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[Pages 463-467]

Years of Pain and Death

by Bluma Pozner–Nusbaum

Translated by Menachem Daum

 

September 1, 1939

The war–eve nightmare of recent months has reached the culmination point. The war broke out and with it all peace plans came to an end. Polish cities and towns are being bombarded – and among the first: our city, Zdunska Wola. The first bombs that fall over the city sow destruction and elicit great chaos.

 

September 3, 1939

Unending noise of airplanes, accompanied by a terrible bombardment. Death and destruction lurk[1] with every step. I grab my two children and run to my mother. From a distance I see flames surround the house. Mother who is alone – barely saved herself. The panic is extremely great, having engulfed everyone. People run away from the city.

The panic is beyond measure. All the roads leading to Lodz are overflowing with people from neighboring cities and towns. At the same time, there are continuous air attacks. To intensify this chaos and tragedy the German fliers shoot at the escaping crowds with machine guns. Corpses are rolling on the roads while the cries of the wounded are heard from all directions – not receiving any help.

My husband and I spasmodically hold on to the children, and with our last energy we go along with the stream of those running in the direction of Lodz. We are going through burning cities and villages – results of the pirate–like[2] attacks.

Finally we arrive in Lodz.

 

September 5 at Night

There is a notice that all men should leave Lodz. Again the streets are full of those escaping – this time in the opposite direction! From Lodz to the provinces. My husband doesn't want to run away – he doesn't want to leave us alone. We remain in place until the Germans occupy the city. We stay with acquaintances on Pietrikavar Street 18.

 

September 10th

We receive the first tragic greetings. German are cutting beards and grabbing people for work. Every day – new orders. Decrees follow decrees. It is dangerous to show oneself in the streets – especially for men. Being anxious about the fate of our family, of our home, of our mother, we decide that as soon it becomes a little quiet we will return home.

 

End of September

Walking along the road home on foot we encounter the first German action. It was in the city of Lutomiersk[3]. Before dawn, hiding in a destroyed building due to the prohibition against leaving, we suddenly hear wild cries in German, and immediately soldiers rush into the ruins together with Volksdeutsche.[4] Accompanied by curses and beatings we are driven to a place where the entire local population was gathered in deathly fear. For hours we stand with our hands raised –while the Germans search for arms. From the assembled crowd a group of people, among them women, are gathered and taken away. After a few minutes we hear a salvo of gunfire. Among the victims was also a woman from Zdunska Wola who lived in Lutomiersk – a daughter of Reb Samuel Pulvermacher (killed in the ghetto) May G–d Avenge his blood.

We received an order to immediately leave the city. Eventually, after a long road of torment we arrive back home.

 

October 1939

Home! With great joy we encounter our home again – although it is half ruined. We find our family again and tearfully tell of our experiences. With our combined energies we seek to obtain something to eat. Risking our lives, we use various opportunities to earn something – in order to acquire the basic necessities of life. It is important to note that in this difficult period the children behave themselves as adults – they have become serious, commiserating with our difficult situation.

 

Winter 1940

A new misfortune has now come in addition to all the decrees and sufferings that are endured by the Jewish population in our city, – the order to lock us in a ghetto. We are driven out of our homes and get a half–destroyed windowless attic room. We are freezing. We use whatever is available to heat up the room a little bit.

In the interim, my husband is caught a couple of times for work for which he does not get paid. The difficult situation compels me to volunteer to work with peat, which gives us the opportunity to heat the house because every day after our work we received a little peat. Even though this work is physically difficult and moreover it occurs only at night – our situation improves and we also hunger less.

Days and weeks and long months pass in this manner. Locked in the ghetto – with the daily struggle for a piece of bread, for a spoonful of soup. People look like shadows. Persecutions and actions are a daily occurrence. From time to time they are accompanied by mass and public executions. Mortality is immensely high. We are cut off from the world – without the slightest news that comes from outside the ghetto walls. In this situation, during which apathy and helplessness are generally dominant, every passing day is typical. So goes our difficult and dirty life until …

 

August 25–23, 1942

For a long time now we feel that something terrible is going to happen. Various rumors spread through the ghetto about liquidation and mass executions. We silence ourselves –we fear to voice our fears. The same question hangs on everyone's lips; What will tomorrow bring? Where will our help come from? Our children look with serious eyes at the adults, as if the adults are hiding a secret from them. However, the tragic moment doesn't allow for a long wait.

In the morning, lying hungry and tired in our beds we hear dreadful cries. This is the entire Jewish population being driven into the street. I quickly take my two children and hide them in a closet. They promise me they will be absolutely quiet so as not to be discovered by the Germans. With beatings and gunfire we are driven to the cemetery where the torments take on sadistic forms.

There, in the cemetery, a selection is carried out. We are divided into two groups. Older people and little children separate and younger people separate. All are forced to lie face to face on the ground. For the slightest movement people are shot on the spot.

At that moment my heart is torn apart thinking about the fate of my children who are locked in the closet. And as if that were not enough my husband disappeared as well. It is already two days that I have not seen him– lost in the commotion.

At that time, shooting is coming from the town – they are shooting the Jews who remained in hiding. Suddenly we see how pits are being prepared and after a while they bring the first victims, Jews who remained in the town, loaded onto a wagon and covered with white sheets. I move closer and recognize my husband among the dead. He is buried in the general grave, together with 32 others who have been shot.

As soon as the first act of the German horror program ended – the second began. Again we are driven on the road –a road of pain and torture, not knowing where. However, this time “freed” from worrying about the fate of my husband my whole being is focused on the fate of my children. The question, “Where are they now?” echoes ceaselessly in my mind. All of a sudden, I hear my mother's voice – “Bluma, I have your precious children! Perele and Chanale.” I only hear my mother but it is impossible for me to turn around and see them because we are continuously being driven with beatings to the train station.

