by Chaya Taube Kotlacz/ Los Angeles
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Haya Taube Kotlar, Los Angeles, with her husband Hersh and her two daughters, one aged three years, the other three months. She succeeded in concealing some of their goods and money, and they hid themselves in the villages. Luckily, they missed the town fire, the bombing and all of the liquidation actions. But that did not make their life easy for them. For five years they struggled every day, every night, every hour, every moment to keep themselves alive, and to fight against the Germans and the anti-Semitic Poles; against hunger, filth, typhoid, extortion and despair. That required money, patience, strength, endurance and sheer good luck.
At the age of three little Bashka was already a shepherdess in the fields. Goldele was nervous and her parents had to beat her, silence her and even think of worse things, because she endangered the lives of the others. A little money was hidden with a good town priest. He advised the Kotlar couple never to keep any money with them, and certainly not to show it to the peasants with whom they hid themselves, because it was hard for even the best peasants to withstand the temptation of money. They might murder them.
For some time they lived with the thirty Jewish survivors who remained out of several thousand in the Kurow labor camp. There were disputes with the Judenrat and Jewish Police. The sadistic Germans ordered dozens of Jews to run after their cars for five kilometers. They took pretty young girls out of bed and amused themselves with them in ugly fashions. Even the surviving thirty Jews in the Kurow camp were shot, but Haya Taube with her husband and children managed to escape and get away. You will remain like Noah in the ark said a Christian who concealed them. A few Jews said before they died that whoever remained alive should at least come to their graves and shout the news of Hitler's end when the time came.
More than once Haya Taube dreamt in the middle of her sleep in an underground bunker that danger was approaching, that the Germans were on the way: and they saved themselves at the last moment. Little Goldele, who had been somewhere else for a time in a distant village with peasants, became ill. Her mother, Haya Taube, immediately sensed this in her dream. More than once when they were pursued and tormented and heard how the Jews hidden in the villages were being murdered by the Germans and Poles alike, they wanted to give up the fight and were prepared to die; but the urge to leave at least a Jewish memory of the destruction sustained them in the most difficult moments. After the entry of the Russians they lived to see how several Germans in Kurow were buried alive with their hands up. Even then, after the entry of the Russians, their lives were still in danger from the anti-Semitic Poles, who were angry to find a few Jews had managed to save themselves.
Haya Taube and her husband and children went to Lublin, where the survivors gathered together with the Jewish partisans from the forests. A daughter of her sister Henna had escaped with her brother Sana, the heroic partisan, who received Soviet medals, and was also arrested for a while by the Soviet representatives. Haya Taube helped in regaining from a Kurow Christian, a girl whose parents had been shot. (The little girl is a close relation of Liftshe Weinreb.) She adopted Goldele Finkelstein, her sister's daughter. They wanted to go to Israel, where Sana the partisan had already gone and where her other brother Arieh lived. But she went to join her husband's family in Los Angeles, California.
[The following text is translated from Yiddish.]
I survived with my husband and children. The only complete family in the shtetl [town] of Kurow. When the terrifying death sentence was issued for all Jews in Poland, we thought that that meant only us, but later we saw that this meant all of European Jews.
The month of Av [July-August] 1939. Jews walked in the streets of the shtetl [town], looked at the sky, felt as if a misfortune would come from there. It was this way on Wednesday and Thursday night. We began to see people wandering on the roads, on bicycles, on foot, in autos. We lived not far from the highway. Here, we already had not slept for several nights. Everything in the house was packed in our cellar. This was the last Thursday of being under our own roof. With us in the house was my mother-in-law, an old woman sixty-something years of age. My husband and two children. My Goldele was then four and half years old along with a small bit of child of over three months. I myself was then like a small child. Nevertheless, I thought of plans of how and what to do. That Tuesday night, my husband and I actually went out through the door to see what was happening in the street. Our hearts felt dark and empty. We heard a great noise from those traveling. The houses were unlit. The police had said not to let any light shine out [from the houses]. We heard people come from Demblin and Puław to our neighbors. They said that certain areas near them had been bombed. People from Demblin had left for Ryki; they were shot by machine guns from the airplanes, especially swooping low and murdering them. We entered the house and began to think about what to do. Tomorrow was Friday, where should we go? We did not sleep that night, made a bundle and began to prepare something for the children. A small wagon in which the child could sleep. In the morning, my husband Hersh left for the village to a peasant for a horse and wagon, but, by then, no peasant wanted to risk himself or his horse. I waited for him impatiently, dressed the children, ready to wander with a child of three months. I also wanted to know what was happening at home with my father. I ran there. In addition to my father, the room was packed with people who had run away, relatives. I said to them:
Everyone has to escape. Leave the city.
My father went out with me to the threshold to look into the street. It was black with people who were traveling, walking and riding. My father asked them:
Jews, where are you going?
We are starting out, wherever there is a worthy end we will go. Here, there is no longer any place for Jews.
These were, it appeared to me, Radom Jews. I went to my oldest sister's house. It also was filled with people there. I said to my brother-in-law: Shmuel, why are you still in the house? The people are escaping out in the world
Chaya Toba Kotlacz
(English caption: Chaya Toba Kotlar)
and you are sitting so calmly! This was around seven o'clock in the morning. I again ran to my peasant who would go to the markets with us and asked him if my husband had been with him. He said: Yes, he left for home. I ran back to my house. It was difficult to walk because the city was crowded with people. When I entered the house, my husband was there. He did not have a horse and wagon because no peasant wanted to go. My youngest brother, Sana, came with him. I took the small child in my arms and my husband took the other girl by the hand and my brother pushed the small cart with something for the children to wear. It was very difficult to walk through the streets.
I walked and cried; already then, I felt the great disaster that was imminent. We met a good friend in the street; this was Hershl Klajdman, Pesl's husband. May his name at least be remembered. My husband said to him:
Look, Hershl, at how she is crying.
He said to him:
She can cry. We understand nothing of what is happening to us.
The Mother-in-Law Saved the Teytsh-Khumish and Several Makhzorim from the Fire
We went further through the fields, closer to a village, to a Polish acquaintance. We entered; there already was a half village of people. I remained with the children and the men left to return to the city. We heard the noise of airplanes. I was then holding a little cup to the mouth of my small child; we heard the thunderclap of a bomb which fell. I fell with the children in fear. Windowpanes fell from the house. This was three kilometers [1.86 miles] from the city. This was Friday at noon. After a time, people came and said that the entire city was on fire. There already were many victims. They lamented, cried. My husband immediately came with his mother. He carried some of his mother's clothes and my mother-in-law carried a water basin with several Makhzorim, her Teytsh-Khumish and the Siddur [prayer book] she used every day for praying. They came to the village with this, but at least [they were] alive. Later, my father, my sister and a small child and my brother Sana appeared. We immediately began to wander, actually carrying a stick. It was very difficult for me to walk with the child in my arms. Manis Lazer's son with his old mother, Sarale Lazer's appeared on the road. When he saw me, he said:
Take my stick and I will lead my mother by the arm. It will be easier for you to walk with the stick.
The Boots Were Taken from the Men
Thus, we went to another village. We wanted to be even farther away, but who knew where it was good? We arrived in a village at a peasant's [house] at night. Lay down on the hard ground, broken, as if we had wandered for long days. Very early in the morning, we heard the airplanes flying and bombing the villages, fields, while the entire Polish army marched through Kurow, stood in the Kurow courtyard. Therefore, Kurow almost had the first defeat. On the same day, the bombing was heavy around where we were staying. The peasants immediately stole everything we had brought. The clothing we had taken off at night was taken immediately. When my small child Bashale woke up and I had to dress her,
I no longer saw her clothes. I wrapped her in whatever I could. They took the boots from the men and they walked barefooted. My brother Sana's clothes, which also were with the same peasant, were taken. Peasants from other villages arrived the same day and said that Jews were not permitted to be in the villages, they should go further. We began to go further. The masses moved from one village to another. This was the first few days. The Polish soldiers ran around hungry, in fear, frightened. They said that the soldiers were being shot in the forests. Their soldiers were lying like cut-off ears of corn. They [the Germans] were bombing again and I had to lay under the shrubs, spread out with the tiny child and saw that everything was burning. My Hersh lay not far from me with our child, and was always raising his head, asking if we were still alive. I was covered in a cold sweat. For several days in a row, they did not bomb at night. We ate something. There was then no longer any bread.
KOL NIDRE in a Hut. Away to Wąwolnica
Several days later, the devils arrived. For the Jews, the air immediately smelled of hell. People ran to wherever they could. The young immediately took to the road, from the villages to Russia. On Yom Kippur we prayed in the village, called together a minyon [ten men, minimum number required for prayer] of Jews. A gentile provided a small room for praying. The entire city was burned as well as the magnificent synagogue, the house of prayer. The Torah scrolls, too. The Jews were afraid to go into the city, to appear before the Germans. The Christians came to the village and said that the Germans were looting the Jewish cellars where Jews had things buried. Day laborers came from the Kurow courtyard and showed where things lay. They and the Germans robbed everything they found. Jews went in the middle of the night and removed things if they could. My husband, father and my brother also went to our cellar in the middle of the night to see if perhaps not everything had burned. Then, my husband saw gentile boys come with Germans and show them our cellar. They approached it but could not discover how to enter. In the morning, my husband and father hired peasants. At night, they approached [the cellar] and brought whatever they were able to remove back to the village. However, we were afraid to be in the village with two kinds of enemies. With the peasants and the Nazis. We left for the village of Wąwolnica. We received a room from the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] of the city. At the same time, the Germans entered the villages, searched for Jews, took them for work. My father and brother, without their boots, came from the village to Wąwolnica. There they received a room through Yankl Srulke Rimer's with a Jew, a water carrier.
Half of the Jews from the shtetl of Kurow were already in Wąwolnica. On Sukkos [Feast of Tabernacles] at night, we still blessed the candles in the sukkah [structure in which one eats meals during Sukkous]. The shoykhet and his family still celebrated the holiday as God commanded. We lived a little again. Here, we could still for a time celebrate Shabbos [Sabbath], go to prayer, trade a small amount, although already in fear.
Part of My Family Leaves for Russia
Kurow was burned. Only Leibish's Eidl Hersh remained with a bit of a brick building. He lived there with his family. Also, Yankl Fajnszmidt on Novi Rynek. A bit of a house also remained there and several cellars; people were in them.
We were assailed by a difficult winter. Jews were dispersed in cities and shtetlekh [towns]. The children were sent to families wherever they [the families] had someone. Yankl Wajnrib left for his daughter's [house] with his family. People began to fear traveling and going out. Every day there were new edicts. Jews were caught; Jews were beaten, beards cut. Men, they were only searching for men, so at least make them all into peasants. It was said in the shtetl of Wąwolnica that it was a paradise here. There is a little commerce; they can buy everything. They sell an item in secret and live. It was bad in the larger cities like Warsaw. They fought longer there. They bombed. Many people fell. They asked the Germans to enter; just end the bombing. There was no food there. People died of hunger. When the Germans entered, people also began to run from Warsaw. Young people escaped to Russia. My brother, Chaim, was in Warsaw then. He came to Wąwolnica, bringing my father, two married sisters with two small children and a third married sister, Chavale, my youngest brother Sana, a cousin and her family, Rywka daughter of Yeshaya Yosef and six children. We quietly hired a wagon driver. It was winter and there was a great frost. And we traveled to the Russian border.
My husband and children went with them a little way; they kissed. [They] said goodbye. I thought: who knows if we will see each other again. That day I took the residence in which my father had lived. We left the goods bricked in in the cellar at the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer]. They [the Germans] then looted and took the possessions for which the Jews had labored and slaved.
There is Drumming in the City: New Edicts
They were snatching people for work. One could not even go out in cases when a doctor was needed. One could only shout out to the street. At night, the Germans ran around, taking [people] from the houses and deporting [them].
Summer came. Drumming was heard in the street. An old peasant stood with a drum, banged and called out in Polish:
All Jews must go to work! Whoever does not go and is found in the house will be shot!
All of the men from the entire shtetl appeared in the middle of the market. Several Germans with rifles on their back sent the Jews to hard labor outside the city, breaking stones, working the fields. They were kicked and beaten while working, were told to run from the mountains. Those who did not please [the Germans] in some way, they killed. At home, the women succumbed to fear, wanting to live to see their husbands return alive when they returned home from work. We were not yet sure at night, too. We listened to every noise from the street, every movement. We constantly trembled. The steps of the German boots made holes in our hearts.
Thus, we lived for months: snatching, blows, beatings, driving Jews from one city to another. The first scapegoat was Puław (Piliv) [Pulawy]. The city was not actually completely burned, so that all of the Jews who were there, were attacked by the Germans at night. They were driven out to the streets half-naked. They were beaten with whips. They [the Germans] placed themselves in two rows and the Jews had to walk through the conflagration. Each murderer yanked, hit, did whatever he wanted to do, whatever pleased him most. They said to the Jews that they had the right to do everything, even kill [them] like dogs. The Jews returned, beaten, looted. They went wherever their eyes carried them. The majority actually came to Wąwolnica where we were, because this spot had a reputation for being quieter than other cities. Here, there was a clerk, a German from Poland. No one knew him. At first, he prevented the arriving murderers from persecuting the Jews a little. It was not appropriate to him because previously he had lived well with the Jews. This all was in 1940. In 1941 the Germans summoned the esteemed Jews of the city and told them to create a Judenrat [Jewish council]. A new hell began. They [the Judenrat] received a note sent every day for how many needed to be sent for work. It became worse for those who were homeless. They were taken for work, sent far from the city. One had to have influence. If someone hid, the family was sent away from the shtetl, back to their own shtetl.
One day, the mayor called together the Jews and gave a speech to them. The children and I and my mother-in-law were then alone. My husband was away in Kurow. All of the Jews, women and children, were called together. The mayor announced:
All of the Jews who had arrived had to return to their shtetlekh over the course of several days.
More edicts: Jews could not trade, not have any goods. There was a commotion. We had our fabric
goods in a cellar with the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer], where we previously had lived. We bricked in half of the goods and we packed half in sacks. We were denounced. The Germans were led to the cellar and the goods that lay there that had not been bricked in were taken out. They looked for the owner. No one replied. I knew that there was the threat of a severe punishment. I had a bitter taste in my mouth. I had to leave the city; they had taken the goods. This was the least of things. They came to tell me that the shoykhet had to leave his house because it did not belong to him, but to a Christian and they [the shoykhet and his family] had to leave that day. There I had the last, little bit of my possessions in life. My Hersh had not returned. I sent news to my husband through a Christian that he should send a peasant from there in order for me to be able to remove the goods from there at night. We had to do this in the middle of the night because the mayor of the city lived not far from there. The German barracks also were there. They stood on guard the entire night. I watched and saw that it was impossible for a wagon to come here at night and take the goods. I ran out on the road; I understood that the peasant who was sent should be arriving. He did come. I told him he should return home because it was impossible to go through. I returned to the shoykhet. We consulted and decided that first of all I should take the goods to where I now lived. In the middle of the night, we, six people, transferred the goods. Several days later, I was sent an order that I must leave the shtetl. I immediately sent my husband to Kurow; he was with the daughter of our Shlomo's Perl. They lived in Shlomo's cellar. He sent out a peasant in the middle of the night. He stood outside the city and one of Hersh's sisters came with him, entering the city at dawn and shouted to me. I almost had not slept. When I heard him call, I grabbed the sleeping children and left. My husband's brother, Dovid, lived in the village of Polichow, near Dembe. He brought us to stay with him in the village. We were there for several weeks. Germans came to the forest every day to look for wood among the peasants who took it from the forest. When they found fresh wood that had been taken from the forest, they beat the peasants with rubber whips. One night, when we were asleep, the gentile boys from the village came and knocked out the windowpanes and the windows in the shops. The glass fell into our beds and wounded the children. Where could we go now? We were afraid to be in this village. In the morning, we immediately returned to Kurow, to Velvl Ginzburg. He lived on the field with Shmuel Chanisman in a house near the gmina [Polish administrative district]. We trusted them because the previous winter they had stayed with us for a few weeks. Strange murderers arrived in Kurow, szturmowces [stormtroopers]. They
took people out in the middle of the night, threw them in the snow and beat them to death. There were then perhaps 10 Jews in total in Kurow. I think, our Yakov-Leyzer was a victim of these violent men. He died in Lublin after the beating. Shmuel and Velvl came to Wąwolnica that terrible winter. They did not have a place to be. My Hersh also met Moshe Najmark one night and brought into our house. This all was the first year of the war. One Shabbos Hersh was in the street in Wąwolnica. They said that the murderers from Kurow had come to the house of prayer. All of the Jews left the city. But my Hersh entered the house. Manis Lazer's was then with us. They had beaten whomever was in the house of prayer with deadly blows, as well as the rabbi from Wąwolnica - a Jew, a sage, a tzadek [righteous man]. The bandits cut off his snow-white, long beard, carving into his chin. Later, he lay in bed for many weeks. Things got even worse. We were then with Shmuel for several days. This was in 1940.
Back to Kurow. In a Cellar, but at Home…
They began to snatch men, to make create camps and to deport. We slept with the children on the floor at night. We heard shouting outside. Ester, the wife of Yakov Yisroel's, my Hersh's aunt, was shouting:
Hersh, Shmuel, Velvl and their sons barely came out alive. They went somewhere into bushes. Our Shlomo's Yehezkiel then came from Lublin; he was also grabbed and deported. I do not know where. Later, at night, several men returned; Leibl shoykhet also came in. He was hidden. He and his family lived in the cellar of Sholem the rabbi's. I sat in Shmuel's house and did not know what had happened to Hersh. Everyone returned, but they caught Velvl's Moshele (Ginzburg). Hersh returned in the morning. He said that he had gone to the village of Simiv and entered a hay stable. There he heard Blumele's Moshe's' voice. He already was hiding there. They were together for a day and a night. We began to return to Wąwolnica because it was quieter there. We rescued some goods to take to Kurow because we saw that they [the Jews] were beginning to return to Kurow; we arranged ourselves in a cellar, to rebuild a bit of a house. We would also return to Kurow. It smelled of home although burned, roasted, with very few Jews. We carried, under our clothes, on our naked bodies, pieces of goods, walked 12 kilometers there and back. We left [goods] bit by bit with the priest of the city, with other Christians. This continued for several weeks. There we decided to erect a small house where we had previously lived, where it had burned. We went
out to a village, bought a stall, obviously [for the] wood. We worked everything out in the village because in the city we dared not show that we were building a house. They did not allow construction in the city, but where we lived then did not look like the city. When the wood was finished, we took 10 peasants and all at once we brought the wood and laid it out. We received the permission of the village magistrate of the city. The Christians looked at us as if we were crazy. They knew and felt that we no longer had any place there. However, there were rumors that Russia would not let the Germans go further. At the same time, I received a letter from my family in Ukraine that they wanted to return. We dissuaded them all from returning. We saw that there was bitterness and suspicions among the Nazis. I wrote to my father that I was erecting a house. So, they thought the situation for us was good. I have that on my conscience. Perhaps they would have survived in Poland. But who knows? When we had built the house, it was somewhat easier because it was very bitter to wander with the children. Now we were with the children under the same roof as my husband's mother. We had one room. Of course, as we did not receive everything so quickly, we lived for a long time without doors and without windows.
