Holocaust Survivor Maurice Moore Testimony


Uploaded by USCShoahFoundation on 12.07.2009

Transcript:
 
Go ahead and read it. Can you read it?
 
I can read this. I was going to read this part.
 
Go ahead.
 
Okay.
 
My name is Mary Kasdan.
 
Today’s date is September 22, 1995.
 
Conducting an interview with survivor Maurice Moore,
 
who was born Miodownik.
 
The interview is being conducted in Cypress, California, USA
 
in English.
 
My name is Mary Kasdan.
 
I’m conducting an interview with Maurice Moore
 
here in Cypress, California, USA on September 22.
 
Go ahead? Okay.
 
Would you tell us your name at birth, and the spelling?
 
My name is Maurice Moore,
 
and I was born in Warsaw,
 
July 15, 1923.
 
How do you spell Maurice and Moore?
 
M-A-U-R-I-C-E M-O-O-R-E.
 
Okay. What was your name at birth, and would you spell it for us?
 
My name in Poland
 
was Moniek Miodownik.
 
Would be spelled M-O-N-I-E-K
 
M-I-O-D-O-W-N-I-K.
 
Did you have any nicknames?
 
No.
 
You were born in Warsaw, Poland.
 
- Warsaw, yes. - And your age now is?
 
Now I am 72 years old.
 
Would you like to tell us about the slight confusion about your age?
 
The slight confusion? I have no idea.
 
For some reason–
 
I don’t know if I am right, or the records of the camp
 
that I received just a few months ago
 
while I was there in Auschwitz.
 
To be honest with you,
 
after the war, I just ideally said
 
I was born July 15, 1923, and I kept it up.
 
What did the records from the camp say?
 
The record says that I was born in August
 
of 1925.
 
I really don’t remember.
 
Could you tell us a little bit about Warsaw when you were a child?
 
Your view of it, how big it was.
 
I remember when I was a very little child,
 
we used to live in Warsaw in a non-Jewish neighborhood.
 
When I reached school age,
 
my father and mother sent me to a religious school–
 
a religious day school– where we learned
 
half a day English and half a day Hebrew.
 
By 1936, the conditions–
 
political conditions and anti-Semitism
 
was so pronounced,
 
and it was almost dangerous to live in a non-Jewish neighborhood.
 
We moved into a Jewish neighborhood,
 
next to where my grandmother lived
 
on Lefky 34.
 
Now let’s go back. Let’s see, 1936,
 
and you were born in ‘23, so you would have been 13 at that time?
 
- I don’t remember that age. - About 13, 11 to 13.
 
Most likely, yes.
 
Before that, what was it like going to school?
 
Was there a lot of anti-Semitism at that time?
 
Every morning, we used to fight.
 
The Polish boys used to tell me that the Jewish boys killed their god.
 
That’s what the priest told them,
 
and as a result, they were angry,
 
although we grew up together and we were friends.
 
And all of a sudden, things changed.
 
When they started going to school, and we got stopped going to school,
 
things changed entirely, and we were no more close friends.
 
Although we were at times friends.
 
We fought a little and we were friends a little,
 
and at the time it went by that way.
 
From the beginning of school?
 
From the school, yeah.
 
When I was like seven, eight, nine, 10 years old.
 
When you say you were friends at times, you mean you played together?
 
No, but we would play football, you know.
 
Soccer was the big thing.
 
Every boy in Poland used to play soccer.
 
Tell me a little bit about the school that you went to.
 
- When I was a child? - When you first started school.
 
It was a real wonderful school.
 
All the children were Jewish, and the teachers were mixed.
 
Polish sessions we had Polish teachers.
 
Hebrew teachers, naturally, were Jewish rabbis.
 
It wasn’t like a modern Hebrew school that we know of now.
 
It was a Torah learning session.
 
How to read and interpret and learn Hebrew, <i>Chomesh.</i>
 
How to pray and laws and so forth.
 
That was the Hebrew education that we received.
 
Were these rabbis on the faculty of the school?
 
Yeah. These were faculty rabbis.
 
