Jew. A detective's sharp eye stated that my parents weren't Christians and I, since we were together, was taken aside to join other captured Jews. When the movement in the train station diminished, German railway policemen brought us to a truck which was covered in black cover. In this march we were beaten with rubber batons all over our bodies.
A large number of Christians gathered around the truck and watched the sight with great curiosity.
In response, I had a severe internal pressure and the instinct dictated me to try to lift my feet and escape. And so I've done when I was near the truck's hanging steps I mingled among the crowds and quickly escaped from the area.
In Warsaw, the capital, I walked around for a long time until I finally arrived to the gates of the ghetto where I was hoping to find my eldest sister. I searched for my parents and younger sister since I was convinced that they had been sent here. I was wrong, it turned out that I arrived to the small ghetto.
First, I chose a safer place, close to Zielna Street. I climbed over the fence straight into the ghetto. Indeed, shots were heard but I already found myself on both feet on the other side. I first inquired at the Judenrat, which was located on Prosta Street, about my eldest sister and was told, after they checked the registry books, that she might be in the big ghetto. They also instructed me how to get there.
For three whole days I walked around the big ghetto until I met a man in the street, who was in Rogatin with me when the Russians were still there. This acquaintance helped me to search for my sister. And then, only with the help of his acquaintance I found her on 15 Karmelicka Street. On the other hand, there was no sign and trace of my parents and my second sister. At first my sister didn't recognize me. Her first question was: why did you come alone?! Where are our father and mother?
I told her what happened at the main train station, and that I was sure they were sent together to the ghetto. Of course, we were depressed for many days because of our parents. We searched for them inside the ghetto, but without result. I spent a total of two weeks with my sister. For lack of anything I started to work at the Nowolipki Bakery. After that, I moved to work as a smuggler in Parysowskieg Square, for Furman, the leader of the smugglers in the ghetto. I kept doing that until they started to liquidate the small ghetto.
With the liquidation of the small ghetto, the Germans started to carry out aktziot in the big ghetto. An active department, which devoted itself to the aktziot, was managed by the chief of police, S.S. Hauptsturmführer Geipel, according to the orders of Hoftman Brandt, the commander of the ghetto's extermination program. The aforementioned chief of police was assisted by the officers: Conrad from the headquarters in Zelazna 103, Blesher Klostermaier, Weiland, Asterline, S.A. Schubert, Zave and Dix.
In one of the aktziot, in the summer of 1942, I was arrested in the street and put into the death cellar at Niska 20, and there a selection was carried out: those to work to the right, the others were sent to the Umschlagplatz and from there they were loaded on rail cars and transported to various camps. I together with other young workers was sent to toyter [death] Niska No. 8.
The next day, our company was sent to Zamenhof 44. From there, I was sent to the liquidation headquarters, Raus Comande, in the small ghetto to bring Jewish property from there. In Zamenhof 44, precious objects were sorted out and shipped to Germany, the furniture were cut with electric saws.
My work in this place enabled me to come into closer contact with a company of Jewish workers.
Slowly slowly, and in a whisper, we began to talk among ourselves and look for advice on how to acquire weapons. The urge to start such conversations came after we learned that training for young Jewish companies take place every evening in Muranowski Square. A second decisive reason was, when it became known that we want to join the training, Mordechai Anielewicz visited us one Sunday evening to get to know our people up close. In this conversation he told us that the ghetto was about to be liquidated, and we should make effort to obtain rifles, and in doing so he showed us his gun.
This armed young men left a strong impression on us (we were a little younger than Anielewicz). After this conversation I went, with the members of the company, straight to my sister on Wolska 6, where she had a small restaurant (cantina), since it was more convenient to repeat our conversation with Anielewicz with a little beer and vodka. When we arrived there we met two men, who were known to us as Polish secret agents. They conducted a serious conversation with the Jewish police officer, Brzeziński.
We sat around a table, just opposite them, and listened how these secret agents were asking the officer Brzeziński without taking their eyes off us: who is this group and where are they from? This group is called by the Germans the gang of street robbers replied Officer Brzeziński.
They probably saw vodka and beer on our table, and assumed that we were already drunk and not interested in their presence at all… and suddenly, one of us, Avraham Karpeman from Piaseczno, got up, walked straight to them and asked:
What are you doing here today in the ghetto? On Sunday the entrance is forbidden to the Germans!!
Leave the matter to us the two police agents answered in anger, if you don't get out of here fast, your end will be bitter they added!…
We weren't immediately alarmed. Then we left the place. We went outside and decided to take care of them. Carefully and quietly we removed the power plugs in the corridor. Of course, it got totally dark and we quickly climbed up the high stairs.
At a certain moment a light appeared through the restaurant door. The door opened and from our hiding place we noticed how the Jewish officer Brzeziński pulled his head out, turned it sideways and closed the door behind him. We concluded that the Polish police agents, who were afraid of us, probably sent him to check if we were hiding behind the door…
After a few moments we heard the movement of the chairs and the table, and accordingly took the right positions… Suddenly, the door opened again and three images began to hurry out they wanted to slip away quickly from the place.
Our company, which numbered ten people, quickly jumped out of hiding, attacked them and tied their hands with ropes. They were taken to an empty apartment for interrogation why did they come to the ghetto on Sunday? In short both were eliminated and we took their weapons. Brzeziński was hung on the gate of their First Aid with a note on his uniform: this will be the end of all collaborators with the Germans, may their names be blotted out!…
After we obtained the two guns, the desire to buy rifles strengthened in us, a matter that other companies managed to do long ago. The only problem: where can we get the money?! There was one choice, to arrive, somehow, to the merchandise warehouse on Zamenhof 44, and in exchange for the merchandise we will get money from the Polish smugglers outside the ghetto. The plan how to carry out the theft was well prepared:
Since the warehouse was closed at night and guarded by three policemen, among them one Jew, one of us will pass barefoot over the roof and descend through the iron stairs, which were built inside the walls, to the iron shutters at the entrance. He will enter with the help of a key and close the door behind him. Then, he will remove the windowpane from the other door so that the other members will be able to enter the warehouse.
The operation was fully implemented. We sold the merchandise to people who worked on the Aryan side. With the money we bought rifles from Polish policemen on 10 Niska Street, from an S.S. officer named Bern who worked with us on Zamenhof 44, and also from Kurtz, a friend who worked in the large warehouse on Dzielna Street.
After we got the weapons, which included six hand guns and three rifles, we learned every evening, in the ruins of Muranowski, how to use them.
In mid April 1943, when I walked to work as usual, from Niska to Zamenhof 44, the German guard stopped us between Zamenhof and Mila and brought us back to toyter Niska. The reason, not far from this place was a struggle between Jewish insurgents and Ukrainians who carried out aktziot to the Jews together with the S.S.
When we entered the cellar in Niska, we were ordered by the German guard to remain standing in a line and not to try to escape, otherwise we would be killed on the spot. A large number of Jews, who were expelled from their homes and worked in various positions, already stood in the street.
Without paying attention to the stern warning of the German guard six members of our company disappeared into Muranowski's ruins and I among them. As we later learned all those gathered were sent to the Umschlagplatz.
From one of the attics in Muranowski, we were able to see the struggle between the Germans and the Jewish insurgents at the end of Zamenhof and Muranowski blue and white, and red flags were raised on the roofs… With great sorrow and pain we saw from the hiding place the struggle between them a struggle that we couldn't take part in because our rifles were hidden on 6 Niska Street…
Since only a few Ukrainian and Lithuanian guards stood next to Muranowski gates, I, together with my friends, decided on a dangerous mission: to eliminate a number of them and take their rifles. We slowly descended barefoot from the attic, hid behind piles of junk in the yard, and from there we watched the guard at the gate.
At an opportune moment, we quickly attacked him and quietly eliminated him. We pulled him deeper into the yard took his rifle and stripped off his uniform. Since it was possible to pass through the attic from one building to another we carried out two more missions against the gate guards on the same side of the street, and in this manner we obtained three rifles and three uniforms…
Towards evening, when it became dark, we managed to across Muranow Street to the other side, in the direction of the buildings that bordered Niska, and in one of them we lay down to sleep.
The next day, early in the morning, we saw from the small window in the attic that large German groups gathered near toyeter Niska 20.
Without thinking a lot, we activated three rifles into the aforementioned crowd. There was a great commotion among them, they left the dead and the wounded and fled in different directions. But, they reappeared quickly and started to shoot wildly in the direction of Zamenhof Street. Several hours later they burnt, in retaliation, three buildings on Moranowska which bordered with narrow Mila.
As we lay hidden for a full day in the attic we tried to break into Bonifraterska to reunite with another company that was fighting there with the Germans.
When we got closer to Muranów Square the Germans, who were hidden inside the ruins, opened fire at us and as a resulted our friend, Avraham Karpeman from Piaseczno, was severely wounded.
We didn't want him to fall into the hands of the German and we couldn't take him with us we shot him in the yard of Mila 2 at his request.
Since we couldn't break through to Bonifraterska we were forced, with fear and trepidation, to retreat to Niska 8 where our company settled down.
Three days later the Germans brought back three hundred Jews from the Umschlagplatz to take out objects from Jewish homes.
Our company spoke to these Jews, and it was agreed that we would join them if they were sent to work on other streets. We made a bitter mistake. At noon, the Germans brought reinforcement of army and tanks into the ghetto, and again took all the people, including us, to the Umschlagplatz where there were already thousands of Jews.
Because they were afraid of armed insurgency, they conducted a selection of young people, loaded them into cars and transported them to Treblinka and Majdanek.
The Germans stood by the freight cars, and every Jew who entered was severely beaten with clubs and iron [bars] wherever possible.
I lay in the car severely beaten the crowding was awful and cramped and the small windows were guarded from outside by barbed wire. Those, who begged for a little water, were ridiculed by the Germans: It's a shame to waste water. You're actually led as raw material for soap.
On the way, close to Otwock, I tried to tempt my friends and others to try to escape because a certain death was waiting for us. Only one friend, Zimmerman, was tempted. With the metal buckle of my belt I cut two barbed wires, pulled my body out of the small window while my friends held my legs with leather straps from the inside. When I hung in the air I bent down and managed to pull out the hook that blocked the door. I gave a sign, and was pulled back inside.
Now is the only chance to save life! Anyone, who has the courage should take advantage of the darkness of the night and jump off the car!
But the people in the car, besides those who held me when they lowered me instead of trying to save their lives, preferred to tear me up like a fish. They started to scream: you're rude and irresponsible! Don't you know that if the Germans will see that the door was opened they would annihilate us all?
We realized, that the people didn't understand their situation, the two of us, my friend Zimmerman and I, decided to escape. We took an old coat and threw it out. We did this to see if the German guards on the freight train will notice the escapees and shot them.
When we realized that the guards weren't paying attention we jumped off the galloping train and disappeared into the darkness of the night.
That evening, hurting from the fall, we met a group of Jews in the forest. To my question: what are you doing here? they answered: we are walking back to Warsaw… I looked at them as if they were mad. After I informed them what was waiting for them there, I without knowing to this day why joined them, and walked together with them in the direction of Warsaw. The next day, a wintery day, at dusk, we were on our way to Srodborow. We met a shepherd who brought us, for money, two loaves of bread and a pot of milk.
After we ate we continued to walk in the muddy soil, under the rain, to Otwock. On the way we saw two men in yellow uniform with a big dog and hunting rifles on their backs. They stopped and looked at us from a distance with the help of field binoculars.
Without knowing who they were we escaped.
When they saw it, they started to fire at us. In this shooting the Jews, who tempted my friend and me to return to Warsaw, disappeared from our sight. We already skipped Otwock, moved to a side path until we arrived to an isolated farm house and asked a lonely woman for food (from this run, and after it nothing was left of the bread and milk that we bought from the shepherd). The peasant woman looked at us with suspicion and said: there's nothing in the house! Without a choice we asked for water. She unwillingly took a bucket and went outside.
It should be noted, that when we entered her house we noticed that she quickly covered something on the bed with a blanket. When she left with the bucket we lifted the blanket and saw a big fresh loaf of bread. Without thinking, I broke off a sizeable slice and stuffed it in my bag.
When she entered with the water bucket, she noticed that the blanket was not exactly in its place…she lifted its end and saw the theft…
She reacted with a terrible scream…
We realized that we were risking our lives. We quickly escaped from this place and immediately entered another village to rest.
There, my friend entered a fancy farmhouse, where a wealthy man lived, to get instructions on how to reach Warsaw. I stayed outside and waited.
To the farmer's question who are you? he answered that he is a Junak (Silesian Pole who served in a German division) who escaped from the Germans, and with him another friend who is standing outside.
The farmer called me to come inside and after taking a good look at our torn and worn clothes, he said:
You don't have to tell me stories. It is quite clear that you are Jewish (because of my friend he didn't take into account my Aryan facial appearance and stated with confidence that I was also a Jew), but he didn't say anything. Eat fast and leave my house because in a village, not far from my house there is a dance in which Polish policemen participate. This is a big risk for you and for me.
We thanked him and ran away. A torrential rain fell outside and it was impossible to continue on our way to Warsaw. Without a choice we remained in this village and hid inside a haystack. The fear of the Poles, who were partying not far from us, didn't prevent us from falling into a deep sleep.
At dawn I got up and also woke up my friend. I suggested to that we must flee the village as soon as possible. But, since he was sleepy, tired and wet he suggested that we should stay in this barn, lie under the warm hay and leave for Warsaw at night. I agreed. But in the middle of the day, when the sun was hot, he woke me up and suggested that we should leave the village now. I told him that it was a great risk to do so in the middle of the day… but he insisted, tempted me, and we left.
When we left the village we agreed, in order not to arouse suspicion, that I will walk ahead of him and he will follow me some distance away.
We moved forward in a narrow field lane.
Suddenly, I saw in a distance of one kilometer the arrival of people…
They quickly turned right off the main road and started to run through the field. I turned and saw that they were running in the direction of my friend Zimmerman, who was walking quite a distance behind me. When my friend saw them, he started to run. They shot at him and hit him in the leg. I heard his call for help and saw them getting closer to him. They shot him. I escaped across a small bridge, and when I was on the other side I threatened them with my fist, out of despair and anger, and screamed with all my might in their direction:
Wait, wait, you villains, bandits! I will avenge the spilled blood of my brothers.
Of course they didn't hear my shout from that distance and didn't see my fist but they shot in my direction and I disappeared inside the forest.
I spent the whole night wandering in the rain in the forest and arrived, early in the morning, to a train station called Gulomb.
This station was close to the forest. I got closer and saw how the Ukrainian railway policemen stood at the cars' doors. The minute the train moved I climbed quickly on the other side of the train, entered the car and mixed with the Poles who traveled to Warsaw.
It was a small train. I got off together with the other passengers at a small train station next to a bridge in Praga.
Without knowing the Aryan side of Warsaw (and ignoring the fact that I've been there once), I just walked around the streets and often approached the gates of the ghetto, which were guarded from the outside by Lithuanians and Ukrainians.
I wandered until I arrived to the small ghetto which was between Prosta and Zelana streets. I asked the Poles who stood by the gate: are there any Jews in the small ghetto? and they answered me: there are only those who work at the Többens company.
All I had left of my property was a Góral (500 Polish zloty note) and I was forced to give it the Poles, who traded next the ghetto's walls, to let me climb over the walls of the small ghetto. At that time, the Jews in this ghetto worked for Többens in sewing uniform, horse harnesses, suitcases and other goods. But there were also Jews without numbers who were called savages. They were illegal and they had to hide.
After spending a few days in the small ghetto, I saw from my hiding place (through a small window in the attic), the Jewish commander, Sterling, together with other Jewish guards, who were called Jaminikes. They walked from house to house and called the savages to come out of their hiding places because they are being sent to work. Everyone, who obeys this declaration and come out, will receive three kilograms of bread and one kilo of marmalade.
Hungry and emaciated, with dry bones, they came out of their hiding places in bunkers, cellars and hidden attics.
The men of the Jewish police took the old Jews several hundred people stood them in a long line and order them to wait.
A short time later, the Germans arrived with trucks and began the selection.
They informed a line of Jews that I was also among them that they were being sent to work in Treblinka A or B, and also to work inside the big ghetto near the Umschlagplatz…
I was placed in the big ghetto group which numbered four people.
We came to the ghetto. We were taken to toyter Niska 20, to Vert Erpesung, the main warehouse for expensive valuables of the S.S. chief of police. There, we carried pianos, which stood in the yard, and put them into the halls.
When we carried the third piano, I suddenly heard an announcement on the stairs:
Eichner stop and leave the piano!
We put down the piano and remained standing there.
Then, Easterlin, my former commander from the warehouse in Zamenhof 44, called me to the side and asked me in a whisper so that other three workers wouldn't hear: how did you get here when you were selected, with other young people, to be sent to the Umschlagplat?!… I boldly tried to persuade him that he was mistaken, that he left me among the experts who were sent to Többens in the ghetto…
After I told him that, his face turned red with terrible anger and he shouted: you are lying! He wanted to pull out his gun and said screaming.
Tell the truth! Either you belong to the gang fighting against the German army, or you disappeared from the train to Maidenk…
When I realized that I wouldn't get out of it, I told him that I escaped from the train. I revealed everything that I had done until I stopped breathing for fear of how he would react to it…
After a long thought he said in anger: don't be afraid, I will not shoot you! But remember, if someone ask you if you know me, or worked for me say no!
After this short conversation he asked if I was hungry, and for my answer yes he brought me bread and a piece of sausage warped in paper.
When he left, he warned me again not to tell anyone about his conversation with me, otherwise I'll pay dearly, and you more than that…
During the time of his talk with me, the three workers had to stand facing the wall.
We finished the work by dusk. They put us again in the truck and brought us back to the small ghetto.
When we entered a sad picture was revealed before us:
The men of the S.S., who brought us in the truck and saw what happened there returned with us to the gate and asked the field policemen, who stood on guard there, what to do with us.
The policemen responded indifferently: either you'll shoot them or ask at the main S.S. headquarters on Shocha Avenue.
Then, one of them went over to the phone to ask and we… waited for the decision…
The answer was, since there was still a group of Jews in Poznańska 15 (the building that once housed the Soviet Embassy), who work in Aust Ban, they should transfer us there and so they have done.
The next day they sent me from Poznańska 15 to work on Socha Avenue to clean the horse of Obersturmführer Leder. At dusk they brought us back to Poznańska 15.