The Members of the Judenrat Had Servants
In time, a Judenrat [Jewish council] was created in Kurow. The group became larger. Yankl Wajnrib's and Simkhale Shauls' brick house remained. There were several small houses on the street. Yitzhak from the teahouse lived in Yankl Wajnrib's brick house. His wife was Miriam, the daughter of Chaim Nisenbaum. Her sister, Laya, lived with them. The Judenrat was next to them in Simkhale Shaul's [house]. I remember only Dovidl and Yitzhakl; they lived somewhere there, too. The Judenrat consisted of six Jews who worked, who led the shtetl by the head. Several Jews secretly worked with them. They could give advice about how and from whom to get more money and who to send to work and who to deport when the Germans came and needed people. I remember when we built the house, I sat inside on a frosty day, still without windows, cold, unheated. Hersh was not at home. He was in a village; went to sell something to bring something to eat into the house. I did not have any money in the house then. Two Jews entered; one was a young man, dressed as if there was no bitterness toward us; and a boy. I think he was a clerk for them. He was once a good friend of my Arya. A tall German with a resounding shout also came. [They, the two Jews] laughed; I, frightened at seeing the guests (the children were in bed), asked them:
What do you want?
They said and laughed that I must this minute give them 100 zlotes. I asked for what. They said it was because I had not come to report that I was building a house. I said to them and begged of the Jews:
My Hersh is not here now; I am alone.
They said that they would take off the doors. I told them that there was frost outside, but they immediately took the doors. The other Jew, who had come with them, also was an acquaintance. [We] once ate and drank and spent time together, but now he remembered nothing. Perhaps nothing in general bothered him as he immediately became one of them. They took off the doors and left. I ran after them and said that we would become frozen at night, but the German turned around and began to throw stones at me.
The Rich Paid Bribes… Jewish Policemen
Each day was as dark as the next. We lived from the goods that we still had and exchanged in secret with a peasant for a few potatoes, sugar, flour. But this did not last long. An order was issued that a Jew must not leave the city. Whomever was found outside the city would be shot. The Judenrat created a pass for a few young people. Shlomo Mordekhai Korone was a Jew in his sixties. He was also sent with the young people. Shlomo Mordekhai Korone, my uncle, was always a dreamy Jew, lethargic. He was taken with the group. Everyone made fun of him. When they took him to the Ukrainian volks-Deutsch [ethnic Germans], they killed him, murdered him bit by bit. They saw everything and had to be silent. His daughter and wife went to the Judenrat, cried and shouted. They made fun of her and laughed. The young people then returned; only Shlomo Mordekhai was a victim. The rich were still able to buy their way out with bribes of money. Then Jewish police were created; Jewish boys appeared voluntarily. They put on special clothes with batons or whips in their hands. Thus, they went to carry out their work. When the Germans came to the Judenrat with an order for Jews [to work], they [the Jewish police] went into the street and grabbed Jews, ordering them to accompany them, beating and pulling them into the office. In addition, they were accompanied by Polish police or a German. Once my mother-in-law was sick and we needed to have money. I was standing in the house with Hersh and a few Christians and I was selling them a piece of goods. A Jewish policeman entered with a German. I told the Jew that he was making me miserable. He said to the German:
Take her husband, he is a good worker.
They took him into the forest to dig, to break stones. There he witnessed hardships; small, weak
men carried unnaturally heavy loads. Hersh met Dovid Mekhl's son there; a weak person. Hersh had to help him. When the German was not watching, he grabbed the baskets of sand from his hands. Otherwise, the other one would not have come home alive. At night, they were allowed to come home. He said:
Released, he prepared to come home. A German approached, slapped him in the face and shouted to him. Why had he not greeted him? He took off his hat in greeting him. The German shouted and gave him another slap:
You are not my friend to be able to say hello to me!
German Meanness Also Infects Several Jews
In 1940, the German murderers began to place taxes on cities and shtetlekh. The families gathered money and the Jews were left alone. Later, the Jews at the Judenrat [Jewish council] created categories. We, for example, were in the first category, rich people. Thu had the councilmen appraised us. They extracted [money] from the poor and rich, from whoever had even a penny. When they informed me of how much they required, I had to send it in immediately; if not they would come with the police and take Hersh and imprison him in the Kurow prison.
One Shabbos [Sabbath], during a frost, Hersh washed himself, the children were in bed, my mother-in-law was sick. Someone knocked [at the door]. I ran out half-dressed to open it. A young boy who once was my neighbor came in with an embittered policeman and he shouted:
Kotlacz! Come with me!
You will see. You will not be alone!
I immediately put a shawl on and followed. Small groups stood outside; we spoke and no one knew where they were taking them. They led them away and put them in prison. I returned and met the Jewish councilmen. They were probably going somewhere to gorge themselves and get intoxicated with the Jewish enemies. I stopped one and asked him why the men were being taken. He did not know I should go to another one [member of the Judenrat]. The other one was dressed very elegantly, warm, just out of his house. After a shot of whiskey, he was haughty; he considered himself a great sage. I said to him:
Do you want money? You have to tell me now how much I have to give.
He told me the sum of money. I became cold.
I know that your Hersh will not give, so let him sit and freeze there. But you are not a fool, you know that it will not help him [to sit in jail], so go and pay.
It was a large sum of money. There also was no way to make money then. We went at night to take out the money and they released my Hersh. That day made me sick; I caught a bad cold and lay for several weeks seriously ill. There was no local doctor, only a doctor called from Rubishov [Hrubieszów]. A Pole, he did not visit Jews. But Hersh brought him. He said that I must go to Lublin because he did not have any medicine. I was taken to Lublin in secret. A doctor examined me there and I lay in my cousin's [house] for a few days. There were many Kurow Jews there, who came to see me. Pesl and her husband as well as Surale Tajtelbaum, Hinda's Borukh. They lived in Lublin. Borukh came then from Ukraine. He gave me greetings from my father and sister. He described how bad it was there, crowded, there was nowhere to go. Alas, he returned to Lublin and entered the hell. This was the last time I saw those close to me, my family. Then they began to take the goods and denunciations began. I returned home to Kurow, half healthy. Back to the noise of grabbing, beating, hiding, deportations. This was already in 1941. In the middle of winter, great frosts, bitter, heavy snow. In the middle of the night, they took Jews to clean the snow from the roads. Pushing large, heavy autos that were frozen. At work, they were beaten, kicked, men were crippled. They took Hersh and other Jews to clean the snow on the Warsaw highway. They cleaned the entire day. Germans stood over them and beat them. After the work, the Germans said to them:
So, now you must run! We will sit in the auto and you will run!
They ran like this from Brzozowa Gać to Markoshow. To run five kilometers after such a heavy work day and the auto traveled even faster, how could the men run? The Jews came home very late at night.
We again heard screaming and shooting; the Germans were beating people and looting. Miriam's Mirl lived not far from us. They also erected a bit of a roof over their head where under which they sheltered from the frosts. They had a tiny shop with shoe accessories. The Germans entered at night, beating, shooting and breaking the goods and threw them out into the snow.
One night, the children and I were sleeping; Hersh sat with a Jew whom we had saved from the Końskowola camp. He played cards with him. Suddenly, someone knocked. Open the door? There was just then a little bit of goods in the house, hidden in the children's beds in which they were sleeping. I immediately got
down from the bed. I knew that they were looking for men more than women. I answered. Two slightly drunk Germans entered. I asked them to speak quietly because the children were sleeping. During that time, the men hid the cards because playing cards was forbidden. In my heart I asked God for mercy, that they not exercise their hold to do something bad to those they found here in the house. They immediately went to the beds where the children were sleeping. I ran to them and asked them to speak quieter. They answered that I was speaking louder than they were. They left the children and went to the men, asked who they were. Hersh said that he was the owner of the house. The other man remained sitting in great fear. Knowing the threat against us, he stood up, went [to the Germans] and tried to defend himself. He spoke German well. The Germans took him with them and left. We were very afraid and immediately ran after [him] and saw what had happened. The Germans only took his good shoes, beat him badly and sent him back to Końskowola. Lately, they would often enter a house at night, take the pretty, young girls out of their beds and very coarsely entertain themselves with them, mocking and laughing at them. They were not allowed to have any contact with Jewish women. It is not pleasant to write about their brutality and ugly tricks.
Read the Megilah and Imitate Gragers. The Hamans are Here!
Once they entered the house in which several families lived. Older, pious people. Tevl's Shlomo, our Shaya Altman. A young couple and several girls also lived there. They lit their beds with electric lamps. When they saw a young woman with a man, they ordered them to have sex in front of them while they stood near the bed; if not they would all be shot. Our Jews had to endure such bitter indignities. Who could we turn to? Denounce them to their leaders? Denounce the cow to the calf? Or the calf to the cow? All of them were the same brutal murderers.
When we re-erected our house, it stood on a hill. There no longer was a house. Mendl Zanvl Blecher's son-in-law had lived with his seven children, older and tiny ones. Leibush's Edl Hersh, also lived in his old house on the other side and Avrahamle Malakh and his family. They prayed there. Khonan Kaplan and his family had a bakery there and lived there, not lived, but cried, one can say. Without a floor, everything in one room. Dark walls, beds nailed together out of boards. Tabele's Brukha and her husband, Avraham Moshe, also were visitors there. Reb Alter Bergerman always sat there. The last Purim, I went there to listen
to the reading of the Megilah. The Jews still made gragers. Somewhere, a small boy was in a corner and rattled the grager. Jews crushed Haman underfoot, but did not yet understand that another, worse Haman was preparing for us. In the middle of the Minkhah-Maariv [afternoon-evening] prayers, several angels of destruction entered; the congregation left through the windows and hid. So, they took Malka's Avrahamle's son-in-law, a young man of great learning, a tall young man, with long peyos [side curls], scared white. It was completely dark outside. They began to chase him in the courtyard and forced him to go on all fours [on his hands and knees]. If they were not pleased with how he moved on all fours, they kicked with their feet. He lay barely alive. The same week, I was sitting in front of the door with my child. I saw a wagon passing with a pair of courtly horses and Germans were driving the horses. Around the horses and wagon were many Germans and a young Jewish boy was sitting in the wagon. His clothes were wet. He looked about 16 or 17. He sat with black, frightened eyes, black hair, confused, white as snow, scared. So many angels of destruction were around him. They beat him and laughed, made fun of him. They then took him from the water. Chased him into the water,and chased him out. Then, they led him through the city. I went to the Judenrat to ask what this was. They said they could not help. One must watch and be quiet, watch what they were preparing to do with him. Everyone was afraid to approach, to ask that he be let go. The boy was a relative of Chaya Kanierin's family. He came from Warsaw. He was taken to work very early, hungry. He was given no food there. He went into a farmhand's house. As no one was there, he took a piece of black bread and left. The peasant arrived and caught him, dragged him to the Germans and said that he had stolen a piece of bread from him. Therefore, they gave him this punishment. When they saw that he already was half dead, they threw him out of the wagon. He lay sick for a time after.
Disease, Arguments, the Good Priest, Several Good Doctors
The reign of various diseases began. I lay in bed, my mother-in-law, too, and my older daughter. Jews were being chased from the shtetlekh [towns]. Anyone who was in a strange shtetl had to leave immediately and return to their shtetl. They dragged themselves on carts and on foot. We returned to Kurow from Wąwolnica and from Kuzmir [Kazimierz Dolny]. We were packed together. The Judenrat functioned. Beatings took place. They imprisoned people one on top of the other and this caused disease. There were not enough doctors. A Christian doctor could not come to a Jew.
A new edict: for not handing in furs, the
punishment of death. Everyone brought their fur coats to the Christians. The Germans said to bring the fur coats to the Judenrat. We had two good fur coats. What do we do with them? Keeping them in the house meant the death penalty. We took them to a gentile. We took everything we possessed to the Christians. We gave everything to the priest. He did for us whatever he could. Every Jew had his gentile. He brought him his possessions [to be taken care of]. Every day, we hoped that the war would end.
I was very sick. Hersh had to save everyone. He ran with his mother to Lublin, although a Jew could not appear in the street. The Germans were traveling on the highways with their taxis, cars; he wanted to stop a taxi and ask that they take him and his mother with them. He had to go to a doctor. A taxi arrived. It stopped. A captain sat inside. When he saw who he had stopped, he [Hersh] ran way. The captain shot after him. However, he was able to continue and actually with the Germans. They did not recognize that he was a Jew because he did not wear the ribbon with the Mogen-Dovid [Shield of David Jewish Star]. He could still have Jewish doctors in Lublin. He returned using Kurow Christian wagon drivers. My mother-in-law was sick. He could not travel with me because I [was sick and] needed a doctor-specialist. Shmuel's Dovid Chaim, a feldsher [barber-surgeon], came in. He healed the entire city. He went from one house to another. At night, Hersh tried to go to Doctor Rukasz, a Christian. He knew us well, but he was not permitted to go to a sick Jew. My Hersh cried before him, begged him, until he said he would come to us at night when no one would see. That is how it was. He came at night and gave everyone remedies. My Goldele and I had typhus. He could not help my mother-in-law because there was no medicine in the city, but in Lublin. In addition, she needed to be operated on because she had stomach abscesses. And Goldele had to have an operation on her head. It was twisted. My Hersh asked him to help bring a doctor from Paw. Rukasz called him on his telephone. He also called another doctor, Widzenski. He once lived in Kurow; he was close to us. The other one immediately came the next night, so no one would know. He said that Goldele should not be touched. I still was abnormal from the heat. Friday night, I felt as if it were bad in the house. My mother-in-law still blessed the candles, and immediately died after lighting the candles. Sunday morning, we called all of my mother-in-law's children. Dovid lived in the village; her daughter in Miechow. The Judenrat haggled with Hersh half a day. Motl Szneier, Shlomo Tevl shouted:
Help, bandits, what do you want from the young man? He has such hardships!
Let him pay, he has enough they argued.
I did not understand anything, because I was
very weak. I was in one bed, Goldele was in the other bed and the small Bashale, who already was two years old, was near my bed. She stood, looked as if she understood everything and was quiet.
It was a cold, difficult winter, already a few weeks to Passover, but still with great frosts. Every day Hersh looked for a minyon to pray. It was very crowded at Avrahamtshe Malakh. They baked bread there. We decided to have a minyon in our house, to pray day and night. It was warm [in our house]. There was enough wood. The few hours that the group sat with us in the house were happy because they lived in cellars and in huts. Very early, every day, we heard old Yosef walking and coughing outside the door; Hersh immediately went to make a fire, opened the door, made hot tea for the group, In the group were: Shlomo Tevl, Motl Sznejer, my Uncle Shaya Altman and still other Jews. We talked about politics. At that time before Passover, we thought we would imminently be helped. The Germans attacked Russia; they would soon be repelled. The Jews also would be able to return from Ukraine. I just spoke and dreamed that my father and sister would be able to return from there. But everything we dreamed was different, the opposite.
We began to hear bad news. We saw something in a newspaper that a death sentence had been issued for all of the Jews. Several Jews sat in the prison. My brother-in-law, Dovid, was also arrested then. He had sold a piece of cloth, so he was imprisoned. The caretaker let him out several times for a few minutes. He came running to us and told us that they had come into them at night and seriously beat them. He said that there was a Ukrainian gentile who said that they were going to kill all of the Jews. He came to tell us this. Everyone laughed at him, but this went into my head. Familiar peasants appeared and I saw how they were looking at us, at me and the children, with pity. I would question them:
Tell me, do you know something new, tell me!
Yes, be careful; be on guard!
The First Greeting from Lublin Majdanek
I did not sleep at night, only thought about how we could help ourselves. When there was some news in Lublin, it reached us immediately. They said that all of the countries were falling [under German control]. The Germans had already entered Ukraine, Russia. The world was closed [to us]. There was frequent turmoil in the streets; Jewish policemen were grabbing [people] for work. The Judenrat also planned to make money. I felt as if they were all foolish, but I could not make anyone understand how I felt. Even my husband
said: You are more afraid than anyone else.
That day a letter came from Lublin, sent with a Christian to Surale Sznajer from her daughter, Fayga-Bayla. Surale showed me the letter. She took it from a wrapped piece of bread. She wrote:
Mamashi, see, be ready. They are taking Jews out of Lublin. We do not know where they are being sent. See, you should be ready, dress warmly and have a bread.
I felt what was ahead for all of us. They began to say that they only meant large cities, rich people. They [the Germans] searched for a justification to expel the dangerous ones that they found. Christians brought news from Lublin that a certain number of people were taken there every day. A [daily] quota. A few thousand Jews a day, men, women and children. The sick were shot immediately on the spot. Very small children were also shot or thrown onto the floors and they were immediately murdered. This was also confirmed by a woman from Lublin who had escaped to Kurow. When the crowd heard this, they began to live in pure fear. Before Passover, a gentile came to me to buy padding for a fur coat. I gave him a price and he haggled. He told me, You do not have to haggle, you do not know what is going to happen to you. It is better that you sell the goods and have money.
And Yet They Baked Matzo for Passover
Meanwhile, we had to prepare for Passover. We washed, we prepared what we could. We were not allowed to bake matzo, but, in secret, we went to a Christian, heated an oven in his house [to a high temperature] [to make it kosher for Passover]. A bakery took on the baking of the matzo. At night I went to the Christian where the matzos were being baked. This was the only place where the Christian permitted it. He risked his life. Understandably, he did this for money. I entered frightened, sneaking on my way. I entered; several gentiles were standing and helped the few Jewish children. Frightened Jewish faces; they baked. They kneaded. They were afraid who knew what any minute could bring? I baked a few matzos for my household. Also, for my uncle. I promised to make his house kosher [for Passover]. This was Yeshaya Altman. He could not do this; he did not have money to buy things. I carried several matzos, like a treasure. We did not make a Seder then because we could not be up late at night and burn candles in the house. At night, we blessed the candles with our own [family]. Ate quickly, so the people could go home early; everyone in the darkness. Thus passed the two days of Passover, the Khol HaMoed [intermediate days].
Jews began to go to the Germans to work for them. Perhaps this would make things better. Many tradesmen worked for the Germans. The Judenrat thought that
they would be spared. The Jewish policemen also thought the same.
Each day I began to go out to the street a little to hear what people were doing, what they were saying. My husband only thought about earning money. Once, I saw a circle of Jews. I went to them. A German and Jewish boy were also standing there. He [the Jewish boy] told him [the German] that he wanted to become a policeman. You can become one, why not, answered the German, the policemen will go [to their death] last or the latest.
This entered my head. I understood what he meant, that all Jews would eventually have to go there I also understood where. I came home, told my husband. This also did not please him and he said that we had to do something. We went outside and we learned that the city was creating a factory to produce fur coats to send to the front. They only took those [to work in the factory] who the Judenrat wanted and said should be taken into the factory. However, we heard that only the families of the Judenrat were working. We had no family there. We asked them and they answered:
No, there is no place. It already is full.
Good Friendship Bad Friendship…
I remembered that my brother-in-law's best friend was at the Judenrat. His wife also was my sister's best friend. I immediately went there; I appealed to them:
Take my husband into the factory.
He, the husband, answered me coldly and said that he did not know me at all. He no longer remembered a friendship.
Bad. Bitter. They still could take people in, but they did not want to do so. We learned that in the factory a man who was a clerk with Urlich had the authority [over taking people in]. Urlich was a German who brought electricity to Kurow. He was an engineer, an important man at the Gestapo. He had authority over the city of Kurow. The clerk now did the same thing in the factory. Hersh went to ask him if he needed more people for work. The Christian answered: Come! And to the Jews:
Know that from now on this Jew will work here equally with everyone.
Everyone was quiet. Hersh began to work there. He stood with others and guarded the factory. Yehiel Anker, Yakov Hersh, his brother-in-law, Laytshe's Moshe, Motl, Yosl Koniers, Khone's Moshele, Avrahmtshe and his children, Yehiel and Pinkhas Notele and 20-plus others. Lubliners also worked [here]. They were friends of Urlich. This was a Jew who once during [the First World War] saved Urlich from death. The Jews came with his children and sons-in-law and also worked in Urlich's factory. Urlich made the man from Lublin the head of the fur factory. This, too, was not a good arrangement to
have him for a leader, but, alas, we had to be quiet. Only a few days passed, Khol HaMoed Pesakh [intervening days Passover], a Christian woman came to me, asked me to come outside and said to me:
See, they are prepared with money; they and their children. I was with my brother-in-law. He said: It is not good for the Jews; they will be taken out; we do not know where. I am your friend. I will help you.