This was their profession.
 
They were professional teachers.
 
What languages did you speak at home and at school?
 
At home, we spoke Yiddish and Polish.
 
But my parents spoke Russian
 
because my mother went to school when the Russians occupied Poland.
 
She was educated in Polish and Russian and French
 
and Yiddish and Hebrew.
 
They were quite the educated people.
 
Tell me a little bit more about that,
 
how she went to school when the Russians occupied Poland.
 
My parents did.
 
- Both of them? - Yeah.
 
Before the end of the First World War,
 
Russia was in Poland.
 
Poland was not an independent country
 
until 1918.
 
My mother was born in 1900,
 
so her school years were during that time.
 
That’s the reason she went to Russian schools.
 
But they also taught Polish.
 
What languages did you learn?
 
What languages did you learn?
 
Learn in Poland? In school?
 
Just Yiddish, Polish and part Hebrew,
 
I mean, a substantial amount of Hebrew.
 
Is that what you spoke at home, as well?
 
Only Yiddish and Polish.
 
My parents spoke Russian
 
only when they didn’t want the children to understand.
 
Eventually we learned Russian because it’s very close to Polish.
 
You said your father was a very religious man.
 
Could you tell us a bit about that?
 
What organizations he belonged to, what rabbi he followed.
 
He was a–
 
In the jargon of Jewish, you’d call him a Hasid,
 
which is a member of a certain group of people
 
that go and support a certain rabbi.
 
His rabbi was from a city called Kazimierz,
 
so he was called a Kazimierz Hasid.
 
That Kazimierz rabbi used to live
 
a few buildings from where we lived,
 
so we were always in walking distance to that particular rabbi.
 
We prayed in his synagogue,
 
and we spent holidays there in prayer.
 
My father supported him just like all the other Hasidim
 
supported his particular rabbi.
 
Every Jew that was a Hasid in Warsaw had his own personal rabbi.
 
When you say Hasid, you don’t mean necessarily a Hasidic Jew?
 
Yeah, exactly. A Hasidic Jew.
 
- An Orthodox Jew? - An Orthodox Jew.
 
That’s exactly what I mean.
 
Did you go to him with problems?
 
To the rabbi with any problems?
 
I didn’t have any problems. I was a young kid.
 
I went to this rabbi because my father went to him,
 
and the children usually went to shul where their father went.
 
Did your father go to him with problems that he might have in daily life?
 
I’m not aware of it.
 
Was your mother religious too?
 
My mother was a very beautiful lady.
 
She was very educated, very well educated.
 
She was running the house.
 
And she was socially involved.
 
I am not familiar with what she did,
 
but she was active in various organizations.
 
At that time, I was too young to be aware
 
of what the type of organizations she belonged to.
 
Probably organizations that are also,
 
I would say, Hasidic leaning.
 
On the very traditional Jewish way.
 
Almost everybody in Warsaw–
 
The majority of people were Orthodox.
 
So, she was also the same.
 
She was raised that way. That’s the way she was.
 
Did she go to the synagogue often like your father did?
 
She went to the synagogue.
 
Was it actually a synagogue the rabbi had or was it his house?
 
It wasn’t a synagogue. It was like a house.
 
The living room was a room that we did the prayers.
 
It was a large living room, and that was like a private shul.
 
Did your father belong to any other organizations?
 
I think he was a member of a Orthodox political party
 
which is called Agudat Yisrael.
 
It’s a very well known organization.
 
It’s still in existence today.
 
And you? Were you in any organizations?
 
I was not. I didn’t belong to–
 
You went to school until you were how old?
 
How old were you when you left school?
 
I would say about 14.
 
What did you do then?
 
While I was going to school, I worked part-time
 
in a printing and rubber stamp company that was right–
 
our neighbors had the company–
 
and I was working there.
 
I was delivering things.
 
I was doing all kind of chores.
 
They used to give me five dollars a week for part-time work.
 
It was handy money.
 
Naturally, I gave it to my mother because I didn’t need any money.
 
And your father’s work?
 
