by Chana Weinheber-Hacker
Translated by Claire Hisler Shefftz
Edited by Benjamin Shefftz
Testimony from Sally Tager
Sally: While still young, a heavy fate was in store for me. In my sixteenth year I lost my father and in my eighteenth- my mother. Under this heavy burden, I struggled on with my life, without motherly love and fatherly protection. How lucky I was, when I was able to have my own home. And what a reward my children were, for all my burdens, loneliness, and solitude. I never dreamed that a person could be so lucky. All that I lacked in my youth, I gave to my children. That was many times over more than what I missed.
And my daughters were bright and accomplished. The elder, Rasia, was very musical. She was even more gifted in art. She studied in Lemberg in the art high school and she was considered a rising star there.
The younger one was also very artistically gifted. Still a student in the 7th class in gymnasium, she truly enchanted all onlookers with her dancing. The Soviet authorities tried to influence us to send her to Moscow so that she could get her artistic education there. But how could we part with the child? So we declined. But Hitler parted us. We lost both of our daughters.
On Shabbos, September 5, 1942, I went for my work as a hairdresser for the wife of a German officer. This was forced labor. I did not find her at home. I waited for her for a long time, and when she came, she was nervous and said that she had no desire to have her hair done. She also told me that in one or two days, all Jews would be brought together in one place, and they would all be shipped off to be gassed in waiting railroad cars. I left her house as though struck by thunder. Endless tears fell from my eyes and my mind kept working: How and where can I hide my children?
I looked around to see where on the streets I could find a shelter and a hiding place. When I came home, I found my daughter sick in bed with tonsillitis. Filled with thoughts of that tragic end, I greeted her with these words: We are lost. According to the edict of the Gestapo, those who had a work card had nothing to fear. Since only three of us had work cards, and the younger daughter didn't, I decided that as a mother, I would share the fate of my lost child, remain in the ghetto and hide her there. My husband and my older daughter had to go to the registration. On the night of the registration, we went into the bunker. There were 12 people there. My husband nailed the bunker shut and we were cut off from the world. We stayed there until eight in the evening. We heard the action go on over our heads. Beatings, shots, woeful cries and the whistles of the railroad engines. The whistles still ring in my ears today; these were the signs of death the last journey to the gas chambers.
Eight o'clock in the evening, a young man came, knocked on the bunker, and called out: Mrs. Tager, all are alive and they have come home. I did not want to believe in such unexpected luck and I stifled the happy outcry of my younger daughter. To my great sorrow, my disbelief was correct.
When the bunker was opened, and when I saw my husband who had returned, I soon also saw my great misfortune. He had returned without our elder daughter.
Testimony of Sigmund Tager
At the time of the registration at the assembly place, I stood with my elder daughter, Rasia, in the house servants section. The inspector of the house servants and his secretary came over to me, with trust and regrets, and assured me that all of us would soon be taken to our usual work. They took their leave of us and soon Leideritz, the head of the Gestapo, arrived. With his stick, he divided the group: a very small part for life and the rest for death. I was in the small group, and my daughter was in the large one.
I went to my inspector with a plea that he should intervene to save my child. He went to the Gestapo chief and was told: Away! His effort to help me was in vain. When I found out about this answer, I tried to go over to the bad side so that I could go on the final journey together with my child. Leideritz noticed my movement and with his foot he pushed me back to the good side. The group destined to live was closely guarded and watched. At two o'clock we were taken over to the city park building. From there we were taken to an area between Lenyanova and Kopernika Street. There our work cards were stamped and we were sent home.
When we came out on the streets of the ghetto the next day, we saw many sorrowful faces and from everyone's lips we heard the question, What happened with you? How many of you remained alive? The answer was wordless: They held up only one finger of their hand.