On that evening, around nine o'clock Soviet planes bombed Warsaw intensely. Our S.S. guards ordered us to go up to the attic. A few minutes later, a Soviet bomb fell in the yard. Down in the building was the S.S. guard post. A fire broke out from the force of the blast, and the all the guards were covered by the walls that fell on them.
During the bombing, my thoughts were on the question: should I take advantage of the situation and try to escape? I talked to others from the group on this matter, and suggested that we should go down to the yard because we now have the opportunity to escape, but they canceled my suggestion.
When I realized that I wouldn't be able to convince them, I took off my shoes and went down the stairs.
When I arrived to the yard, the destruction of the bricks, window sills and tools was evident, and at the same time I heard a call for help: my friend saved me… comrade! …
I moved closer to where the call came from, and saw an S.S. man lying in agony from his wounds in his guard room.
I was stunned by his canine eyes, not knowing what to do… but, instantly appeared before my eyes the sad images of the Jews who were shot in the small ghetto, my parents who bloated and died of hunger, my sister and my friend Zimmerman…I bent down, took a brick and, with all my might, hit the head of the one who asked for mercy with his canine eyes… When I wanted to leave the yard, there was another call and mumbling. According to common sense, I had to get out of the yard as fast as possible, but now the feeling of revenge grew stronger within me, and I was drawn to where the murmur sounded from.
And now I saw, through the crack in the wall an outstretched arm with a swastika. I bent down, in front of his blue face, and saw before me an S.S. man of high rank and badges on his chest I asked him: What happened to you?
The Soviet pigs destroyed me (kaput)… he answered in a stutter.
I'm here to help you Herr Schef, I announced as if I was fulfilling his command, and secretly lowered an iron bar on his blue face and silenced him…
With the bag on the wall, which served as a suitcase full of food and cigarettes, I quickly left the yard and went out into the street.
Outside a clear night. Polish policemen walked around to make sure that the residents wouldn't walk around during the bombing, and when they saw me they called me to stop! I didn't turn to them and ran with one breath to the main train station. There, I boarded an empty tram which traveled in the direction of Praga Bridge.
When the tram reached the bridge it stopped and I was forced to get off.
Next to the bridge stood German policemen who checked identity cards and didn't let anyone to cross in both directions, even with the cards. When they brought back a group of people who broke out of Praga to Warsaw, I seized the opportunity and with the desired agility I mingled among them and was deported to Praga as I wanted.
I slept all night among the trees which grew east of the train station. The next morning I entered the station and wanted to buy a train ticket to the city of Przemyśl.
Without an indentify card they refused to sell me a ticket to such a distance.
At ten o'clock, before noon, a number of peasant women sat with their buckets of milk. I approached them and from our conversation I learned that they were traveling together to Jaworzno. I asked one of them to buy me a ticket because I wanted to escape, at any cost, from Warsaw. After I had the ticket in my hand, I waited with them to get on the train.
And now, when I talked to the shikses [nonJewish women], a man approached me and I recognized that he was a Ukrainian. He looked at me, torn, barefooted and called me with his finger… he walked a few steps with me pulled out a bottle of samogonka (homemade vodka) from his pocket, and from the second pocket rolls with sausage, and turned to me.
Eat and drink!
It is possible to assume that I didn't refuse the unexpected refreshments because, until this late hour, I hadn't eaten and was really hungry… After eating and drinking, he asked me where are you going? I answered. But he suggested that it's better to travel to RavaRuska. Since there was no difference for me where I agreed, but I told him that unfortunately I have no money for the ticket.
Never mind he pointed with his hand. I'll take care of you. We will leave at six before evening on the international train which passes through Berlin, Warsaw and RavaRuska to Kiev the blonde sheygetz [gentile] explained to me.
Even though I agreed to the journey, I hesitated when I saw German policemen walking, and every step of the way take a good look at the eyes of each passenger in the station and checking their identity cards…
Since there were a few more hours left for the arrival of the train, he also suggested that we should sleep among the trees close to the station. I accepted his offer.
When the train arrived we hurried to the station, but there we were ordered to show our cards. The sheygetz took out a special document issued by the Gestapo, pointed at me and said that I also have a similar document.
Without interruption we entered the car.
When the train moved from the station he asked me: do you really have a document like mine?
Yes, I replied briefly, and simply added: it may not be exactly like yours.
If so, I want to see, show it to me and he came closer to me.
Knowing that I have no document with me I answered: I'll show you later, and tried to distract him with an interesting conversation.
After a certain time, he told me again in the middle of an interesting conversation that he still wants to see my document. I felt that he was dangerous to me and I wouldn't be able to get away from him. A thought worked in my mind: You must break free of him! At all costs…
At once, I turned to him with a suggestion to go out for a short time to car's corridor, because the air in the car was very dense. He agreed, came out with me, stood comfortably by an open window next to the door, and again demanded that I show him the document.
I think he looked at me with a crooked smile and a wink that you have no document at all, and it is possible that you are an escaped Junak and maybe also a Jew… I answered him calmly and without losing my thoughts:
Here, my friend, I have the same suspicion about you. It seems to me that you're playing a good disguised game, show me your document first and you will see mine later…
The sheygetz measured me from head to toe with a smile, as if to examine and be convinced, and handed me his document. He lit a match since it was dark in the corridor, and at the time of the act he stated that his job was to search for Junakim and Jews.
When he wasn't paying attention, when he was busy lighting a second match which was extinguished by the wind, I opened an outside door and quickly, with all my might, pushed him out of the fast train… and his document remained in my hand…
When I arrived in Lublin, the German railway police announced loudly, next the station's checkpoint that everyone, except for the Germans, must line up for document check.
Holding the document in my raised hand, I quickly passed the check without any problems. But during the act I had strong heartbeats because, if they compared the picture to my face. I would have been eliminated…
After the inspection, those who continued the journey, and I among them, had to return to the cars. On the way, after RavaRuska, I noticed that there were very few passengers in the cars. The document in my pocket started to bother me… and cast great fear and terror upon me.
Since that fear didn't leave me, I went into the bathroom and there I made the decision I tore the document to shreds and arrived in Przemyśl without a piece of paper in my hand.
Very few passengers got off in this station.
As I stood by the window, inside the car, I saw the German railway policemen line up the arriving passengers next to the station's wall and checking their documents. Suddenly, one of the policemen jumped at one passenger, stuck a finger in his eyes and screamed wildly:
You're a Jew?! Yes?!…
The man became very pale and didn't utter a word.
At the same moment, and a few steps further, a young woman burst into bitter tears and approached the German with a desperate request…
Gripped with horror, I got off from the other side of the car and in a quick step walked straight to the locomotive. I put my hands under the hot water tap and with wet hands rubbed the boiler and the wheels and soiled my face and my clothes. Now I looked like a railroad worker and passed the check point without being stopped by anyone.
When I walked in one of the streets of Przemyśl, not far from the ghetto (at that time I didn't know that there was a ghetto in Przemyśl), I asked an old Christian woman if there were Jews in the city.
The Christian woman looked at me with strange eyes and asked:
What, you're not from Przemyśl? You are not far from the ghetto. It was ghetto B for the unemployed.
I continued, and from a distance saw a Polish policeman walking back and forth next to the fence. I calculated his walk from end to end, and managed to climb over the fence. He managed to shot but I was already on the other side with torn pants and wounded hands from the barbwire. I fell straight into the arms of a Jewish policeman who whistled for help. Immediately, two additional policemen came and dragged me to the Judenrat building. There, they let me sit for the time being without interrogation. From listening to the policemen's conversation I learned that they were waiting for the arrival of the chief of the Jewish police, Nadler.
When he arrived, he questioned me strictly and his first question was:
Are you from the ghetto?
Yes I replied briefly.
Where were you?
I was outside, in the villages to get food for myself.
After all you know he accused and said, that it isn't allowed to leave ghetto, and those who disobey this order will get the death penalty?!
We will not stay alive I answered and it won't skip you either, right now we aren't on equal status but, in the end, the Germans will make us equal… the words came out of my mouth with bitterness.
He called me to come to the window and look outside.
As you can see, your body will look like the one hanging there!
I looked through the window and a saw a young man hanging. Around him were the ghetto Jews who were forcibly brought by the Jewish police (as I found out later it was my cousin, a second generation, named Meir Kareps who was a butcher). Two policemen, Freidman and Malawer, hung him with the help of the men of the Gestapo. The reason he physically revolted against the Gestapo man, Benavitch, by sticking a knife in his hand.
When Nadler, the chief of the Jewish police, threatened to hand me over to the Germans to receive the death penalty, Gottfried, the Judenrat vice president, came in and when he heard what it was about he probably spoke in my favor.
Both of them talked and consulted each other, and in the end released me on the condition that I should be available when they needed me, and I wouldn't leave the ghetto anymore.
When I left the police station, I met an acquaintance and asked him if anyone from my family was in the ghetto, because I haven't been here for a long time. The acquaintance took me straight to my cousin. He was very happy with me, but at the same time told me that he couldn't help me with anything, because he himself was starving.
To his question : how I got there, and what about my parents and two sisters, I told him that my parents and young sister arrived with me in Warsaw and were caught by the Germans at the main train station. I managed to escape from them and to this day I couldn't find them. I also told him that besides those who revolted against the Germans, and those hiding in bunkers Warsaw is empty of Jews…
And you participated in the battles against the Germans? He asked at the end.
I then gave him a long report on my active participation in the struggle, how I was sent to Treblinka and how I escaped from the train.
I stayed for a few days with my cousin and when I left I asked him to remain loyal and not to tell anything about me otherwise my life is in danger.
From there, I moved to live in the same building with a friend that I knew in the ghetto. His parents were taken from him and he was left all alone.
I sustained myself from the items people gave me on commission and traded with Poles who hid from the Germans.
One bright day, while sitting in the courtyard of Kopernika 2 (I lived there with my friend), I suddenly saw a group of policemen enter, and among them Commander Nadel with the Judenrat president, Goldman.
When they entered the courtyard they took up positions at the entrances, and the Jewish commander pointed at me with his finger and said: here he sits, and they took me to the Judenrat.
When I entered the police station office, the commander smiled at me and said: I appraise you. You're a clever guy because you didn't escape from the ghetto!
Why should I run away? Am I a criminal, a thief, a robber? I responded.
Calm down the commander looked at me deeply don't be afraid, we won't do anything to you. We know that you're not a criminal what we want to know from you is one thing:
Answer me, from which ghetto did you come here?
I was not in any ghetto I was on the Aryan side and because of the hunger I wandered around different villages I answered.
Don't lie to us! without taking his sharp look away from me we know that you came from Warsaw with the aim of conducting propaganda and organizing partisans. Do you want them to kill us because of you?
I claimed, I don't know Warsaw, I only know the city from school books.
When he received this answer, he beat until I started to bleed. In any case, he added, you aren't going to survive and ordered the policemen to take me to jail.
A number of them jumped at me, tied my hands and a led me to the cellar.
After two or three hours (I didn't have a watch and it was totally dark in the cellar), I heard a conversation in German and also the barking of a dog. Immediately after that, the cellar door opened and on the threshold stood Commander Nadel and two policemen.
So he asked: did you decide to admit that you came from Warsaw? and if say yes you will be released.
I answer them the same thing: I've never been in Warsaw.
Then the Gestapo man, Schwamberger, asked the commander what did he answer? When he received the answer Schwamberger responded:
He will tell the truth inside the Gestapo!
Again, they took me out of the cellar and brought me to the police office. The commander turned to me with a sullen eye: are you saying that don't you know Warsaw at all? well, we'll prove it soon. He opened the door of the second room and on the threshold appeared my cousin, who was brought by the police for confrontation in the matter of Warsaw, what I do in the ghetto and with who I have relationship here.
The minute my cousin appeared Schwamberger called me with his finger: Jude, come here! If you don't tell the truth now you will be eliminated!
Do you know him? The chief of police asked my cousin!
My cousin was silent and his eyes glanced at me in a worried look.
Why are you silent? farflukhter Jude (cursed Jew), roared Bennewitz from the Gestapo, and hit him twice on the head with his hand and with a club.
My cousin begged before him not to hit him anymore, and he will tell what he knows.
Hurry up, talk! he commanded.
He (my cousin) turned to me and asked me in a loud voice: why are you silent? Why don't you tell the masters that you came from Warsaw and said that the city is free of Jews? Why should I suffer because of your refusal to tell the truth?
You heard what your cousin said? Schwamberger turned to me.
I denied it: I do not know the man at all, I see him for the first time because all my cousins were murdered a long time ago.
So you don't have any relatives? Bennewitz asked me.
You hung my cousin, Meir Kreps, and now want to do away with me too.
So, you are the cousin of the bandit who shoved a knife into my hand?! He knocked me down, hit me until I started to bleed and ran over me with his legs.
Break his fingers, Bennewitz! then he wouldn't be able to do the same thing his cursed cousin has done Schwamberger announced
They dragged me with the help of Jewish policemen to the door, stuck my fingers between the lintel and the door, and crashed my fingernails with a shout: If you don't tell the truth now, we'll cut off your fingers!
I controlled myself not to scream. The tears were constantly flowing and I just repeated: I'm not guilty, I don't know Warsaw…
It lasted until I fainted. They poured water on me. When I woke up from the shock, I found myself lying on the floor with black and crushed fingers and fingernails.
When I felt better, two Gestapo men took me out of the ghetto and brought me to the Gestapo building. There they put me in the cellar and two hours later called me to Grubert, the head of the Gestapo.
When I entered his office and stood before him, he saw my crushed fingers, my beaten face and clothes stained with blood offered me to confess and then, they will take me back to the ghetto.
I claimed that they tortured me for no reason and I know nothing.
He gave an order to take me back to the cellar.
A few hours later, they sent me a guy named Janek. He comforted me, they don't shoot here, and I am lucky that there is no transport of prisoners from Rocantzhinska prison to the Jewish cemetery in Slowacki [Street] where they shot them. He advised me, it's better for you to tell the truth that you came from Warsaw. Through this open conversation he suddenly asked:
Tell me, do you know those in the ghetto who have guns and intend to escape?
I don't know I answered in briefly.
After he left the cellar I was called again to Grubert. This time he ordered me to sit and immediately offered me: if you want to stay alive, we'll take you back to the ghetto. Your duty there to find out who among the Jews has weapons and preparing to flee…
I agree! I answered him.
If so give everything you find out to the Jew Janek who frequently visits ghetto A.
They took me back to the cellar where they immediately served me soup, meat and bread and on the next day they were going to transfer me to the ghetto.
That evening they sent Janek again.
He didn't let me sleep. He tried by various means to draw me into a political conversation, especially my opinion about the Germans and the battle that that Jews, and the partisans, are fighting against them. In this conversation, the Jew Janek managed to hear unwanted thoughts that came out of my mouth.
When he heard this, he said that I would never achieve these thoughts…
After a long conversation he reacted badly to a certain problem … and as a result a violent struggle broke out between us. But I asked for his forgiveness and also not to share our conversation with the Germans because they would take revenge on me…
In response to that he replied, that he was working against the Germans in fact, he's walking with an initiative thought, to break, with the help of physically fit people, into their rifle warehouse, which is located on Mitsquitscha, eliminate the guards at the gate to allow the Jews to flee from the ghetto and join the partisans in the forest.
In any case, I no longer had faith in him and his talks and when I lay down to sleep I lay with my eyes half closed…
Halfway through the nap, I listened how he came down from the frishte [scaffold]. I opened my eyes a little and saw how he was walking slowly towards me. He stopped and listened carefully if I had already fallen asleep. Then, he walked back as if he couldn't decide, or make sure, that I've fallen asleep.
An hour later, I got off the frishte and did the same thing he was sound asleep. Then, I grabbed his neck with my two hands, and with all my strength strangled the neck of this Jew who was helping the Gestapo, until he stopped breathing…
Out of my great desire to eliminate the criminal, it didn't occur to me to think that I was in a locked cellar and, at any moment, someone could enter and see what I've done… Only a few moments later I began to realize the hopeless situation I was in… Out of desperation I began to cover him with rags so that no one will notice what happened here immediately after he opens the door.
Confused to the point of madness, I began to think of ways to get out of there quickly. And now a thought occurred to me and I immediately began carry it out, but I needed a wet rag and there was no water in the cellar. Fortunately, it was raining heavily. I took a strong rag and pushed it out through the bars. After a few moments the rag was properly wet.
I wrapped this rag around the bars, stuffed a short strong piece of wood into it, and twisted them together many times until the bars bent and I could get my head out.
As I walked out of the yard (there wasn't a special watch around the cellar). I listened, with my heart pounding if anyone was walking there, and quickly jumped over the wall straight into the street.
It was a dark and rainy night. I walked away from the place in the direction of the freight train station that its fence bordered ghetto A and B. It was Czarnieckiego Street.
When I was already near the fence, I heard people talking in Yiddish and saw from my hiding place two policemen. I waited for them to pass and jumped over the fence with torn pans and wounded hands I quickly entered a corner house on Kopernika 2 where I slept in the attic.
When I woke up I didn't dare to go down. In the middle of the day a religious boy (I think the slaughterer's son) came to look out of the attic's small window to the Aryan side. I asked him if he had something to eat he went down and a few moments later brought me a slice of bread. He also advised me to go to the warehouse where potatoes were unloaded from a railcar, and if I get some he would roast them and bring them to me.
I agreed, the brain didn't decide, but the hunger… I went down, arrived to the warehouse, took out a number of them from the railcar and put them in my pockets.
But, when I put the last potato a member of the Judenrat named Dr. Kramberg (a lawyer in Przemyśl before the war), caught me and hit me twice. From his shouts a guard came out of the warehouse, a Wehrmacht man who brought the potatoes. To his question: what are you doing? he pointed at me and answered: he stole potatoes from the car. Fortunately it ended with the guard kicking me and saying let him go.
On my way back to the attic the boy stopped me and took the potatoes he roasted them and both of us revived our souls.
With the help of the boy I stayed there for three days.
On the fourth day, early in the morning the pale young boy came running to wake me up and announced: you know, the ghetto is surrounded by Germans and Ukrainians and they are getting ready to carry out the last aktzia…
I offered him to go with me to my hiding place, but he replied that he already had a hiding place and wasn't sure if the people would let me in. Therefore, I hid alone in the orphanage. Since the stove wasn't heated in the ruin I crawled into the chimney.
After standing for two hours in a narrow cramped opening I heard awful screams and the cries of children who were dragged out of the orphanage.
From the chimney door, and through cracks, I saw how they hit the children's heads on the wagon wheels, threw them into the stable and set them on fire. I also saw from my hiding place that, not far from the orphanage, they gathered the people who were hiding and shot them.