My father, I’ll tell you, most of the time he wasn’t home.
 
He was in the fields.
 
His work required him to be outside the home.
 
He was buying fruits off the trees by ranchers.
 
And when the fruit ripens–
 
He had people watching the ranches.
 
When the fruit ripens, he organize it to bring it to Warsaw
 
and sell it to wholesalers.
 
The reason he did that is he was a <i>shomer Shabbos</i> person,
 
and he needed to do something
 
that will allow him to be a <i>shomer Shabbos.</i>
 
Then on Fridays, you also stopped working?
 
Stopped doing whatever you did?
 
Friday was a busy day home.
 
My mother used to bake challahs, make gefilte fish.
 
Everything was made from scratch.
 
It was like a holiday.
 
So that was enjoyable? Fond memories?
 
Do you have fond memories of that?
 
Very, very important. Everything was made at home.
 
The cakes, the fish, the challah, the chicken.
 
Whatever she made was home-cooked.
 
Do you remember having any goals or dreams as a young person
 
when you were working in the print shop
 
after you left school at 14?
 
What did you think was ahead of you?
 
I’ll tell you about it.
 
The situation in Poland was so
 
that almost every Jewish young man,
 
being aware of situation that we lived at the time was–
 
Our dream was to go either to Palestine, at the time,
 
or to the United States.
 
Almost everyone had
 
some member of his family in America.
 
We had very good news that in America
 
you can live a freer life.
 
A life of equality.
 
You don’t have to worry about being Jewish
 
or being beaten up if you go in a neighborhood
 
other than a Jewish neighborhood.
 
Also the economic situation in Poland was not exactly the best,
 
so Jewish boys usually dreamed of going to America.
 
That included me.
 
Did your family ever talk about possibly leaving?
 
No. My father had a cousin in America.
 
That gave us a little bit of an idea. In New York.
 
What about when you started to hear about trouble in Germany?
 
We knew about trouble in Germany when I was 10 years old.
 
There was always things happening in Germany
 
because a lot of Jewish people from Poland
 
used to emigrate to Germany
 
in order to get jobs there or be in business there.
 
So we knew exactly– And Germany bordered Poland.
 
When these various conditions happened in Germany,
 
we were very well aware what’s happening in Germany,
 
to the Jewish people especially.
 
When did it start affecting your life?
 
- Was it as early as 1933, or later? - 1935.
 
And what happened in ’35?
 
We moved to the Jewish neighborhoods.
 
- Because the anti-Semitism was bad? - Yeah, it was very bad.
 
Did you voluntarily move then to the Jewish neighborhood?
 
Yeah, sure.
 
Was this the ghetto yet?
 
No. It was just a Jewish neighborhood.
 
Just like here would be Fairfax.
 
Did you go from one apartment to another?
 
- Is that how it worked? - Yeah, we just left one apartment.
 
In Poland, you used to buy apartments.
 
You used to sell an apartment and buy an apartment.
 
It wasn’t really your property, but it was like rent control.
 
If you pay $200 a month,
 
whoever you sold it to also paid $200 a month.
 
They had a reason why to pay.
 
Key money, they used to call it.
 
I remember that.
 
How was the rise of Nazism perceived in your family and community?
 
What did you think was happening?
 
Most of the people that we knew–
 
We were praying for <i>Mashiach</i> to come.
 
But practically,
 
people were really concerned.
 
And the Pollocks,
 
they acted as if they would be the Germans.
 
So we were afraid.
 
When you say they acted as if they would be the Germans–
 
Yeah. When a Jewish person– especially when he was bearded
 
and he had the outfit of a religious Jew–
 
when in a non-Jewish neighborhood, he was attacked.
 
His beard was shorn off.
 
He was beaten up by hooligans.
 
Not 100% of the Polish population acted that way,
 
but a lot of people were anti-Semitic.
 
Did all the Jewish businesses
 
move into these Jewish neighborhoods then?
 
- People took their businesses– - Jewish businesses, no.
 
The business owners–
 
They were the owners of the business,
 
but the people that worked for them were non-Jews.
 