Sally and Sigmund Tager Speak
There were very few houses set aside by the Gestapo for the last group of residents in the ghetto. It was impossible for everyone to find a spot for himself. Presser, who was in charge of the Jews who remained alive, asked the Gestapo authorities for more housing. To everyone's joy, Hertl, Eberhart, and Frost ( all Gestapo officers) appeared in the evening. They observed the great need and added one big house to the previously chosen ones. That was again a sign that the sentence of death was postponed a little bit longer. But those who understood the situation very well knew that they must not fool themselves, and they hastened to leave the ghetto gate from the assembly place.
It turned out that the Gestapo officers had not come to make the Jewish living conditions easier, but to make note of the houses where the Jews lived, and, even on that same night, figure out how the easiest way of liquidating them.
We had a bunker in our house. We wondered, Should we hide in there after such a frightful day? Or was it better to wait and see what the night would bring? But our exhaustion took over and we fell asleep. But not for long. At three thirty in the morning we were awakened with loud knocks. It was a woman we knew who knew that we had a bunker. She ran to us after she found out that the ghetto had been encircled by Gestapo murderers. As soon as the woman was inside, we all went in to the prepared hiding place. Only two tailors who were still alive, because the Gestapo left them alone because they needed them, remained seated. Soon the Gestapo came and took them all, even the two tailors who were so sure of themselves. The murderers rampaged in the ghetto for three days and three nights, searched out every corner, knocked on every floor. At night we came out of the bunker. It was only a makeshift hiding place, intended only to save ourselves from the initial onslaught. We went to the better bunker that was prepared so that we could hold out there longer. As soon as we went in, a man with a three-year-old child came from somewhere. The frightened child began to cry. The father wanted to subdue him because the smallest noise could give us away. The child, however didn't understand this. The people there became upset, threw themselves upon the child, prepared to kill it; but the child kept on crying. The child's cry really did attract attention. The Gestapo were very close to the hiding place. The began to call: Jews, Hebrews! Suddenly a cat began to meow and that saved us. The murderers thought that the cat had been the one crying and carrying on, and they went away.
Meanwhile it began to be truly hell in the bunker. The small reserve supply of bread which was meant for a few people did not last very long. The newcomers, especially, threw themselves at the bread like wild ones, and ate it at night when the others were sleeping. Out of fright at the thought of being found, from regularly hearing the heavy treads of the Gestapo boots over their heads, everyone became nervous and suffered from diarrhea. The only pail for that purpose was always full. Once each night someone had to climb up a ladder, and the one who had to empty the pail was so overcome with fear and danger that when he lifted it to pour it out, he accidentally spilled some of it on himself. In the emptied pail we gathered some snow and pieces of ice which we used instead of water. With starved faces, covered with sweat from inner burning and thirst, the people used to throw themselves at the dirty pieces of ice and snow mixed with excrement.
After three days of such suffering and hardship, we began to realize that even death could not be worse. So we left the hell and were ready to die. On all fours, we crept from Vallova Street until the end of Legyanova [Legionow] Street, where the liquidation ghetto had been. We went into an empty house and stayed there for that whole night, and the next day until evening.
The struggle for life began with every step and with every moment. We went looking for a Christian driver we knew hoping to have several hours of rest there. But we didn't know where he lived. Our daughter, who was still alive then, saw two women. She was sure they were Christian women. So she began to ask them for the house of the driver. We were amazed to find out that they were two disguised Jewish women. They were also looking for a place to hide and they had been chased away. They warned us not to go there, because the driver would turn us in. Nevertheless, we went there. They really did let us in and hid us in an oven. In a few days they fell upon us, took our money from us, and drove us out of the house. So we went to another Christian to whom we had given our belongings. When she saw us she cried: Jesus, Mary, what do you want from us? You are soon dead and we are still alive. Should we die because of you?"
And so we went from one to another. Our only home was the snow. After three weeks of such torment, we went to the railroad station to try somehow to get ourselves into another city. On the way we met Thaddeus Shklatchik, a former train engineer. He brought us to the railroad and promised to hide us in the coal car get us to Stanislav [Stanislawowa]. But he fooled us. He left us in the middle of an empty field and also forced from us our last bit of money and valuables. Only our daughter had a little bit of hidden money.