In the evening, I saw, through a crack in the chimney, the Gestapo leader, Commander Grubert, accompanied by his aides, Schwamberger and Naoitsch, and two gendarmes with automatic rifles ready in their hands. With them were the members of the Judenrat: the presidents Goldman and Reper and the Jewish commander Nadel. When they stooped next to each house, Goldman announced loudly:
Anyone who stayed hidden can leave the hiding place without fear! Nothing will happen! Now everyone will be sent to work in the workshops of ghetto B.
Without looking at the slaughter that took place before them, there were those who believed Goldman's words and gathered in the lot marked by the Judenrat. Some of the young people were selected to collect the dead and also to load them on carts and bring them to the Jewish cemetery on Szlowackiego Street.
In order not to cause too much discomfort to the Polish population, many victims were collected and burned on the spot. I was among the young workers.
Before leaving my hiding place I hesitated if I should do it, because after what I've done in the Gestapo cellar I was afraid that the moment the Gestapo commander, Grubert, sees me he will shot me on the spot. But, I don't know how to explain that in my hideout I envisioned a great risk to my life and thought that if I joined those who listened to the Judenrat, I would have the opportunity to escape death.
I stood in a long line together with all the Jews. No one was interested in me and nobody recognized me. But instead of relaxing, I was worried that I would also be among those who will be shot.
When I helped to load the dead on the carts, a member of the Judenrat named Jonas Taich (director of the workshops in prison), approached me. He was more privileged than the other members of the Judenrat and didn't carry the Star of David on his sleeve. He stood in front of me with furious eyes and shouted loudly at me: why do you put them head to head and not as they are laid, in this way the operation will end quickly.
I stared at him and answered: it is possible that both of us will look like this… therefore, I'm interested that they will be laid according to the correct order.
After he left the place to join the rest of the members of the Judenrat, who walked behind the Germans, I turned to one of the people who worked with me next to the cart:
He is confident and that's why he doesn't carry the Star of David, but such a death is also waiting for those who serve the Germans.
He must have heard it from a distance. He immediately turned around and came to me:
What did you say to him after I left?
I didn't say anything I answered.
Nothing? He raised his hand and slapped me.
I slid, and pushed him with my hands that were dirty from taking care of the dead and soiled his elegant suit. In response he ran to his good friend, the Gestapo man Kurz, took the club out of his hand and hit me on the head.
To Kurtz's question why he was beating me he answered:
The swine refuses to work!
Upon hearing this, Kurtz pulled out his gun and shouted:
I'm killing you, kaput you dammed Jude!
Don't shot him Jonas replied. In the meantime, they will finish the job. At dusk, when it gets dark, we will eliminate them…
At twilight, when we were about to finish loading the dead which we covered with rags as instructed I saw in a distance how a number of Poles lead horses to harness them to the carts of the dead. I took this opportunity, when no one was watching me, and climbed on such a loaded cart and lay under the rags among the dead.
When it got completely dark, the carts left the ghetto. In order to pass over the city they first entered the second ghetto and from there, through a back road, straight in the direction of the cemetery.
When they were already in the middle of the cemetery the field police stopped the carts and asked the Germans who accompanied the load all the way what they were transporting. The answer was: dead Jews. The guards ordered the carts drivers to continue and they stayed to talk to the field policemen.
I peeked from under the rag and saw that they were standing with their backs to the carts.
I got off slowly from the cart and disappeared in the darkness of the night. One of the carters noticed me and called for help. A few shots sounded, but I was already in my hiding place inside a ruined house.
In this ruin I lay under a pile of feathers until the next morning. I started to move from ruin to ruin, and in one of them found a pretty good suit. I wore it and immediately went over to the fence which surrounded all the free space that belonged to the second ghetto.
Suddenly, an old German from the Wehrmacht crawled out from his hiding place. He took off the rifle from his shoulder and asked: are you a Jew or a Pole? I answered: a Pole, I came to look for clothes in these ruins.
Don't you know that it's forbidden to enter a closed area? he asked.
I didn't know that, I answered innocently, as my heart beat like a drum.
If so he stood with his rifle behind my back walk with me to the office where everything would be explained to you.
He led me and I was given to a guard which also included a Jewish policeman.
When I walked with him, Metz from Jawornik Ruski, I asked him to give me the opportunity to escape because I wasn't a Pole but a Jew…
When I told him that he whistled and a second Jewish policeman came out of the barrack. I also recognized him, he was the son of Baruch Metz who had an estate in Jawornik Ruski, and before the war traded with my father in the market.
I also asked him to let me go. He promised me that I've nothing to fear. At eight in the morning the commander will appear and I would be taken with other Jews to a new ghetto which will contain three large buildings on Rokitnianska 1 and 2.
You should know that they don't make a ghetto from two to three building I explained to him it's a German ruse they will take us at dusk to the Jewish cemetery to shoot us.
You must now go with us now, this argument will not help you he replied coldly.
In light of this I tried to escape but they caught me, started to beat me with rubber batons and brought me to the group of Jews in the yard. The group numbered about 300 Jews, men, women and children who were guarded by Jewish policemen.
When I stood in line together with the Jews, I came across, by chance, with an acquaintance from ghetto B, a boxer from Przemyśl named Bunio Schirach. I offered him to escape because I felt that the moment the headquarters appear they will eliminate us. He didn't accept my offer. I asked another Jewish policeman not to interfere when I will try to escape. He answered me short and sweet:
It will not help you with anything, and you will be killed here like everyone else!
I didn't accept the fate that he had informed me in advance… I took advantage of the minute he walked away, and escaped. He noticed it right away and forcibly threw his stick at me, but it missed. I bent down, picked up his stick, threw it on his head and he fell to the ground… It was a good opportunity and I disappeared inside the workshop huts and hid there in the cellar.
When I lay among the many iron bars, I noticed from my hiding place how the policeman, who was hit on the head by the stick, was searching for me in the large cellar. When I saw him getting closer to me, I picked up an iron bar that was close to me and landed it on his head. He fell on the ground bleeding. I left and went into a second cellar that was full of old beds and hid there.
I lay there for about an hour and listened. Two Germans talked in the corridor leading to the cellars and called the dog to come after them. They entered the cellar where the wounded policeman lay. I continued to listen and now they entered my cellar. After they lifted a few beds, and didn't find me, they left the place. One puzzle remained how the dog didn't feel me… and it illustrated to me the story about the dogs in the exodus from Egypt…
At dusk, when it was totally dark, I walked out of the basement and jumped over the barracks' fence. I was very hungry. I entered the houses that were emptied from people to search for food. When I entered one of these houses, I found a girl who was shot with a hard loaf of bread under her arm… I pulled the bread from under her arm and continued to walk into a stranger's house that a light was visible from its window. I went down to the cellar and stayed there with the hard bread for three days.
Realizing that my life was in danger and seeing the images of the Jews who were shot, reinforced my decision to move to Aryan side. I left the cellar and walked straight to the fence which was forty meters from the cellar where I lay.
When I arrived to the fence, a Ukrainian in German uniformed appeared before me. He stopped me and asked who I was and where I was going. I told him the truth I am a Jew and I want to cross to the Aryan side.
Do you know that there are no more Jews and I need to eliminate the ones I meet? he asked me.
I remained petrified… I answered nothing…
He asked again if I had a knife or something similar, he checked me and after he found nothing he asked how old I was.
Eighteen I answered without removing my strong stare from him…
You really want to live? the question surprised me.
Out of fear I didn't know what to answer and remained silent… you're a lucky young man that you only met me! Now listen what I say to you he turned to me.
You'll pass the fence and I'll shoot after you … don't be afraid. I will shoot in the air because I also fear for my life… It's possible that someone saw that I stopped you and he's watching from his hiding place how it will end. You should know that if I didn't stop you I would have risked myself…
I looked at him with incomprehensible eyes. Hesitation and suspicion spun in me and in my mind and unrest in my heart I quickly went over the fence. I heard gunshots and I was sure it was my end. But it was as he promised me.
I left Przemyśl Ghetto and directed my steps to the Aryan side to my birthplace, Dulbecco, where I lived before the arrival of the Germans. It was a thirty kilometers walk. I walked for three days… because I was forced to walk through the fields like a hunted dog.
I arrived in the suburbs of the town before evening, entered the home of a Christian, Wladek Muzschtika, a blacksmith who worked for my father before the war. When I opened the door of his house he asked who I was.
I answered him: I'm the youngest son of Wolf Eichner.
How it is possible! he announced, there are no more Jews left, do me a favor, he added a moment later, get away from here fast!
Without a choice, I left his house. But he called me back and said: first you have to eat something and later you should go. When I came back in I noticed that he was whispering to his wife and she immediately left the house.
I ate restlessly and quickly escaped from there…
When I was outside, he advised me to wait a little, because his wife will be back soon and she'll give me food for the road. When he saw that I didn't want to stay, he grabbed the edge of my clothes. I struggled to get out of his hands, but he continued to struggle with me I hit him hard between his eyes and he fell wounded on the ground. I raised my legs and escaped through the fields to the Christian cemetery and hid myself among the tombstones and from there I was able to watch what was happening around his house.
Half an hour later, I saw German and Polish policemen, accompanied by his wife, getting closer the house, and how the blacksmith, Muzschtika, who only a few moments ago got up from the blow he received, showing them with his hand the direction to the cemetery. They took their rifles off their shoulders, turned quickly in the direction and fired without hitting me.
I moved out of hiding, but saw that I had nowhere to go because the road only led up the mountain I hid in a mausoleum that was full of tools and with no choice entered under an inverted trumna…
It didn't take long and the door opened. I heard footsteps and someone saying he's not here, he must have fled! I lay like that under the coffin until midnight. After that, I left to take advantage of the darkness of the night.
In accordance with my decision under the trumna, I moved closer to the house of the blacksmith, Muzschtika, and saw that the candle was still lit. I waited for it to go out.
When it went out, I waited for about half an hour and had the time to ponder with a prayer in my heart according to Wednesday's song: O God of vengeance, O Lord; O God show vengeance for me and for my people in the same song it is said: For the Lord will not forsake His people… I went to the barn, which bordered the cowshed, pulled out two planks and crawled inside the barn. I set it on fire in such a way that I could escape before the flames ignited.
When I was already on top of the mountain, after the Christian cemetery, I stood to follow my operation…
Not only the barn and the cowshed caught on fire, also his house was burning.
Then, I turned in quick steps in the direction of the village of Śliwnica a distance of 3km from the Christian cemetery. There, lived on a hill a Christian acquaintance of my father who used to buy horses from us. As I approached a dog barked.
The Christian suspected that someone came to steal, went outside and called in the dark: Hey, who's there!
Pani Bentish come closer and I will tell you who I am I answered.
But he called me to come to his house, and I introduced myself, I'm the youngest son of Velvel (Wolf) Eichner.
What? You are the young son of Wolf Eichner? he announced how did you get here? This is the third year that there are no Jews here… It seems to me that all of you moved to Warsaw after the arrival of the Germans! He sadly called me to come inside and asked if the neighbor, who lived on the road, saw me. He offered me food, gave me water to wash, and led me to the barn to sleep. Don't be afraid he comforted me I will help you as much as I can but it is only possible if my neighbor doesn't know about it, because if he finds out that I'm hiding you it is dangerous is not only for you, but also for me and my family a mortal danger…
The next morning, when Joseph Bentesh's wife came to take hay for the animals, she brought me food. She also promised to bake pita bread for me and add some eggs and butter to take with me tomorrow evening when I'll leave them.
Over the course of these weeks, when I wandered around Dubiecko, I visited the farmer Joseph Bentesh a few time. I always came back from there with food and his wife also washed my shirt.
It was in the autumn of 1943. It wasn't a convenient time to leave the area where my father's kind friends, like Joseph Bentesh and his wife, lived. I continued to wander like a hunted animal looking for shelter for a life of poverty. Something that I wasn't sure I would do in my life, something that caused me to be promiscuous and thirsty for revenge to all those who, in some way, helped the Germans. Because of the dangers that threatened me as a Jew every step of the way I decided that from now I would take advantage of my Aryan facial features, and introduce myself as a Russian captive.
I arrived in Rączyna Forest. After I stayed there for a few days and ate beets and mushrooms, I went out looking for work with the farmers in the area. I came to Hucisko Jawornickie. When I arrived through the forest to the village path, I came across two burnt bodies, big and small. I came to the house not far from the bodies to ask about work. A Christian came out and asked: who are you and what do you want? I answered: that I am a Russian captive and I'm looking for work.
I would never accept a Russian captive he replied I suffered many troubles from them. My advice: go to Rzwpin. Ask, whoever you meet, where the forest guard lives, he is the only one who can find you a job.
As we talked, I told him about the burnt bodies. To that he replied: because you are Russian and you probably won't tell anyone, I'll tell you the truth: a mother and her son, both Jews I knew, walked around here. A few times I let them sleep in the barn and even gave them food. Once, in a heavy rain, they wanted to come in but I didn't agree. Because of that, they came one night and burned the barn next to my house. Sometime later, I happened to discover their hiding place in the forest and handed them over to the Germans. On the way, both of them attacked me then to defend myself I shot and burned them.
By his description of the mother and son, I learned that I personally knew the victims very well. I couldn't resist, and these words came out of my mouth: how did you gather the courage to shoot a woman and her son who were looking for shelter, and later to burn them? Although his house was a bit burned, I realized that his story about the night in barn, and finally the fire was made up…
So he turned to me if you like the Jews so much, then you're probably also a Jew, and grab me by the collar and wanted to drag me into his house. With great force I slipped off and fled. He threw something heavy on me, but didn't hit me.
I was already close to the forest when his dog caught up with me, bit me, and tore my clothes. With difficulties I released myself and turned to Hucisko Nieadowskie. I entered the house of an unknown Christian to ask him to let me sleep in his barn.
When he looked at me he said: who tore your clothes? On the way a dog attacked me and with difficulty I rid myself of it I answered.
He didn't allow me to sleep in his barn because the police was in the village at that time, and advised me to get away as fast as possible.
I ran quickly to Sliwnica Forest and lay under an oak tree.
I woke up in the morning, felt pain from dog bites and barely got up. I revived my soul with some beets and mushrooms. I lay back and fell asleep until dusk.
Then, I got up. I remembered a Christian named Lukasz who traded with my father in the horse trading. This Christian lived in the village of Drohobyczka, about 12km from where I was. I was very hungry I set off. By the time I got to him it was late at night. I knocked on the door and from the other side I heard his sleepy question who is there? Open, one of us, I answered. He lit up with the flashlight in his hand and said.
I was frightened. I thought Mordechai's nephew was knocking. He used to come here from time to time to eat something (he meant the boy who was burnt with his mother). I introduced myself so he would know me. I'm the son of Wolf Eichner from Dubiecko. Yes… I remember you… he nodded, and like others asked: did any of my neighbors saw you when you came to me?
No! I promised him, and he let me into his house.
As I stepped on the doorstep, his wife (who knew me) gave me a pot of milk with bread, and before I had the time to finish it, she served hot Kaposniak (cabbage). I finished. She prepared hot water, brought me peasant clothes to change into, and suggested that I sleep with her son in the same bed in the attic. The son slept there because he was hiding from the Poles who served in the German army.
The Lukasz family took care of me for two weeks and hid me in the attic. Every morning his wife brought with her soap, water, a clean towel and plenty of food. On a certain day, when the police suddenly appeared in the village, and there was danger that they would come to search for her son, I was forced, without a choice, to leave their home. Before I left I was given a package of food for the road, a pot and matches.
I made my way again to Sliwnica Forest. I was there for one week. During this time I fed myself with the food given to me by the Lukasz family. A new hunger caused me to enter to an unknown farmer. He gave me what he had at home: pita bread made of barley flour. Later I asked him if I could sleep at his home because it was very cold in the forest. He allowed me under the condition that in the morning, at dawn, I would leave the place.
The next day, early in the morning, I went again to Sliwnica Forest, hid there until dusk and moved to Hucisko Nieadowskie. When I came to this village I entered to a farmer, who knew me as Russian who is wandering in the area, and asked him he had work for me.
If you want, he answered, you can come tomorrow to dig potatoes. If you want to sleep you can sleep in my barn.
I thank him for the meal, and told him that I had a place to sleep.
When I left his home I carefully entered his barn. I didn't have full faith in him because I didn't know him before.
The next day, early in the morning, I entered the farmer's house and together with a group of people, who came later, went to dig potatoes.
After a day work, he asked: what do I owe you? I answered: I don't need money. I prefer to get some butter, eggs, and tobacco (for cigarettes).
I have no butter he replied the Germans took it from me, but eggs and tobacco I can give you.
I took the eggs and the tobacco and left the farmer.
Far from his house, his sister, a thirty year old woman, ran after me. She had two children and worked with the group digging potatoes. She asked do you still want butter? and if so, wait here for a few minutes until I come back, but no one can see you. Then, you will go with me to my house. She left and immediately returned. I came out of my hiding place and walked a certain distance from her to her house. I received a plate of butter. I wanted to give her something I found on the way.
I don't want anything from you, she said, this is my gift. I thanked her for her kindness and turned to leave. When I held my hand on the door handle she came closer and said:
Where will you go now in the dark? you will freeze in the forest listen to me and sleep here.
I answered her: I'm afraid that maybe one of the neighbors saw me coming to you! You will suffer and, me even more…
She grabbed me, hugged me and kissed me, saying that she wouldn't let me go, she caressed her body to mine and said:
You have to know, I'm a woman without a husband for a long time… I want you to understand that and sleep with me once. I'm not surprised about you, you are young and no longer know life … remember, my door will always be open to you! …
I was only18 at the time, but my suffering and constant fear of death, and the constant wandering, removed all thoughts on this issue from me.
I left her early in the morning and returned to the forest. I avoided showing myself in the area. I started to think of revenge on the forest guard from Hucisko, who shot the mother and her son and later burnt them… Hantshi Parpenst from the village of Kraczkowa near Dubiecko, I decided to burn his house.
At mid day, I left the forest in the direction of Hucisko Jawornickie where the murderer lived in the middle of the forest. I arrived at a distance of a hundred meters from his rusted house, and from a distance took a good look at the place so I can come at night to perform my act of revenge. I stood like this for about an hour, hidden among the branches. I noticed that he was going out with a stick accompanied by his dog. He took a good look at his surroundings and returned to his house.