 

End of August – Beginning September 1942

We are being transported in closed wagon cars, packed with no place to stand. People faint from lack of air and water. In every wagon a number of dead are to be found. In this manner we are transported to the Lodz ghetto.

The journey, which should have taken barely two hours and which lasted for 17 full hours, was probably consciously planned by the “cultured” German sadists with the intention that a portion of the people should die of “natural causes” – while the others, the “lucky ones” should arrive in Lodz with such a sense of defeat that they would lose every life force and energy to resist.

 

End of 1942 – Beginning 1943

The Lodz Ghetto! Difficult forced labor, hunger and repressions. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. People get caught off the street as well as from the workplaces, and are sent … to be destroyed. Officially it was said the people are being sent to other labor camps, but for the ghetto slaves it was no secret at all what was the true purpose of the deportations. In addition to all these common troubles I experienced a personal one. My sister Tzivyah received a demand from the police that she should present herself for a transport.

Immediately, my sisters and I decide to hide her. The police are looking for her. Several times a day we have inspections. Seeing that the searches are not producing results – we are warned by the police that if our sister doesn't present herself they will confiscate our food ration cards. On the second day they indeed carried this out – our food cards were taken away.

For five weeks we suffered from hunger. We were also threatened with being dismissed from work – but we did not give up our sister.

 

March – May 1943

After my husband was torn from my family, and soon afterwards also my two children with my mother, in the last 3 months our family has again been struck by fate – losing two of our dear sisters.

First of all, when Tzivyah became aware we are suffering hunger and being persecuted because of her she chose to give herself up to the hands of the police, voluntarily accepting upon herself her fate, rather than be the cause of our sufferings.

Tzivyah, fully aware that thereby she is going on her final journey, still tried to comfort us; that she is going to work and after the fateful nightmare will pass she will meet with us again and we will rejoice together.

After Tzivyah we were also robbed of our sister, Gila. So ours family, like thousands of others, became orphaned and our spirit broken giving up our dearest to the German Moloch who knows not of being satiated.

Woe! How many sacrifices do you still need, German devouring soul, so that you may calm down?

 

July 1944

The ghetto is being liquidated. This act of the German “final solution” is accompanied by fearful panic and shootings. In the panic I have lost my remaining sisters and am left only with Fela and her 16–month–old child. Wagon cars are already prepared at the train station in which we are packed, accompanied by merciless beatings. From the city we hear echoes of shooting, Jews in hiding are being murdered. In the wagons there is tremendous crowding. Women go into spasms. The weeping of the children is extreme. During a pause, her small child is grabbed away from my sister Fela. That's how we are travelling to the tragic unknown.

Woe! Will all this come to an end?!

 

Auschwitz 1944

On the horizon – a smoky crematorium. The air – full of scented smoke of burning flesh. In front of our eyes silhouettes appear of Mussulmen and semi–Mussulmen

This is Auschwitz!

A new world – another planet. Many of the assumptions of the previous world don't apply here. Here there is no day or night. The blue skies of spring and the golden hues of autumn have disappeared.

Upon the marching already shrunken skulls, almost dead, seeming as if they are no longer from the world, pours forth a ceaseless hail of blows – day–in, day–out, night–in, night–out.

This is Auschwitz!

Millions of different tortures, selected by German pimps and prostitutes – orders carried out by the chief devil.

This is Auschwitz!

Without a break the ovens burn and smoke – and there is a constant falling flow of burnt living material.

Here we wait, the semi–Mussulmen, for the redeeming end – it should come already as soon as possible.

 

Late 1944

We, a large group of women, are separated and driven out with rubber clubs into a field, not far from the crematorium. There we remain laying for a number of days and nights. Suddenly, before dawn, a large group of soldiers arrives, armed with sticks and whips. With wild voices and cruel beatings, familiar to us, that are repeated for every transport – a standard German pursuit system, designed to quell any eventual resistance – we are driven like an avalanche to the train station. That's what they say – our caretakers – they are taking us to another camp for work.

 

Beginning in 1945

We find ourselves in a new camp. From six in the evening to six in the morning we work in an ammunition factory. We receive a quarter of a kilo of bread that must last 24 hours. In addition to the hard work and hunger pangs the air in the factory is poisonous and makes us drowsy. But if someone catches a small nap at work he immediately gets a blow to the head. Many women are faint, unable to withstand the poisoned air.

 

The End of January 1945

We travel and we pause Again we are loaded and sent to a new camp. It seems as if the earth under the Germans' feet is on fire. This time the work consists of digging trenches. The command–obeying German overseers remain faithful to the tradition of wild screams and beatings. But from their devouring eyes one already sees their fear – and this gives us strength. These are already the convolutions of a fatally wounded beast.

Is it possible that after all we have endured will we remain alive?

 

Liberation

Again we are being driven. The Germans themselves confirm that the Russians are nearby. Marching all night, we arrive at a new camp. Stunned, not believing our own eyes, in the morning we noticed that not a single German was to be found. All of them, to a man, disappeared. It didn't take long and we suddenly hear an orchestra coming closer. We hang out white sheets. The first units of the Soviet army reach the camp. We fall on each other, hugging and kissing. With our final energy we shed of tears of joy.

We are liberated!

Translator's footnotes:

  1. לויערן Return
  2. פיראטישע Return
  3. About 35km northeast of Zdunska Wola Return
  4. Ethnic Germans living outside of Germany Return

 

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