We ran to the Jewish cemetery where we found a broken down little house. We huddled close to our daughter with the hope of drawing some strength and will to live from her. Very early the next morning we went to the railroad station again. This time each of us stood in a different spot. If one of us were found out or recognized, the others could save themselves.
My heart stood still when I recognized the gate keeper as the son of a priest. He knew my children very well from school. There was no way to go back. We were waiting in line, first ourselves and then our daughter.
The gate keeper looked through our papers and let us through. But woe unto us! There was suddenly a disturbance. Everyone turned to see as my husband cried out to me: We have lost our second child!"
The gate keeper had, it seemed, recognized our child; he did not let her through; he kept her aside until everyone had gone to the train and afterwards he turned our child over to death. Mad with grief, I screamed to my husband: Come let us go with our child! My husband, however, believed that we could help more by staying alive than by dying. Also, our daughter had enough money with her. Perhaps she could still pay to keep her life. We left the railroad station. After this, what meaning did our lives have and what was the sense of saving ourselves after we had lost both children? We had to find some people who could save our child from death. But how could we find such people, when death lies in wait on every street? And who wants to know us? And who will listen to us? When they catch someone who has spoken to a Jew, or even if they suspect him of having had anything to do with a Jew, he and his family have the same sentence as the Jew: They are all killed.
It so happened that once we crawled through a hole from a closet in an unoccupied house and from there over a wall into a house. We sat down on the floor to eat a morsel of bread, that we had found through a miracle and with great danger. The door opened and a Christian couple came in. They stood rooted in fright and speechless. Our fear and paralysis was beyond description. We jumped out quickly through the hole and began running in broad daylight. Convinced that we were being chased, we went as far as Szeparovke. There we looked around and saw that no one was coming after us. We saw a vacant spot with dried out corn stalks. So we stood them up, held them with our frozen hands (it was in the month of February), and stayed under them so that we would not be seen. Nearby that place, children were playing, and our hearts trembled hoping that they would not discover us.
Suddenly a hen came from somewhere to lay an egg and the hen's owner ran to look for her. He would soon be right next to us. With our last strength, we used our frozen hands to chase away the hen. And again we gained time. Was it minutes, hours? How could we know then?
The Gestapo headquarters were on Krashevska [Kraszewskiergo] Street, and opposite the Dom Ludovi was the service building (the Tod organization [Death's Head], streets, and a brick building.) Many Jews had worked there (forced labor) for the ghetto liquidation process. Among them had been myself and my husband. Three young men were hidden on the roof of the building. The Ukrainians told the Gestapo about this and even though a Polish driver who lived and worked there warned the three; they did not run away. From the house across the way, the Gestapo came out and shot the three Jews there.
Three days later we were near this house. It was right at the time (8 p.m.) when they used to lock up the houses, and even the Christian residents were not allowed to be on the streets then. What could we do? In our great helplessness, we went to the previously mentioned driver, and begged him to find us a shelter for only that night. But how could he help us? The only thing he could do was to offer that same attic where those three Jews had been shot. He advised us that after going up there, we should drag the ladder along with us in order to wipe out every footprint. He also told us that at five in the morning, we should leave that place very, very quietly
The night was bitter cold, 40 degrees frost [-40 degrees Fahrenheit] and we also suffered from much hunger and fright that night. Before dawn broke, we set out quietly to leave our hiding place. But where to? The frozen ground crunched with every footstep and could have attracted the notice of the Gestapo. We came down and as just as we were by the railing, spotlight began to light up the area. It was the murderers searching the neighborhood. We clung to the railing and remained unnoticed. The light went out. The Gestapo patrol went into the house. And we again remained alive. We were already too exhausted. We wanted to die, just to be at rest. Every few minutes we decided to give ourselves up to the Gestapo. But death at their hands was so humiliating, so brutal, that against our will, we prolonged the torment of our being.