When it got dark, I cautiously approached his residence and entered the barn which bordered his house. I set fire to the straw and quickly fled into the forest. From a distance it was possible to see his house going up in flames. I moved away from there, about 8km, and headed to Rączyna Forest. I hid there. I was hungry for bread, and as in previous cases I ate beets and mushrooms. After getting tired of this food, I continued to the village of Sweibodna to look for work and food. Over time I learned where there's a dog is and where there's none. In addition, I was known to the local gentiles as a Russian captive.
I entered the village, turned to the head of the village and asked for food, His answer: if you talk too much I would take you directly to the Pruchnik police.
I disappeared from him and entered a cowshed where there were also chickens. I knew, of course, who the homeowner was. As usual, the beasts began to make noise. The farmer heard, entered with a flashlight, and didn't see me because I was hidden. When it was silent, I grabbed two chickens and quickly returned to Rączyna Forest.
A few days later I moved to Sliwnica Forest and there I decided to move far away from there, to a place where I would be able to spend the winter (since it was already cold, heavy rain fell and it was difficult for me to lie in the forest). I returned to Sweibodna, to the woman who expressed her love for me.
When I came to Sweibodna, to that woman, she prepared hot water for me, and after I washed she gave me a generous amount of food. I finished, she talked about this and that, and finally invited me to sleep with her.
I spent a few hours, and then she packed a package of food for me. I asked her: why do you want me to leave you house so quickly? She told me that a neighbor saw me when I was there the first time, and demanded that she also send me to her, otherwise, she would inform that she was hiding a Russian captive.
I explained to my neighbor, she continued to tell, that a Russian captive didn't come to me, and the one she saw was just a Polish young man from the other village. When the police was in the village on a certain day, she continued to tell, the neighbor went and informed the police about your visit to me, and that's why the police warned me with severe punishment and with setting my house of fire.
My beloved offered me a secure place where I would be able to spend the entire winter with her cousin Yanka. This cousin, she explained, is limping on one leg, but she is beautiful. You can hide very well at her place but you have to promise her that you will marry her after the war.
I agreed (did I have another choice?) we went to her cousin. She entered her house first and a few minutes later called me.
The cousin was indeed beautiful, I was introduced to her, she wanted to whisper something in her ear, but my protector responded with a smile: you can say it in a loud voice, the Russian doesn't understand Polish! Then she asked her, in my presence, if she likes me, to that the cousin answered with a strong yes…
If so, my protector said to her, if you like him, I can go … Well, have a pleasant time and remember me for the best.
This young woman lived with her old mother. Her father and two brothers were arrested by the Germans because they found a rifle in their possession.
After a stay of a few days, the shiksa and her mother were invited to relatives for a birthday party.
The shiksa asked me to join them, but the mother warned her that it might cause great troubles. But the daughter insisted that I had to join. I had a good time. There was an orchestra and dancing and plenty of refreshments. By chance, I met there two Christians who knew me as a Russian captive. At one moment, a Christian called me aside and told me that in a village, not far, there is a party in which policemen also attend. The young Christian advised me to get out of there fast.
I listened to him and escaped from the party.
When I was already outside, the shiksa ran after me and asked: why are leaving and what did the two men tell you? I told her.
The mother stayed and her daughter and I left together.
The second day, just after I got up, the mother started to fight with her daughter. She cried and demand that I would leave the apartment because they might burn her house, shoot them, etc. for hiding a Russian captive. She was scared that one of the guests at the party would inform them…
Without a choice I was forced to leave the place where I hoped to pass the winter. I said goodbye and expressed my gratitude for everything.
I walked about 300 meters, a Ukrainian farmer named Jeremiah, who stood next to his house and chopped wood, stopped me.
Who are you and where are you headed? He asked.
I answered him that I'm a Russian captive and I'm looking for work.
He said that since the weather is excellent today, and he's worried that the upcoming frost would freeze the potatoes, he prefers to take them out today and offered me to work with him in digging the potatoes,
He gave me breakfast and we left for the field. About 9 o'clock I was called to eat a second breakfast.
As I sat by the table Jeremiah's wife appeared with a pile of chopped wood in here hands and said to her husband:
Listen, two German policemen came to the Polish Muhtar [village head]…
Her husband answered her. It's probably due to the constant thefts in the area.
When they talked about that topic the food got stuck in my throat… and before I recovered from the news, the landlady had disappeared.
Three moments later, a Polish policeman and a German field policeman were at the door.
Hände hoch! (hands up) the German policeman ordered me. I knew that as a Russian captive I was not obliged to understand German, and didn't respond to his order.
The Polish policeman translated his order, and started to check me. As he was checking me, the German hit me on my head with his club.
They tied my hand and legs and brought me to the Muhtar who knew me as a Russian captive working for the farmers in the area.
The Muhtar's wife prepared food and vodka for everyone, and asked: am I allowed to give him some refreshments? The policeman answered no!
The Muhtar asked the Polish and the German policemen to release me, he knows me as a quiet man, but in vain, they didn't agree.
When the lame girl, who hoped that I will marry her, found out that they arrested me and I was at the Polish Muhtar, she rushed with buckets of eggs for them. She thought of redeeming me but couldn't.
After they finished eating, they put me on a farm cart, tied me, and with the escort of two policemen brought me to Pruchnik.
Along the road my mind was occupied with the problem: how to escape from the danger lurking for me now? I was sure, that the first thing they would want to know is, if I was a Jew.
About two o'clock we arrived in Pruchnik, there, they put me in a police prison cell. I expected them to call me at any minute, but in vain.
The next day, at nine in the morning, two policemen brought me to the court house, which was in the same building.
Next to the judge's table sat: the head of the local gendarmerie, several residents, a doctor, a Polish policeman and a Ukrainian who translated from Russian to German.
The first question was:
Where are my friends, my assistants?!
I don't have friends, I am alone and live from my work for the farmers I answered them.
From where and how did you arrive here, to our area? the police chief stared at me with his fiery, murderous eyes.
I escaped from a prison camp in Germany, I answered quietly, without taking off my gaze away from him.
What is the name of the camp, and what was your number?
I just gave him a number, and as for the name of the camp, I don't remember the name because I wasn't there for long time, I fled from there when we were led to work.
Didn't you know that you will get the death penalty for your escape from the camp?
I didn't know that. I suffered from hunger, I was beaten on the way to work, that's why I escaped, I answered with my head down.
The interrogation, which was conducted with the help of the Ukrainian translator, stopped for 1015 minutes.
After the break, the commander took me again for questioning, and this time asked me in a fatherly voice:
If you've been around here for so long, and as you said, you worked for the farmers and didn't belong to any gang, you knew that you can't go back to Russia, why didn't you come to us? Maybe we would have taken care of you?
I didn't know that, I probably would have come to you, and added Herr Scheff, if I had done badly in the area, the farmers would have told you.
The commander measured me again with a penetrating look, ordered me to approach him and turn facing the wall.
After a brief consultation, he ordered me to turn around, and told the doctor to check if I was a Jew.
At that moment a tall blond shiksa entered, and the commander told the doctor to take me to a side room.
To this day it is difficult to explain how this happened, where did this miracle come from, whether because of the slightly dark room, or maybe the doctor was shortsighted.
After a short study, the doctor returned to the room and in a military pose announced: Nien Herr Scheff, nicht Jude (Mr. Commander, he is not a Jew).
They put me back in the jail cell where, besides me, there was no one. I was given a cup of coffee and a slice of bread, and the cell's door was closed.
In the yard, of the same building, was also the post office. A young woman, who worked there, saw me through the bars. She felt sorry for me and gave me cigarettes, a little food through the guard who watched me. She used the opportunity that the guard left the place and suggested, through her window, that I should escape through the stove's chimney in the cell.
I took her advice seriously and started to think how to do it and, of course, I decided to do it when it got dark.
At dusk, the guard brought me coffee and bread through the bars. He saw that my hands were white from the lime and asked:
What are you doing there?
He received a dumb answer, but before leaving he warned me and said: maybe you're planning to escape. They will be hanged right away…
When it got dark I continued to work. After a lot of work I managed to get some bricks out of the stove and tried to get my head in, and now I realized that the chimney was too narrow… My body was covered with cold sweat.
I walked around all night. I thought that I would go crazy with fear… I pondered, what would happen if someone will see it the morning?…
In the morning, I heard that they were trying to open the door of the corridor leading to the cell. I stood next to the stove to hide what I have done. The police commander opened the small window on the door and called: Zalozovsky Gennady (my fictional name) we are traveling to Jarosław.
He handled the lock for a moment, opened the door, and put a chain on my left hand.
To destruct him from what I have done, I turned very quickly toward the exit to make him think that I was trying to escape from him, for that I was rewarded with two slaps in the face, and it was worth it…
They put me in a wagon accompanied by the Polish chief of police, a field policeman and the Ukrainian translator, and we traveled directly towards Jarosław.
Along the way, after the translator suspected, for some reason, that I was a Ukrainian, he repeated this song several times:
My darling, you would never see Russia again before your eyes. If you want to be a Komsomol, the Gestapo would make Komsomol from you!…
We arrived in Jarosław, to the Third of May Street, and I was taken to the Gestapo. I was handed to a duty officer and the Polish commander and the field policeman left. The officer ordered the Ukrainian translator to stay. The young translator looked like a suspicious and murderous man. His hat was worn on one side and covered one of his eyes, he smoked a cigarette and walked around the reception room of the duty officer like a fatherinlaw in a wedding…
After I was asked for detail in Russian by the German officer, like: my name and my surname, how old am I? How and why I escaped from the prisoner of war camp? He added that I didn't have to escape from there, I could have served in the German army, the way many Russian prisoners of war have done. To his ringing, two Gestapo men arrived. He ordered them to take me to Jarosław prison. There, they handed me to the prison commander and I was placed in a cell where about 15 men sat, among them a number of Polish students.
After sitting in the prison cell for three days, the meister of the prison workshops came and asked if there was a shoemaker or a sole cutter among us. He took us down to the cellar where the shoemaker workshop was located, and I informed him that I was a sole cutter. Then, he took me down to the shoemakers' cellar and ordered me to cut soles etc. I had some knowledge and the prisoners showed me the rest.
After one workday, they took me back to my cell. I sat with everyone to eat bread with coffee. A farmer, from a village not far, approached me. He heard that I was a sole cutter and offered me that if I bring him a pair of soles he would pay me with food and cigarettes. I brought him not a pair, but three pairs, and in exchanged I received food, cigarettes and also bimber (homemade vodka). When his relative came for a visit, he tried to give them the merchandise and fell into a trap.
After he received severe beatings, he informed them that I was the supplier. I was sentenced to receive 25 lashings in the presence of all the prisoners. After the sentencing, the prison commander said: in my opinion, another 15 lashes can be added to him…
When I heard his suggestion, I grabbed a container full of urine and poured it on him… In response, the guards attacked me and beat me with murderous blows until I fell out of exhaustion and bled on the ground.
When the murderers left the cell, the prisoners gave me wet dressings for my wounds.
I wasn't taken to work. I couldn't sit or lie down because of the beatings.
After a few days, the same commander, who was accompanied by two policemen, called me Zalozovsky Gennadi take your belongings and come.
The men in the cell and I, were sure that they were taking me to eliminate me… when we came out the policemen asked the prison commander if they need to shackle me. He answered that after these beatings I was no longer dangerous… and led me in the middle of the street in the direction of the train station. When the train to Przemyśl arrived, they took me to a special compartment in the car.
When we arrived in Przemyśl, they led me again in the middle of the street, and brought me to a prisoner of war camp in Buszkowicka Street behind Przemyśl. When they brought me there, they immediately locked me up in a cell and a few hours later took me, together with other prisoners from the cell, for interrogation.
Among the German investigators was also a Ukrainian in German uniform. My investigator was the Ukrainian. I was afraid that he would be able to recognize from my Russian that I wasn't a Russian captive as I've told them. That's why I decided to play the idiot game and stuttered with incomprehensible halfwords.
To his question, why I was talking this way, I told him a fictitious tale, that by the time I was twelve years old I couldn't speak at all, and that's all I know. I was taught in a special school.
When the German officer asked though the investigator how old I was, the investigator answered: he said that he doesn't know, and added: he's not normal at all.
They put me in a second cell together with another person with a physical disability. The next morning they took me, together with several Russian captives, to the clothing department and I received military clothes with the sign S.U. (Soviet Union) in large yellow letters. They didn't bring me back to the cellar. We were sent to the penalty department for escaping prisoners, from there, a few days later an order arrived to send us to Germany.
For three full days, in locked cars without water and without food, they transferred us to Germany to a prison camp in Amsdorf where we were given a little soup and a slice of bread. On the same day they shaved us, cut our hair and sent us to the bathhouse. After this procedure, each one was asked for his name and surname, his father's name, what his occupation was and if he was a party member. I said my father was a postman.
On the third day we were called to the medical committee. After this committee they lectured before us and announced that those, who want to live a good life, be well cared for and dressed well, must enter the German army voluntarily because the Russians already lost the war. Those, who do not want to join the German army on their own free will, will go to work in the mines. I preferred to work in the mines.
In the mine I was sent to work in the deepest and worst place. I knelt all day because the stone ceiling was low I couldn't stand straight. We worked 12 hours and given 200 grams of bread and thin soup.
Local Poles, Silesianakes, also worked in these mines. They worked as normal hired workers. They annoyed the Russian prisoners at every opportunity, irritated them with their good food and coffee, while we drank murky salty water from the pipes which caused illness and death.
In exchange for the coffee sips that I received from the Silesianakes, after I finished my quota at work, I had to help him with his work. After I saw that the Russian captives were falling like flies, I came to a conclusion that such an end is also waiting for me… without a choice, I was forced to steal food from the Polish mine workers who treated us brutally.
When my food hunt continued for a long time, the Silesianakes decided to follow and catch the thief.
On a certain day one of them, who was hiding well, noticed that I was taking something out of their food.
When I returned to work and stood bent, he passed next to me and hit me on the back with the handle of my tool. A strong blow, that because of it I couldn't sleep at night and stand straight. I decided to take revenge on him. A few days later, I was given the opportunity. Both of us met in our work place and besides us, there was no one there. I gave him measure for measure with the sharp edge of my tool. His screams alerted the German engineers. The wounded Silesianakes was transported to the hospital and all the Russian prisoners were beaten with horrible blows.
On a certain day, after what happened to me, I felt, early in the morning, that someone was waking me from my sleep. When I woke up I saw the German commander with his Ukrainian deputy standing next to my bed. They ordered me to get off the bed. I was still asleep and warm, and didn't know what they wanted from me. His deputy asked me: how do you talk in your sleep, in German or in Yiddish. I replied that I don't know anything. The Uzbek from the second bed remarked: he is lying. I heard him talking in German or in Yiddish.
They took me to the office for an investigation, and the first question was if my father or my mother were Jewish. On my strong no, the camp commander responded: if you don't want to tell me the truth, you will tell it to the Gestapo.
The clerk told the camp commander everything on the phone, and they promised to come in three days. In the meantime, they put me in the camp prison, but the next morning I was brought to work until the arrival of the Gestapo.
A thought popped into my head that I should, at all costs, escape from the place…
It was the month of January 1944. Early in a dark morning they took us, as always, accompanied by local policemen to work in the mines. From my calculations, I became lame and walked in the last line after everyone …
Approximately 40 meters from the entrance to the mines, I started to slow down my steps. The head guard, an old German, who walked behind me unarmed, shouted at me: Faster! Faster! Damn dog! I showed him my sick leg and pleaded with compassionate eyes. To that he answered you wanted a war you must suffer!
At the same moment, I did what I had planned: in a bold leap at him, I took my mine lantern and hit him hard between the eyes. He immediately fell on the floor and a minute later began to scream and call for help.
I started to run… I also heard gunshots behind me, but I didn't stop and kept running fast in a zigzag.
I reached a frozen river bed and tried to cross it, but when I got to the middle of the river the ice broke under me and I sunk in the water.
All wet I got out of to the other side of the river bed. At that moment they aimed spotlights at me and shot in my direction. I quickly disappeared from them. Only in the middle of the run I felt kind of a burn in my right leg. I kept on running with a limp without resting for a second.
After quite a long walk I finally arrived to the city of Rybnik which was 20km from Suszec and Trzcianka mines.
It was a snowy lazy day. My winter clothes consisted of shorts, a light coat and a leather cap. When I arrived with my wounded leg close to the town of Rybnik, I entered the yard of an estate
where I met a person dressed in a Russian overcoat. I thought he was a Russian captive, I got closer to him and asked him: are you what I think you are? He answered no, he is only working in the yard and asked me: what do you want here?
I answered him that I was hungry, and asked if he had a clean rag to change my bandage!
When I talked to him I saw a shikse though one of the windows. She came out and pointed at me, she asked the worker who I was. He explained to her that I was a Russian captive asking for food and also for a clean rag to bandage a wound in his lag. When she heard it, she brought me white bread and also a clean rag, and warned me to leave as fast as I could because two Gestapo men from Rybnik were in the building. I quickly slipped straight into a hiding place in a bunker near a small forest. I ate the white bread and a snowball standing… since there was no water nearby.
Suddenly I saw from a distance two Gestapo men. They stopped and started to look at me. At that moment I thought of myself as liquidated… they talked and looked at me… in the end, one of them shook his hand, and they left.
I finished eating. I was afraid to walk on the road and continued to walk through the fields heading east. The fields were covered with thick snow. I didn't pay attention to the swamps and sunk inside one of them up to half my body. I tried to go out, but I couldn't, every step I tried to take, I sunk in more. So I stood from ten in the morning until dusk without help and, suddenly, I saw from a distance a farmer carrying tree branches on his shoulders. I called him with all my strength until he finally heard me and started to get closer to me.
How did you get in there, don't you know that the place is full of swamps?
I explained to him that I didn't see it because the fields are covered with snow.
Waite, he turned to me, I'm going home to bring ropes to get you out of there.
And so it was.
After he pulled me out, he took me to his home and ordered me to take off my clothes and lie naked on the pechniki on top of the heated stove. He called his wife and asked her to wash my clothes and dry them.
I slept there all night. In the morning I got up, ate something, and continued on my way. I skipped the town of Rybnik and walked in the direction of the Beskid Mountains. My goal was to reach the Czechoslovakian border. I walked a full day. At night I went into the barn, crawled under the hay and fell asleep there.
Early in the morning I went out carefully so that no one would notice me and continued east.
After a few days of wanderings, I arrived to a place from which the Vistula leaves the mountains, near the town of Strumień (Schwarzwasser in German).
I got closer to the place, saw a farmer building a fence near the river and asked him for a slice of bread. He said that he didn't have any but suggested that I go with him to the tool shed and there he would make me coffee. When I was done and wanted to leave, the farmer pointed his hand at a house in the distance and said: If you want to eat go and enter there, I assure you that you will probably get food there.