The Exaggerated, Often Unfortunate Optimism
She bought something from me. When she left, I told this to everyone in the house. Simkhale Shaul's sons, Dovid and Yitzhak, still children, were here. They did not have anywhere to go, so they often were with us. They said that the Christians knew nothing. They had wanted to buy cheap goods, so she had specially said this. I tried to convince them:
Have you heard what is happening in Lublin? Now they mean us.
They laughed at me and my Hersh also laughed. I went to neighbors. I spoke to them and explained further, but they also did not believe me.
The 8th of April. The first day of the intervening days of Passover. In the middle of the day. Hersh was not in the house. I did not have the children in the house. I looked out through the window and I heard the noise of a heavy auto. I thought: This is it! Then Hersh knocked on the window and shouted that he could no longer enter the house and he asked me to be careful. There is something new in the city. They were surrounding the entire city.
I ran back to the factory. The factory was at Burzicki's [house], near the Warsaw highway. At one time, the posterunek, the police were there. The factory was in that courtyard. This is it… Now, all of the Jews were being taken, but where? At the same time, the door opened and Leibishe's Yudel Hersh, a small boy of nine years, said to me:
Chayale, it is bad. You should know that they are going to deport all of the Jews!
He asked about the children. I shouted; I do not know where the children are. It does not last long and he came running back, saying:
Here are your children.
I pulled them into the house. Dressed them warmly. Me, too. Took some money that I had in the house, sewed it in my clothes. I put on a headscarf to look like a Christian. I took a briefcase, put in a shirt for everyone to change into so it would not be noticed that we would be traveling; I took the children and I thought about going to my mother at the cemetery. My children were two and five-and-a-half years old who could I ask for advice…? My heart
told me that I had to go to my mother's grave. There they could do to us whatever they would do. I imagined the worst. The Ukrainians were running through the streets like poisoned mice. We could see everything because the city was barren, burned. I took my key to lock up, closed the shutters. A Jewish policeman with a whip in his hand came to me and said:
Go to the Judenrat with the children. Everyone is going there!
I looked at him; I saw how ignorant he was; he still did not understand the great Jewish calamity. I answered him with a curse:
Go, good-for-nothing, go, now we are all going, you no longer have anything to say here, everyone will perish!
The Aktsie [Action] of Liquidation. I Escape.
He was frightened by something and left. In the same minute, another one from the Judenrat came, a large one, an important Jew. We were afraid to say a word to him; a leader of the Judenrat. He shouted to me:
Where are you going? Why are you not yet there where all of the Jews are standing?
I said to him:
Now, I no longer am afraid of you! Now I am going where I want! I know that these are our last minutes. God know what will happen!
|Rivke Tsirel Leichter (killed)|
(English caption: Benish Wachenhaser (killed))
I stopped for a minute and said to her:
Rywka Tsirl, it is very bad. I am going to my mother's grave; I will lay there with the children and what God wants, let Him do.
And going further. I saw a mass of people, women and children, men. The Jewish police were not leading them, but a German. A Christian from Puław who worked with the secret police walked near Benish Wachenhazer and beat him severely. Blood ran and flowed. The Germans (we called them the black heads) beat, murderously beat. I was walking not far from them, begging God that no one would recognize me and call me by my name. Sadly, everyone was focused on themselves. I myself did not recognize many people who were walking there. I walked a little ways. I was already outside the city. I walked with my children and told them not to speak Yiddish. I told them to be silent. We went to the highway that led to the cemetery. I saw that it was impossible to go through because many murderers were standing [there]. They stopped everyone who passed and asked for a pass. I did not wear the Jewish ribbon, hid it. I did not want to risk myself and the children. I immediately went toward the city because this was near the Kurow mill. I did not go back on the highway, but on a side road where Christians lived. I saw masses of Christians running into the city taking pleasure from the destruction of the Jews that was now taking place in the city. I thought about going where my husband worked. I already was near the spot, but I reconsidered. I immediately went to the Christian who lived not far away and asked him to let me in. The Christian woman said to me:
I would let you in, but I already have two Jews with me in my house. I cannot have more.
I went to another house; they said the same thing. I had no other choice and I went to the factory. When I began to walk, I saw my Hersh running, frightened, white as snow. Shooting was heard, shouting. Breathless, my Hersh told me:
I sent a gentile with a horse and wagon to our house to take you; he returned and said that it was closed.
This was the Christian with whom they worked. They came to the Christian to say that he should not let go of any of the workers because they were needed for the work and he was responsible for them. Night came. I entered the courtyard where they were working. They all raised a cry. They did not want me because they could come and count the people. They will suffer because of me. They asked me to leave. What should I do now? Where should I go with my small children? Had I really already been sentenced to perish? I bore up. One is prohibited from crying. One must not panic. The leader of the factory arrived. He told me:
You and your husband must leave from here. Even a great deal of money will not help.
I asked him to just let the children and me rest a little. He ran right into the Christian's house and the other one [the Christian] came out to drive us away. At that moment, I did not blame the young man because at that minute everyone thought only about saving themselves. But I was determined. I had to remain there. I knew that this was the only place where I would be safe now. However, the Christian was afraid; no women could be here. I again began to cry and to beg. I now no longer had anywhere to go with the two children. There was nowhere to hide. At least he, the Christian, cried. He knew me from my father's home. Moved by my fate, he said to the Jews:
I will not throw her out of my courtyard; do what you want.
Good, Familiar Christians
And he left. His son came out and the same thing happened we both cried. His son also left and did not chase me out. Then I thought that perhaps, now that all of the Jews had been taken out of the city, they [the Germans] would certainly come here to the factory to count the workers and I could make it bad for them. I said to my husband:
You take our older daughter, and I took the little one and left. It was almost evening. I went among the Christian houses, barns and saw a broken barn
with a broken bed that was inside. This was not far from the factory. I did not know whose this was. Hay, straw lay in the stable. I warned the child that she must not cry, not cough and laid her to sleep. I looked outside and saw that the Warsaw highway was on the other side. I heard the peasants going to the city, I heard the wagons carrying Jews going, I heard singing and this made me cry. I cried to myself, sitting in deadly fear and mourned the Jewish downfall. I sat like that, looked at the child, the fate of the young Jewish soul. I heard shooting. Something was happening on the other side of the wall; I lifted my head, I saw a woman bending and taking wood, the Christian woman saw me when the board was removed. She said to me:
Hershkowa, you are here? God be praised, if only you had commonsense and had run away.
She said to me:
Do not be afraid! I will not do anything bad to you. I will help you.
Then I recognized her. This was the Christian who bought goods from me. She was a very good soul. I never knew where she lived. She was alone with her husband, very poor, did not have any children and, therefore, bought very little from me. However, when she did come to me, we had things to talk about together. I calmed myself a little, then she said to me:
When it gets very dark, I will bring you something for the child to drink and something with which to start a fire.
Walked the Last Road In a Talis. The Jewish Policemen Are Shot Last
She came later, brought me this [the milk and something with which to start a fire] and said that later we would see what to do. I would take you in overnight, but a volks-Deutsch [ethnic German] lives not far from us. I will come to you early in the morning.
I did not sleep at night; I made sure that the child would not cry. I heard guards walking on the highway. I heard them talk, saw the light from their smoking. In the morning, she came with tea. She told me that the camp would continue to exist for now. I told her that she should go to the city and go into my house. She said that she would see. I also asked that she go to the factory to tell my Hersh that I am here. He should come. He came at night. He was dressed in a pair of old shoes, an old jacket. He went back to work. Then we heard that they were going to create a camp for the workers, but they would take only
men. Then Hersh went to the Christians to consult with them about what to do with me and with the children. They told him that he should take me to Warsaw because the Kurow Jews who had been taken out were taken to Końskowola. They were only held there overnight and then taken to where all Jews are taken. Many of the young people escaped. This was successful for only a few. Many were shot on the road. The sick who could not walk. Shlomo Tevl put on his talis [prayer shawl] and said he would not go further. You can shoot me. He did not have to ask them for long. They did him a favor. They shot him immediately. Shlomo Finkelsztajn also walked the entire way wearing his talis. The Jewish police helped drive the Jews into the train wagons and at the end they were shot.
My husband decided to take me and the children to Warsaw because it was calm there for the moment. A Christian would take me there, but I was afraid of the big city. There I would not be able to find help. However, I could not remain there, in the stable. How long could I stay there without anyone knowing about me?
Left Several Trade Specialists. Twenty-Some Jews Remain of 3,000. Like Noah in the Ark
It was decided to make as camp for the workers from the factory. The Germans took several Jewish houses outside the city, fenced them in with barbed wire and brought the workers there. They distributed the various city work, except for the factory, such as cleaning the streets, building highways. On the same day, two women arrived who had relatives in the factory. These were the Lubliners who were well-known to Urlich, who ran the factory. Urlich ordered them to remain as cooks for the men. When my husband heard this, he began to plan to bring me in to work in the kitchen. He risked his life going to the German, Urlich, and to his wife, who was a Pole. She had always bought goods from me. He told her everything, told them that I had remained because when they had taken out all of the Jews I had not been in our home. He was afraid to say that I had escaped from the house. The Christian woman said that he should take a beautiful gift and go to her husband, Urlich. He should not be afraid. She would talk to him. He went to him, gave him a watch and a certain sum of money. Urlich saw that my husband was wearing a gold ring; he asked for it. He [my husband] gave it to him. Urlich said that he had to go to Puław; the Gestapo was located there. The county official there had to sign [the permission]. The next morning, he went and brought a signature that three women could work in the
camp without the children and they would have a separate residence. When my Hersh came to tell me the news that I was permitted to be in the camp, I jumped with joy. That he had said without the children I would somehow find a solution. I left the stall. The Christian woman began kissing me with joy. We said goodbye and I asked her to go live in my house. When she went to my house in the morning it already was occupied by other Christians who had moved in and taken everything. They did the same with every Jewish house. When I could appear in the street, I went to the Christian who had lived near the camp and asked him to permit me to stay with him with my children until the camp was ready for us. The Christian immediately gave me a room and I washed up.
I revived a little and first took account [of things]. The sum of our shtetl. Only twenty-something Jews remained of 3,000, among them one woman, Chaya Toba, that is me.
As I was sitting, the Christian, the owner of the house, came in and said to me:
See, you will remain like Noah in the ark. If you go out after all of the Jews have been deported, you and your family will certainly remain alive. Go, cook, eat and know that everything in my house is open for you.
I answered him:
- How can I cook and eat when all of the Jews there in the camp have not been provided with food?
He called out his wife for a conversation, consulted [with her] and coming back in, he said to me:
You can take everything from us and cook for all of the Jews until the camp is completed.
Cooked Potatoes. Prepared Sulfuric Acid and Weapons for Staging a Revolt. French, Belgian and Czech Jews
I immediately ran to the factory to tell them. Everyone there was tearful, miserable, broken. I consoled them all and gave them hope. They told me that I remained a mother for them from God. I told them all to return to the Christian to eat. I was cooking there for everyone. The Christian was very rich; his name was Janicki. He alone in the entire city ventured to do this. He baked bread for everyone, gave us as many potatoes as I wanted for everyone without payment. This lasted for several days. The men slept there in stalls and wherever they could. The two Lubliner women had permission to go wherever they wanted to go. I also could go to buy something when I needed it. Then we entered the camp. Jews who had escaped came to us every day. We took them in.
Gave them food. We did whatever we could for them. The Germans, who had the responsibility for us, naturally could not know that we were giving food to others, outside the camp. I worked very hard. I cooked 100 kilograms [220.4 pounds] of potatoes for everyone every day. But they allocated help for me. Every day the cooking had to be done on time at 12 o'clock. The men had to eat and go back to work. In the evening and in the morning, they ate bread with black coffee. I was very hot when I left the kitchen. It was very difficult in the summer because of the heat. I had to take care of the children. More children arrived, who had been brought by the Christians, so I had to take care of all of the children. Keep them in the camp. However, this had to be in secret. Thus, we were in the camp for six months. Life was difficult and bitter. Every day after work, everyone sat crying, moaning; every day was Yom Kippur. Rabbi Sholem's Chaya later came with three children, Avrahamtshe four children, Notele Wajnberg with a boy, Potshe Wajnberg with a child, Yankl Cabon with two girls. I was the mother of 50 large and small children. Here, one was sick; there, someone was hurt; I helped everyone as long as my strength lasted. I ran in secret to buy butter and milk from a Christian for the children. We were loyal, divided everything. We felt that soon it would be our turn. We decided among ourselves to resist if they came for us. The boy, Shaul's Yitzhakl Shimkhale, Chaim Chanisman and others prepared weapons, sulfuric acid. Meir Kartman would say that before his death he must do something to the Germans. Burn out their eyes or shoot them. We fantasized taking revenge. I saw them bring French, Czech and Belgian Jews from Końskowola to Markoszów or the reverse. I saw them pull wagons of goods, of wheat, rye to grind at the mill. Wagons without horses. The horses were the Jews. The first time, the Jews were dressed, looked good, but this did not last long. They quickly fell off their feet. I once said to them that I would prepare food for them for when they went past. I asked two boys to help me. When they went by, we quickly prepared bread and coffee. They had something to eat. This lasted until the devil Urlich learned of this. He strongly forbade this. It did not take long and we no longer saw them [the Jews]. We wanted to know where they had taken the Jews. We paid a gentile boy well and sent along a Jewish girl who looked like a Christian (Zawl Blecher's grandchild). She traveled with the gentile boy to Treblinka. This girl learned everything. She
returned and told us all. We then all understood and prepared ourselves. Everyone prepared a pack in their hand, for themselves, for their children. Lying on our beds at night we listened and had the impression that someone was knocking, they already were going to take us. And, perhaps, they would murder us on the spot? We began to be afraid to sleep in the camp. We began to go away to sleep. Every night I had to ask another Christian to permit the children to sleep [in his house]. I understood that at night it would be very hard for me to escape with the children.
Yom Kippur. Everyone Plans How to Perish. Shouting into a Grave of Hitler's End
It was Yom Kippur at night. The remaining few Jews looked miserable. We came together in one house in the camp and lit candles.
I sat outside with the children, spoke with them, prepared them for how they should save themselves if they remained alone. Sholom's Avrahamtshe, came out and asked me to come in to light the candles. Everyone began moaning strongly and began to pray quietly so as not to be heard outside. Then everyone left for their bed with an embittered heart. In the morning, at prayers, they discussed what to do when they [the Germans] came to take the people from the camp. Bluma's Moshe, Leytshe's son, said:
When they come to take me, I will not fight; I will give in immediately; I will go as all of those closest to me went.
Yakov Hersh said the same thing, only asked that if they shot him first, may those who remained alive come to his grave and shout into [the grave] about Hitler's end… However, who knew who would be the first and who would be the last; where someone's grave would be? The majority were for resisting. We worked in the camp for several more months in constant fear of death. On the 8th of November, I entered the kitchen as usual. Standing near me as usual was my small Bashale. We had given the bigger girl to a gajowy [gamekeeper] in the forest. My husband was working at night with all of the men outside the camp. I felt that if something happened, I would not be able to escape with both children. So we gave her to the gentile in the forest. She was then seven years old. My husband paid a thousand zlotes a month! And the peasant liked the girl.
She pleases me the peasant said I will save her from everything bad.
The Rest of the Tradesman are also Liquidated
On that day, everyone left for work, only I with Miriam's Potshe Leibl and my small Bashale were
in the kitchen cooking. My daughter said to me that she wanted to drink milk. The milk actually was in our house. I went in, gave the child the drink; I looked through the window. I saw a German standing and talking to Sholem's Avramtshe. When I saw this I became very frightened. I wanted to open the door. Crying, the child said to me that she saw something that was not good in the courtyard. She screamed:
Mama, take me with you!
I grabbed her and ran out. I heard the German say to Avramtshe:
Who is this woman? I answered immediately in Polish that I needed to take care of something.
I ran into the other room and said to Potshe:
Potshe, come quickly, let us escape through the window! The window was difficult to open, but we opened it. First, we threw out the children, then we left. I saw many Christians standing around and watching; I understood that it was bad. Now they meant our camp. They came especially at noon because then everyone entered the camp from work to eat. However, it appeared that only one German came. So that we would not notice them. The German did not stand outside, but in the kitchen so that he would not be seen and everyone was gathered in the kitchen. He knew that everyone must come here. Some escaped, but there was a large fence to jump over, so many broke their legs jumping. When Potshe and I went out with the children, we each went to a different place. Alas, I never saw them again. I went outside the city to the factory where the men worked, in Rozen's house. The kitchen was in Itshe Rozen's residence. The window that I went out through was in Ita's Moshe Nakhma's residence, Chaim Rozen's son-in-law. A number hid in attics. They saw everything that was happening in the courtyard. Simkhale Shaul's Khaytshe also was there with Avramtshe. They had returned a few days before; she from Nałęczów and he had escaped from a death camp. He told us everything. And so, the dark day descended on us.
I now ran with my child and did not know where I was running to; I ran past the bath and the mikvah [ritual bath]. There, they worked on softening hides. I saw Idl's Mindl's son outside. I ran to him and told him what was happening in the camp, that he should not go there. The camp was surrounded by Germans. Escape to wherever you can! I asked him about my Hersh. He said he did not work there with him. I ran further; wagons were going to bring bricks from the synagogue and house of prayer. The Christians were taking headstones to lay near their houses. I ran and kept falling with my child. Where was my husband? Now, he must probably have been at the kitchen; had he reported
to die? A small gentile girl ran to me (she obviously knew me) and she said:
Escape from the city. They are going to take the camp Jews. I am coming from there. I saw everything. Escape with the child.
I ran. I already was near the Catholic Church (or tima as we called it). I saw a young Christian running away. She thought that they were going to grab the Poles for work because recently Christians also were being caught for work. Suddenly, my child said to me:
Look Mama, they are taking the Jews.
My Child and I Escape. Hersh also Escaped
I took a look. They were taking 10 Jews. One German in front, one behind them with the rifles extended! Out of fear I could not recognize anyone. I asked my child to look and to see if her father was walking. She cried and kept her hands in front of her eyes. I left the city not knowing what had happened to my husband and to everyone.