After many such shattering survivals and events, we came to the last 36 Jews whom the Gestapo officially allowed to remain alive. They took us up to an attic, kept us there until it was night, and smuggled us into a bunker through a fireplace.
In the bunker we found a bottle of turpentine. We were dirty and disheveled from the last few days. So we decided to clean and wash ourselves. Much to our misfortune, when we took the flask, a spark exploded. The noise from the spark gave us away to Dr. G. who officially lived under our hiding place. Very upset by our carelessness, he began to search for our hiding place. He did not find us because two friends of ours quickly warned us, and got our persecutor out of the way. The Jews were afraid to keep us there and took us to a cellar that was in the same house.
We were not the only ones there. There were already several surviving Jews there. With them was a child. The child went to get some water. The Gestapo caught it. Alerted by the child's cries, the people began to run and were met by a hail of Gestapo bullets. We stayed in that hiding place, which was away from the upper hiding place which had almost been discovered.
In another part of the cellar, the last 36 Jews had built a bunker for themselves. Our friends Urvitch and Hacker brought us there. (The only one who survived was Urvitch. He now lives in Holon, near Tel Aviv.) Aside from us, there were three people there. (The 36 were still legal and didn't need to use the bunker.)
We told each other to keep still, quiet, because outside the bunker a channel had been built out, like a part of the bunker. There were, however, five of us, and because of our whispering, we gave ourselves away.
The previously mentioned Dr. G. quickly came to the door of the bunker and told us to open it. When we didn't answer, he began to speak: Why are you afraid? I am just a Jew like you. We stubbornly kept quiet. So he angrily broke down the door and ordered us to leave by nightfall. If not, he would destroy the whole wall.
Where could we go? So we stayed there. At night Dr. G. sent one of his secret Polish helpers. He destroyed the concealed wall and we five illegals again were left unreprieved from death. One of us went away, perhaps somewhere else to seek her luck, and we hid ourselves with a six-year-old child behind the entrance door. Soon we heard the wailing scream of the woman who had been caught by the Gestapo; the murderers beat her with rifle butts and dragged her to the jail. We remained standing behind the door all day and had no way of getting a bit of food or water.
After several days of such hardships, a man who arranged for people to escape over the border came to the 36. He had been hired by others who had since died. Since the 36 were certain that crossing the border was a very dangerous undertaking, because the Jews were often robbed and afterwards killed, they sent him to us as a possibility. We already had nothing to lose. So we hired him and chanced our luck to be rid of that hell.
We agreed to send a message after we crossed the Hungarian border. But our message never reached them. When the border crossing escort returned, he found only Urvitch alive.
Dr. G. was also alive. He had figured out how to find a good hiding place.
Testimony from Andi Lederfeind
(About the September 17 Action)
At the beginning of August all the men were ordered to register. They were all to be at Kopernik Place at 6 a.m. Right at 6 a.m. the next day the Gestapo came and began to look for the men who had not appeared. They immediately shot every man they found at home or on the street, young or old.
They came to my parents' house just when they were going into their bunker and at the time that my sister-in-law was locking the door. As soon as she left, she heard two shots. The murderers had found the hiding place and the two shots brought an end to their lives.
The order to register brought unrest and panic to the ghetto. People searched for legal ways to travel out to the villages. There were no ghettos in the villages and people felt they would be safer outside the walls. They hoped that in the villages there would be no searches. For large sums of money, the German work office issued Cards for Economically Vital Work (picking nettles for producing cloth and others).
Life in the village was a relief. Good nourishment and no Gestapo until September 7th. On September 7th, Gestapo officials came and told the Ukrainian policemen (militia) to round up all the Jews. It did not occur to the village Jews who lived there (there were still some of these) that this was a danger to them. So they came of their own free will and presented themselves. They were soon brought to the railroad station and loaded into the waiting railroad cars and sent away.
In the same way, they also came to take me, my seven-year-old son, my sister and her eight-year-old little daughter and another three or four people to the registration. We bought ourselves off by giving the militia money and valuables. So the policeman looked the other way and we ran away. We hid in a cornfield.