They ran the businesses in the non-Jewish neighborhoods.
 
It wasn’t a direct one-on-one relationship
 
where a Hasidic Jew was in front of a business
 
in a non-Jewish neighborhood.
 
It was non-Jewish people were running the business.
 
Not all the Jews in Poland, in Warsaw, were Hasidim.
 
They were very much Westernized.
 
The business people were a different group of people.
 
Especially people in the retail business.
 
People in banking and in insurances.
 
They were entirely different. A different group of people.
 
In what way?
 
They wore modern, Western clothing.
 
They were shaved.
 
They wore tie, shirt and ties.
 
They were just like Americans now.
 
They were a different class of people.
 
Not everybody was Hasidic or wore a beard
 
in Warsaw.
 
But they were still the targets of anti-Semitism?
 
They couldn’t be recognized so easily.
 
A Jewish person that had a beard,
 
and he had these dark black clothes on,
 
he was easily identified, so he was beaten up.
 
It wasn’t like a revolt against the Jews.
 
But almost every day,
 
some Jewish people in Warsaw, in certain neighborhoods,
 
were attacked because they were Jewish.
 
What did you dress like?
 
- Your father dressed as an– - Westerner.
 
I didn’t want that.
 
I was dressed like now.
 
What do you remember about September 1, 1939?
 
September 1, 1939
 
was the first day the Germans attacked Poland.
 
Planes were over Warsaw
 
with scattered bombardment.
 
Not very heavy.
 
There was the mobilization right away.
 
Germany started marching into Poland.
 
They marched all over Poland in maybe eight days.
 
They were in the outskirts of the city of Warsaw,
 
and then the military decided that they will defend the city of Warsaw.
 
The Germans encircled the city of Warsaw with artillery
 
and were shooting down into the city.
 
They were shooting down into the city.
 
That was the third week of September in 1939.
 
And that’s where my tragedy happened.
 
Will you tell us about that?
 
Yeah. There was an artillery shell
 
fell into the building that we lived in,
 
on the first floor, sending down the floor
 
completely into the basement.
 
All my family and many other neighbors
 
were in the basement at night.
 
Because they told us to go into the basement
 
because they were bombarding it from airplanes.
 
But the bombardment was not from airplanes.
 
They were from artillery.
 
And they sent down the floor.
 
As a result, my parents
 
and one of my brothers,
 
including many members of my family,
 
totaling 17 people of my family
 
got killed in that particular basement.
 
But my grandmother
 
that was also in that basement was not killed.
 
The reason was that she was in a pocket
 
where she could get air.
 
Most of the people died because of lack of air.
 
They suffocated.
 
My brother and I were on the third floor of the building,
 
where we lived, and we didn’t even know that
 
because there was no explosion.
 
So when we got down there, early in the morning about 6:00,
 
the neighbors that were not affected
 
did not want to believe that we were not with our parents
 
and told us what happened.
 
We were in charge of digging out the people from the basement.
 
We were putting them out on the yard,
 
on the courtyard of the building.
 
Two of my uncles survived– my mother’s two brothers–
 
and my brother and I.
 
The four men.
 
Each member of the family
 
had to bury their own members of the family
 
that got killed in that particular basement.
 
That happens in many basements in the city of Warsaw.
 
Not only in the Jewish neighborhoods,
 
but in the non-Jewish neighborhoods as well.
 
They weren’t killed because they were Jews.
 
It’s just the fortune of wars.
 
The artillery was not flying.
 
It was on hillsides around Warsaw when they sent these shells in?
 
Was it on hillsides, or was it in the air?
 
The artillery came this way.
 
Was it from planes?
 
No. Artillery.
 
All around Warsaw.
 
They circled the city of Warsaw,
 
and the artillery were shooting down into the city, just everywhere.
 
We had to bury our own dead
 
because, at that time,
 
nobody wanted to accept Polish money.
 
Even if you had the money, you couldn’t get anybody to work for it.
 
So we had to take our own cadavers
 
and put them on push carts,
 
and taking the push cart to the Warsaw cemetery, Jewish cemetery,
 
digging a common grave.
 