It was at night. Very cold. The wind tore, the frost nipped and burned, we could not walk. The child was without a hat. I went to the Kurow forest. Near the village of Szumów. A young, familiar Christian arrived who still traded with my father. He knew me very well and asked me where I was going with my child in such cold [weather]. I told him what was happening in the camp. He took off his hat and jacket and put them on the child. He warmed the child. I walked further and saw many people running. Apparently, many escaped: Chanisman's Chaim Moshe, Mashke's Shlomo, Yankl Meir, Shaul's Yitzhakl Shimkhele, Yankl Fajnszmid's oldest son, my cousin Rywka's Frandl Etl, also a woman from Lublin who worked with me in the kitchen. They helped me carry the child. I asked if someone had seen my Hersh. Shaul's Yitzhakl Shimkhele told me that he had immediately run away with him. He hid in the factory in the attic, under the apples. Hersh, Yitzhakl and Mendele Fajnszmid were all in the attic. I remembered that my older daughter was in the forest with the gamekeeper. Now, he could drive her out because the shooting from the camp was being heard. I asked one of the boys to go to the gamekeeper to look. I was with the child. It already was night. Cold, we sat in the forest on the ground. Everyone stood around me, everyone cried. Then, a small boy, Yakov's Avigdor, arrived and said he had gone to the gamekeeper and had asked him for bread. There he had seen my Goldele standing. She was crying because they already knew what was happening in the city. They consoled the child that we would come. I saw that the peasant had not thrown her out. I was afraid that the gamekeeper would be afraid to keep her and he would chase her out. Everyone dispersed to wherever they could. I remained in the forest with my cousin, Frandl, and the woman from Lublin. I
decided to go to the gamekeeper. The Christian woman came out when she heard the dog bark. She saw me and was very happy. She immediately asked me about my husband. I told her that I did not know what had happened to him. I asked her to let me and the two women come in to spend the night. I told her that I had my child here. She told me to go quietly to the stall where the cow was. She would appear to be going to milk the cow. She came out with a can in her hand, opened the stall and we all entered. The three of us walked around. We heard the bark of a dog. I heard the gamekeeper open a door. Heard heavy steps and nothing more. Later, the Christian woman quietly opened the door of the stall and, like an angel, said to me:
Hershkowa, Pan Hersh jest [wife of Hersh, Mister Hersh is here].
She said this to me with great joy. She had led him up to the attic so we would not make any noise when we saw him because she had guests in the house. Late at night, she took us all into her house and made a bed on the floor. She said she wanted five zlotes a night. We should be in the forest during the day.
What the boys had said was true. My husband escaped with them, but when the Germans left, he came right out to learn what had happened to me. He sent a Christian to the camp where I was. The [Christian] returned and said that Christians had told him that they had seen us lying shot. It was this way: There were Radom Jews there, a Jewish woman and a girl who were like me. Her child was the same age as mine. The Kurow gentiles thought it was me. A Christian had stopped in the city and began shouting:
You foolish Jew. You are going to fall into the hands of the Germans. To spite your enemy, do not do this. Escape. You will not help there with anything.
He left to see Goldele, learn how she was. He began to go to the forest. Walking, he met Potshe and her husband and child. They were going to spend the night with a Christian. My husband told them that my child and I had already fallen. He cried deeply. But Potshe assured him that I had escaped and he would probably find me in the forest.
Goldele's Beauty Helps Her. She Becomes a Shepherdess
Thus, we met and spent the night together for several nights. Then the Christian told us that we could not do this to them because they were afraid of their neighbors. They would denounce him. But he had to save the beautiful Goldele, no matter how difficult it would be for him. We should go and not appear again. Goldele would remain his child. We paid him for everything. He would keep Goldele whether or not we could pay him. He was thus
a good angel because he risked his life along with his household. He had a wife, a daughter of 17 years and a son of 21. The son worked for the landowner in the Kurow courtyard. The forest belonged to the same landowner. He kept watch over it [the forest] and received payment. Not money, but wheat and a piece of land to cultivate potatoes, vegetables. A groshn was a million to him.
The Lubliner woman returned to the city. She searched for her father, her husband, a small brother and a brother-in-law, a small boy. An entire Lubliner family. They went to another peasant. It was said that her husband had fought against the Germans in the camp, but everything had been taken from them. They took off all of their clothes and were shot. Naked, Avrahamtshe and the children had run to the Christians. Yakov's son Shmuel also escaped. Many were accepted by Christians for money. Others were in the forest. In the open fields. Many of the young people became partisans. A number were in a cellar in the middle of the city, in Josef Larman's cellar. My cousin Frandl wandered with us for a time. Then she left to go to her Christian.
We had a great deal of goods scattered among Christians. We only had gold money with us. Hersh began to run to find a place for the child. Our home was in the forest. Without water and without bread. We did not go to the gamekeeper again so as not to disturb our child's life. She tended the cows along with a poor gentile boy. He [the gamekeeper] kept the gentile boy to go with her so she did not get lost in the forest. The gamekeeper constantly received letters from Jews who wanted to give him a great deal of money to save their children, but my child's good fortune was very important to him. He refused everyone.
[As we were] sitting in snow in the forest, several boys arrived. We asked them if they had a small piece of bread. These were Leyzer Hersh Kenig's two sons and
Chaya Toba Kotlarz in the forest
(English caption: Haya Toba Kotlar in the forest)
Leyzer Lewenzon, Avrahamtshe's two boys. They had a piece of their old bread in their pockets; they gave it to me. My child eagerly ate it. They said to Hersh:
Come with us, we will look somewhere for a place to enter. Why would you sit here?
They left for the village and I remained alone in the forest. They went to a Christian woman, ate and paid. As they were leaving, she said to Hersh:
You do not recognize me; I was your customer.
He no longer recognized anyone. He told her that we were in the forest.
Take some milk for your child and something to eat she said.
When he again returned to her, she told him:
You can stay with me, but without small children because I have a small house.
Kindness Pays. The Goodness of the Poor
Meanwhile, let it be for him alone; I remained in the forest longer. Once, I saw a man [with] overgrown [hair] like a forest-robber, but I recognized that he was young. I know you he said to me do not be afraid. My wife and I bought cloth goods from you. He told me his name. He was accused of murder when Poland was in control. The Germans were looking for him.
I love Jews, he said to me, and I want to help them. I have a hidden spot with 12 Jews, but you and the child cannot be there. But I have a house in the field, I also have Jews there, come with me, you will be there. I went with him. It was almost night; there was frost and snow in the forest. What could I lose here? I went with him; the child slept on my back; he [walked] with a dog on a chain. I entered with him; there was Chaim Tevl, a large, wild village boy. People were afraid of him. He behaved badly toward Jews. He wanted money. He laughed when he saw me and said:
You and the child can stay here with us.
His wife also was there with their children.
It was a large, dark room, but with a roof. I thought: no, better in the forest than with them. What God will command, let it be. I cannot spend the night here.
His face became frighteningly wild. Without a doubt, he had already killed more than one person. It appeared that he went out on an attack every night. Late at night, the same boys came to him and he gave them weapons. My Hersh came at the same time. He already had a place for us with a poor peasant. Hersh had wandered about for several days. Coming to a peasant, he [the peasant] had said to him:
Hersh, you look terrible, what can I do
to help you? You once helped me. You once brought me some goods. It was winter; we were in rags and your wife, Hershek, immediately said yes [to give us some goods]. She asked us to sit and gave us the goods we wanted. Tell us what we can do for you.
The peasant had just returned himself two days before from a difficult camp, because he could not pay his allocated amount. He was in the camp for two months. Hersh said to him:
I want you to take in my daughter; she is three years old. She does not look like a Jewish child. You can say that you found her at your door. I will come every month and pay you however much you want.
He did not think about it and immediately answered:
Yes, bring your child and do not worry. You live in the field.
This was three kilometers from the city, a bit from the village. A rich miller lived not far away. We, he said, will not hurt anyone. Go and bring your child. He had a wife, two small sons and a small daughter. Dear hearts, dear people. I have one daughter, he said to my husband; I will have two. He lived in a small, low house, with a small window. Two broken beds, a collapsed stable. There was no lamp. They ate at night by the light of the moon. In one pot they cooked for themselves and for the pigs. He brought a horse to work in the field. There was no bread in the house. My Hersh immediately gave him money and told him to buy potatoes, bread. ,
Give the child food and you will eat, too. As long as I live, I will pay you. But if I or my wife are not able to come, go to the Christian who has my goods. You can also speak to the priest about money or goods. You can tell the priest everything.
I kissed the child. Hersh removed her asleep from my chest and he took her to the peasant. He returned in tears. He had a terrible scene with her. In no way did the child want to remain. She could not speak Polish, only Yiddish. The child looked around and became afraid of the people in rags and tatters surrounding her and of the tall cross-eyed peasant, although he was a good man. But he looked wild because of his torn clothing. The small one had shouted, cried. She wanted to go back to her mother. She did not want to remain there. She did not understand what the Christian was saying. The Christian took her and pulled her. Hersh left, miserable and broken.
I went to the forest in the morning. I met my cousin Frandl and told her about the small Bashka. Count your blessings she said that the
child is in a house. Now think of yourself. I left to see the child. The Christian woman said to me: Go away, do not let her see you. She will cry. Let her get accustomed to being without you.
I looked through the lock of the door to see the girl's face. I saw her standing near a small chair and she was eating a roasted beet. I gave the Christian woman the child's overcoat and said:
There are two gold ten rubles sewn in. I am going far away to a village; if I do not return, you cannot go to the city. Sell this [the gold rubles] to your rich neighbor and he should give you food for yourself and for the child.
This was in 1942. Then I left for the forest to look for my cousin. On the road I met the Jew, the one I described earlier. He said to me: I should give him money because he does not have any. If not, he knows where my children are and he will do whatever he wants. From great fear, I immediately gave him the money that I had with me. I left and met my cousin. I told her everything. She said that I had done well. He should not have any power to do something bad to us. Using force, he would take money from unfamiliar Jews whom he would meet in the forest. He would fool them that he would find a place for them to stay. My cousin and I left. I had to be severed from my family because where my husband was, they did not want to keep more than one man. There, where the children were, they were kept openly as non-Jewish children. My husband and children were in the same area, but each separately. My cousin and I sat and waited for nightfall. My head was working constantly. Who knew if I would again see them; how could I return and obtain money to pay and take a look at the children?
Night arrived. We turned to go. We needed to cross a highway. We had to pass a station where the Germans were arriving. We started out, but I did not go with complete certainty. We came to the highway. I did not go further. My heart told me: Go back! We went a little further. I said to myself: I am not going. I cannot leave the children alone with Hersh. What if he needs to go to the city to sell something, to make money; I could more easily appear in the city than he could. My cousin advised me to go, stay there several days and then come back. However, something drove me back and said to me: No, do not leave your children!
Thus, I started to go several times. I felt that I did not need to go. I did not know that area and was always getting lost. I said to her, I am going back and you, Frandl, do what you understand [is best for you]. I must wander about near them.
However, she had once been there and she wanted to go there. I said goodbye to her and we parted. I went back to a village, not far from our city. Once I had been there as if I were at home, but now I was afraid to open a door. They would drive me; they used to be afraid to allow me over their threshold. I had to try opening the door of a peasant, who would travel with us six times a year to the fairs and would come into my house with respect. Now, I was afraid to open his door. I knew he was in great pain because he had lost two children during the bombardments. It was night. I had not eaten the whole day. I entered and said, Good evening. When he saw me, he was frightened and said to me:
You cannot stay here for even five minutes; I am afraid of the neighbors; Germans are staying close by; go somewhere else.
I asked him only to let me stay overnight, but he refused. I went to the forest. I left and the dogs barked. I always was frightened; I even was afraid of a cat, but now I walked as far as my legs carried me. On the way, I tried to enter the last house in the village; perhaps I could spend the night there. I entered and sat down immediately. The peasant woman said to me that she would allow [me to spend the night], but that she was sure her husband would not agree. Meanwhile, I sat in the warmth. It took a few minutes; he came in. He knew me very well, but he drove me out immediately. He said to me:
Do not ask for anything; do not say anything; just go. We are also living in fear. I will not suffer because of you.
I Also Understood Their Fear
I thought that perhaps he was correct. He would receive the death penalty for meeting a Jew. I left. I saw a peasant chopping wood near the door of his house. I went over; he was a peasant acquaintance. Near him was a four-year-old girl. He, too, had once been our wagon driver. He asked me: Where did you come from? I told him everything, but I dared not tell him where my husband and the children were. I only told him that they were with peasants and I did not want to be far from them.
Tell me, what do you want?
I only want to spend the night until morning and then I will leave for the forest.
He could not. He was afraid of his neighbor, actually the one from whom I had just left.
I saw you go in there and he did not let you stay with him. So, what do you want from me? You go, I am afraid.
I could no longer hold it in and I began to sob and beg. I was afraid to spend the night alone in the forest. He had pity on me and said:
Go, ask my wife. She is going to sleep in the bed.
The four-year-old girl said to me:
You want my father to be shot because of you? Should I not have a father? I love my father very much.
I then hid my emotions. Nothing will happen I said to her and I went into her mother. When she saw me, she hugged me and began to cry at my fate:
If only I could help you. Sit down, you will spend the night, warm yourself. God will protect us from evil.
She told me that I could stay there, but the child was too smart and she understood everything.
I am afraid that she will get sick from fear. You can spend the night until morning. We, in any case, will not sleep tonight.
Her husband brought in a fur, warm things and made a bed for me on the floor. He went to milk the cow and bring me a large cup of milk and bread and said:
Now you are with me, eat, drink just like us.
I could not eat. It would not go down my throat and I thanked him.
No, if you eat, we will all eat; if not, no one will eat.
He stood over me. I had to eat something. Then, he said, I had to drink up another glass of milk; if not, you will not be able to stand on your feet. Tired, I lay down on the bed and fell asleep immediately. However, in my sleep I heard them speak and I could not sleep. Yet, I fell asleep. He woke me up at dawn, led me to the forest. Entering the forest, I met the gamekeeper and my Goldele.
Doing this, you are doing good, Hersh's wife. You must not leave your children and husband because your husband cannot go to the city during the day and it barely is possible for you to obtain money, or to sell something, or in case someone cannot keep your children you are the mother.
I told him everything.
You go to your husband and in case you have no one to turn to, then come to me, I will help you.
I went to the other corner of the forest where my husband was. The [gamekeeper's] house was set back in the forest, far from neighbors. His brother lived several steps across from him. When Hersh saw me, he seemed to be newly born. If I had not come in a few days, he said, he would have gone insane. The peasant entered and asked me what had happened; why had I returned? I said to him:
I did not want to separate from my husband and children.
He listened to me and said:
As I see it, you must be together because of the children. The same death comes for one as for two, but be smart. Both of you be on guard! But you cannot bring the children here.
We both remained there for several weeks. We paid him a certain sum of money, but he was a good, righteous man to us. We lived in the same room. He carried away our waste. Who else would have done this? He had five small, tiny children. They saw us but did not say anything. They had fear of their parents. No child was permitted to be appear where we were. Thus, we were there for six weeks. Suddenly he came to us and said that he was afraid to keep us any longer, but he made a place for us in the stable in the courtyard. Bad. It was winter, heavy frost, but we had to go. There was a lot of straw in the stable; there was a wall made of boards with openings on one side, which led to the stall, so that he could give us something to eat when he came in to milk the cows and a little air came in through the openings. And yet it was like a grave. Here we lost our humanity. Two months in straw; we could not move, not sit up. In the same spot where we lay there was a pot to empty ourselves. He took this out at night. Only a father would have done this. He whistled when he entered the stall and called Hey! as if to a horse. This was the sign that he meant us. Thus, time passed until I went out to the city to take some goods to sell to be able to pay the peasant. It was winter, snows, blizzards. I went out dressed coarsely. On Sunday, I walked among all of the peasants; everyone was bundled up. I went to one of my Christian women and she asked me where I was laying. I told her. She said:
See how you look; you will not last. Escape! You will be frozen there.
This entered my head. When I returned, I said: Hersh, we need to escape. I could barely walk on my feet. My hands and feet ached. We still were living on cold potatoes and a little water, sometimes a piece of bread. Once we heard Chaim Tevl come to the peasant in his stall and he said to him [to the peasant]:
I think that you are holding Hershke's family here. I have come from the peasant who is holding their child. They need to pay money. If not, they will give it to the Germans.
When They Get Drunk…
We heard this. We felt bad. We also were suspicious of the peasant. He often came home late at night, so we became afraid that he might
kill us. One day, we told him that I was sick; I needed a doctor and we had to be in the city. We waited for a moon-lit night. He took my husband for a shave because [his hair] already was very overgrown. He shaved him by the light of the moon because one did not turn on a lamp so that no one would look inside. When his mother once came to visit and was with him for several days, he had leftovers when eating and said he was taking it to the dogs and brought the food up to us. It was a pity for us to leave him. One night we ourselves jumped down, telling him nothing (he needed to place a ladder for us to go down). He returned from his neighbors a little drunk and began shouting: A Jew is here, a Jew. I do not believe a Jew. You deserve what is happening to you!
We both stood and trembled, welcomed him with good talk and promised him that we would return. We also must wash our clothes. Come he said my wife will wash your clothes. But we felt we must no longer stay there. We left for his wife half-dead, if only not to stand with him in a dark stall. We were afraid that he might kill us because he appeared to be drunk. We told his wife that we had to go to a doctor. We were sick. Come back any time, he said. And we left.
It was dark, gloomy in the forest; the snow over our knees. We both fell from weakness. Our feet no longer carried us. But we both held each other. Somehow, we both absorbed God's punishment that he had sent to us. We fell in the ditches a few times; there was so much snow that we did not know the straight way. Thus, we scrambled to the gamekeeper. We entered; he was sitting and reading the newspaper. It was warm in the house, light, his wife near him, his daughter and my Goldele were warming themselves. When they saw us, they became very frightened by our dark faces.
What has become of you? From where in the earth do you come? What kind of torture did you [endure] there? No, we cannot allow you to fall.
He took out alcohol, bread, made warm tea and told us to eat:
Eat up. Recover a little. Then we will talk about what to do with you.
Then they heated water for us so we could bathe. We had actually entered a paradise. He went to sleep on a small bed where my little Goldele was sleeping and he gave us his bed. We refreshed our bones. In the morning before daybreak, we had to get dressed early so as not to be in the house. We finished breakfast, cooked potatoes in milk and went up to the attic. We
began to revive, to stand on our feet. Sunday, his son was supposed to return home. He would consult with him about how to make a hiding place for us. As we already were here, it was better that we also take Goldele, that she should be hidden with us. The small one was not satisfied with this because without us he kept her in the house. We spent two nights in the attic. Then, he called us down and showed us that he and his 21-year-old son had worked for two nights, creating a hiding place under the floor, in the ground. However, that was how it had to be and this was the greatest good fortune for us that we were under his authority because we saw that he was not a murderer. At night he said that this would cost us a great deal of money. But who had money then? He designated a certain sum that we should pay him, but he would not pursue us for the money.
When you can go to the city to sell something, you will give me money.
He was not an enemy of the Jews. [Politically], he was to the left. His wife and his children were of the same opinion. What he, the father, said, was sacred for everyone in the house. We stayed there through the winter. We slept in the house at night, not in the grave. We only lay there during the day. We arranged that we would cook for ourselves, but I would pay him for the food. Every morning, around four o'clock, I cooked a few potatoes, a little kasha with milk; we had the same for the entire day. During heavy frosts, we sat in his house and he stood and looked out the window to see if anyone was coming. Or the dog barked and we went down into the ground, he lay the boards over us and placed a cabinet on them. We could sew and their daughter could sew, too. She had a machine; we convinced her to take work and we would help her at night. She really was pleased with our plan. But, with all of this good, we lived through deadly fear every day. He read the newspaper every day, knew what was being done to the Jews and he often became despondent. Something ate at him. Every day he went into the forest to see if he was being robbed. Once he said to us:
Hershke, I am getting old early, something is tormenting me, how long can this last… My legs give under often from fear. I know what is being done to Jews They are being burned in the crematoria. But you are a detriment to me; yet I do not know why; sometimes, I fantasize that the war will end. How beautiful this would be; I [would] go to the city and tell how honestly I treated you. But sometimes I feel as if
my strength cannot carry me. Go look for another place.
We were silent, did not answer him immediately, because we knew that he was a nervous man. But we were horrified. Later, we asked him to have patience. This was the only house that we trusted. He was quiet for a time, had pity for us. We would lay in the hole listening to his discussions with the peasants who would come to him. Various wanderers were going through the forest. Once, two men came to him who said that they had escaped from a train that had been captured in Russia. They said that they were returning to Russia and asked they we not denounce them. My Hersh wanted to know from them if he should go with them, but I did not let him. They said that the war would last a year or two.