There was a terrible storm that night rain and wind. But we endured it. Before sunrise I went back to my village dwelling where I had some things. I took out some peasant clothes (a old outfit for peasants) and went to a peasant woman from whom I used to buy food. She agreed to hide us all in the dirty attic. In the morning, the woman's husband brought the news about the registration. There was no other alternative but to go back into the city.
Since we did not know what was happening on the roads, and especially what had happened meanwhile in the city, we sent out the peasant to bring us news. He brought the news that two ghettos had already been liquidated and that all the Jews who were left had to go into the remaining ghetto. We divided up and one by one went back to the city on foot. Not all of us arrived there. Several were caught and they disappeared."
About the Sunday Action at the Beginning of October, 1942
A day before the action, all the German officers and their families ordered that all the Jewish craftsmen who worked at certain jobs were to send in all their work even if the work had not been completed. The women took their dresses from the tailors, the men their unfinished suits and so on. There was panic because these were clear signs of a coming action."
In the gray dawn the murderers came into the houses with the fearful cry: Jews, Out! They assured everyone that those who had a work card would soon be able to return. I and my little son also fell into their hands and were swept into the crowd. The several hundred people were herded along Kopernika Street to the railroad station. Along with the Gestapo and their dogs, we were guarded by Ukrainians and Poles.
One woman had a loaf of bread with her. Three young men attacked her and tried to take her bread. The woman resisted. The Gestapo shot. There was a disturbance in the crowd. I quickly took off my armband and I decided to run away with the child. I found myself in the Gentile section not far from the house of a Polish acquaintance who had relatives in common with me. But they didn't even let me into the house. The did allow me to hide in a closet that was outside the house. We sat there without food or water until evening and often someone outside tried to open the closet door. In the evening the owner of the house came and told me that the ghetto had been liquidated. (That was a lie.) I could no longer stay in the closet and had nowhere else to go.
As the wife of a doctor, I had some poison with me, and the sensible thing to do in such a situation would have been to use the poison. ( he whole time, my seven year old boy cried: Mama, yesteshmy strasteny! Mama, we are lost.") I then took out some Luminal and told my son that he should swallow it because it would calm him and then he could sleep and rest. The Pole brought me a glass of tea. The child swallowed 18 Luminal tablets and in a few minutes he was covered with cold sweat, unconscious on my knee. (The closet was too small to lay him down.) When I saw that the child was comatose, I also took poison. The poison I took was composed of morphine, cocaine and atropine. I took quite a bit of it so as to quickly put an end to me. But I didn't know that this combination of poisons neutralizes itself. I became dizzy and in a few minutes I vomited heavily. Regardless of my effort to keep the poison in, I couldn't succeed. I vomited all of it up. And since I didn't have any more poison with me, I remained alive. All this time, the child lay unconscious and so several hours passed.
I decided to carry the dying child to a place near the ghetto to find there the Jewish doctors who lived outside the ghetto. But as I came near I realized that the ghetto had not been liquidated and my doctor friends tried to revive the child. After four days my little boy regained consciousness, and the burdens and the struggles of the hours or minutes to come began anew.
The Ghetto in Flames (About the Hallerbach Action)
After the Gestapo took over the Hallerbach group which was at the ghetto gate near Kopernika Street, the Gestapo and the Ukrainian militia went into the ghetto and threw fire bombs into the houses. An exception was made for the houses that bordered the gentile streets.
We sat in a small wooden room (on top of Pokucie) in a bunker with eight or nine people. Through the cracks in the boards, we saw the flames from the burning houses. An eerie concert rang in our ears: The murderers played on a harmonica and accompanied the music with song and dance. A wagon with liquor came after them and they drank heavily. The concert was broken up several times by shootings. They were shooting Jews who were trying to escape from the burning houses and bunkers. Zindl Naiman (then the head of the post office in the ghetto) left his job to look for his family. A shot found him. His wife saw him fall down from the bunker where she was and through my ears came her cry of woe: Oy, vay, Zindl."