We dug a grave for 37 people
 
from our building,
 
and we buried them according to the Jewish law
 
as a group in their clothes.
 
That was the first experience
 
that I had in the war of a personal nature.
 
What went through your mind when you were burying your family?
 
We were like frozen.
 
My mind wasn’t functioning.
 
I had just to do things
 
because these were the things to do.
 
There was no past. There was no future.
 
There was just the present.
 
What do we do now?
 
After we buried our dead,
 
we were sitting shivah, according to the Jewish customs.
 
The whole building was sitting shivah.
 
It was a tragedy of enormous proportions.
 
We lost our most important people.
 
Thank God Grandma was alive.
 
She took care of us, my brother and I.
 
She cooked for us. She baked for us.
 
She was a mother all over again.
 
This is what happened September of 1939.
 
Did the rabbi that your father followed survive that bombardment?
 
I personally didn’t meet him
 
after that day.
 
I did not go there.
 
I was very much hurt
 
because we always were thinking
 
that good people that do good deeds,
 
and good things should happen to them.
 
I wouldn’t consider that as a good thing that happened to me.
 
I really almost denounced
 
the religiosity.
 
I wasn’t <i>fruhm</i> anymore.
 
I was observing because of my father.
 
We had to say Kaddish every day, because that was the custom.
 
We had to daven and say Kaddish for 11 months.
 
There were no rabbis at the mass burial?
 
We didn’t need a rabbi. Every Jew can conduct services.
 
What happened next to you?
 
You’re living with your grandmother.
 
During that time, there was a question of–
 
We have to eat.
 
Somebody has to support us.
 
The money ran out, whatever little money we had.
 
All the things like food
 
and whatever people need for everyday survival
 
got more expensive.
 
Inflation sets in.
 
The woman that owned
 
the printing and rubber stamp company
 
offered me a partnership
 
because I knew how to make rubber stamps.
 
People used to come from all over
 
to buy rubber stamps of every description.
 
I started making money because we started charging prices,
 
high prices, because we couldn’t replace the raw materials.
 
They weren’t available.
 
This is what made me money to survive
 
right after the tragedy that happened.
 
Tape two with Maurice Moore.
 
Tell me about your move to the ghetto.
 
- My life in the ghetto? - Your move.
 
How you moved there.
 
When you were forced to move to the ghetto.
 
We were living in the area
 
that they declared to be a ghetto.
 
- When was that? - It was the Jewish neighborhood.
 
When the war broke out.
 
We were already living in the Jewish neighborhood.
 
They just put a fence around it, and we were enclosed.
 
That constituted the ghetto of Warsaw.
 
We were living right in the center of it.
 
You didn’t have to move?
 
We didn’t have to move.
 
Was it just a fence, or was it a wood wall?
 
Was it a flimsy fence?
 
They were fences made out of brick.
 
All over. Wherever there was an opening, they made–
 
Certain streets were cordoned off.
 
They built brick walls,
 
and you couldn’t get through.
 
One side was the ghetto, and the other side is the Polish,
 
the Aryan side of the city.
 
Could you ever leave the ghetto?
 
Could you ever leave the ghetto?
 
Could Jews ever leave the ghetto?
 
No, we couldn’t.
 
It was impossible to leave the ghetto.
 
You risked your life to leave the ghetto.
 
Eventually, I left the ghetto,
 
but it was under these circumstances.
 
I risked my life.
 
The ghetto was quite large?
 
- Was it quite large? - The ghetto?
 
There was a half a million Jewish people living in the ghetto.
 
It was a large part of Warsaw.
 
Were there guards at the gates?
 
The gates where they used to bring in
 
or take out merchandise or people were guards.
 
There were German guards, Polish guards
 
and Jewish police.
 
What were the hours of entry and exit, and was there a pass system?
 
You could go in and out if you had the proper papers.
 
If the government needed you for some reason,
 
or you worked for the Germans, or for whatever reason.
 
There were a lot of people going in and out all day long.
 
I didn’t do it.
 