It was being said that it would still be bad for us. We were already counting the days and they said, a year or two more.
The Poverty of the Peasants
At night, we would often go to the small child. It was several kilometers. Things were very bad with that peasant. He had five people to feed. He had no bread. He had bad, sandy fields. His food was a potato with a sweet beet. We saved food and brought it to our child. When we safely came to the peasant with half a loaf of bread in our hands, we found in the one small room, two sons, one 14, the second seven years old and a small girl. They were barefoot, torn clothing on their bodies. Large, healthy, but hungry. There was joy at seeing us. They knew that we were bringing something for Bashka. Often, we found her sleeping. [She] probably fell asleep in hunger. She would often shout from her sleep: Mamisha, Tatishu [Mommy, Daddy]. At that time, she already spoke only Polish. We both kissed her; she already was [like the Poles]. The Christians had cut her hair like theirs and she now looked like a Polish child. Our greatest luck was that we had daughters. It was impossible to hide boys [because they were circumcised]. A peasant would not take a boy for any sum of money. Everyone in the house loved her and it was good for her, but not with food. When I brought the bread and laid it on the table, they already had picked at it from all sides, had half eaten it up; we took a piece and gave it to our child. She finished eating it and went back to sleep. One had to stand guard outside. Our peasant, Zarzycki, told everyone that the Germans had already taken us and deported us somewhere. Our child said the same thing when she was asked. She said about Zarzycki that he was her father, his wife Mama. When I
brought her a few socks, the small, gentile boy would take them from her and put them on. At night, Bashka often hid her socks in the snow until the morning.
We came to her once a month. We gave the homeowner the addresses of our family abroad, in which countries, where we had money and goods in the city. If something were to happen with the children and they needed money and if we were longer alive he was to let them know everything.
Once Zarzycki came to the gamekeeper and asked if he knew the Hershkos. He wanted to tell us that we should come because he could no longer keep the child. The gamekeeper told him that we were not with him but came to him from time to time at night and if we came, he would tell us everything he had said.
We went to Zarzycki at night. He told us that the village magistrate had called him and asked why he was keeping a Jewish child. He was afraid. The entire village was at risk. Then his oldest son arrived and when he saw us, he began to cry, what did we want from them, the entire village was chasing him because there were Jews [staying] with them. We were heartsick. What do we do? Where do we take the child? And it was winter, great frosts, no one wanted to take in a small child. An adult could still hide anywhere, but a child, if it cried. We began to speak, to ask for mercy, convince them that no one would denounce them. They did not recognize that she was a Jewish child. Everyone cried. We from hardship and they looking at us. The father and I looked at the child. Grown up, already becoming a person, beautiful as gold. My Hersh said to the peasant:
Tell me, do you need money? Do not be ashamed, I will give you [money] and join the struggle; be careful. Buy food for yourself and for the child. I see your poverty; buy whatever you need. If I take the child, you will have nothing. You will die of hunger; we will help each other in this way. It will not last that long.
The peasant understood everything. He wanted money, but he was ashamed to speak. This was before their holiday, boże narodzenie [Christmas]. The peasant took the small Bashka in his arms, gave her a kiss on her head and said:
You remain with us. You must be our child.
We gave him a sum of money and left.
[We Are So] Tired! Maybe It Is Already Enough?…
It was a beautiful, bright winter night. We walked and, on the road, we spoke to God:
Why, God, did You take Your eyes off us? And, why, Merciful One, did you take Your wing from us? Why does it cost our small swallows? How did they sin?
I said to Hersh:
Believe me, Hersh, perhaps, we are making too much of an effort.
They [the Germans] have taken everything, have killed all of the Jews. Why are we fighting with such stubborn bitterness?
He answered me:
I wanted to tell you many times: Come, let us surrender, but the children, I have pity on them. We must fight for them as long as we can stand on our feet and still have money.
Returning to the gamekeeper, he told us very sincerely that he would keep Goldele until after the war, but, he said, it was impossible to [have] us. He saw that we could not be in the underground hiding place for long because the ground was wet, it was drawing out our souls. He was afraid that we would get sick. In the spring, many peasants came to him in the forest to cut the trees; this often lasted for weeks. Everyone came to his house to eat; thus, it was impossible for us to stay with him.
Meanwhile, we had to go to the city to raise money; Hersh went alone. A Polish policeman saw him and began to chase him. He went to [the house of] a Christian, actually the one to whom he was going. The Christian was just standing near his house, saw him and immediately hid him in a room and went back outside. The policeman came running:
Did a Jew come here?
No one came here. It just seemed that way to you.
That and similar cases happened tens of times. Often, when he got lost going home at night, a peasant recognized him and said:
I know where you are going, you do not have far to go to the forest. Go straight, you will see the forest.
In the morning, that peasant came here; we immediately went down to our hiding place.
You are holding a Jew. He got lost near me in the middle of night; I also have Jews. I wanted to let him [Hersh] in so he could warm himself, but my Jews said I should not. I myself no longer have any nerves. Our Poles are creating groups that are searching for Jews to murder. I will not keep mine [Jews] for long.
When the peasant left, the gamekeeper called us and said:
You see, people are getting tired of keeping Jews. This is the situation because we do not see an end to the war. I am already losing my patience. You must look for a place to go.
We began to look for somewhere else to go, but every door was closed. No one wanted to take in any Jews. They were afraid of the bands of Akowces [members of Armie Krajowa A.K. Home Army]. One day, the gamekeeper demolished the hiding place and said:
Now you have to look for a place. The neighbor who was here knows about your hiding place. You must not come to me anymore because I am afraid of the neighbor. He could send the bandits; I do not want someone to come into my house and do something bad to you. Go in health.
The greatest luck for us was that he had not sent out Golda. At least the children had a roof over their heads. That Friday, we took our few rags, said goodbye and went into the forest. Night fell and fear attacked us. We decided to return to the peasant from whom we had escaped at the beginning of the winter. The nights were getting shorter. Summer nights he might not get drunk with his friends.
Chased, Tormented Again
Crawling on all fours, so that no one would see us and watching out for dogs, we crawled to the window, knocking quietly. The Christian woman came to it frightened and let us in. Again, her husband was not there. We asked her to let us stay for a few weeks; we explained why we had escaped because of the frosts and her husband had spoken too forcefully. We were afraid of him. She told us that he would not want to have us for very long, but as we had nowhere to go, we could stay with them for a few weeks. We said only two weeks then we had somewhere to go. She made a bed for us on the ground and my husband fell asleep immediately like someone murdered. I lay awake. I had had someone to talk to at the gamekeeper's house. They were intelligent people.
We decided to dig a lair under the floor. We had seen how the gamekeeper had done this. We dug out a tomb under the ground in one night. We lived like this for a time and began to feel that to further do so was impossible. We had to find another place. Several rich Jews were hiding in the city; they who supported the poor Jews who had wandered in the fields. At the same time, the gamekeeper, where our Goldele was hidden, was denounced. It happened this way:
Once we heard a noise in the forest. From the attic, we saw Germans; they were coming to the gamekeeper. My Hersh immediately wanted to run there to see how our child was, but the peasant we were with shouted at him that he would make it bad for him. I, too, did not let him go there. We asked the peasant to go there to learn if our daughter was still alive. There he learned the following:
Germans and Polish secret agents who worked for the Germans entered the gamekeeper's house. When the child heard a taxi arrive at the house, she immediately crawled on the plank bed over the stove and pretended to sleep. The Pole went to her and asked who she was I am a shepherdess; I tend the cows she answered. He smiled, as if saying: I understand who you are. At that moment, the Christian woman entered and noticed him talking to the child. She said the same thing, that she tends the cows she is my shepherdess. Yes, I understand, he
answered but did not say anymore and left, not even showing the girl to the Germans.
The Christian immediately ordered me to come. He told us:
I feel great regret, but you must leave my house. My wife has become very frightened seeing Germans enter and knowing that Goldushe is in the house. My son also had to go to work with them because he was afraid that they would come to look [for him] in the house. The child can no longer stay with us.
We asked them for three more days so that we could find somewhere to take her. We also left our peasant. All roads were now closed to us.
I ran into the city to a photographer. Perhaps, having a Polish passport would make it possible to leave. That day, they murdered the rest of the Jews. Running, I saw a boy who had been shot lying [on the ground]. This was the six-year-old grandson of Miriam's Potshe Leibl. I again heard shooting. I entered a house; I was chased out immediately. I left as if crazy and ran. In the evening, I met Potshe and her husband Yankl Goldbaum. They had been together somewhere. Just today they had gone out into the street. They had met Avrahamtshe's two sons near the forest; seeing Germans drive by, they thought they were coming for them and they escaped. The young boy went with them. The Germans noticed them, left the road and began to shoot at them. Avrahamtshe's children were shot in one place and the boy after a few minutes. They managed to go to a house and hide. The forest again was surrounded on that day. I ran as if crazy.
The village magistrate revealed a cellar where Jews had been hiding and they were murdered, and everyone was murdered in the villages. I returned to the forest. There again was turmoil in the forest. Jews, Christians ran; we did not know who they [the Germans] [were after]. I again went to my child. I was hidden, but the gamekeeper again chased me out. I ran to the forest; it already was dark. I met Leib Bajger's two boys. I asked if they had seen my Hersh. Because I understood that the peasant had driven him out. I ran there; they said to me that my husband left himself. He was afraid to be there. We, God forbid, did not chase him out.
Hersh was always ready to run into fire, but I had stopped him. But now, only God knew what had happened. Night fell; I could not sleep from thinking of him [Hersh]. Day came. Thus, passed three days. I did not know where he was. The peasant also did not learn anything. On the fourth day, he returned. He had gotten lost in the forest. When he heard the turmoil, shooting, Jews and Christians running, he also ran. Running in the dark, he went
into the water; barely emerging wet from there, he saw light in a house, began to walk there; he had nothing to lose, doomed. He entered the house, warm, light, no one was there. A young Christian came in and immediately asked what he wanted. They were then afraid of wanderers because there were attacks by bandits or partisans. He told the Christian the truth and asked her to let him spend the night. Then she said Wait, I will go and ask my mother. She returned and said:
My mother wants to see how you look.
When he saw the peasant woman, he remembered that she was an acquaintance. She would buy goods from us at the fairs. She also recognized him, but she pretended not to. She was worried that there were two women in her house and she was afraid to let him stay overnight. As soon as anyone entered, she would become very frightened. He left their house and looked for a way to open the door at another house. The daughter ran after him and said to the neighbors:
Do not chase him; we would have let him spend the night with us. But we are two women alone in the house. My mother wants you to return to eat something and to warm yourself.
He returned to the house with her. She asked him to sit near the warm oven and dry his clothes. She gave him something to eat. The family came together there. They asked him if he could sew something. They had fabric and a machine. They let him stay there for several days. They paid him well for his work, gave him bread and honey for the children. The sick Christian woman was a very good soul. She cried about the misfortune that had struck the Jews. She cried at Hersh's appearance, how he had grown old, shabby, shaggy.
I remember well, merchant, how you lived. But God knows I cannot do anything more for you.
We began to look for another place. We had to take Goldele from the gamekeeper. We went over to take a look at little Bashka. We conferred with the gamekeeper. He told us that every peasant who had a Jew was asking him [the Jew] to leave. They are bringing Germans and shooting them all. This also happened in Klode, a village not far from Kurow. They killed 16 Jews there. Moshe Krupnik's wife and a son, Chaim Pesakh and Hendle and their children. They were on a field in a hiding place. Layzer Hersh's son was killed with them by gentiles. With them were Yehezkiel Sznajder's daughter and a boy, Khontshe Koze [goat in Polish and slang for prison in Yiddish] and a small daughter. The gentile bandits had done this. So the gamekeeper told us. We sat and listened to everything. We understood that now they also meant us; we made a calculation. In any case, life was no longer agreeable, to see and hear everything. My child stood as white as chalk and listened to the bitter calamities.
We said to the gamekeeper:
Panie Kosak [Mr. Kosak], what do you advise us to do?
It is bad. I am more afraid of our Akowces [members of Armie Krajowa A.K. Home Army] bandits than of the Germans. I can no longer do anything for you. Shasa Bajgelman and his wife were with my brother for a long time. They left for Charbra's brother, where you were and we no longer see them. They were probably finished off. This week, Avraham Barliger came to me; this was Ganczek's grandchild and a brother-in-law from Warsaw and other men, one woman, a dark one, from Kurow (which he explained through a parable, and we understood that this must be Potshe). They wanted to give me a sack of money so I would keep them in the forest, but I refused. I no longer have any strength. I have done enough for you. Now, alas, I cannot do more.
Go to Końskowola?
His wife told us the news from Końskowola, that she saw a camp there that took in whoever wanted [to enter]. But, she said, I understand that the camp is only to fool the remaining Jews who were wandering around, to kill them. She spoke about the Końskowola Christians. She advised us not to go there; they were doing terrible things there. You, Hershkowa, will not be able to long endure there. You will not be able to escape from there.
Hersh said that I should go to Końskowola with Goldele and he would move around in the fields near the small child. She advised me that it would be better to go to the empty field rather than the camp:
There you will have Chaim Tevle, such [people] are adept there. He has been looking for you for a long time. When you were with us, he would always look for you with us, saying that when he found you, you would have enough money, you could help him with money. Go, perhaps someone will take you in. Goldushe will stay with us for two more days. We will protect her in the forest. Our house already is too suspicious.
That night we did not sleep the entire night. At dawn, we went to the forest. It already was before Passover, already warm, the air good, but not for us. For us it was grim. We went to Bashka to see what was happening. On the way, Hersh again said to me:
You go to Końskowola with Goldele. It is always easier for a woman to escape. Our fate is hopeless.
We had a bit of goods in Buchalowice and some gold with the priest. Our emergency fund was with the priest.
When we came to our child, the Christian asked why we had come during the day. We never came during the day. We could not be in the house during the day. We went up to the attic. We looked around and
saw that in the attic the gentile did not even have straw; his barn had collapsed from the wind and, no doubt, things were very dire for him. We conferred and decided that whoever felt like it could make a hiding place here in the attic. No one should know because he lived so cramped that no one would think that someone was here. They ate lunch at 12 o'clock. They brought up to us a little milk with bread. We asked where they got the bread. We knew that he never had any bread; but we are guests, we have to eat. He probably still had some money from me, for Bashka. We asked him to call his wife. We told them that we no longer could stay where we had been; we had to come to Bashka every Monday; We did not want to interrupt our connection to our child. Hersh would like to stay with them in the attic and Goldele and I will have to go to the camp in Końskowola.
When the Christian heard the plan, she said to me:
No, Hershkowa, you have decided to do that, but I will not let you go there with your child; that is not for you. The camp is only there to lure the Jews out from the surrounding village and then they will be murdered together. We also are suffering because of little Bashka. I tell our neighbors that you are no longer alive. I cannot do anything to the child. If you want, I said to them, take the child and give her to the police. I will not do it. She is our little girl. None of the police can show that she is Jewish. If you want she said to us gather your things and come to us. In any case, we are threatened with death, even for just keeping Bashka, so it is all the same.
In any case, we did not have anywhere to hide. No other way out. It was impossible to be in the forest with Goldele. We promised to give the peasant a sum of reward money for every Jew that we would bring. They told about seeing a young Jewish girl going through a village; a peasant caught her and turned her over to the police. This was Hershl Okun's daughter (she was a fine girl, a good student). She asked the policemen to take her to Końskowola. They did her a favor and took her there.
Here, not far, lived the sister of our Christian woman. We had to arrange it so that no dog would notice us. The sister would come to them [her sister's family] almost every day. She only knew about Bashka and believed that we no longer exist in the world. We gave [her] money to buy straw and make a hiding place in the attic. We had to be good tailors, good architects, good masons to teach them, tell them, show them how to make it.
Bashka and Goldushe
This was several kilometers from the forest and from the city. A distance from the village of Vilke and Dembe, a kilometer [about six-tenths of a mile] from Germaszinski's mill. The peasant had a reputation as a beggar. There were times when he begged for bread because he had sandy fields. He never possessed a shirt, so that he always faced want and hunger. Because of this, neighbors overlooked a little of what was happening with him. He did not have anything to lose. Rich people did not do this.
We decided to take a small part of the attic, close it with boards, wrap the boards in wire, spread a great deal of straw, hay, make a small door on a side, cover it with straw. The half attic room was spread with straw and hay. We would stay in the attic. I left for Goldele. They were waiting there impatiently. I did not tell them anything. I said that I was going to the city; we thought that we would have a place to stay.
I do not want to know where he answered us it will be better now if we know little.
They told me what was happening every day around the villages. Every day they found another Jewish hiding place; they were discovered by Germans or Polish bandits. However, things are said about the Jews now that are not said about the ugliest wild beast. They tell us:
Be careful, do not let anyone know where you are; do not go to get your money! The Akowces are looking for Jews more than the Germans. My door is open for you when you need a piece of bread or to ask for something, but you should come in the middle of the night.
I took the child, said goodbye and left. It was night. Goldele cried aloud. This was her home. We were going into the forest to have a good cry. Now we all had to be together, under one roof. We had always followed the advice that we not be together because if one fell, let there be the other one, a trace.
The children had not seen each other for a year. I entered with Goldele. The children did not recognize each other. Goldele was sad. There it had been beautiful, clean, warm, enough food to eat. Here it was dark, poor. I said to Bashka:
This is your sister Goldushe.
No, my Goldushe is no longer alive. The Germans took her. This is not Goldushe; she never looked like this.
Everyone cried at this scene.
We had to wash a few rags. We possessed only the few rags we wore, torn clothing, no longer able to tell which patch was the first. One patch on
another. The clothes we once possessed had been stolen, robbed.
The Poles Chase Jews and the Germans Chase the Poles…
The same week, we left for our peasant for a little bit of goods in the middle of the night. We had a Christian acquaintance who was a smuggler. We were sent to him by the gamekeeper. He was from Warsaw. We would sell goods to him because he knew the price. He would travel through the country. He also was a good politician. He would bring us news of the world, giving hope; even for them he said it was impossible to live through the hell. He let us in at night so that no one would know. We received a little bit of money and paid the peasant for a while. Every morning he would bring us a little bit of potatoes and a little milk. At night, they called us to come up; we again had potatoes and milk. There was very little bread, it was hard to get rye. If they did get rye, it was forbidden to grind it. Only on Sunday when they went to church could they buy a piece of bread from a Christian who might be selling it. Life was difficult for us, but sugar-sweet, because we [our family] were under one roof. When Germans went by, the owner of the house's children knew to inform us and we quickly went up to our hiding place. Lately, the Germans would travel to the villages to catch Christians for various work. They no longer had any Jews, so they caught Christians to work in Germany. Many gentile boys hid, not wanting to go to work for them. They [the Germans] would place guards around the church on Sundays, take all of the young people and send them to Germany. A peasant who had several sons lived not far from us; they did not want to go to Germany. They were searched for there every day. We decided to make another hiding place underground, somewhere in the stall. We began to make it at night. One of us was always on guard, kept watch. Hersh made a small hole in the roof of the attic so he could look out onto the roads from the village that led to the city. He could only look with one eye. Once he saw wagons arriving in different parts of the city; he went down to the peasant and said that it looked like the village was being surrounded. That actually happened. All four of us went down to the hole we had made and covered it with wood. We lay like this for the entire day. Both children with teeth clenched in fear. We looked at the children: why did we have to create them to be massacred and in life to lay in the earth? The day passed. We heard shooting and did not know what was happening. At night, the peasant called us out; he himself was deadly afraid. We emerged half
dead. He told us that the Germans had surrounded the village, took several residents and shot them near their doors. Women, too. We heard the screams of the peasant women and the children.