The flames soon became stronger. The whole ghetto burned like a bunch of matches. The smoke reached our distant room. For us there were now two possibilities: to stay in the room and suffocate or to go out on the street and get shot by a bullet. (The room was reached through a street that hadn't been burned.) We thought it would be easier to die from a bullet than to suffocate. In the dark we quietly went into the Pokucie buildings which were on the edge of the ghetto and we looked out at the unearthly sea of flames which engulfed the ghetto and its people. The fire lasted the whole night and in the morning the streets were covered with burned bodies and with pieces of burned houses. A white snow covered the tragic sight. The flames consumed about 5000 sacrifices.
(Testimony from Chana Weinheber-Hacker)
On the day of the liquidation, as though heaven sent, there arrived a peasant acquaintance, Vasil Vaika from Kozmatch, to save me and my child. I could take several people with me, four or five, but no children. With a lot of effort I managed to arouse his pity and he agreed to take Mrs. Lederfeind and her eight-year-old boy.
We went together over the roofs as far as the Ringplatz. The irony of the situation was that we were brought to the attic of Andi Ramler's (Lederfeind) parents' house. Naturally, the house was Juden-rein [free of Jews], and in the former Ramler dwelling there now lived a Ukrainian militia member with his habitually drunk mother. She took us in for a lot of money and sheltered us only for the first night. In the morning we had to try to get out of the city. Bitter cold, anxiety and uneasiness tormented us the whole night. Our friends and our last few relatives were still in the ghetto. The children cried from the cold and fright. The little Lederfeind wailed and cried without a stop: Mama, yesteshmy stratzeny. (Mama, we are lost). He wanted to go back to the ghetto with his mother even though he knew very well that death was inevitable there. He would rather die together with all the Jews than endure this precarious existence here in the attic.
At four o'clock in the morning, we heard shooting. It became clear that it was coming from the ghetto. The last extermination had begun.
Soon the old witch appeared and informed us that the blood of the slaughtered Jews was pouring all over the ghetto, and therefore she needed a lot more money than we had promised her. If we refused her, she would call her son, the policeman, and he would soon bring us back to the ghetto and turn us over to the Gestapo. We naturally, without a word, gave her more money. The worse it was in the ghetto, the more money she forced from us. With every hour, the price rose. But, to tell the truth, no price was too high to be able to escape from that hell. That day the peasant who was supposed to take us out came and told us that it was impossible to leave the city. The murderers were running around with their dogs; we had to wait several days until the tragedy in the ghetto would end.
Yes, wait. But how? The attic was a shared one. Several residents dried their laundry there. Even now, the laundry of a Polish family was hanging there. And what if they came and discovered us? Fortunately, there was a severe frost. The laundry was frozen and hadn't dried. And others didn't feel like washing clothes in such cold weather. We lay on the wooden boards in the dark for three days and three nights. The only sounds that reached us were the pitiful cries from the ghetto and endless shooting.
On the evening of the third day, our peasant came. He gave us different clothes to wear and led us to the Ringplatz where his wagon was waiting. The wagon was standing only a few yards away from our hiding place. But the short walk seemed impossibly long. The entire Ringplatz was filled with Gestapo policemen. All were armed; many with dogs. In deathly fear, we luckily reached the wagon. Our peasant remembered that he still had some unfinished business and that he had to leave us there for awhile. We remained alone on the Ringplatz. Our frightened eyes and the pale faces of the children could have easily given us away. Our suspicion that the peasant wanted to get rid of us, and that he had betrayed us, grew with every minute. And that every minute was an eternity for us is understandable.
But the peasant really did come back. He loaded us into the wagon; he hid the children under hay and straw, and we three women Lederfeind, Feder, and I had to look like peasant women whose husbands had been called to work in Kolomey that day. The wagon began to move and we were filled with fear of death and hope of being saved. Step by step, we passed through the murderous faces and left the city.