Did the rules change in the ghetto very often?
 
The rules of going in and out. All sorts of rules?
 
There were always restrictions, and the conditions changed almost daily.
 
One day, you could go out because you worked there.
 
The second day, you couldn’t get out even if you worked there.
 
Every day the conditions changed.
 
Who was living with you? Who was living with you?
 
My brother and my grandma.
 
- Did you have– - In the ghetto.
 
Did you have your own room? Or your own apartment?
 
We had an apartment, yeah.
 
The three of you were able to live by yourselves?
 
We lived in our apartment.
 
What was your apartment like?
 
It was a two-bedroom apartment.
 
So you weren’t squeezed in with a lot of people?
 
We shared our apartment
 
with all the people that came from this whole community
 
surrounding the city of Warsaw
 
that were driven by the Germans into the city of Warsaw.
 
We volunteered every room and every inch of our apartment to people,
 
shared whatever food we had with them,
 
shared our belongings, shared everything.
 
We weren’t the only people that did it.
 
Every Jewish family in Warsaw did the same thing.
 
What were the problems involved in having people live with you?
 
Big problems.
 
We had grown-up people with no children.
 
We have young people with little babies that we couldn’t sleep at night.
 
We had to endure.
 
These were the conditions. They weren’t easy.
 
There were crammed people in every corner of the house.
 
There were people sleeping on the floors.
 
Did you have enough to eat?
 
Did you have enough to eat in the ghetto?
 
I had enough to eat because I used to work and make rubber stamps,
 
and I earned a lot of money.
 
I bought all kind of foods on the black market.
 
I did give the money to my grandma.
 
I didn’t care about the money.
 
I just say here it is,
 
and she bought everything she could lay her hands on.
 
So we had enough food.
 
The only thing that happened,
 
this working and producing the rubber stamps came to an end
 
because the Germans decided
 
that none of the printing presses
 
or people that are able
 
to make printed items
 
should not produce in the ghetto
 
so they can’t disseminate news of any kind.
 
So they came in one day,
 
and they closed everything up
 
under the threat of death.
 
If I would continue making these stamps, or whatever,
 
I would have been arrested.
 
Who knows what would happen to me?
 
Also at that time, my brother was taken
 
by the Jewish police to a camp.
 
That was in March of 1941.
 
- Then what happened? - At that time, things changed for me.
 
Fear came over me,
 
and my grandma decided to tell me–
 
She actually convinced me
 
to leave the ghetto
 
and go wherever I could in order
 
not to be taken to a camp.
 
And that’s exactly what I did.
 
I left the ghetto
 
on June 22, 1941,
 
with a friend of mine.
 
His name was Motel Bornstein.
 
I remember him now.
 
We ran away from the ghetto on the other side,
 
through a trolley car that made a turn,
 
had to go into the ghetto to turn around.
 
We jumped on the trolley car,
 
we lay down, and we got out on the other side.
 
We had to bribe the conductor so everything–
 
The whole way, from the moment we entered the trolley car,
 
was nothing but bribes.
 
On every corner that we had to change the trolley car,
 
there were a group of Polish boys waiting for Jewish boys
 
that were trying to rescue themselves.
 
They actually blackmail them,
 
so we had to give them money
 
so we can continue our–
 
to go wherever we want
 
on the direction that we were aiming to go.
 
We finally came to a place where,
 
through a lot of problems and–
 
It’s a lot of detail to really tell the whole story.
 
Eventually, we wind up in a little city called Plonsk.
 
From Plonsk, we made friends with some Jewish people.
 
There was no ghetto yet.
 
That was already–
 
That particular area was annexed to the German Reich.
 
So there, in that area, they called it the <i>Dritte Reich.</i>
 
The money in circulation was German marks, not Polish zlotys.
 
Everything was very cheap,
 
and they advised us that the things to do for us–
 
We should go to a farm,
 
and the farmers are looking for hands,
 
and we’ll readily get a job.
 
And that’s exactly what we did.
 
We went to a farmer, about 10 miles away from the city,
 
and we got jobs.
 