Since it was in the middle of the day, I was afraid to go the place that the farmer advised me to, and turned to a side road so he wouldn't see me. I hid under a bridge until it got dark.
Then, I got out of my hiding place and turned to that house. When I got closer I saw bicycles leaning against the wall and also barking dog.
Because of the barking, the door opened and on the threshold appeared a man, about 33 year old, wearing German military uniform.
I stood without talking and breathing … and heard my heart pounding.
What are you looking for here? he asked me. Maybe you come to steal my bicycle? Who are you anyway?
Since I was surprised by this question, I couldn't answer and just shook my head no…
You don't know German? he asked me again.
I answered him in Russian, no.
Are you a Russian captive? he questioned me as an observer.
I answered him yes, and my teeth started to chatter I started to tell him about the mines in Trzcianka.
When he heard the name Trzcianka, the German took out his gun and asked me in Silesian Polish:
Are you the one who hit the guard on the head with a lantern?! He pulled out his gun from the hoister and announced:
Do you know you deserve the death penalty for this?
It's all the same to me… my situation is worse now than death! I answered.
The gun was put into place, and he turned to all sides and said: come with me into my house.
I walked after him with a pounding heart.
I entered his house, and he showed me the newspaper on which were my picture and my captive number.
This is really you? He asked me again.
I answered him yes.
Look! He showed me what was written under my picture: whoever hands this criminal to the police, or give his hiding place, will receive a payment of eight hundred marks. You see my luck! He said to me with a smile, you brought me an easy bonus, but, don't be afraid! he finally added: come with me! He led me to a cupboard that its wall led to another room, and from there I had to pass again through another cupboard, which stood on the other side of the wall, to a totally different room.
The man has done it all in military uniform. He locked me in this room and left the same way he entered.
He was gone for about an hour, in which I had scary thoughts, and then came with his wife. He ordered me to get inside the shower, to take off all my rags and wash with hot water. I explained to him that it is difficult for me to wash because of my wounded leg which caused me pain.
If so, he answered, come with me and I'll help you to wash because, if not, you'll cause yourself blood poisoning and you'll die in the snow. He took off my clothes, cleaned my wounded led, and after I finished to wash alone he also gave me civilian clothes. When I came out of the shower, his wife said to him: you should know that he still looks like a Russian to me.
I returned with him and his wife through the cupboards to the first room, he checked the wound in my leg and said: wait, I'll take the bullet out… he left, a few minutes later returned with surgical tools, and ten minutes later the bullet was already in his hand.
After that, he dressed the wound, gave me food and a place to sleep in the second room. I stayed with this German, named Shubert, for three days. His rank was Oberscharfurer, he was the commander of the town of Strumień and spoke Silesian Polish. As I learned after liberation this German detective was operating in the Polish UB (Security Service).
Before I left him, he prepared a package of food for me and gave me a gun and a knife as a gift. When we separated, he warned me that if I was caught I shouldn't tell that I was with him because he, his wife and I, were in danger of death.
It was already dusk when I left their house, and he accompanied me until I crossed a wooden bridge over a narrow river that its waters spilled to the Vistula.
On the way it got cold and turned dark. I entered, as usual, to a barn and went to sleep. When I woke up it was already morning. I left again for the road without a target, just to walk forward. Suddenly s strong winds began to blow. The snow whipped me inside and a few minutes later I was frozen solid.
After I advanced a good part of the way I remembered that I left the food and the gun in the barn. I wanted to go back, but the accumulating snow hid my way back. I wasn't sorry about the gun as for the food package. As I continued my way forward, a wish came to my mind: how to warm my limbs? Moving on, I saw a flashing light in the window of a house in the distance, so I continued in the direction of this light. At that moment I remembered what our town's scholars, who traveled in honor of the holiday of Chanukah to the Rebbe, R' Motle of Sadigura, said: in all seven times that he repeated He who dwells in the covert of the Most High, he lingered on verse 15 I am with him in distress, and finished with a purpose and a whisper. This is the same, I thought in my heart: He will be with me in my distress!
I arrived at the house and according to the outside appearance I immediately concluded that poor people live there I believed that they wouldn't do me any harm.
I knocked on the door. On the doorstep appeared an old farmer who asked me in Silesian Polish who are you and what do you want?
I answered: I want to warm up because I feel completely frozen. He called me inside and asked me if I understood German. When he heard no, he asked again if I was hungry and before he heard my answer, he gave me a large slice of bread and a cup of coffee.
Before I started to eat, I noticed that he approached the doorway of the other room and spoke in German with his two daughters who lay there. He ordered one of them to go and inform the street guards that there is a suspicious man in their house. One of them got dressed in some garment and I heard her steps through the window.
The farmer returned, came to me and asked why I wasn't eating. I got up angry, pushed the food aside, looked into his face with a piercing stare, and added:
Do you think that I don't know where you sent your daughter who left through the window? The day will come and I'll take revenge on you!
After I walked about 200 meters, I heard a call behind me in German: shteyn bleiben Stand! Stand!
I turned and saw a policeman in black uniform and a bayonet on the side running after me. I accelerated my steps, and he run faster until he got me. He turned to me in Polish: damn you, why didn't you stand! I stood.
Who are you and where are you going? He asked in a harsh voice. I explained to him: I'm from the Cieszyn labor camp and came here to visit Ukrainian friends who work for the farmers in the area.
Let's assume that, where's your identity card? He stood in front of me.
I started to search in my pockets and in the end I said, I forgot it in the camp.
If so, come with me! He turned to me in a harsh voice.
Where am I going with you? I asked him.
To the police station! He answered there, we'll see if you're telling the truth.
I started begging him: why are you taking me to the police? I'm telling you the whole truth. You must know that I'm a Russian captive and I escaped from the mines. You know that if you take me to the police, they would kill me.
Don't be afraid, they won't do anything to you. Come with me! and he didn't let me go.
When he saw that I wasn't ready to fulfill his demand, he grabbed me under my arm. I turned to him again with nice words and pleas to influence him to let me go, but without result.
I pulled my arm out of his hands with great force and struggled with him. He grabbed the collar of my coat, dragged me after him as he was saying: you must know that for every captured Russian prisoner I'll get 800 marks!… what do you care who caught you? If not me, the other would have done it.
In despair, I tried several more times to influence him to let me go but in vain. So, I pulled the knife I got from Officer Schubert, and stuck it in his stomach… He fell on the spot and also tried to pull out his bayonet. But I arranged him in a way that he couldn't… I took off his coat with the belt, and also the bayonet with the hat, and raised my legs to flee wherever they would take me.
After such an escape of about 2km, I found out that I was near a small forest. I walked straight to the barn that was attached to the house, pulled out a plank, entered, and climbed to the attic.
The thought that the Germans might appear at any moment, or the homeowner will climb up and meet me there, didn't give me rest and that's why my body also reacted I was trembling and scared. I fell asleep from the fatigue that enveloped all my body and slept well in the haystack.
Suddenly, in the middle of the sleep (I don't know how many hours I've slept), I woke up to the sound of machine guns firing in the distance. It didn't last long, and now I heard a conversation in German, meaning, that they were questioning the farmer and his wife who lived there. I also heard footsteps inside the barn… they climbed up the ladder to the attic and there, of course, searched as usual in the hay. Wonder of wonders and this wasn't the first time in my wanderings they skipped the corner where I hid without breathing at all… when they went down I heard that the Germans were questioning them again, as well as the third, who was probably their son. In short, they took both men with them. Through the crack I saw the peasant woman running after the Germans, begging in a bitter cry not to take her son because he only came yesterday for a three days leave from the German army.
I lay like that in the barn until dusk. When it got dark, I wore the uniform of the murdered policeman, entered the house and asked in German:
Are you still refusing to tell where you hid the bandit? (it was done to get something to eat from her and to warm my limbs). We don't know anything, the woman burst into a bitter cry we didn't see anyone. My husband and son were wrongfully arrested. In the meantime, I don't see them coming back.
In the middle of the conversation the peasant woman felt that I was cold and asked if I wanted to drink tea, I shook my head to indicate yes. She gave me a pot full of boiling tea, white bread and cherry jam.
Mother, please look! It's him! His coat is stained with blood!
I heard it and ran quickly, took off the coat, and with all my strength ran in the direction of the fields without thinking where it would lead me…
After a hasty escape of a few kilometers without rest, I wasn't far from the village where I heard gunshots, and together with them the spotlights were also working in all directions. I hid myself among small thick trees. The shooting increased, weakened, or stopped, and it took almost two hours. In this way I lay there for about three hours and later continued running and, this time, to warm my limbs and frozen fingers.
That's how I escaped without resting for a moment all the way to city of Cieszyn.
Early in the morning I entered a farmer's house, which stood on a mountain, and asked: where am I? He answered: you are at the home of the forest guard and immediately moved to the questions who are you and where are you going? I answered him: I want to go to Russia because I'm a Russian captive. What? He was amazed. From here you can cross the Olza and reach the Beskid Mountains. I told him I would go that way.
After I warmed up a bit in his place, and ate several slices of bread with milk, he accompanied me outside and showed me the way to the bridge from which I could cross the Olza. I obeyed, arrived to the bridge and crossed to the other side of the water. That's how I arrived to the freight train station, a distance of 200 meters from the water. From there, I saw a pedestrian bridge and climbed on it to cross to the other side.
Suddenly, I heard a policeman calling me to come back, because a number of stairs were broken on the other side and it was dangerous to walk on it. I didn't go back because I was afraid he would stop me. I started running forward, and when the policeman saw me running away, he fired after me. I jumped over the broken stairs and was already on the other side. I ran to the forest which was close to the station.
I arrived to a grove and started to walk to the Beskid Mountains that were seen in the distance. I walked through sparse groves, skipped populated places, and continued in that direction until twilight. I finished with the woods and entered a canvas hut where I asked for something to eat and to warm up a little. The answer was: quickly leave the hut, otherwise, I'll inform the police! Without a choice I left him quickly, walked a good part of the way, and entered another house. There, they let me to warm up, gave me something to eat and told me the same song; get out of here fast because we're afraid of the police.
I escaped again in the direction of the Beskid Mountains. Evening arrived and also the frost. I arrived to canvas huts, which were very close to the mountains, and in all of them light was seen in the windows.
I approached one of them with a thought of going in and asking to let me sleep there. I peeked through the window and it seemed that rich people lived there, but I realized that it wasn't so. I entered their barn, where, in the dark, I bumped into a pile of laundry. I took some and put it under my head. A few minutes later I fell asleep.
In the morning, before it became clear, I heard the mooing of animals and woke up. I change my dirty laundry to clean. I left the barn and started to walk up through a forest to the Beskid Mountains.
As I walked in the forest paths, I saw in the distance several houses that light was seen in them. I walked to the last house, which stood alone on a hill in the forest. I walked in deep snow to my knees until I finally reached this house. I rang, and a young woman opened the door for me. She looked at me from my feet to my head, and asked who I was and what I wanted. I explained to her that I was a Russian captive escaping from the camp, and asked to warm a little. She invited me to the house, where her mother was with a child. When she closed the door behind here, she asked if someone saw me when I knocked on the door. She served me hot coffee and also cake and later told me that I can lay on the pechniki. But I was a little worried and asked her where her father and husband were. She told me that her father works in the mines and comes home every Sunday, and her husband is serving in the German army and regardless of all that, she hates the Germans. In this conversation she explained that if I walk in the direction of Jablunkov, I would probably run into partisans who can stop me. She pointed at a site worth skipping because there are German border guards there.
When I lay down on the pechniki, she brought me two more blankets to cover myself with, and so I fell asleep until dusk.
I woke up, got off the pechniki, and turned to continue to walk farther on. When I stood by the door I told her that I was looking for a place to pass the winter, and I am willing to do all sorts of jobs. She promised to talk about it with her mother, and if she agrees, I would be able to stay with them until after the winter. And she added: where will you go, you can sleep here and if you want you can you help me grind some barley.
I entered with her to the cabin to help her with this work. There was no problem grinding the barley… as she told me. The young woman longed for a husband … I stayed overnight. She didn't let me sleep on the pechniki she invited me to her bed…
In the morning, when I got up, I heard how her mother was fighting with her, demanding that she should expel me. Otherwise, she would notify the police. I heard it, thanked her for everything, and left the house. I continued to walk forward in the direction of the Beskid Mountains.
After a few hours of walking in a special forest path, I met two farmers who transported chopped wood on sleds. I stopped them and asked how to get to Jablunkov.
One of them answered: why are you walking in this road to Jablunkov? You'll drown on the way in the deep snow. I told them that I can't walk on a normal road because I'm afraid the Germans will catch me.
Who are you that you are afraid of the Germans? asked me the second farmer.
I told them that I'm a Russian captive and I escaped from the mines.
If so said the first farmer, we'll not linger. I can only tell you that if you continue down this path you'll fall right into their hands. I asked them again, how did the Germans get here, to the Beskid Mountains? Their answer on top of the mountain are German border policemen between Czechoslovakia and Silesia. You are very lucky that you met us they told me when we parted we met three Germans along the way who were hunting for wild boars.
I expressed my heartfelt thanks for the information I've earned from them, and continued on a side path in the direction of Jablunkov.
I walked and walked until nightfall. I reached a grassy area with low trees. In the darkness a red light appeared from a farm house, and I continued to walk in the direction of the light, and here happened what the farmers have told me in advance. Without knowing the area, and walking in the snow that covered the valley, I sank deeper with each step I took forward. I tried to go back, but I sank even more…
Indeed, it wasn't the first time that I sunk in the mud and in the snow in spite of it I panicked, and this time I was more scared than before. I thought I would never get out of here alive… everything around me was desert, with no sign of life. With no choice, after giving up calls for help, and various efforts to get out of the trap that I was in, I put my head into the collar of my jacket and hands deep into the sleeves, and so I stood up to half my body in the snow and fell into a deep asleep…
A strong storm woke me up in the middle of the night. I was almost awake and from the frost I didn't feel my arms and my legs. The snow that fell all night erased every sign of the road and the appearance of the environment. Fear increased in me again and I began to call for help with all my strength.
Only in the morning, as I tried in my hoarse voice to call for help, a couple on a sled saw me through binoculars. When they got closer, the young man turned to the young woman: from a distance I was sure I saw a wild boar in front of us…
To that the young woman turned to me: you were very lucky that he didn't shot in your direction!
Who are you, and how did you get here? the young man turned to me.
I told him the whole history that I told many times and about the dangers in my wanderings.
What fool leaves a camp in the winter and sets off in the cold, in the snow and in the storms? he asked and added with that now a little patience, I'll return soon with ropes and we'll get you out. Both disappeared…
As in previous cases, I wandered: who knows if they're not going to call German border policemen.
A short time later, the two appeared with ropes, threw one end at me and ordered me to tie myself tightly. He also ordered me not to stand, but to lie on the snow it would be easier for them to pull me out.
I followed their instruction. They took me out to a place where the snow only reached my knees, told me to stand up and untied me. I didn't feel my arms and my legs, and almost my entire body. For some reason I got abdominal pain and couldn't stand straight. And then, a stutter came out of my mouth to the good young man: it might have been better if you shot me and not pull me out.
You see, he answered you were probably sentenced to life! If we hadn't met you, you would have been in the afterlife. But don't worry, you'll slowly regain your strength and live on. Now come home with us, warm up, eat something and then you can continue on your way.
I entered his house. After I sat for a few minutes my cloths started to drip from the heat and a puddle was created around me. Right now, inside the warmth of the house, I was overcome with fear and terror, and felt sick and broken. I had trouble eating the meal served to me because of a toothache. The boy's mother warmed a pot of milk for me and revived me and my soul.
About a quarter of an hour later, a young gentile in German uniform entered. His mother noticed my reactions, calmed me down and said: don't be afraid, only his uniform is German, but his heart is not with them…he's wearing them because he's forced to. When she explained it to me, he looked at me with a smile and in the end burst out laughing.
It's better if you rest here a while, the young man said, but for your own good and ours you must, to our sorrow, continue on your way. My friends are coming to visit me today and I cannot tell them that you're here. Come with me and I'll show you the way so, God forbid, something like that would never happen to you again. He took a regular coat, escorted me some distance, and explained which road I should take and which forest I have to pass.
Again, I remained under the heavens, and in a cold and frosty day I wandered until late at night. On the way I arrived to a haystack (food that was prepared for the winter for the deer in the area). I crawled inside and fell asleep.
With day light, I woke up again with abdominal pain. I felt that I had fever. Without a choice I kept on walking in search of a house where I could get hot food. I was afraid to enter the farm houses on top of the mountains. Therefore, I searched for a side house away from the population. Finally, in the middle of the second day, when I walked on a snowy mountain path, I arrived to such a house. Close to the house I saw in front of me a mountain man carrying chopped wood in his hands. I asked him if it was possible to go inside to warm up, and if there are Germans in the area. To his question, who am I? I answered: a Russian captive. He asked me to wait for a moment outside so he could put the wood inside the house first. A few minutes later he came out, invited me to enter and added: you can also sleep here tonight.
When I entered he asked me for my name. I answered that my name is Gennady. To that he replied: here you would be called Geniek and my surname he introduced himself is Kantas. He then introduced me to his three older sisters. When they saw that I was constantly trembling from the cold, they gave me tea and cherries and when I drank he asked how I got there.
I told them everything in full details and about my escape from the mines. But I didn't mention that I was a Jew…
After the meal, they took me to a room in the attic where a bed and a metal stove stood. They heated the stove, brought warm blankets and left with good night. That's how I slept that night.
The next day, early in the morning, a young farmer who, by the way, was teacher in the village school, came to see how I was doing. He gave an order to his young sister to bring me medicine from Cieszyn.
When I lay in bed for a few days I slowly returned to my strength and was also able to help with different tasks in the house.
During the day I was dressed as a woman. My work was to cut trees in the forest for the production of kirtses mountain shoes, weaving and wool combing, and other miscellaneous jobs.
I spent ten weeks with the Kantas family in Umiska near Cieszyn inside the Beskid Mountains.
When I told them on a certain day that I want to join the partisans in the struggle against the Germans, they tried to advice me not to do this step and even offered me to stay with them until the end of the war. In addition, they also offered me to marry the youngest sister, who was already thirty years old and I was only nineteen…but I insisted that I was going to join the partisans.