We were almost at the end of our journey when Ukrainian police and Gestapo stopped us to search the wagon. The peasant persuaded the police to let us through, and we finally came to our hiding place in Kosmatch. There we felt that we had been saved and were very lucky. Through the peasant we found a little attic over a cow's stall. Two Jews were already there. So there were seven of us. We had to lie still all the time only lying down because the smallest step, the quietest voice, might reveal us to the neighbors.
Night after night, the peasant brought us food. On nights when there was no moon, he took us into his house so that we could warm up a little and wash ourselves. Our children dreamed of such nights. A lighted lamp, a table, a bench... filled the children with longing. Above all, the lamp light in the darkness. It was a hard winter, near the Carpathian Mountains. And the roof was not well covered. When we woke up in the morning, if we really had slept, we would be covered with snow and frost, with freezing hands and feet.
The peasant was a wonderful person. He rightfully wanted to keep us alive even though he knew very well that his head was at stake. He was a widower and his mother-in-law lived with him. They often quarreled. She used to run out on the street and scream the her son-in-law was hiding Jews and that she would report him to the Gestapo.
The peasant was also our contact with the city. He tried to seek out the Jews who were still alive and bring them to Kosmatch; he even prepared places for them to hide. He found the doctors and we began a correspondence with Dr. Frisch, Dr. Gross, and Dr. Lande. They sent us a few of their relatives. But they themselves couldn't decide to come because they had no news of those who had gone over the Hungarian border. And before they found out, they were liquidated. Dr. Frisch sent his 19-year-old niece to us.
Being forced to lie still without the least bit of movement became very unpleasant for her after several days. So in broad daylight she left the hiding place with the intention of going back to Kolomey. She aroused the suspicion of the peasants in the village. And they started searching for Jews. The suspicion fell on our peasant; he asked us to leave his house for awhile and go into the forest and he would also provide for us there. This, however, meant going up against death, and we hesitated to leave the attic. When he began to threaten us, we reminded him that he had gone too far with us to turn back. The danger was truly very great and each minute could have brought us a catastrophe.
So we decided to go over the mountains to the Hungarian border, regardless of the snow and the bitter cold. The didn't want me and Mrs. Lederfeind to go along: Our children were too small and unable to make such a difficult journey. Bringing them along could have been dangerous for the adults. And if we had lived up until now, we would remain alive.
Their arguments were persuasive. We were left with only one thing to do bid them farewell as they went on their hard and dangerous journey, and remain alone. I had only one request for Dr. Gewirtz, that he leave me his poison, so that I wouldn't fall into the hands of the Gestapo while still alive. He did not do this, but said that he would send the poison back with the peasant if they succeeded in crossing the border.
Instead of the poison, I received a letter a few days later, that they did cross the border, but neither the Hungarian Jews or the Christians wanted to give them a roof over their heads. They were therefore in danger of being found by the Hungarian police and turned over to the Gestapo. (Hungary did not allow any Jewish refugees from Poland to enter.) A week later, the contact brought us the news that the border police found everyone, turned them over to the Gestapo, and they were all killed.
We all stayed with the peasant for four more weeks. At the end of April we also went on that trip. Two peasants carried to the children on their backs along a longer route. (This was the only possible way to avoid the border police on both sides.)
The way was hard and difficult and full of danger. During the day the snow was soft and deep. It was hard to pull our feet out once we had stepped in. At night the mountains were steep and slippery and we had to keep going without stopping.
Exhausted and desperate, I lay down and begged to be allowed to die. But they forced me to go further. After a week of extreme hardship and danger, we came to a Hungarian peasant on the other side of the border. Hritz was the name of the Humgarian and he was a wonderful person. He watched and helped us with each step until we came to Budapest where they took all of us Aryans into the Polish underground camp.
Hritz had built up an extensive bunker system in the Carpathians during the German occupation of Hungary in order to save the Hungarian Jews. He was in touch with us all the time. He finally was caught and the Gestapo killed him.
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