The heat was great. [We were] nauseous in the attic. We were often without even a little water. One bit of luck was that Bashkale was outside in the air. We always saw her standing at dawn driving out the cows. She barely reached the knees of the cows. The cows already knew her. They did not kick. Bashka had a pair of torn boots, a red overcoat and a hat. This protected her. These were her possessions. Even in the great heat, she took everything with her into the field. She had somehow put the boots on the wrong feet. The right on the left foot and the left on the right foot and, with a large stick in her hand, she left for the field. We could see onto the field from a crevice in the attic. She ate the sorrel that grew in the field. We saw a peasant women going to her, speaking with her. When she came home, she said that she had asked her about her father, Hershek.
She answered them that I do not have a father. My father is Zarzycki; my mother is Zarzyckowa.
Everyone marveled at the child. The Christian woman would always say how cleverly she answered everyone.
Often, I would dream of things that actually happened. Once, I dreamed that my father said to me:
Chayale, be careful. They are going to the village.
What had I not already heard? I got up and shouted:
Hersh, Germans are coming to the village!
I stood up; Hersh stood up, looked outside and said to me:
Be calm. Wake up Goldele. I am going to tell Zarzycki. Germans were running in the field with rifles; it looked as if [they were running] straight to us.
I covered myself in straw. We heard the Germans in the house, around the house, in the stall. My small Goldele wanted to cry. Now we were all done.
We heard the Christian shout:
Her mother is no longer alive! She is now my child!
My small Bashka was still asleep in the house. We felt them tear off the door of the stall. We felt how they were jabbing in the straw. We were quiet. We heard them run back out of the stall and ask the way to the city. However, we did not know what had happened to Bashka. Later, the peasant came up to us and told us everything:
We thought they had come for you, but they had come for the boys with the neighboring peasant. When the boys saw the Germans arrive, they escaped to my stall.
The Polish Believer: Jews Were Sinners, so God Punished Them… Therefore, He Wants the Boots
Such events happened many times and yet we wanted to live and not just to spite the enemy. Our [peasants] were righteous people; what they put up with because of us! We already were accustomed to each other. When the [peasant] had time, we would sit and talk about politics for hours. He was very religious. Many times, he said that the Jews had sinned, so God had punished them. A great Christian man had said that a time would come and there would be no more Jews. Many times, when they would come to search his house, he would take a molitevnik [prayer book] in his hands, look inside and caress the letters. Every other day, he brought us a newspaper from the city. Late at night they would sit around and I would read them the news of the city. He could not read. She, not reading, knew everything. She was very smart. She would console us that we should not worry, be healthy, there would be an end to this. They must be defeated. Thus, we sat through the summer. From time to time we went into the city to search for bread, sugar. We did not get sugar at all, so we would drink using saccharine. Whatever we received we would give the best to them. They deserved this because they were doing for us what no one [else] would do. When he would bake 10 peasant breads, he would ask us how many we wanted. Hersh answered him: one bread for us and nine breads for you! You have small children.
It would often happen that he would come to us to ask if we had a piece of bread. We had the one bread for many weeks. Often, he would say to Hersh:
Why do you need your boots? My son needs them. When you go to the city, you can take them.
It was the same with me. When I left the house, I had a pair of boots. They took them from me and gave me some pair of torn shoes. They gave the boots to their daughter.
A band of Germans again attacked the village, beating, shooting, searching for secret organizations, burning houses along with the peasants and children. Our [peasant] was afraid to keep the small Bashka. His heart warned him of something bad. He was afraid for his children:
You have barely succeeded in surviving the war; think of my children!
What should we do now? He was, alas, very correct. So much fear! His wife told us that her father-in-law came. He shouted at them that another village is burning every day and you are still keeping a Jewish child?
We decided to take the little
Bashka. Every day, we went to the fields and came to them at night to eat. In the morning, again we went to the field. This was before the peasants harvested the fields. With bitter hearts, we dressed the children at night. Bashka was three-and-a-half years old. We took her out of a warm bed and dressed her to go out to the field at dawn. I took Bashka, Hersh Goldele, and we went out. There was a cloudburst; there was a great flood. I was incapable of going far. Not far from the house, I entered the rye [field]. I lay the entire day and half the night. It was pouring. Without food and without drink. Where we lay became a river; we moved a little further. It was like this for two weeks. Days of heat came; we became sunburned without a drink of water. We scattered in the field, but we went to together. We ate ears of corn from the field. Sometimes we had a bottle of water, sometimes a little milk. At night we would go up to the attic. Vermin resulted from the heat and rains where we lay down; we scratched and tore our bodies, tore out pieces [of flesh]. The peasant had no food. He could not go to the city. It was bitter that the peasant could no longer go into the city! They did not drive us away, but said, Do what you want! Thus, we wandered in at night and out during the day. The children were so exhausted that I decided not to go to the field anymore. Hersh decided to go to the gamekeeper, perhaps, he would help in some way. He left with Goldele. It was dark, gloomy. I was drenched from the rain. The rags we wore weighed a pod [40 Russian pounds, over 16 kilograms, over 36 pounds], but the poor child was quiet, did not say a word. We heard constant shooting as at the front. Lying like this in water, I heard steps. I was no longer afraid; I no longer felt myself a person. I was only concerned that we not be found near the peasant's house, that he and his family not fall as victims. Why would he deserve this? The steps got closer. I lifted my head; the peasant was coming right to me. His face looked embittered.
Come, come with me he said I can no longer bear to see your life, what will be, will be. God knows what has happened to your Hersh, where he is with Goldushe in such rain.
How can I come to your house during the day?
No one comes in the rain. In addition, when such shooting is now heard, the villages are burning all around.
In Addition to Fear, Also Hunger
It grew quieter. Perhaps, the devils had left? We went into the stall, up to the attic. The small child with me. I wrapped her. God knows what has happened to you father and sister I said to her.
The [peasant] came up, brought in a plate of something to eat. Cooked several eggs for the child, brought bread and cherries.
Where did you get this from?
When I heard that it had gotten quiet, I went to the city and there bought something to eat because we could die from hunger, too, as well as from fear. Now, I can tell you important news: the Germans have left Kurow! They made a great ruin of the villages, burned the houses with the people because they learned of peasants who had helped the partisans. They imprisoned the peasants where they were and shot inside at them.
When I heard the good news about the murderers, that they had left, I grabbed the hand of the peasant and kissed it. Said to him that I would always thank him for his work for us. The child also appeared wild. It was three weeks since she had had something warm to eat.
I stood and looked at the [peasant] with impatience. I saw the peasant also was standing and looking at all sides. Suddenly, I heard the dog bark. I immediately understood that my Hersh was coming with Goldele. They came! They looked wet as if someone had pulled them out of the ground. Hersh was holding a pot of two cooked potatoes.
I took this from the pot that was cooked for the pigs. I had taken this the day before, so she would not see and we left. We went to the gamekeeper [to ask him] to let us stay somewhere in his forest just for a day. I asked him: let us into the forest today, in the pit in which you have your potatoes. Hersh he told me if you remain here today, you will be shot. It has been several days that the fight has been going on between the underground organizations and the Germans, with the Polish police who work for the Germans. I advise you as a friend to leave here. They can come at any minute I left immediately for the forest. I noticed a small house with a stable that was empty. The Germans had deported the peasants from this stable. I dug the earth because I did not want to rip open the door; it was firmly closed and with difficulty I entered with the child. There was a little straw inside. We immediately heard wagons arrive and shooting around the stable. I understood that they were surrounding the village, the forest. So now we were finished. I heard them open the stable; they pulled the door and came in. Then they went to the straw but no, it appears that God took away their power. They went out again. I heard the shooting for a long time.
Around the gamekeeper's stables,
attacks and the igniting of fires actually did take place. The gamekeeper's daughter's friend was burned then. He was a leader of their organization against the Germans. Tens of peasants were burned that day along with their houses. That day, the peasants had killed two Polish policemen and two Germans.
The several Jews who survived hid every day in another place. They were several people without children. It was then impossible to live with children. There were instances that happened that mothers drowned, suffocated their children so that everyone would not fall into the hands of the enemy. There was a case that a brother suffocated his sister (Poles) so that more people could be saved.
This happened when the Germans hanged 10 Christians and drove out their families to watch. Several men were hidden with a small girl. This girl was hysterical and could not keep quiet; her brother had to suffocate her.
Even worse, we no longer could suffer anymore with the children. It was difficult to go into the city. To go to the city, one had to crawl on all fours.
The Gentiles Will Inherit
It also became difficult to approach the priest. Once, Hersh left to go to him, bringing a gentile with him to first see if there were Germans present. Arriving in the courtyard, he met many Germans. He pretended to be a [member of the priest's family], went to the pump and began pumping. Thus, he saved himself.
The only money we had was that which we had with the priest. It was difficult to go to him.
I went to the peasant, our former best, most preferred customer. They did not let me in. I begged, cried; they asked me to wait at the door, not go further. They refused me. [They] lived through good times. I appealed to them by recalling the labor that we had done for them (sewed clothes). She said that their son wore the clothes. Let them be worn, I said. I need to buy bread for my children with the money. Pay for them [the clothes] so we can be under a roof. The son answered me:
In any case, not one Jew will remain in the world! What kind of nerve do you have to come to us?
Why are you wearing my things? Give me back the clothes that you are wearing. I will not come to you anymore. They gave me several shirts. I had a good cry for a piece of bread. It already was late at night. This was the last house in Chabielice. I was not far from the German barracks
filled with the murderers. I went out with a piece of bread in my hand; my heart hardened and I cried to myself. I then went to their neighbor from whom I still had to collect a debt. On a previous Sunday, I had discussed with a peasant that she give a few zlotes [to our neighbor] for us. When I came in, they gave me the few zlotes that the peasant had given them. Not everyone was so murderous. The peasant wished me a journey with good fortune; she gave us a piece of bread to take with us and we went a bit of the way and [she] said:
May God have mercy on you and help you.
Hersh then had to go to Janicki and learn some news. This was the gentile who had helped all Jews whenever they asked something from him, where I had cooked for all of the people when we were in the camp. With him there was an open door for Jews who needed something to eat. Sending something to be sold or to be bought, or just to have a talk. I was supposed to meet Hersh there. And I got a little lost going to him. It was dark, empty in the streets, everything was burned. It confused me; I stood still for a few minutes and heard someone coming. I saw a light from a cigar and heard a man's step. What should I do? We could not escape. I did not see where I was. I stood still. I heard that he was coming close to me, but the steps told me that this was not a German. His steps cut like a knife in a Jew's heart. The man was now near me; I saw a figure, but did not recognize who it was. I asked him (in Polish):
How can I cross the highway here?
He answered me:
Do not be so afraid. I know who you are. You are Rozenzon's daughter. I understand where you want to go; do not be afraid of me. I will take you to the door.
I asked him who he was. He did not say; he probably was a local Christian. He spoke very kindly to me and provided me with what I wanted.
Winter arrived. We almost froze. We decided to create a secret spot in the stall. We would stay there during the frosts. It would be between the stall and the house; we would be in the middle. The peasant and his children made it themselves. It was ingeniously made. We had to sit quietly and not speak to each other. We spoke through mimicry. We burned a small, tiny lightbulb. The put in a small kitchen of two chafing dishes, the pipes went into their kitchen. We could only cook when they cooked. We and they barely cooked and even barely cooking
could cause the neighbors to ask where the smoke was coming from. Until this was done, we suffered greatly because it was very cold. At night we could not eat in the attic. We would go down to the house, but just then someone would come. A very small door opened to the pigs' stall. During the day, both children went into the stall and played with the pigs there. They already were so accustomed [to the pigs] and had no fear. We lived somewhat worse than the pigs. We brought a little sugar from the city; we gave it to the owners of the house. We were happy that we were all here together and planned only to please them [the peasants]. Sitting like this in our room, we sewed for them by hand whatever they wanted. Made repairs, peeled potatoes for them. One of us always slept and the other one was on guard. We taught the children not to cough, to suppress their coughs, to be calm, if someone came at night.
Once at night, when Hersh and the children were sleeping, I was sitting and reading a newspaper at a very small, itsy-bitsy fire from a lamp. I heard someone knocking:
Open up, do not be afraid, we will not do anything to you. We only want your Jews!
I heard this and I felt remarkably [said ironically] good. I woke Hersh and said to him:
Hersh, bandits are near our house; we need to do something sensible!
Come up to the attic.
I handed him a child, the other one; we all crawled in. We had another hiding place in the ceiling of the attic. We sat this way undressed; we wrapped the children in straw, hay. We heard the tearing at the door and the windows. The Christian woman cried and begged:
I am poor; I have nothing; we are beggars; ask a neighbor!
We only want your Jews!
They opened wide [the door] and entered, searched the house, the stall, everywhere, in the attic. Then they entered the barn. There, they began shouting: Avramtshe, rich Jew, come out! Then they made the peasant lay down and said:
Betray the Jews or, if not, you will be shot!
Shoot me! he said I do not know any Avramtshe; I do not have any Jews! You can shoot me; I have never seen anyone like that! I have a wife and three children. Where is your God in your heart?
We understood that here was a kind of self-sacrifice. It lasted hours. Hersh wanted to cut open the straw and leave. I begged him for mercy. He should not have everyone killed. The night was very bright
and if he jumped out, the bandits would have shot him immediately. It would then have been a suitable opportunity to murder us all. However, he obeyed me. The peasant also was resolute. As the peasant maintained himself with steel and iron and they found nothing and no one, they said to him:
We see that you are not keeping any Jews here. Give us a drink of whisky and a piece of bread.
He entered the house with them and gave them the whiskey that he possessed and a piece of bread. They left. Perhaps they were coming back. We continued to lay in the straw and did not move until we heard the peasant calling us:
Hersh, where are you?
He saw we were not there, because he did not know that we had gone up to the attic and he also did not believe that we could take the children up so quickly. Additionally, the blackmailing bandits had been searching in the attic. He was very afraid. In the morning the peasant learned that this had not involved us [they were not searching for us]; this had been a denunciation of another Jew.
The Good, Smart Advice from the Priest
Thus, time passed and we did not hear from anyone. Once, a Christian said that there was turmoil in the city. Avramtshe took a band of gentiles with weapons and in the middle of the night he entered there, where he had lived before, where we had been driven out. He wanted to get a vast sum of money that he had buried there. He took the gentiles with him, with whom he would share his possessions. The same gentiles later persecuted him, trying to take the rest of the money he had from him. It did not take long and these gentiles murdered Avramtshe and his children, his sister and her children somewhere in a field, in their hiding place.
Alas, Avramtshe did not know that he must not show gentiles a great deal of money. Our [peasant] never saw any of our money; this we knew. We learned this from the priest. He would say to us:
Do not show your money to the best peasant. He will murder you for the smallest amount of money.
When our peasant came to us to talk about money, we were permitted to have money, but we told him that we did not have money, that we needed to go to the city to raise money. We told him the truth. The money was with the priest. Sometimes, Hersh went out to the field, saying that he was going to the city. Returning, he gave them the money. They took all of our clothing from us. We were satisfied with rags, if only to cover our bodies. We never kept goods where we were. Once, they said to us that the needed
cloth for the gentile boys. We were cleaned out of all our goods. Somewhere in Wąwolnica, we had sent a Christian to hide a pack of cloth. This was a long time ago. It was very far and it was impossible to reach. To go on such a road, it was first necessary to go to the city, find out if there were any Germans or Polish bandits, the ostensible partisans who went around looting, staying there. It would happen that Jewish and Christian partisans would be together, coming into the village to take food and a fight took place with the peasants. A Jew was always shot. This was the mazel [luck] of the Jewish partisan. Then, all of the peasants said that Jews were attacking. Therefore, no Jews should be allowed in any house.
We left some goods with a Christian in the city, which the Germans later took. It was very far and difficult to go there. Hersh took the hat from our gentile boy, put on his clothes, bandaged half his face so he would not be recognized, so he would look like a gentile boy running to the city to the doctor. He went mostly through the fields. Thus, he crossed illegally through Kurow and arrived at the [house] of the peasant woman in Wąwolnica. This was at night. The peasants there were always on guard because there were constant attacks on them. Hersh knocked on the door. The Christian woman was afraid to let him in the house.
Who have you come with, with bandits?
No, I am alone. I have no one, I have no money to save my wife and children, give me my goods.
He had no idea that he was already guarded by peasants who stood with rifles ready to shoot. Suddenly, several peasants approached him. One gave him a blow on the side and immediately knocked out two teeth. A second peasant said:
This is you? Hersh? You have a great deal of luck. You would have already been shoot. I recognized something that made me think you are familiar and I did not shoot. How did you happen to come so late at night? Do you not know how many times she was robbed during nighttime attacks?
Hersh recognized the peasant, began crying before him and begging, told him that he only wanted some goods to be able to save himself, nothing more. Then the Christian woman came out with a small package of goods and told him:
Escape from here. As long as you are whole!
He began to run the 15 kilometers [over nine miles] home in the middle of the night. God helped and I heard him coming. During the summer days, a day was seven years and winter nights, a night was seven years. How difficult it was to count such long days and nights.
The owners of the house ordered what we should
sew for them from the cloth that had been brought. We made everything for them that they wanted, clothing, overcoats. This kept them from expelling us.
Our Children Became Wild and Tortured Us
The children became wild. The older one began to shout that she did not want to be here; she wanted to go outside freely. If not, they should let us go where all the other Jews were going; are we better than them?
If you do not want to go, let me go alone!
Both children would argue about trifles, shout and we became afraid. They might be heard. Hersh hit the older one. She shouted even more. I became nervous, tore my hair from my head, tore at my face until it was bloody. I thought that this would move them to be quiet. At first, they had pity on me; later they laughed at me and mocked the way I tore the hair from my head. I knocked out her teeth. Hersh took her out to the woods and hit her. She would shout that we were making everything for the peasant woman's daughter and nothing for her. We sewed a dress and a shirt for her. But it was the same the next morning. I said to Hersh:
Why did you not kill her?
Go with her at night and kill her!
For a long time, we protected ourselves from our peasant. But then we had to tell him about this and asked him not to permit any strange people to come to his house. About this, he said to us:
You should not beat her anymore. She is also beaten by God. Her parents are suffering with her perhaps God will help and some day you will be helped. Be strong!
The peasant and his entire family loved Goldele very much. She was a beauty, but miserable and imbittered. She quickly was crippled in her legs, could not walk, from sitting too long with her legs under her; her feet had become accustomed to being under her knees. Sitting like that, she made the days bitter for us. We punished her by not giving her food. She endured it. She kept shouting that she wanted to go where all of the Jews had gone or to tend a cow in the field, not to sit confined for so long.
We became despondent. Our hearts ached to see our two children. When they slept at night, we looked at how beautiful they were. It hurt us so much; we suffered for so long and now to have failed because of our own child? Hersh went to the city to a Christian to confer about what to do with her. Perhaps, give her sleeping drops so she would sleep during the day?
Kill her answered the peasant one for four! You have suffered for so long; you cannot fail now because of her.
Hersh went to a doctor to ask for some kind of sleep medication. The doctor did not want to give him something.
It was more than two years that we had all been together with the peasant. What would we do in the future? Hersh became more nervous. He said that he was going to go where his eyes led him. For two weeks I alone struggled with the children. Every day, the gentile came to ask me about Hersh. He needed money. I did not know how to answer him. I understood that he would not let us be doomed. One night, he [Hersh] returned with the joyful news that he had a place for Goldele. She would be free, tending a cow. That meant that we were freed from danger. However, we all cried. In a distant village, outside of Miechow, was a poor Christian woman, a very fine one. Hersh has already given her money for two months in advance. Goldele would tend the cow in the field. We packed several shirts for her and a dress. The girl walked as if to a dance; it was a liberation for her. She asked her father if he would beat her, throw her in the water. She thought that her father would fool her and kill her. Goldele was then almost seven years old. She was very pale, white as chalk.