The night before I left, they baked and roasted to prepare provisions for me for the road. They also gave me a small map to get information on how and where to walk, and also gave me a hoe to make people think that I was going to work…
The next day, after I parted from the three oldest sisters and thanked them from the bottom of my heart for everything they have done for me the young farmer, the brother of these sisters, accompanied me to Jablunkov near Cieszyn. There, we parted with friendship and handshakes, and with the hope of meeting again in life… we parted.
I set off through the woods heading east to Zywiec. After six weeks of normal human life with the Kantas family in Umiska, the first days of my wanderings were very difficult. On the fourth day I arrived in the village of Jeleśnia where many Volksdeutsche lived. Indeed, Górale Poles [highlanders] from the area warned me on the way that I should bypass the village of Jeleśnia because, if these Volksdeutsche catch a Russian captive, they would cut him to pieces. I listen to their advice, turned to a side road and skipped Jeleśnia. In the middle of the road I decided to rest and wait until it turned dark. Since I was very tired I fell asleep in the place.
When I woke up it was already night and in the morning I headed for the designated road but, instead of walking, I ran to warm my frozen limbs after the night. I ran in a thick forest path leading to the Slovenian border. In this path I met a peasant woman who collected dry branches from the trees. I stopped her and asked her where am I? She told me to walk forward, there I would see a house with two men and they'll tell me where I was and where I should go. She also told me that she was afraid to talk to me because the Germans killed her husband who was a forest guard. They suspected that he was in touch with the partisans. Before I left, she warned me, pointing with her finger to the mountain: pay attention, there is a German customs office up there!
I moved away until I reach the house that the peasant woman described. A young sheygetz stood by the gate and chopped wood. I turned to him with the question: where am I? He answered me with a question: who are you? When he heard that I was a Russian captive he said: I would love to take you in and give you food, but I'm afraid my brother will come and he's a Volksdeutsche and here he comes! He showed me from afar listen to me, get out of here fast!
I barely moved fifty meters, and heard a scream behind me: Halt! Halt! I didn't turn but continued to walk. Then he started to run after me, and when he was close to me he asked: who are you and what are you doing here? I answered him that I'm a Russian captive.
This mediocre person, in a civilian coat with a black swastika on his sleeve, a small hat with a feather and various symbols, ordered me to walk towards him and added: we are traveling by train to Sucha because the whole area is flooded and there is no other way to get there. I answered: I'll not go with you anywhere. I'm alone and can find the way by myself. He didn't leave me. The opposite, he grabbed my sleeve, I let go of his hands and started wrestling with him. Then, he hit me on the shoulder with his stick. I threw my suitcase with the food that I got from the Kantas family in Umiska, and hit his head with the sharp end of the hoe. He screamed wildly and fell to the ground… I ran with one breath to the small and stormy Soła River I tried to cross it in one place, but I couldn't. I turned to another place, fell into the water and began to drown. I had to throw away everything I had, and after great efforts and swallowing water, I saved my soul.
My situation was serious. On one hand I was completely wet. On the other hand, I was afraid that, as a reply to the Volksdeutsche's calls for help, they'll chase me and catch me here…
Not far from the place was a stilt shed where sheep was milked in the summer. I entered carefully and squeezed the water out of my laundry and my clothes. I thought of hiding there until dusk, leave for the road at night and head east, as close as possible to my birthplace where it would be easier for me to manage (my itinerary changed every time and was depended on my mood).
I stood for two to three hours, completely naked, in this shed waiting to dry. Suddenly, I heard gunshots. I peeked through the cracks and saw, in a distance of 200 meters, three civilians walking with rifles and the fourth was walking about 50 meters behind them. He gave signs with his hand to all three that he doesn't see anyone. But, after the civilians I saw a number of men in German uniform and one with a machine gun. Seeing that, I felt lost… because it was impossible to get out of this shed without attention. I quickly got dressed in my clothes that weren't yet dry and holding my breath I hid behind the open front door…
I heard many footsteps approaching the shed… one of them even went inside, and when he entered he pushed the door farther to the corner where I stood. It only lasted a few minutes but for me it was forever…he left, and I heard his answer to them: there's no one here, and they left.
I breathed a sigh of relief and saw myself saved. I stayed in the shed until dusk. I went out when it turned dark, and after a walk of half a kilometer I came to the bridge that crossed the Soła River that I needed so much in the morning. When I climbed on the bridge, I turned my head back and saw two German soldiers with guns in their hands. They were hiding under the tress and watched my steps. I quickly crossed the bridge to get to the other side of the river. They started to shot over me in order cut my way, but I didn't lose my nerves. I ran in a zigzag, fell on the ground and quickly got up. In the end, I managed to escape and slipped right into the woods.
After it turned dark, I left to the main road and saw a light in the distance, from a house on the mountain in the forest. I walked in its direction. It seemed to me that it was not far. But when I started to walk, I continued for three hours until I arrived to the place from which the light flickered. When I came to the house, I knocked a number to times on the door, but no one answered. I walked 3km and reached a grassy area in the forest where the forest guard's farm was.
It seemed to me that the farm next to his house belonged to a wealthy man. For some reason, I was afraid to knock on the door, and again moved on to get out of the forest. When I was at the end of the forest saw a canvas hut. I knocked on the door and entered inside. The hut was poor, torn and worn out. In half of the canvas hut was the farmer, his wife and a boy, and in the other half a cow and a goat.
In my honor, they heated the stove so I could dry my wet clothes. I also received food and a drink. They were afraid to let me sleep there, they gave me hot milk in a field bottle, I thanked them for everything and left the hut. Outside, I gathered a pile of leaves close to the house. I lay under them, folded my body in three, and fell asleep.
In the morning, at dawn, I continued walking east and passed: Sucha, Makow, Rabka, Tymbark, Limanowa, Godrlice and Biecz. I arrived to this last place on Sunday after eight days of nonstop wanderings.
Here I allowed myself to enter one on the houses to ask how to cross the waters of the Ropa. There, they gave me a whole meal to eat, allowed me to rest for two hours and in the end informed me that I wouldn't be able to get farther in this area because there were many partisans in the forests… they pointed to a long path leading to the place from which it was possible to cross the waters of the Ropa.
I walked according to the instructions on the paved road. I reached the water, took off my shoes, put them on my shoulders and started to cross slowly as I was checking the depth. I felt sharp stones. I got out of the water, put my shoes back on and entered the water again. According to what I've been told, the water it that place had to reach my knees, and here I was in water over my shoulder. Since I'm not a particularly good swimmer I was afraid I would drown. To my happiness, the water closer to the other side was low and flat and I was finally able to get out. I took off my shoes, removed my clothes and the laundry, and hung everything separately on posts.
I sat there naked and bare, and suddenly a young sheygetz appeared and asked me in Ukrainian, who I was, where I'm heading and what I was doing here.
I answered him as I answered everyone, and basically told him everything: I'm a Russian captive and I escaped from the mines. The sheygetz looked again in my eyes and asked again: answer me, do you want to join the company?
To my question, what is the company? He answered: to the partisans.
I replied that I agree and after that I regretted my recklessness because my heart didn't calm down and I was not sure if he was thinking of handing me over to the Germans…
I walked with him about 200 meters in the direction of the big forests… he stopped for a moment near a small shed, said that he was coming back soon, and kept on walking.
Half an hour passed, and I didn't see anyone… therefore, I decided to move on. I walked a few steps and suddenly a heavy rain surprised me. Without a choice I changed my mind and decided to wait until the rain was over. I just decided, and saw how several men, bareheaded and in military uniform, were running towards me. They stood next to the shed, opened it and called me inside.
Inside they turned to me in German, and one of them asked me in Ukrainian if I understood German. I answered no. They asked if I was hungry, and I said yes, they brought me bread with shfek (pork) and samaganke (homemade vodka).
We ate, they waited for the rain to stop, and when it turned dark they left with me through a muddy path in the direction of a nearby forest.
When we were on the mountain the men, who walked with me, lit the path with pocket flashlights to make sure that no one walked in this path the short time they weren't there.
We arrived to the middle of the forest, which lay on the mountain. They stopped and the commander placed groups to different sides. After a long moment he approached me and angrily asked me: come on, say, what about you?
You see, I answered, I am cold and I'm shivering as if I have a fever. My whole body is really wet, all my bones shell say from crossing the Ropa.
Then, the commander called his deputy and asked him what to do with me?
You see that he's shaking from the cold, his deputy replied, we must put him in a warm room for him to dry and recover, and only then he can be with us.
You're right! the commander replied but there are no warm rooms around us. In the end he turned to me and said:
Listen to what I'll tell you. In the meantime, you'll go deeper into the forest. There, they'll prepare enough wood for you so you can keep warm up and dry out by tomorrow evening. You'll run away, you're not one of us. If you don't run away, you'll stay and become one of us.
The whole night I dried out and warmed myself next to the fire. On the next day, early in the morning, I started to roast the potatoes that I had in my bag. I lay in the forest until sunset. When I realized that no one was showing himself, I became restless and went to sleep with the thought that tomorrow early in the morning I'll continue on my way. I lay like this for an hour unable to sleep. Suddenly I heard someone approaching and shouting:
Vestavay! Vestavay! (Get up! Get up!).
I opened my eyes and saw the commander before me.
I got up and wanted to ask why nobody came so far. But he didn't let me talk and only called vigorously come!…
When I walked with him he asked me if I was hungry. When he heard yes, he took out of the suitcase half a hot whole grain bread and a bottle of milk. We walked 50 meters and he ordered me to sit. At the same moment several armed men were seen through the thick branches, and when they were closer to us, the commander asked me out loud in their presence:
Tell me, who sent you here? If you say that the Germans sent you, you'll stay alive, because we are also Germans. If you weren't sent by the Germans, you would be shot.
Totally confused by this sudden approach, I hid my inner fear and answered:
No one sent me to you. One of your men stopped me when I crossed the Ropa River, and to his question if I would agree to join a partisan company, I answered yes.
You're lying! the commander announced, we saw you yesterday on the train in Dolna!
I'm a prisoner of war. I escaped from the mines and avoid meeting Germans I answered calmly. I got up and told them: leave me alone…and turned as if I wanted to walk. But some of them attacked me and beat me. I returned strong blows… in the end, they won. They tied my hands and eyes and gave me two minutes to tell the truth about my arrival there, and if not, they would shot me.
I felt that they wanted to get the truth out of me with their tricks… and saw myself lost. My eyes were covered and I heard repeated exercises with rifles.
That's how they held me for a few moments, and in the end told that they extend my time for another two minutes, this is my last opportunity to think and say the truth, and they'll no longer play with me…
Allow me to tell you a few words I turned to them: if you shot me, you'll not know that you didn't shot a German spy but a Jew that the Germans want to eliminate. I only ask you to write my name and my surname, my age and birthplace, so that in the future they'll know how I was eliminated from the world.
You are really a Jew?! I heard the phrase from the commander.
When I said that he untied my eyes and put a cigarette in my mouth.
I thought, maybe you are really Germans and assumed that, at most, you'll hit me with cruel blows and take me back to the camp. But, if I said straight out that I'm Jewish, and you were really German: I would no longer be alive and nothing would be left of me…
He asked me to say the word kookooruza… and with that, he wanted to verify how I, as a Jew, pronounce the Resh. After he heard, he ordered to untie my hands and gave me bread with butter to eat.
After I finished eating I was asked if I want to stay with them. I was thrilled by the question, but I answered that I wanted to continue on my way, and they allowed me.
I started to walk as before, eastward through fields and forests to reach Swiebodna near my birthplace, Dubiecko, the place where I was caught a year ago, at the end of 1943.
This time I was more careful than a year ago. During the day I showed myself very little among the farmers, and even didn't ask them for work. I lived from stealing from the fields, and if a chicken strolled unattended, I eliminated it.
I walked around for many days. In the rain I found shelter in one of the bunkers that the Germans prepared for themselves above the San River for the possibility of a retreat.
On a certain day, a Wehrmacht soldier suddenly woke me up with a shout: why are you still sleeping, go to work!
It turned out that the workers, who built new bunkers near the trenches, lived in them. Without a choice, I worked on that day and for it I got a little soup and a slice of bread. At dusk, I disappeared…
After walking around the area for ten days, when I thought that the Germans, who handled the construction of the bunkers, already left, I went back to that place, to the vicinity of the village of Hucisko Nienadowskie.
On Saturday evening, I came to the home of a Christian that I knew his son a year ago. The sheygetz grabbed me and said: Geniek don't come in!… there are two Germans inside who came to my sister Kazia! Come! He turned to me and entered with me to the barn. On the threshold he whispered in my ear: I have something in the bag that I'll only show you. After a little rustling in the corner he pulled out a long gun, which was heavily smeared with oil. I took a good look at the weapon and realized that it was an automatic Komsomolsky made in 1943.
The sheygetz suggested to me, that since a party will be held in Swiebodna that evening, and a number of Germans will attend it, the two of us will attack them and eliminate them. Since I was always ready to take revenge on the Germans, I immediately agreed to his proposal.
After I drank the bimber [Polish moonshine] that he gave me, we both left around 11 o'clock at night to where the party was taking place. When we got to the door the sheygetz held the automatic, suddenly, horror and fear, I took the weapon from his hand, opened the door, and in a loud voice ordered the dancing couples to lie flat on the floor! I ordered the four Germans, who were there and their rifles stood in the corner of the room, to lie down separately and stretch out their hands in front of them. When I gave the order, the sheygetz took their rifles outside. The Germans begged me not to kill them, what is their sin and what is their crime, only the Führer… (their leader, Hitler) since I was unwilling to get into a discussion with them, who's the main culprit, I silenced them with two slaps on the face …
An unforeseen commotion arose in this house. Christians, who recognized me because of my wandering in the area the previous year, said: look, friends, it's the same Geniek!!!…
The sheygetz who helped me to get the job done, trembled with great fear. He was afraid that someone would recognize him even though his face was disguised.
I took the automatic for myself and we hid the four rifles in the forest. After that, I walked about 12km away from the place, directly to Sliwnica. There, I hid for several days with a farmer I knew, Josef Kenteshi.
As I learned later, the next day Germans conducted a search the place where the four were eliminated, according to their methods…
On a certain day, at dusk, I arrived in Hucisko Jawornickie. I entered to a farmer I knew long ago. He offered me to go with him to the forest and help him to steal wood. We returned successful from there and sat down to eat with satisfaction. At the same time we heard his dog barking outside. Someone is walking, the peasant woman said as if she was talking to herself. It's possible that these are the two Russians who, from time to time, come to visit us, the farmer replied.
Before I looked, the door opened with force and two young Russians were seen on the threshold. They held automatic weapons in their hands and announced in Russian: hands up! One of them asked me if I had a weapon with me. I answered: no (the automatic was hidden somewhere outside). This is the one I told you about, the farmer explained to them. The two young men extended their hand out to me and told me that they were partisans. I told them that I want to join their company. They told me that the commander already knows about me. If so, I would like to meet the commander, I offered them. They promised to take care of the matter and the next day, at dusk, I met him in that house.
By the look of his face I thought he was Jewish. Deep black eyes and a slightly bent nose testified that he was a Semite. I couldn't help it and asked him. He replied that he wasn't Jewish and asked:
Answer me. Are you the same Geniek who carried out such an action in the village of Sweibodna?
Yes, I'm the man! I replied vigorously to a commander who was in the rank of captain.
Why did you ask to meet me? His second question was asked.
I want to join your partisan company.
It'll take some time! We are waiting for weapons and rifles, and we'll get them in the next few days, he declared.
If this is the problem, the local farmers have rifles.
How it is possible! The commander declared in panic.
To that I said, I also have an automatic rifle from your equipment and, according to what I've been told by a young man, the farmers of Sweibodna collected a transport of rifles that, on a certain night, was dropped from a plane behind the village. The man who gave me this information is called Michael and he's the one who helped me with the operation in Sweibodna.
The captain called the two partisans, who stood the whole time in a distance, and said to them:
Let's go! We are going to get the cargo that was dropped for us some time ago.
At eight in the evening we, a group of four men, left to search for the cargo that was dropped from a plane for the partisans, but fell into the hands of the farmers by mistake. Later on, the captain told me that a Soviet radio operator was shot in the air by the Germans when he parachuted behind Dubiecko.
According to my friend's instructions we entered the house of first farmer, Michael Darash. He denied taking anything from the cargo. The captain, named Bielawski, a teacher from White Russia, asked me:
Geniek, maybe you've made a mistake?
I didn't make a mistake, captain. You'll soon see that I'm telling the truth. Look, I turned to the farmer, we're not going to play games with you, either you give what you have taken from the cargo or we'll shoot you.
You can shoot me, I know nothing! the farmer claimed.
If so, we'll check your apartment and around your house, I said. If we find something from the cargo, we'll kill you all and burn your house.
When the farmer's wife saw that I was aiming the automatic at him, she broke out screaming that I shouldn't do anything to him, she'll go and search for everything that the children brought from the field. We went out with her and she pointed at a haystack…
We took out various food products, rifles and weapons. During the search in the hay, the farmer stood shaking with fear that we'll shoot him now because he lied to us. But, they were contented with several strong slaps, and he pointed to the rest of the equipment from the cargo that was in the hands of other farmers in the village. Of course, they claimed that they thought of coming in contact with the partisans and give them everything.
After we received the food, guns and weapons, we returned to our position in the forest. We opened tin cans and a few small bottles of moskovskaya [vodka] and had a blast.
In the middle of eating and drinking, I noticed that several men from the group whispered to each other and looked at me at the same time. I called the captain aside and asked him for the meaning of the act.
Listen, the captain said, some say they you look like an Englishman, and some believe that you are German… and you have to understand, he added, that in a war one must be careful with an unknown person…
To that I answered him:
I can only say to you, captain, I'm not English, nor German, and not even a Russian, I'm Jewish, a Jew who was born and lived not far from here. I'm from Dubiecko, where I lived with my parents until the Germans entered our city. I can also provide you with Christians from the area who will testify that they know me as such.
So… he responded: you're staying with us! and every question is unnecessary.
This partisan company, who parachuted into the forests around Dubiecko, contained a total of eleven members. Of them nine men and two young women who were radio operators. This small company was called Arli Povlov after Colonel Povlov. The role of the company was spying and sabotage. It had a large number of assistants among the rural population and, when it was necessary, they were paid in dollars for important information.
In the first months, my role within this company was difficult, but I filled it with great dedication because of my great desire to avenge, as much as possible, in the Germans. Captain Bielawski knew my passion, as a Jew, to take revenge on the Germans. He had a lot of trust in me, and when he wasn't sure about an operation or information, he often came to consult me.
In August 1944, the Germans strengthened themselves on the other side of the San River. They expected the Russians to advance from east to west. The main headquarters of the 1st Ukrainian Front came into contact with our company, and notified us that since the Germans entrenched themselves above the San River with heavy artillery around the mountains, and the Ukrainian army is preparing to attack German positions near the river, our job is to intensify the sabotage operations. On the day that General Sztab's order was delivered to us, we begun to carry out more frequent sabotage operations.
Our company penetrated Jarosław, blew up a local train station and a line of tanks and cannons which stood there to be sent to the front. After this operation, the Germans entered into battle with us that lasted several hours. We managed to escape with only three slightly wounded.
On a certain day, after the battle with the Germans at the train station in Jarosław, the chief caretaker of the freight train station, a Volksdeutsche, contacted our detachment and for money gave us a secret message: on this day, at this hour, army columns and rifles will pass through Radymno. He warned us that the railroad tracks would be guarded well. Therefore, we arrived on that night to the Iron Bridge, through which the freight trains had to pass. At the last moment, when two of our men were situated with explosives about fifty yards from the bridge, a stone was accidentally kicked by one of us. It rolled down quickly with a thump and brought the attention of the German guard who just shot without a target. In response, the Germans also fired from the other side of the bridge.
We opened fire on the guard who fell on the spot.
After a difficult battle additional German forces were summoned. They wanted to surround us, but thanks to the darkness of the night we managed to get out of the battlefield with no casualties.
We returned very tired to our position in Rączyna Forest, and fell asleep.
On a certain moment, our night watchman heard how the Germans, who were trying to track us, accidentally opened fire on Sliwnica Forest. He woke us all and the commander ordered us to be ready. However, we only passed the night without sleep and false anxiety.
After the successful operation I received a few days off. Therefore, I didn't participate in missions.
During my time off, I had the opportunity to tell the commander, during one of our conversations, that not far from here lived a man named Jeremiah who, last year, informed me to the Germans and they sent me, as a Russian captive, to work in the mines. After I told him I asked him to allow me to take revenge on him.
The commander listened carefully and said that I could do this in a few days, when the company will move to a more distant position.
On a sunny Sunday, when we were already at the new position, the commander gave me four men to help me fulfill my revenge on Jeremiah. We entered Sweibodna, a village about 8km long. When we arrived the Germans were on the other side of the village (we learned that from a reliable man who informed us).
Our first visit was to the Polish muhtar (the village was populated by Ukrainians and Poles and, for that reason, there were two village heads). He received us very well, but was afraid that maybe some of the neighbors saw us entering. Therefore, he was also careful when we left his apartment.
We went to Jeremiah. We arrived to his house I went in with one and two stayed outside to stand on guard… We just passed his doorstep and here, Jeremiah sat comfortably next to the table, smoking his hookah. He didn't recognize me. When he saw before him armed partisans, he greeted us and said that he always helps Russian captives and partisans fleeing German camps.
When I heard this gross lie without a stammer in his mouth, I turned to him:
Who's who Jeremiah, but I remember very well how you helped partisans and Russian captives especially me… and in a devilish motion I took the kubeanka [Cossack hat] off my head.
With enlarged eyes he looked at my red curly hair and turned pale as chalk.
Come on Jeremiah I called I think that now you remember Geniek. Do you remember how a year ago you handed me over to the German military police? where's your wife, who kissed the hands of the policemen with satisfaction when they tortured me? Do you remember how she repeated the two words she knew to pronounce in German Mir Volksdeutsche?…
As I was talking to Jeremiah, the door opened and his wife entered. When she saw two strangers in her house with rifles in their hands, she also greeted with a sweet smile. I quickly aimed the barrel of the automatic at her and announced:
Damn you, now kiss my automatic, as you kissed the hands of the policemen a year ago when they tortured me badly!
The two of them, the farmer and his wife, fell at our feet, kissed our boots and asked for mercy to keep them alive.
But, they were given an order to turn with their faces to the wall and were told. The sun is now shining into your house, but you will not see its sunset! They received a round from the automatic and we left.
From them we turned to the Ukrainian muhtar, who caused me terrible trouble a year ago. I entered his house alone. I was only armed with a gun in a holster. I left the automatic with my friends who waited for me outside.
He recognized me immediately and announced: Ha what are you doing here you're like a bird?!
To joke with him I asked is it possible to get something to eat? and added, I'm trying now to get closer to the Russian front, which is coming closer!
You will never see Russia before your eyes! he declared now you'll go with me to the police station in Pruchnik.
I continued to play as if I was asking for help, turned to him and begged:
Tell me, what will you get out of handing me over to the Germans? Why do you care that I live in this world?…
For that, I got a slap in the face from him, and he turned to the two farmers who were at his house: come on, friends tie him up!
I quickly pulled the gun out of my pocket, walked two steps back, and said with a smile: so, now tie me, you dirty German! I whistled and one of the partisans, named Pashka, entered. He, (as we agreed before) ordered everyone to lie flat on the floor with outstretched arms we hit them well and ordered the farmers to sign that they would keep quiet and wouldn't tell what they saw, we eliminated the muhtar on the spot and left.
Even though we carried out the mission with the captain's permission, he reacted badly when we came back because of the turmoil that arouse in the village. At that time we had to move again to another location.
It happened in June 1944. When we left our position we sabotaged all the preparations that the Germans had prepared for the possibility of a withdrawal. The Soviet army advanced from Przemyśl to DubieckoKrasana to the San River.
Our partisan company was stuck behind the Germans.
When the Soviet army advanced in a line of 1518 kilometers to the river, the German artillery fired incessantly. For a while, we conducted large sabotage operations. Our company contacted, with the help of its radio station, the 4th Ukrainian Front headquarters and asked them to arrive, as fast as possible, because out situation was getting worse from moment to moment because of our small number. On this occasion, we informed them how the Russian army could easily cross the San River.
Just over an hour, and a few moments after we contacted the 4th Ukrainian Front headquarters, the Russian infantry began to surround the Germans in the trenches with artillery, and didn't stop sending crossfire from all sides. Only after a disappointing and useless battle, the Germans were forced to crawl out of the bunkers with their arms raised and white flags…
After the whole area was cleansed of Germans, and the front moved forward to the western side, our partisan company stayed for two days to look for those who were left stuck in the area, and indeed, we found many Germans who hid in wheat fields and also in nearby forests.
When we finished our duty, our commander turned by telephone to the main headquarters of the 1st Ukrainian Front and asked where should we go?
Our commander, who received the authority on our company, was Colonel Povlov. On our inquiry, we received an answer from Colonel Povlov that our company should come to Płoskirów, and there we'll get the next orders. We arrived in Płoskirów where we were greeted by highranking officials from the headquarters with food and drink, and given new clothes. The group's celebration didn't end well they got drunk and started a fight with the municipal militia.
Only three men and I didn't participate in the party. The celebration ended with a number of wounded on both sides.
Immediately, early the next morning, Colonel Povlov came with armed soldiers and ordered us to leave the private apartments and not to take anything with us.
We all stood in the front, surrounded by armed guard, and the commander read from a sheet of paper that the entire company, except those whose names he read, will be sent immediately to a penal battalion.
After this event, we remained in Płoskirów for several more days, and in September 1944 we were transferred from there to Lvov.
In Lvov, Colonel Povlov came to our company, which now consisted of nine young men and two young women (radio operators), and gave us a short speech that he ended in this way: although the emergency has not yet passed, difficult battles are still underway and it's impossible to get a long vacation. You'll be transported by plane over the battle front, and dropped off over Czech territory.
How can I be dropped off as a paratrooper over a foreign territory when I haven't learned and practiced how to jump from a plane?
The answer was short: you will be taught!
On the same day, at dusk, when I returned from the city, I found in the private apartment where we were staying, folded parachutes and new rifles such as: A.P.P.S automatic, P.P.S automatic, guns, mines and dynamite. Everyone received a new suitcase, food and a weapon.
When I repeated and said that I don't know how to use a parachute and how jump, an officer approached me, ordered me to wear the parachute and gave me a few short instructions on how to use it the minute I'm pushed out of the plane. He also illustrated how I should hold my legs during the fall, so as not to break my legs when I approach the ground.
Is that all the learning?! I asked, puzzled.
Yes, answered the officer, that's enough in urgent time.
The next day, early in the morning, two American cars, Studebakers, arrived and took us together with all our belongings to the city of Grodek Jagiellonski where, 2km away was a military airport. There we waited until eight in the evening next to a Douglas a transport plane with two engines. On it were two rockets green and red. Let's say if the rocket was green it was a sign that we were flying. If the rocket was red it was a sign that the weather to where we were heading was not desirable for a jump.
When I saw the red rocket appeared, I thought I had a few more days to live… because immediately after a torrential rain, which lasted a week, began.
Finally the rain stopped. On a dark night we boarded the plane which flew toward Czechoslovakia.
When we passed over the German front, we were welcomed by thick artillery fire. But we arrived safely exactly where they had to drop us. An order was given: Get ready! and immediately: Jump! With fear I closed my eyes and was pushed out…
Instead of pushing us from a height of 800 meters, as agreed, the pilot dropped us from a higher altitude for fear that we'll be shot.
I couldn't tell how long the fall lasted. Under me was the darkness of the night. When we were close to the ground some lights were illuminated. Suddenly, I fell on the ground with a decent bang. But I stood straight, took off the parachute, folded it, put it aside, took the rifle and was ready for battle. I glanced and watched carefully and also listened around. Suddenly, I heard Commander Bielawski's password. It was two long whistles which came from the forest on my right side. I walked in that direction, careful of my steps, and after walking 1520 minutes I met the entire group.
When all of us stood around the captain he decided to send scouts with rifles to find out where we were. He chose one of the officers and me because I knew, more or less, the Czech language. It was two at night. After walking 2km from the forest we saw a small number of huts.
I knocked on one of them and we asked the farmer, who only opened a small window out of suspicion: tell us grandfather, where are we?
He immediately understood that he was dealing with partisans and kindly explained to us:
You are in Kysucou. Below is the village of Makov and that's where the Germans are.
We returned to the captain and told him exactly where we were and that the Germans are in the village of Makov.
Captain Bielawski decided to leave the forest and move the company to another position, hidden between thick trees, to deceive the Germans who will come looking for us the next morning.
In the new position, one of us stood on guard and the group lay down to rest and sleep. The responsibility for the fate of our lives was given to him but he fell into a deep sleep together with us…
What woke us up from this sleep was the incessant shooting, and then the sun was already shining. Our commander, Bielawski, ordered me to climb on a tall tree and arrange our radio antenna so that we could deliver that we arrived to our position safely. On the same occasion, he also gave me field binoculars so I could check the area if Germans weren't around us.
I watched for about ten minutes and suddenly I noticed that two rows of armed Germans were crawling beneath me. They crawled towards the forest without feeling that we were so close to them.
I instantly got off the tree and informed our commander. He immediately ordered that each of us must be ready for battle with the rifle in hand.
This day passed without incidents, but was accompanied by fear.
After spending a few days there, we got to know the environment well. In addition, we also met a number of gentiles who escaped from German labor camps and couldn't return to their homes. After they joined our company our number rose to 15.
The new members gave the commander reliable information, who are the important Czechs who serve in the German military offices in the town of Trojacka. One of them, who lived in the town of Turzovka, was the director of the train that transports German military equipment towards Hungary.
We moved again to the territory that was under Czech protection we entered the forests and climbed Smrk Mountain. There, we entered the farmer who lived on the edge of the far side of the village. We introduced ourselves as partisans and asked if he knew who was willing to cooperate with us. The farmer invited us to come the next evening. When we came, as we agreed he introduced to us to three men that two of them were officials in the local municipality. The third was a Ukrainian (as it turned out later, he collaborated with the Germans). The two Czech officials became very friendly with us and each time we paid in dollars for the information they had given us.
A short time later it was at the end of 1944 a 35 year old woman came to our position and announced to our guards that she was looking for a partisan commander named Morzin. They called our commander and asked her do you mean him? and she answered: no.
Commander Bielawski asked her, in the presence of the Czech major, Adteis Joseph, about her relation to Captain Morzin. She admitted that she's his lover. Indeed, they let her go, but later they were sorry that they didn't arrest her. Because of this mistake we were forced to move to another position.
We had connections with different villages: Stare Hamry, Bila, Ostravice, and from these three villages we received information that a young woman, who looks so and so, is wandering in the area. She works in the municipality of Stare Hamry and distributes food cards. This woman they warned us probably sold Captain Morzin's platoon to the Germans. The Germans burned them, together with the wooden villa in the forest where they slept that night.
After we completely forgot about the woman who handed Captain Morzin's platoon I was, on a snowy night, for the second time on the summit of Smrk Mountain near Stare Hamry and saw a woman, dressed in ski pants and ski boots, approaching me. As she got closer, I realized that this was the woman who, a few weeks before, was looking for Captain Morzin in our position. Before she could get there I managed to call Commander Bielawski and pointed to the approaching woman.
Since you know the Czech language, the commander turned to me walk towards her and ask what, and who, she's looking for, and no more. I fulfilled his command.
I walked towards her and to my question I received a short answer:
I want to go to the partisans!
Do you know that you didn't find the right address? Because we are partisan chasers! I answered more than the commander's instruction.
Because of my accent she probably accepted it as a joke and burst out laughing.
I took her to Captain Bielawski and introduced her to him as a new volunteer for our partisan company.
When the captain talked to her in RussianGerman, a young Czech named Tanda, who was born in the vicinity of Bila, emerged. When he stood on the side he immediately recognized her he called the commander to come aside for a moment and told him this is the woman who's working for the municipality of Stare Hamry in the distribution of food cards. Only then, Bielawski recognized that she's the woman he sent away the first time. She also changed her face, her hair and even her voice in an artificial form.
The commander asked her directly if she's working for the municipality of Stare Hamry in the distribution of food cards, if she handed Captain Morzin and his men to the Germans, and if she wants to do the same to him and his men. You see, we know everything about you, admit, why are you play this comedy?
After a long investigation, she broke down and told the truth that she is not the only one. Twenty women from the area were sent by the Germans to do such things.
After a brief consultation of the commander with Major Joseph, who returned to us a short time ago, it was decided to eliminate her. We told her, that since she confessed and we know her talents very well, we are interested that she would perform similar operations for us. She managed to eat her dinner with great appetite. And then, two young men one a young first lieutenant from Munkatch named Vasil, and the second the adviser of General Svoboda and his army, suggested that they would go for a short walk before going to sleep. Without any bad feelings she accepted their offer with pleasure.
The two partisans eliminated her in this walk with a mute gun and her body was buried and hidden.
A few days later, at noon, the Germans suddenly attacked our position in the Smrk Mountain. At that time I was at the lookout, the only one watching from one of the high cliffs, about 2km from our camp. I sat leaning on a rock for about half an hour and fell asleep from the cold. Suddenly I heard a gunshot. I jumped and listened. It was quiet again. Without knowing where the shot came from, I became uneasy and unreasonable force pushed me to leave the lookout. I tried to walk in the deep snow between the mountains in the direction of our position. About halfway through, I pressed the automatic to my body, hid it, and walked in the direction of from which the shot came. I reached a distance of about 50 meters from the temporary camp, hid under a tree and glanced around. I didn't see anyone from our company. Cooking pots stood on two camp fires and two slips, which belonged to Major Adetis Joseph and the expert consultant, were drying on a tree next to the fire.
When I was already in the middle of our camp, I tried to call our agreed password. At that moment I heard a rustle among the tree branches. I held the automatic in a ready position and approached the big tree. Suddenly I heard a call in my direction: Hände hoch. I lifted my head and saw in front of me, among the trees, a tall German, a field policeman with a rifle pointed at me. I didn't think much. I fired a short round of bullets at him and he fell in the snow. There were many shots around.
In order not to reveal myself, I didn't shoot but crawled on my stomach in the snow to a path that bordered the camp. From it onwards, were valleys and pits with many tree branches. As I lay in one of the pits, ten minutes later I saw several armed Germans walking in the narrow path. When they got closer to my hiding place, I decided to throw a hand grenade at them and so I've done. To be sure that I finished them, I also threw a second hand grenade, and rolled deeper into the valley.
To my happiness, a thick snow began to fall. It covered me and also the traces that were created in the snow.
Hungry and frozen I lay in the valley until it got totally dark. Then, I got out carefully and returned to the temporary camp with no idea where the people disappeared to. I found smashed dinnerware and not a living soul around. I returned to the forest where I was in mourning. Since I lost the compass while sliding in the snow I lost my way and just kept on walking. I got out, at twilight, around Ostravice. There, I entered to a farmer to ask how to get to Stare Hamry. They, the farmer and his wife, were startled by the sight of the wild face and the automatic in my hand. They also warned me of the great danger of moving around in an environment full of Germans. They brought me some food and ordered me to quickly leave the place.
When I arrived in Stare Hamry, I came to the house of a man named Jantshuk who collaborated with our company. He bought us food and through him we corresponded with other collaborators…
I watched carefully if someone wasn't following me or saw me then I knocked the agreed sign on the window. The farmer came out for a moment, looked around and responded: what, you're still alive? do you know that the whole group is no longer alive, that all of them were killed? but, don't worry! we will take care of you don't worry!
As I was talking with the farmer, an elderly family member who, as it was proven later worked for both sides, entered. He approached me, extended his hand and welcomed me with zdrastee [hello] Gennady, and immediately added with regret: it's a pity that you're the only one left from the company, the Germans killed them all. The farmer, Jantshuk, invited me to his house, to eat something and after that to wash.
To that I answered: if you are a good friend of mine, you must know that in the situation that I am in now, I must be alone, I shouldn't come in. If you want, you can bring me food outside and I'll go on my way. But the farmer, and also Vlataoyets, didn't let go of me and demanded that I come in to wash and eat. In the end, I was tempted and entered the house.
Jantshuk heated water for me, handed me the razor and said: feel yourself at home, Antek, put the rifle down and shave.
I didn't put the rifle down. With the automatic on the back and the gun inside the belt in front, I began to shave in front of a small mirror in the kitchen. As I began to lather my face, I noticed how Vlataoyets, who was leaning against the wall, suddenly pulled a gun out of his pocket and stared at me. I pretended not to see, turned in a devilish motion and honored him with some bullets…
With a shout Gennady, what did you do! I only wanted to joke with you! and he fell on the ground without a sign of life.
When the farmer saw what happened, he was very frightened and turned to me in a soft voice:
Antek, if you meet someone from your group, I ask you not to tell what happened in my house… you have to know that what I've told you earlier, that the Germans killed your entire company was a joke on my side.