Now we remained only with the small Bashka. We agonized the entire night. Our small Bashka could not eat nor sleep from longing for Goldele.
Luck with Familiar Gentile Boys
We constantly had to put our lives in danger and go for goods, gather money, because our peasant, on hearing the approach of the front, constantly demanded money. The air began to say that our help was approaching. The night Hersh went out I noticed airplanes with rockets. I felt something new was coming.
Hersh going back, being close to our home, was attacked by a band, beaten:
What are you doing here in the forest?
I have a wife and children and I must find something to eat; I go at night. I am a Jew. Maybe you want some of my half loaf of bread; I can give it to you. Also, a bottle of whiskey, money.
Show us if you have weapons! We do not want anything from you, only to kill you. Lie down, do not move!
As he lay down on the ground and one of them loaded his rifle, other gentile boys came and Hersh heard one say:
Who are you going to shoot here? Let me see.
As he bent down to him, Hersh recognized two familiar gentile boys from the city. They also recognized him.
Stand up, they want to kill you!
Hersh did not know what to do and who to listen to. They quickly lifted him and shouted.
Escape, quickly, escape from here! We know you are here somewhere with your wife and children. You are lucky that we arrived. Escape!
These were two Kurow gentiles: Piechowicze's son he actually fell later in the forests at the hand of his opponents and Stankiewicz. They both certainly always loved to bother a Jew, but this time they were rescuers of the father of my children.
Since God had helped me and he also had survived the night, I decided not to let him go anymore, not to the village and not to the city. I would go.
The Truth of a Dream
Once I had this dream: My cousin, Shmuel Szpajzman, came to me and said that my Goldele was very sick.
You need to go and bring her medicine. Because I know that you cannot go into the city, I will take you. No one will bother you.
I went with him. He took me to the apothecary in Kurow.
I told this to Hersh and I immediately wanted to go into the city. Hersh did not permit me to go.
Calm yourself, it is nothing more than a dream.
But I dressed as a peasant and left for the city. I went through the fields. It was still very early. No one bothered me. The Christians thought I was a peasant. I passed the Warsaw highway; there were barracks of Germans there, but they did not bother me. Many peasant women passed through there. In general, it did not occur to them that there was a living Jew here. There also were no longer any Jewish camps. When I went in to the Christian, Janicki, and the servant saw me (she was the daughter of the peasant woman where my Goldele was staying), she asked me:
Why did you come running?
I dreamed that my Goldushe was sick.
It was actually true. The mother [of the house] had ordered me to come a day earlier because the girl was sick. I went to Miechów with her to a doctor. He gave me medicine for her. It was difficult to get used to the open air and to the light; she became swollen. Her eyes closed. Now she is better. She again feeds the cows. Is happy, does not even ask for you.
I became calm. She asked me to enter the stall and ran to call the owners.
How Good the Front Comes Near!
They greeted me with joy. They consoled me that the front was now near and we would soon be
helped. They brought me a newspaper and I read that the Russians already were in Chelm on the way to Lublin. The Janickis' son-in-law, a scribe with the community, said he was afraid because he worked for the Germans, recorded [things] for them, that when they run away, they will kill him. So he sleeps here in the stable. I see that my help is really near. They tell me that we must now be careful. It could happen that peasants will need to escape. What will we do then? The Germans were burning the cities and villages as they escaped. But as long as they were running, it already was good. It was during the time of the grain harvest; we would be in the fields. However, we were naked and ragged, barefoot. I went to the shoemaker and asked him to make boots for the children. [I asked] a Christian to make two dresses for the children. When we had to leave, at least the children would look like the other peasant children, not in torn clothing. I asked the Christian woman who had Goldushe that if the Germans burn their village when retreating, she should save Goldushe. I will pay her well. One of their sons came in, also a scribe with the community. He said to me:
See, now you are fighting with commonsense. It will not last much longer!
While speaking like this with them, several Germans from the Gestapo entered. I was very frightened and began to bind straw. They wanted us to show them where Urlich lived. The Christian woman calmed me by saying that they would do it. I saw wagons of women and children leaving with packed bags. These were Volks-Deutschen [ethnic Germans], Ukrainians who were escaping to the other side of the Vistula, along with the Germans.
I ran back like a bird and pressed the newspaper to my heart. No one was seen on the fields. The peasants were afraid to go to the fields because of the airplanes that would come down very low and shoot at the people. I heard airplanes and immediately sat down in the wheat, waiting until they flew over. I had to pass the mill; God helped. It was just at the time of closing the mill and my peasant's neighbor came out. I became very frightened. When my young child was staying with the peasant, he would denounce him and argue with him:
Give her to me; I will give her to the Germans.
I pretended to sit down near a brook where I needed to relieve myself. He left. However, I was afraid that he would wait for me and see where I was going. I sat like this until late at night. The fear-fantasy worked on my thoughts, until I realized that Hersh would worry about me and I went to the house. The peasant had especially not harvested the wheat so that we would have a hiding place if we needed one. I saw the peasant's son riding. I understood that Hersh had sent him to look for me. The peasant had immediately
called out to me. I came to the cottage with a smile on my face.
How is Goldele? What was your dream?
I told him that she was sick and now, thank God, she is healthy. We returned to our hiding place. I took out the newspaper, gave him the article to read about the Germans leaving Chelm. When he saw this, he hugged and kissed us. He called in the peasants and they read the news. Everyone awaited help.
Meanwhile, as luck would have it, I was not well. I went to the city at night to a Christian woman for her to go to the doctor for me. The doctor knew me very well. The next night we went to him. Hersh went along but he remained in the Christian woman's house with her husband. The doctor examined me. I needed a small operation.
This has to be done, otherwise you will not be able to continue with your struggle. You are now nearer than farther. Save yourself and your family.
He spoke to me like a father or like an ancient rebbe. Remain here, I will do this tonight. The Christians stood near me like my mother, held me with both hands and comforted me. The doctor did what he had to do.
I lay for a little longer, dressed in my bundle of rags. The doctor was not disgusted with me, but looked at me with great sympathy. I returned to the village, going step by step, until I managed to come to our peasant. When we entered, I raised my hands to God. Thus, good-hearted people had helped in our struggle. We decided that we three would stay here until we were liberated.
One night the owner of the house woke us. We came out to the field; we saw whole barrels of benzine flying from the airplanes, barrels of benzine in the air in flames.
See, if they must do such tricks, it is a sign that they are as if dead. They must escape.
The same day we began to hear cannon fire. We sat in the stall, dug out a bit of lime so that a little air could enter. We told Bashale that when the Russians came, we would leave of the stall. Every day she asked:
When are our soldiers coming?
The straw already was only worms. We slept on the bare ground; it was difficult to sleep. However, the closer the help, the more frightened we became, afraid of the escaping Germans. But
we nearly never saw them. There were perhaps only 10 Germans in the city and they lay low like the dogs. The Russian already were bombing. We felt like a pot was cooking around us. But we did not know from which side our help would come. We saw that the area was being lit; partisans were parachuting
Once on Sunday our peasant went to church. He saw a Russian patrol on a motorcycle. Then he saw Russian soldiers. He immediately went to them, spoke. They told him that the Russians had taken Lublin with all of its surrounding shtetlekh [towns]. The Germans were encircled.
When the peasant came home, he immediately came to us in our hiding place. There was a tiny window, as big as a playing card. He pushed his hand through the small window:
Hersh, give me your hand! You are free! I myself just saw a Russian patrol arrive from Lublin; all of the shtetlekh are now in Russian hands!
We did not rush to run. It was possible that there would still be fighting. We did not want to show ourselves until there was complete calm. Later, we noticed a rider on a horse coming like Mosheikh [the redeemer]. This had to be a partisan rider. That he was. A Christian partisan rode around the village and told everyone that anyone who wanted to had the right to attack the Germans. Then we saw masses of Russians. Peasants followed them, dancing, playing [instruments]. We still did not come out.
A Russian soldier came to our house and gave us bread, milk. We went to the cracks to see. Now we first really believed that our lucky day had arrived. We heard him speaking, showing their money. Bashka asked why we were not going out; this was one of our soldiers. I told her that Christians, fascists, were now going through the houses and we had to be careful.
However, Hersh could not restrain himself and went to the city at night. There, he met Shayale Leibl Soltis, Shmuel Chanisman and his son and several unfamiliar Jews. He returned and during the day again went to see what was happening with Goldele. Walking, he met masses of Russians. One said to him:
There are Jews here in the army; wait a while and I will send them to you.
A Jewish young man from Warsaw came to him. Then he went to call another one, a boy who was an aide to a captain. They kissed him [Hersh], rejoiced. He told them that he was going to get his child; they wanted to give him soldiers to go with him if he was afraid to go. Hersh ran as quickly as a cat. A few kilometers to Miechow was like a
leap of a cat now. Goldele was standing and rocking a child. She was afraid to speak to him. She did not know that she already was free. He said to her:
Goldele, you are free, do not be afraid of the Germans any longer. I will take you with me!
She did not want to go.
We have no home. I want to stay here until you have a home to take me to.
The peasant told him how she had suffered because of Goldele. Her other daughter had not wanted her to keep the żydóweczka [Jewish girl], but one of her sons, a leftist, had said to keep the child. Her daughter wanted to hit her [the child], drive her away, but her son protected her.
Go, she will continue to stay with us until you have a place to take her. My son will guard her. I am afraid of the peasants. They could do something bad to her.
On the way back, a heavy bombardment occurred. The Germans were bombing. The Russians threw their army at Warsaw.
Hersh spent the night in a village on the road. Russians also were there. It was a bitter night. The fields, the villages were being bombed. Kurow was burning and the nearby fields were again a hell. Wagons of Russians arrived at [the house of] our peasant. City gentiles who had run from their homes were now in the stable in our peasant's house. I was again in fear, was afraid to appear because our peasant did not want his neighbors to know that we had been with him. We could not manage to get anything to eat, anything to drink. The last night of our staying here was terrible. The peasant came to me saying that it would be better for me to go out to the field with my child.
How could I now stay in the field? It was burning; they were bombing. I hid and did not want to come out. However, I also was afraid that the gentiles pouring in might murder us. We lay hidden and heard the Russians get drunk, shooting back from time to time. The Russians also got the peasant drunk. He came again and asked us to go. I again excused myself.
Survived: Germans Buried Alive
In the morning we heard the Christians coming from the city and saying that there were masses of Germans; they again were afraid of a front. Later, I heard that many Germans had barricaded themselves in the community building. But the Russians and the Poles went in and pulled them out, throwing them into a pit that had been previously dug and they covered them alive, with their hands in the air, the way they would give the Hitler salute. People ran to watch the end of the murderers that we had lived to see. My Hersh also was in the city and saw their end, how they were covered alive [with dirt]. When Hersh
returned home, he noticed many people around our small house. He left for the field and asked our gentile boy to let us out and to bring us to him in the field. The gentile boy was afraid; perhaps, the gentiles would do him harm, but Hersh forcefully ordered him to take us immediately. The Christian provided a ladder to the attic and took us down, released us.
We finally went out to the light after being imprisoned for 28 months! The small soul entered here when she was two-and-half-years old, now she was more than five years of age. I was afraid of the strong light, that it not harm our eyes. We went into the wheat, which still had not been harvested, to Hersh and we embraced, hugged and kissed with joy that we had lived to see the liberation.
A L'Chaim [a toast to life]
We did not want to go into the city because of the heavy bombardment. We went to the village. I had a basket with a little whiskey, perhaps half a glass that Hersh always kept hidden for this minute. I took a small piece of black bread when I left and the peasant also gave me a baked flat roll made of beets. We were hungry, so we sat on the grass to eat. An auto full of soldiers neared. Two of them jumped out, came to us to ask if we were Jewish. They, Jewish soldiers, recognized me as a Jewish child. When they heard that we were surviving Jews, they grabbed Hersh, lifted him up in the air several times, kissed him with joy. We all cried with joy and kissed each other.
I was wearing a pair of torn shoes, in a dress with hundreds of patches. My child was completely barefoot, in a coarse velvet overcoat. Hersh was wearing a pair of coarse pants with various colored patches. We looked as if we had come out of a grave. We did not mind any of this; God had given us some kind of strength and force for the end; we had only our souls. But we had outlasted the great enemy.
We lived to see a Jewish soldier. We made a L'Chaim, eaten with beet flat roll, rejoiced at the liberation and cried over the great devastation that had happened to our people.
The soldiers left and we went to see the Jews Hersh had met two days before. They stood with a captain. It was lunch time; they brought us food. Our child ran around in the field like a free bird that has been let out of its cage for the first time. As we were sitting, we saw a soldier with a large man who were coming straight to us. We immediately recognized that the large man was a Jew.
You see the soldier said to him I did
not fool you; I told you that there are Jews here.
The man, hearing from us that we were Jews, embraced us, hugged and kissed us. With tears in his eyes, he told us that he had already traveled 800 miles [about 1,287 kilometers] and had not met one Jew on the entire trip. He and another general, a Jew, both searched with their eyes as if with a candle and had not seen a Jew. He then told the soldier that if he met a Jew, he should immediately come to tell him. In Ukraine he said we met a Jew while traveling, but not in Poland. He himself was from Sosnowiec. He knew for sure that none of his family survived. It is impossible for me to describe the joy of the Jews in finding us. He took the child in his arms, squeezed her and kissed her dozens of times. Peasants stood around watching the man's joy in seeing us. He asked us what we wanted, what we needed, clothes, money. He had everything.
But we did not want to take anything from the soldier; he needed to go to the front and he needed to have [the things] himself. We thanked him heartily. We needed nothing, we received food in every village.
Give me the child, I want to show the general, I want to gladden his heart.
Meanwhile, I was afraid. He took out a paper and showed me who he was at home. A Polish Jew. He had the authority to serve as a rabbi. His father was a great community activist. I recognized his refinement.
Take the child; we will wait here until you return.
His aide took the child from him; he took it back from him, saying:
No, give it to me, I myself will show the general a Jewish child whose parents survived.
The road was several kilometers long.
One and a half hours later, he returned with the child in his arms. He brought something to eat, soap, small toothbrushes, small combs and a drink, a kind of mead in a military flask.
Drink, refresh yourself.
He sat with us for a time and left. I asked him to come to us on Shabbos [Sabbath] and told him where we would be; we would all eat together. I actually did prepare a lunch for Shabbos. Hersh went to bring a L'Chaim [toast to life; here it means something with which to make a toast] from the village.
After Everything, the Poles Still Want to Kill Jews
When he left, a large group of young gentiles arrived from Kurow; they had heard that we had survived and they wanted to have a chat. They ostensibly greeted us with joy. They asked how we felt, but we knew the anti-Semites very well. Perhaps,
it oppressed them to see that we were free. We were afraid that something would happen to us.
Hersh sent a Jewish soldier to the Russians to say that we were still afraid of the gentile enemies. They sent a colonel to guard us. He also gathered the Christians, all of the peasants and said that he wanted to tell them something:
Here took place the worst in all of the nations. Everyone helped the enemies of the Jews. You all saw how he [the Germans] finished with the Jews, then he started with the Christians, peasants. How many priests did he [the Germans] annihilate? Now we are with you. We want it to be peaceful between all people. Everyone is free and no one has the right to do bad to another. Everyone is equal and dear to us. I stand now in your village; I will hear if you do something bad to someone; it will not be good for you.
Everyone listened with respect. Everyone went somewhere else, knowing that he [the colonel] was a Jew. We went to another village.
Here we also met Jews in the army. We became acquainted with a Romanian Jew, a fiddle player; he was with a group of artists in the Red Army. This was a group that traveled behind the front. They went to the Warsaw front.
We stayed there until Shabbos. On Shabbos, the soldier, who we had invited, came. He came with another Warsaw Jew. We then called together all of the Jewish soldiers and invited them. We drank and ate at one table and they danced with joy. We hugged and kissed. They left for the front in Warsaw. Let the Poles fight for their country. There were no longer any Jews!
No they answered we must take revenge. We are killing as many Germans on the front as we can. We fire more than we are permitted. We kill Germans as much as we can.
They advised us that after their departure we should not remain here, but immediately go to Lublin. In the morning, we immediately entered Kurow. We met a young man from Warsaw in the field who had hidden there and survived.
We Find Children and We Finally Meet Our Own
We asked the Christian to let us stay for a day, until we met more Jews. Meanwhile, the Christian called Hersh up to the attic and showed him a Jewish child that he had hidden. When he [Hersh] saw the child, he felt heart sick because of the child's appearance. He immediately recognized in the child's appearance a resemblance to her mother. This was Rabbi Sholem's Chaya's child. The peasant told us how long he had the child there. The unfortunate mother left the child overnight and was murdered
with two children perished. The third [child] Sabtshe saved.
(English caption: Chaya Goldberg together with 2 children, murdered.
The third child, Sabtshe, saved)
with the rest of her children. He said I had to keep her. The child was perhaps three years old.
When Hersh told me this, I immediately went up to the child. I saw a child as big as a cooking spoon. I asked the Christian to bring it down. We took it into our house. It could not stand on its small feet. I bathed the child, dressed it. The Christian did not have any clothing for her. I immediately sewed a shirt, a dress for the child; the Warsaw boy gave me one of his shirts; I wrapped her, made something to eat. We sent [someone] to buy food for the child. We had to feed her little by little. On the third day, I gave her an egg. When the child saw it, she put it all in her mouth. I was afraid that she would choke and I said to her:
Do not be afraid. This is for you. I will give you small pieces.
She could not speak, but her blue eyes looked at me and she understood everything. We were with the child for several days. We asked the Christian woman to take her out into the sun, into the air. She was afraid of her neighbors. We told her that there was now no one to be afraid of. We would pay her for food until we took the child with us to Lublin. In any case, the Christian woman did not want to give the child to us at first because she knew [the child] had a family abroad. But we decided not leave the child with her for long.
We met Shmuel Chanisman and his son, Shaya Leibl Soltis. We decided to go to Lublin. We and the young man from Warsaw left some money for the child. I told her she should give it food.
When we went to the highway, airplanes were still flying and constantly bombing. We met Russians on the highway who accepted us immediately, took us to Lublin. When they met a Jew, they took him wherever he wanted to go. Civilian police walked around Lublin; these were Jews from Kurow, Markuszów. They showed us a house that was especially for travelers who were arriving. There I met three Lublin Jews, a sister and two brothers. They were from the Browar Brewery, millionaire children. A Christian had hidden them. A family from Nałęczów, an old father with children, and we, several Kurowers, Shayale Soltis, Shmuel and his son, Malka, Hersh Barszcz's daughter. Later, Yosef's Hershl Motl and his son appeared. We saw such remnants on the first day. We all stayed in the house. We received food from the committee. We received food at no cost, wherever and in whichever restaurant we wanted. This was the first day. Then we realized that this was a life without purpose. Hersh, Shmuel and Hershl Cukerman went to ask where one could get a residence. The president gave us a house at Lubartowska 8. There were several rooms. However, they were empty. There were only cabinets made of boards. We made beds from the boards and hammered together the boards into a table. There were three rooms; we drew lots for where we should live. We came in shabby, ragged, without a penny in our pockets. We looked. The world was the same. All of the Christians were here, but we Jews? At night, we sat together, crying over our disaster.