Meaning I asked him you together with this scoundrel wanted to deliver me alive to the Germans? In the meantime, I won't talk about that. Tell me, what do you think of doing with him? Do you want to leave him at home, or bury it somewhere?
I would ask you seriously he answered my question to help me bury him in my barn.
I finished shaving, washed and turned to him:
Since both of you wanted to do away with me, you'll pay the same price as your friend! The farmer began to cry before me that had no connection to the bad intent of the killed.
I didn't answer him to that. I went outside, quickly took out a hand grenade and in a jump of few meters, I threw it into his house. I walked about a hundred steps, turned around and saw that the house went up in flames and the sky above turned red like red copper.
The barking of dogs was heard all around. I expedited my steps. Wet and sweaty I reached the forest and disappeared into its thicket.
When I sat in the forest I heard human footsteps on the icy snow. I got up immediately, pressed the automatic to my body and called in Russian:
Stand! Who is there?
From us! Who are you? came the question.
Also from us! I replied in plural to make him thing that I wasn't alone and also added the password of the vanishing company.
The person who was talking to me and didn't see me (I stood behind a thick tree) answered in an unfamiliar password.
When they thought that I partisan company was before them, they suggested that one man, of both sides, will come closer to each other and both with their hands up.
I didn't answer immediately in order to create the impression that I was consulting…
After a few moments of silence I answered that we agree and came out of my hiding place as we agreed. Of course I didn't do it without fear and anxiety.
When we got closer to each other, in a distance of five meters, we recognize each other. The one who came towards me shouted: damn it! It's you, Gennady! he fell on my neck and we kissed.
I ran to the group, which was finally found, and hugged each of them. Everyone looked at me as if I came back from the world of the dead. Each of them patted me on my shoulder and on the back saying: you're a clever guy Gennady.
To their question if I can explain the meaning of the fire in the distance, I told them exactly what happened to me in that place, from which the flames were still visible, and what I had done there. In response, they uttered praise like: This is a hero!
Because of my operation in Stare Hamry they stopped buying food there, and for that purpose we entered the village of Bila.
It was on a moon nigh. The hour was approaching midnight. We quietly entered the homes of a number of farmers in Bila, who were in contact with the partisans, and in exchange for an adequate fee we obtained a lot of food. After this purchase, we moved from the place, which was called protectorate, and crossed the border, to Slovakia.
In Slovakia, our small company merged with the platoon in which the headquarters was located. Before I had time to report before Commander Bielawski (the company's commander), he already knew that they found me healthy and whole.
A few days later, it was decided to move the platoon to another location and also find a better location for the headquarters. A member of the group, a local suggested that since his sister lived in the village of Klokočov, on top of the mountain, and his brotherinlaw, who was working in MaravskaOstrava protectorate, comes home every Sunday it's possible to house the headquarters there. His offer was accepted.
On one clear day, people, who worked for the Germans and also for the partisans, told us that the Germans withdrew most of the forces from the town of Turzovka, 12km from our position, and sent them to the front. When we heard it our platoon initiated, on a certain evening, a surprise attack on the small garrison that remained in this town. We bombed them from the air, together with their wooden huts, and those who tried to escape in their underwear were eliminated on the spot. In this operation we had no losses. It was our response to the German attack in the Beskid Mountains, against our company on Smrk Mountain.
When the 1st Ukrainian Front got closer to width of the Tatra Mountains, to the Beskid town of Zywiec, where difficult battles took place for four weeks with large German forces who were in the mountains near Cieszyn we received, through our radio station an order to investigate and find out the locations of their weak positions. Thanks to our cooperation with some of the residents of Czechoslovakia in the area we were able to get the exact information we needed very quickly.
On a certain day, in the middle of delivering the required information by our radio station to Colonel Povlov in the 1st Ukrainian Front headquarters, our batteries ran out and we lost vital contact… Without a choice, our commander, Bielawski, turned to our men with the suggestion that three men will volunteer to cross the front, each from a different side, to deliver the plan we couldn't deliver through our radio station.
I was among the three who took it upon themselves to fulfill the role. The other two were Czechs. The captain said in advance that we would stay there until the end of the war.
It was in the winter, at the end of January 1945.
Each one of us carried the same plans, had to walk in a special way after he crossed to the other side of the front, and also had a special password. That way Bielawski explained to us if two will fall along the way, there is a possibility that the third would be able to fulfill the mission. My password was: I'm going to deliver a food package to a deceased person.
We parted from the captain and others from the company, and we, the three volunteers, left for the road. After we were some distance away, we decided not follow the instruction. I dared to propose to the two Czechs that because of our selfconfidence, there is no need to separate, but be together all the way, until after the front.
Dressed in white sports uniform and with skis, we set out through forests and mountains in the direction of Żywiec on the Polish side.
The front, through which we had to cross, extended from Sopotnia Mała to Sopotnia Wielka. There, an artillery battle was fought between the Germans and the Soviet army. Under the fire of this battle we moved equipped with a compass and topographic maps of the area, in the direction of the village of Jeleśnia, through fields covered with deep snow. On the way there, according to the marks on the topographic map should have been a hut in a small forest. Bielawski explained to us, before we left, that this hut might be occupied by the Soviet army or the German…
We cautiously approached this site and saw a guard walking back and forth. When we called him in Russian: who's there?! He opened fire on us.
We didn't answer and retreated immediately.
We chose a narrow river bed between the mountains and moved on. After walking 200 meters we came across a black antenna wire on the ground. According to the instructions we knew that this was a German antenna, because the Russian antenna had a thick gray wire.
Therefore, we cut off the German antenna and went on our way.
After a walk of 100 meters, we came across a thick gray wire a proof that we were on the Russian side. From afar, we saw a low flat village with rows of small houses. We allowed ourselves to ski without any interruption. When we arrived to one of the houses, we knocked on the first door and asked innocently: what is the name of this village and who lives in it the Russians or the Germans?
The answer was: the village of Jeleśnia and the Russians are in it.
Since we didn't have much confidence in the people who lived in the house two of us went to sleep and the third stood on guard.
The next morning, I was the first to go out to find out where we were in this world. In any event, I hid the rifle inside my jacket. Thick snow fell about 300 meters from the house, and on the other side of the Soła River I saw an American jeep, around it were people dressed in winter Russian military uniforms.
I crossed a broken wooden bridge, and saw a Russian major coming out of his house. I approached him and asked him to take me to the headquarters.
Who are you? And why do you want to go to the front headquarters? he asked me.
I told him that there are three of us here. We penetrated from the German side toward the front. We'll give you some news about the army at your headquarters.
The major sent two armed men with me to bring my friends who remained in the house.
When the three of us came back' he took us, together with the two armed men, to the front headquarters.
The Major of the Guard received us at the headquarters. His first question was: you didn't have any obstacles when you crossed the front?
I answered him in general, no. We were only shot in one place in the forest, near a house, but I don't know who the people were.
To his question: to which place you were given an order to arrive I answered: our destination is Czestochowa.
And do you have a password? was his third question.
I gave him my personal password: I'm going to deliver a food package to a deceased person and added that these two have their own password.
Good he said. For the time you rest and eat, and I'll contact the army headquarters.
He returned immediately and said that my password is correct, but each of us had to cross the front alone, and come to the headquarters alone and not together.
I explained to him that instead of walking through three different points as we were ordered, we walked together.
Good. I'll now send you to the army headquarters. Don't be angry if they would take the bullets out of your rifles and send you with two armed soldiers this is the practice.
They sent us to Hielskie where the army headquarters was located. There, we were received by colonel, after he asked us questions, and heard our answers, he sent us on to Częstochowa.
We arrived in Częstochowa and reported to the local military headquarters. There, we gave our passwords, our names, where we came from and what we brought with us. On this occasion, I asked to inform Colonel Pavlov, the commander of the 1st Ukrainian Front, about our arrival. The commander gave us lunch cards for the military kitchen and attached a guard to us… saying, that by the time we finish to eat someone will come to collect us.
Not a full hour have passed, when a jeep arrived and on it Colonel Pavlov with his deputy Major Sergei.
Bielawski recognized me and my friends. He took the three of us to his jeep, thanked the captain for his hospitality, and added that we're his men and he was waiting impatiently for us. Then he took the secret documents that we brought with us. After he hosted us with a civilian family in Częstochowa, he had an interesting conversation with the Major of the Guards from Ulanów.
Come on friend! let's have a drink in honor of the young men who crossed the front with the important documents. Major, please bring with the jeep something for dessert and a few bottles of Moskovaskaya.
After a free twohour conversation next to a table full of food, he announce that he was sorry to give us unhappy news, that we have to go back the way we came, to our partisan company.
With our head lower and with bitterness we received this verdict…
They gave us other automatics, two radio stations and many batteries, and with the escort of the Major of the Guard from Ulanów we were sent to Katowice, and from there in the direction of the front near the Beskid Mountains. When we arrived near the front, the Major of the Guard turned to headquarters to give us several guides to pass us safely to the first front line and also to help us to carry our heavy load.
It was the month of March 1945. Dressed in white clothes which camouflaged us in the snowy area we, the six people, walked across the front in the direction of the Slovak side. On a certain point, the escorts parted from us and returned to their place.
When we were a few kilometers between the mountains, on the Slovak side, we were forced to stop, because of the depth of snow which, in places, reached half of the body, and because of the heavy load we carried with us.
Each one of us felt it was impossible to move on, but kept it to himself. In the end, we had to talk about it and we decided to go back…
After an entire night of difficult walk in the deep snow, we returned tired and frozen to the place where we received help and the three guides, and announced that we definitely cannot go any further.
The captain from headquarters gave us a crooked look and said in a harsh voice: a Soviet soldier doesn't go back.
We asked him to send us by car to Bielsko, to the headquarters where we gave the secret documents. But, he refused, and we had to walk a distance of more than 20km.
We arrived to the headquarters in Bielsko, and turned to the colonel who received the documents the first time we were there. We gave him the reason why we returned and asked him to send us to the main headquarters in Częstochowa. He explained that he was unable to respond to our request, but, he can get us skis and we would be able to go in a different way, in the direction of Jabłonka Mountains. Meanwhile, we have to rest.
We knew that there were Germans in the area of Jabłonka Mountains, and the Russians were in a lower location. I knew that the new road that the colonel gave us was very dangerous. I talked with my two friends, and we decided to return to Katowice and from there to Częstochowa.
When we walked in the direction of Katowice, we met on the road two Silesian militia men who rode bicycles. We offered them since we have to carry a heavy load and we have a long way to go, they will give us the bicycles and get others in the vicinity of the Volksdeutsche.
At first they tried to object and refuse, but our consistent position softened them, and with annoyance they left the bicycles and slipped away.
As we continued on our way, we decided that we had to buy a third bicycle. And so it was, some distance, a few kilometers from Katowice, was a collision, which caused a serious traffic jam and forced us to stop. And here, a Silesian railway worker on a bicycle also stopped. We suggested that he'll take our damaged bicycle, that he could repair at home, and he'll give us his bicycle. The Silesian firmly refused to comply with our request. A fight broke out and he also struggled with one of us. Suddenly, there was a gunshot and the railway worker fell dead on the spot. The one, who struggled with him, apparently only wanted to threaten him with the automatic and a bullet was ejected. A large crowd arrived quickly, and among them also a military jeep with Soviet officers. They stopped when they saw a great crowd of people, and when they heard what had happened, they began to question us as required.
We introduced ourselves to them and explained the sequence of events. What happened to the railroad worker, we explained to the officers, was a tragic case that happened unintentionally and no one knows how to explain it.
After an investigation and demand, we asked if we can continue on our way. The officer replied no and added: you're prisoners and you have to hand over the rifles!
I responded that, in my opinion, we should hand over the rifles, and the military cargo, to Colonel Pavlov at the main headquarters in Częstochowa.
At the same time that I was arguing with the officer, automatic barrels were aimed at us from the jeep in front of us…
Apparently, before one of the officers managed to contact the headquarters two military jeeps arrived, with a number of field militia, who removed our rifles and took us to the military headquarters in Katowice.
When we arrived at the headquarters we were first told to stand on the side, each in a different corner.
After we waited for about two hours, the acting commander of the military headquarters called us to a room where several officers (including those who arrested us) already sat. One of them asked us who is in charge of the company? The two Czechs pointed at me. Then, the officer turned to me with the same questions that we were asked on the way to Katowice, such as: Who are you? Where are you headed? Who gave you the radio stations and where do you wanted to take them?
I told him everything, from the moment our partisan company sent us to cross the front, to the moment we were stopped behind Katowice. In the end I added, that everything that I said would be approved by the main headquarters of the 1st Ukrainian Front in Częstochowa.
The officer who questioned me responded in this language:
The whole report is unclear to us, but we'll investigate the matter and in the meantime you must be in prison.
After this announcement, two Red Army soldiers led us to prison. They took us down to the cellar where there was no place to sit, and we had to stand all night in water up to the shins…
By the severity of their behavior towards us I concluded that they suspect that we are German spies.
Early the next morning, my thought was confirmed. At ten o'clock a major came down to the cellar and called us. Before he had the time to say something to us I turned to him with a question:
This is how you treat us for risking our lives for the homeland? For the Soviet Union?!
To that the major replied in this style:
It's better you don't play this way before me, because you won't gain anything from it it's better that you tell me the truth how many are in your company?
To that I answered him:
Our company, which arrived in Czechoslovakia, consists of 11 men.
Don't tell me tales about Czechoslovakia he looked at me in a sarcastic smile. I'll tell you the number in your gang. The gang in this area, which the Germans sent to us, numbers 12 members. He didn't add another word. Accompanied by four armed soldiers we were taken by car to a military prison where we were separated each in a separate cell.
After sitting for eight days during which they took us often, several times at night, for interrogations an order has finally reached the military headquarters in Katowice to treat us with less severity because the suspicion that we are German spies is unfounded.
After giving this order, we were treated differently. We were allowed to go out to the yard for a walk, given good food and moved to comfortable cells cleaned by the Germans.
After a stay of two weeks in prison, Colonel Pavlov took us out of there and moved us to Częstochowa. There, we were handed to the major who moved us to Jasna Góra behind Częstochowa to stay in private apartment until a plane will come to take us to Czechoslovakia and drop us to our position.
Two days later, a colonel suddenly arrived with additional highranking military personnel. He ordered us to leave all our belongings and travel in his car.
He brought us to the military headquarters in Częstochowa, and there we were taken to a big room in which military men sat around a long table. Commander Povlov turned to us with these words:
Now friends, you have to justify yourself before this military tribunal.
We looked at each other with puzzled eyes. What are our sins and what are our crimes that they're going to judge us here? Is it because we didn't fulfill the order to return, or for the murder of the railroad worker from Katowice, or for resisting arrest and throwing away parts of our personal rifles.
They separated us and each of us had to tell everything separately, what happened to him from the minute he crossed the front to the moment of imprisonment.
After this separate investigation we were called to return together and only one question was presented to us.
Which of you gave the order to return?
Neither of us admitted that he convinced the others to go back, because the reality dictated this after we sunk in the deep snow and couldn't continue on our way. Without uttering a word each of us did it instinctively.
Do you know one of the officers intervened at the table that for such a step you deserve the death penalty?
But we didn't do it on purpose, only because we didn't have the physical strength to continue.
In the end, it was decided that our only crime was that we allowed ourselves to change inexplicit instruction. But taking into account our rights and the risk to our lives against the enemy, we were found not guilty by the military tribunal.
Two days after our release from prison, at the end of April 1945, we received new rifles with radio stations and transferred by a military plane directly to Oles near Wrocław.
In Oles, we took a second military oath, and after that we drank with other partisan companies and high officers za rodinu for the Motherland.
On the same day, at eight in the evening, they put the three of us on a transport plane and after an hour in the air we were dropped in Czechoslovakia exactly to the point where our partisan company was.
We arrived to the post, but no one was there. We found out later that there was a difficult encounter with the Germans and they were forced to move 90km from there. We learned that from the local residents.
After a walk and many days we finally managed to find them.
The members of the company with Captain Bielawski, who thought that we disappeared from the horizon of life, welcomed us with great happiness, and in honor of this brought samaganke and delicious dessert.
We found a great change and new atmosphere in the new position. The Germans felt that the day of their surrender was approaching and the partisans felt safer and freer. A connection was formed between partisan companies, and trips through the villages began almost without precaution.
On a certain evening, when we were in contact with the 4th Ukrainian Front, which was getting closer to us, we received an order to follow the trail of Germans and Hungarian policemen who were hiding in the mountains. Satisfied, and with great vigor, we left to fulfill this command.
A few days after receiving this command, and after we delivered accurate information about the location of enemy forces in Banská Bystrica, the Soviet army surrounded the German defenses positions and many were killed and some were captured.
When the battle with the Germans who were hiding in the area was over, the partisans, together with Soviet military squads who remained in the area, celebrated all night.
The next day we got a few days off. After that, our company returned with the help of Russian cars to our previous position to find those, who according to the detectives in the villages cooperated with the Germans, and we killed them all.
This cleansing in the villages lasted a few days and then the Czechs took control on the whole area. Our partisan company received an order from the 1st Ukrainian Front headquarters to move to Oles (Olesnica) behind Wrocław (then Breslau).
There, in Oles, we were received by high ranking officers, who held a festive reception for us and for other companies, and we partied to the late hours of the night. At the end, Colonel Povlov read the names of the partisans who are being sent to an officer school in the Soviet Union. My name also appeared on this list.
At the end of the warm reception I received from Colonel Povlov a document stating that I was accepted to the officer school of Battalion 234 in Moscow. I was also given 15 days vacation to look for my parents with the hope of finding them alive. I was also given, as a Polish citizen and a volunteer fighter, payment for every day I fought as a partisan against the occupying Germans.
After obtaining this handful of Polish zloty, and permission to get food anywhere in Poland, I decided, that everything that I had gone through in my young life was enough for me, and I didn't go back after my vacation ended.
At once I became a free bird, without fear and obligations. I continued to travel from place to place, from Jewish community to the other, hoping to find my parents or sisters, but, to my sorrow, I wasn't able to find them.
I wandered for a few more weeks in Poland and after that decided to slip into Austria, because I heard that from the city of Linz, which was in the American zone, it was possible to immigrate to Israel, and so I've done. I traveled to Linz where I stayed for about a year with the intention of getting to Italy first and from there to Israel. I lived in Italy for two years and in August 1948 immigrated to Israel, to Haifa. A short time later I started to work in the Port of Haifa where I work to this day as a crane operator for the United Port Services Company.
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