The war continued. The Germans bombarded. Masses of Russians went to Warsaw. Russian Jews began coming with the Russians. Then Lev Grosman and his wife and sister also arrived, then several Kurower, Wąwolnicer, Kuzmirer Jews. All were located in the courtyard. A boy said that his sister was with a peasant and he did not want to give her back. Rywkale Lerman said that her brother was shot by the partisans when they cleared the ammunition. Thus we spoke and confided in each other.
However, we still needed to live, so Hersh went to the president to ask for a tailoring shop. He asked him for a shop near the house in which we lived and for permission to sell things. For a time, Hersh and Shmuel Chanisman sold saccharine. Later, we began selling cloth because before the war we had had a cloth shop. Then, we sent to Janicki of Kurow to bring Goldele. She arrived dirty and neglected. We also went to Janicki to take a feather-bed. He was then in a different mood and said:
What will you do to me if I do not pay you, will you crucify me? As the Jews did to our God!
As it happened, he resented that the Jews were free again. Others advised us to throw out the Christian who lived in our house. However, we did not want to provoke anyone. We saw that it was dangerous to be with gentiles; we left with the children and returned to Lublin. Most of the commerce was in the hands of the gentiles. They had had the labor of the Jews and we associated with them…
We left for the municipal offices to take out papers for the child of Sholem's Chaya in order for the child to receive food each week and financial support. We provided this every week for the gentile, trying to remove the child. We communicated with Yakov's Levi. He lived in Kurow he should try to get the child. He would always, after slaughtering a cow, carry meat [to the gentile].
Hersh was just then in Kurow in Levi's house. The little soul [child] entered. She ran to Levi and said in Polish:
The father wants money. If not, he will not keep me.
Then Hersh opened the door and called in the Christian. He asked him to allow the child to spend the night here with us. We would bring it back in the morning. A woman from Warsaw, who had survived the war in Kurow took her with her and put her to sleep. In the morning, Hersh gave the woman and the child to me [to take] to Lublin. We had the child for a few days, washed her, gave her food and looked for a children's house for her, where they provided enough food and where there was a doctor. We would often go there. My children brought her fruit every day.
Several days later, the woman from Kurow came again,
bringing a child, Velvl Barliger's grandson, his daughter Faygele's son, who the peasant had returned to her. She brought the child to me and I keep him for a time, later giving him away to the same children's home. Then two children appeared Yankl Fajnszmid's older daughter and a boy. They also came straight to me. I kept them for a longer time because they began creating a home for the older ones I did not want to take the boy as my son because I did not have a son, but I saw that one must not separate him from his sister. Later, they entered the children's home and constantly came to us.
Russian Jews came. I knew very well about the slaughter that had taken place there. However, I did not stop thinking and contemplating that perhaps someone in my family had survived. As I walked on the Lublin streets, I looked into everyone's eyes. Every day many Jews came from Russia. Often, I went to them and asked about my family. One told me he had met them running in the forests, but many people had fallen; he did not know…
Later, a kitchen and a special house were opened for those arriving from Russia. There were hundreds of people there. I would go there with the children to see if perhaps someone was there.
At the market I mostly met Russian Jews in cotton wool-stuffed pants, with coarse winter hats. A small number of Polish Jews. They traded butter, eggs, milk, baked goods; a small world returned. An inner feeling told me to buy more food. Something drove me. I ran home like an unnatural person. Past wagons, horses, people. I came home, I thought, why had I run? I must restore my mind. The children were dressed. They were eating breakfast at Hersh Cukerman's house. Mordekhai Shuster's son sat next to Shmuel in the house. I made a fire, opened the door and Berl Kripnik, Berl Ritser came in. He also lived in Lublin at the Peretz house, where a kitchen was located, a committee. He and his wife and their two children were in the house, but he rarely came to us. Berl smiled. This was not his nature; he was always serious. He said with joy:
I brought someone here, your brother…
The door opened and my youngest brother, Sana, came in! I shouted with the great joy I had. We hugged; we kissed.
Who else survived?
Shmuel Hene's child, Goldele.
Bring her to us.
He was sure that we had perished; I was the weakest one, always a fearful one. My Sana brought his friends and we celebrated together.
Chaya Toba and Hersh Kotlacz, Bashka, Goldushe and Goldele
(English caption: Chaya Toba and Hersh Kotlar, Bashkale, Goldele and Goldushe)
Our luck was indescribable. It was then impossible to put a family together again. Everyone was envious of us. He was with us until after the holidays and then returned to Ukraine. He brought the small, seven-year-old Goldushe. He had barely gotten away from the hands of the peasant woman where his parents were and he had left the child. They left for the forests, wandering, searching for a piece of bread. They had been with the peasant earlier with their child when it was anticipated that they [the Germans] would come to search for Jews and the peasant had sent them away. They no longer returned. Shmuel Hene and my youngest sister, Chavale, also were with them then. Shmuel went to a peasant to ask for a piece of bread. Just then, Ukrainians who were helping the Germans were there. They were drunk, recognized him as a Jew, ran after him and shot him. Then they went to my two sisters and did the same thing.
My brother, Sana, and his group rushed to travel to Eretz-Yisroel. He also helped others go to Israel. He wanted to take Goldushe with him, but I understood that he was a young man and he would have to take care of himself. I took her as my child.
I spent another difficult time with Sana. He only wanted to go to Ukraine. He had a little bit of money. They took the money from him and arrested him. I cried, lamented that I had let him leave my house. We made all efforts to extract him from prison, sent people with money, but without success. He went on hunger strikes, cried, banged on the doors that they should free him. They freed him. [They] took all of his possessions as well as our money that he had with him. He came for several days and immediately left for Eretz Yisroel.
He roamed further in Romania and other lands until he arrived in Eretz Yisroel.
Meanwhile, we remained without money. Things were again bad in Lublin. Attacks on Jews began all over Poland. They dragged them from wagons, chased them, beat them to death. The few Jewish young people began to run from Poland, but it was impossible for us to sneak across the border with three children.
At the same time, we received a card from my friend. She wrote that she and her husband were in Kazakhstan and could not leave. We began thinking about what to do to get her from there. We searched for a certain man who traveled there by airplane every few weeks, we gave him 2,000 zlotes and he promised to bring them to us. We rented an apartment in Lodz and we all went there, if only to leave Lublin because false accusations were being spread, that a Christian child was missing and that the shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] had certainly slaughtered it to take its blood. Gentile hooligans ran wildly through the streets, searching for Jews to beat. Everyone was looking for a place to escape to. Several boys told everything to the Russian N.K.V.D. [Naródnyy Komissariát Vnútrennikh Del People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs]; the [the N.K.V.D.] cleaned up the street a little.
We left Lublin in great fear and arrived in Lodz. There we received our papers for America.
and child, Chaim Avigdor Altman of the Jewish Brigade and a friend of his from the Brigade.
(English caption: Lodz 1945: Families Kotlar and Goldfein (Canada) Bashkale and 3 Goldushes children, Chaim Avigdor Altman from Eretz-Israel Jewish Brigade and his friend also of the Brigada)
Meanwhile, I still had my sister in my mind. How would we be able to bring her here? It already was 1945; it was not cheerful here. We barred the doors in fear and were afraid to allow a person to enter whom we did not know. If we let a child out into the courtyard, it would be beaten. The same in the schools. We were
helpless with children. I, myself, was a child now.
Once when I was in the street, Hersh, Motl Yosef's son, came running and asked me to run home quickly. I came home and met my sister, Frandl, with her husband and child! He was bent and twisted, she, too. I asked them if an airplane had brought them. Who what when? They knew nothing. Disappointed. They had come on their own. They had been wandering this way for weeks. They were naked and barefoot.
We were fortunate when we left Lodz, the bloody stones of Poland. It was difficult to say goodbye to each Kurower, but everyone had to go their own way.
Also with me in Lodz was Josef Melhendler of Chabielice. We helped him leave. Yosl Alter Sznajder. Zishe Kayle's daughter and two small children. With all our strength, we helped people leave the Polish hell. We later received thank you letters.
I really wanted to go to Eretz-Yisroel, to my brother, but something else was arranged and we traveled to America.
We left for Germany.
In the month of March 1947, we boarded a ship and left Germany. The ocean raged dreadfully. The ship broke apart. This happened in the middle of the night. Hersh knew about all of this because he was on the deck. He saw people running back and forth. He understood that we were in danger. It was decided that the ship would remain stopped overnight and they would call for England's help. Help from England came in the morning, because it was not far from there and it was possible to travel on a ship to the shore. Then the people were asked if they wanted to remain at the shore or wanted to return to Bremen. Nine hundred passengers wanted to remain. We remained like this for eight days. We were brought food from England. Then, a second ship was brought. As soon as we boarded the ship, we again became sick with seasickness. We traveled for seven days. Then, from a distance, we saw the lights of beautiful New York and the Statue of Liberty. Our hearts became lighter. Our Aunt Rekhl and my sister, Hersh's brother had been standing and waiting since six in the morning. They had heard what had happened to our ship on the radio. Their joy was great. We also were very happy. This was the 1st of April. We were with them, day and night, along with two others for four weeks. Then, Dovidl Kirszenbaum and his wife, my cousin Perl Malka, her brother, Moshe Rozenzon, and Chaim Kirszenbaum came to us. We were very happy.
The Kurower made a banquet for us. Blumel's Shayndl and her sister Royzele also came to our banquet. Then we held a memorial day for the fallen Jews of Kurow and voted to erect a monument in New York for those who perished. We also made a collection and asked that Hershl Cukerman, who had no one, be brought [to the United States]. My Hersh spoke about our experiences; speeches were given. Thus, we were together for four weeks. Then, my uncle, Chaim Borensztajn, came and took us to California. Hersh's brother was in Los Angeles.
On the 1st of May we were accompanied to the train by the Kurower, as well as by my cousin, Chayale Gurfinkel from New York, and her family.
On the 4th of May we arrived further in a new world and to new people. A new life. Here we were free; here we no longer felt like wanderers. Here it was free and peaceful.
(At the inquiry of Secretary Binyamin Wajnrib to Chaya Kotlar about several matters, she sent the following letter from Los Angeles.)
Dear Friend Binyamin and your family!
We received your letter. You request the names of those who remained in the camp. I have written for you everyone who worked in the camp, a smaller number who later arrived. Now I hear that you are asking me to write the names of those who were in the Judenrat [Jewish council]. I cannot do this; I would have it on my conscience because they perished in the same terrible manner. So why do we have to record this? Hersh and I do not want to do this and remember their names.
Binyamin, I wonder about one thing. You once wrote that Shmuel Chanisman had sent you a description of his experiences. He, I think, knows very well who worked at the Judenrat because, I think, the Judenrat often consulted with him.[a]
…I would not want this to be based on what I said; I am not certain. But, at that time, there was a certain incident that gives me, I believe, the right to think so…
…several at the Judenrat were with us in the camp and several were killed like the entire city. Also, the police were all killed. They thought they would be sent home. One of the policemen was in the camp. I want to forget all of this, but alas it is impossible to forget…
…write about Moshe Grosman. I remember him very
well. His mother was my mother's best friend. I heard about Moshe from Yosef Goldszlager in Lodz. I once asked Yosef to have Moshe come to us to see Shmuel's Goldele, but he did not come.
Heartfelt greetings from everyone.
These were the people in the camps who remained at work for Burcicki. (Several arrived later; they entered the camp in secret, so that Ulrich would not know):
Berl's Motl: Avrahamtshe Goldberg and two sons. A small boy, a girl Chayale; Shlomo Nisenbaum (Andrus) and a son and grandson; Shlomo Nisenbaum [name is repeated], Yitzhak's Soshke's son, Chaim Chanisman Moshe Chanisman's son, Shmuel Chanisman and his son Yosl Chanisman; Nota Wajnberg, Miriam's son Leibl with his Velvele; Yekl's Shaya with Potshe and their child Motele; Jankl, Bayla Lekisz's son-in-law with two girls; Yankl Fajnszmidt and two boys and one girl (one boy and one girl in Israel); Yitzhak Levinzon son of Shaul's Simkhale; his Chayale came later, Avrahamtshe Cederbaum with a child, the two boys of Shaya Beker's Chanale, the younger one was Yakov Yehiel; then the rabbi came with three children, Velvl, a son of Shlomo and Rakhma from the courtyard, Hersh and I and the two girls. There was Meir, Feyvl Kartman's son, his mother was named Goldele; Frandl Altman. Blumele's Moshe. Avigdor Shimeon Leib's Chanale's son; Motl Zalcman, Yehiel Anker, Yakov Hersh Rosenblat, Shlomole Landsman, Leibl's son. Avraham. Avigdor's Yakov's young son, Yakov's Levi Wajnbuch and two sons were with Christians in the city. There was the redhead Avraham Nisenbaum and a young son, the brother of Yisroel treyger [porter]; there was a man, I think his name was Moshe Leib Mitelman, a glazier, with a young son. He had a wife. She was a daughter of Pesakh glezer [glazier]. Yakov's Shmuel Wajnbuch, Moshele, a son of Khone Kaplan.
Chaim Pesakh Garberman he was a member of my family on my father's side. Moshe Najmark's younger girl also was in a village. There also was Yitzhak Walersztajn, Chaim Anderus' son-in-law and his sister. Her father was from the Barliges. Elka Cukerman Motele's Velvl. She was the youngest of the sisters.
Fishele Tenebaum son of Mordekhai, the shoemaker. Malka, daughter of Hersh Barszcz. She is now in Israel. Yakov Meir, her brother, another younger brother, were all in villages. They came to the camp during the day. There also was Ben-Tzion Wajcman Ayzyk the shoemaker's son, with a girl and boy. [They] escaped from Warsaw. Manis Lazer's two sons, Leibish and another younger one.
We were there at Chaim Rozen's small courtyard in the small houses of Leibl's Miriam. Itshe Rozen.] Ita's Moshe Khame erected small houses. We only had a communal kitchen in Itshe's house. We lived there together for six months, ate from the basins in which I cooked. Potshe helped me a great deal, as well as Yankl Fajnszmid. Blumel's Moshe would prefer to remain in the kitchen than breaking stones. Until a day of escape arrived; everyone went separately, one was successful in this. The greater number perished.
Chanatshe Koze (Shlomo Koze's daughter) with a girl, Chaim Pesakh and Hendle with two children, Feyge Sheyndl Malekh Rochenszwalb's daughter and a boy, Avraham Berliger, the grandson of the Banczeks, Leyzer Hersh Kenig's two boys would come to the camp. They all were with peasants in various villages. Also, Yakov the butcher's daughter and son-in-law and another of Yakov's daughters. Yakov's daughter and son-in-law are alive. They are in Los Angeles. He is from Pilew.
|Malka Najmark, daughter of Moshe and Brukha-Eta, hid during wartime with a Christian in Brozvigatsh and died of tuberculosis after the liberation. Several minutes before her death in the house of this Christian, she was converted to Christianity by the priest and she was buried at the Christian cemetery.|
by Binyamin Waynryb, Ramat Gan
Translated by Yael Chaver
Benyamin Waynryb, Ramat Gan, has been living in the Land of Israel for the past 18 years, and is the secretary of our association of Kurow natives. He learned from the few Kurow survivors that his wife's niece (daughter of her sister Khaya) had hidden with Christians in Kurow. They had treated her badly, feeding her only potato peels. Her hideout space was so cramped that she could only sit. The girl became weak and poorly developed. Kurow survivors brought the child to a Jewish orphanage in Lublin.
The Waynrybs in Israel took all possible and impossible measures to bring the child, the last remnant of the extended Goldberg family (Shalom, the Rabbi's son), to the Land of Israel. Benjamin and his wife, Liftshe Waynryb even obtained a special immigration certificate for the child. They were in constant contact with her and her teachers, and corresponded with her and the management of the orphanage, sending them all gifts. The orphanage management promised to send the girl to Israel once the necessary documents had arrived. Everything was arranged in a timely fashion. However, at the very last minute the child was handed over to one of the orphanage teachers, who officially adopted her. The girl remains in Poland to this day.
All requests and letters, as well as offers to make substantial payments, were fruitless. The girl was not returned. Now 13 years old, she keeps in touch with her aunt and uncle in Israel. She receives their letters and gifts, but remains in Poland, forcibly separated from them.
Khaye, the daughter of Sholem Goldberg, who was brutally murdered by Poles together with her two oldest children, had given birth to her daughter Sabtshe two or three months before the arrival of the Russians, in 1941. When they were forced to hide in the fields and forests, she had to give the baby away to the non-Jew Respand, a shoemaker. He and his wife were childless. The woman kept the child on a bed of planks above the stove, and fed her potato peels.
When the Russian forces came in and several Jews from Kurow returned, they discovered that Khaye's baby was at Respand's place. Khaye-Tobe and Hersh Kotliarsz, as well as Levy Yaakivs, began to make inquiries about the child. They went to Respand's wife and threatened her, saying that the Russians would kill them if they did not return the Jewish child. The woman returned the child and told the Jews that when she had gone to the priest for confession, she had
told him that she had a Jewish child. The priest said that she needed to keep the child and tell no one, because the Germans would kill her as well as the child.
When the above-mentioned Jews took the child back, she was four years old. Her feet had fused together. She was only able to sit. Levi Yaakivs took the child in, bathed her several times a day, called in a doctor; and the child slowly recovered. She would gulp down bread and any other food she was given, and regained her health. The Jews who had rescued her handed her over to the Jewish orphanage in Lublin, which was founded by Zomersztain, the Jewish representative in the Polish government.
They told me about the only surviving child of this ramified family. We began to rush around madly. We wanted to
have the last remnant of our family and bring her up as our own.
We asked the Immigration Department for a certificate; it did not go too well. In the meantime, the orphanage had been moved to Petrolesze in Lower Silesia. We found the address, and sent the child packages of clothes, chocolate, and toys. The director of the orphanage kept in touch regularly, telling us that the child was overjoyed, and bragged to other children about her aunt in Palestine.
We also sent gift packages to the staff and educators. They sent us a weekly letter with information about the girl, inquiring why the immigration certificate had not arrived.
Now we made efforts to obtain a travel permit for her. The Polish Palestine office let us know that they would send her off as soon as they received the certificate. We demanded that someone accompany the child, and that we would pay the expenses for them both. That demand was in vain.
In March, 1947, we met a person who told us that if we paid him $400, we would receive the permit in two months. We immediately set aside the money, and sent a telegram to the orphanage informing them that we would be sending a certificate within two months, and asking that they prepare the girl for travel. We soon received a reply, stating that all was in order, and that the child was dancing for joy.
I received the certificate in good time, and paid the $400. We were beside ourselves with happiness, and asked the immigration office to send the permit to Warsaw via telegram. They did so, and we sent a telegram to the orphanage.
We expected a letter any day from the Warsaw Palestine office, informing us that the child had left. However, we suddenly received a letter from that office saying that the orphanage had given away the child. We found out that in May, when the permit was already in Poland, one of the educators had adopted the child in her own and her husband's name. They are Golda and Fayvl Naydel, who live at 13 Miodowa, in Dzierżoniów.
If we had been hit by a bomb, we would not have been more unhappy. So much work, effort, money, grief, hope. So the child was rescued from a Pole and a Jew is not willing to surrender her. Adding insult to injury, their response was very arrogant.
We turned the matter over to Professor Alexander Zak and his wife, in Warsaw (Professor Zak was then the Vice-Chairman of Polish Jewry), who had invested much work and care, and had persuaded as well as threatened the Naydels. Yekhezkel Vaynberg, a son of Shlomo and Khaye Nekhes of Kurow, also went to Dzierżoniów and offered to pay them as much as they wanted. But the Naydels obstinately refused. We do not have the child.
The girl is aged eighteen now. We send her wonderful gifts. She writes us heartbreaking letters of longing. She knows everything, yet the world is locked to her. We are left with a great wound in our hearts.
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