We did farm work.
 
Whatever the farmer needed us to do, we did.
 
We worked there for about–
 
this was 1941–
 
until after the gathering, until after the harvest.
 
After the harvest, the Germans decreed
 
in case they find a Jewish boy on the farm,
 
that they will take away the farm from the Pollock and arrest him.
 
So the Pollock, the farmer,
 
told us about the decree, and he let us go.
 
So we went back to the little city of Plonsk.
 
At that time, they decided to make a ghetto.
 
It became a ghetto in Plonsk.
 
During the day, at that time– It was like, I would say
 
July, August, September– about October.
 
It was September. It was either September or October.
 
It was after the harvest, and I had to eat.
 
I didn’t know what to do.
 
I didn’t have anybody to give me anything.
 
There was no jobs in the ghetto, so we started smuggling.
 
By the way, my friend went back to the city of Warsaw,
 
and the last time I heard about him
 
that he died in the city of Warsaw from typhus.
 
I used to go to the farmer and buy different things
 
for fabrics and buttons and needles
 
and bring it back to the ghetto.
 
One day, I fell on the street in the ghetto
 
and I woke up in a hospital, in a Jewish hospital in the ghetto,
 
two days later.
 
They told me that I have typhus.
 
That was in–
 
around November 1941.
 
I was in the hospital, the Jewish hospital, for 10 days.
 
Thank God I survived.
 
When I got out of the hospital, I walked with two canes.
 
I was 18 years old.
 
I was so thin, so emaciated,
 
and I was without a place to go.
 
So I walked on the street,
 
and I used to eat in the soup kitchens
 
that they had for people, for out-of-towners.
 
Finally, a family I got acquainted with took me in
 
and gave me a place to sleep.
 
I was all by myself.
 
Little by little, I recuperated.
 
As I recuperated and gained strength,
 
I started doing what I did before.
 
I was smuggling from the ghetto into the farm
 
and from the farm to the ghetto.
 
After I got all my provisions together on my back,
 
and I was walking in the snow
 
for about maybe six hours to get to the ghetto,
 
and when I reached the ghetto walls,
 
a big German shepherd jumped on me.
 
There was a German police,
 
and he says, “Oh, so you’re a smuggler?”
 
I didn’t say anything.
 
They just took everything away from me,
 
and they send me to a camp for smugglers.
 
Not because I’m Jewish. Just because I was smuggling.
 
It was illegal.
 
The camp consisted of 120 Polish men,
 
and among the 120 Polish men,
 
there were two Jews– me and somebody else.
 
Nobody knew that we were Jewish because it was impossible.
 
They didn’t know that.
 
They weren’t sophisticated people, you know.
 
The only time they knew that you were Jewish
 
because you wore that Jewish clothes on.
 
You know, you had the black stuff, so they knew you were Jewish.
 
But otherwise they didn’t.
 
We were working and building highways.
 
We were taking big stones,
 
crushing them with hammers
 
and taking them to these roads.
 
This is the way we did.
 
Every day we had a certain amount of stones
 
to crush with hammers.
 
I finally did it right.
 
The whole camp got sick on typhus.
 
When they got sick on typhus,
 
I was already after my typhus that I had in the ghetto.
 
So it did not affect me,
 
but it affected about, I would say,
 
60 to 65% of the people in the camp.
 
Naturally, if 65% of the people were sick,
 
they didn’t eat.
 
So there was plenty of food.
 
Therefore, I recuperated in that particular camp
 
where I had plenty of food, and I got to be strong.
 
It sounds like there wasn’t that much anti-Semitic feeling.
 
You said they weren’t sophisticated in Plonsk?
 
In that particular camp.
 
In the camp. In the ghetto.
 
It didn’t seem that hard in the ghetto there.
 
No, this wasn’t in a ghetto. This was in a camp.
 
When the police caught me smuggling,
 
they took me to a camp, and I was–
 
Another fellow that was Jewish and myself,
 
we were among 120 non-Jewish Polish people.
 
They didn’t seem that interested in finding out
 
who was Jewish and who wasn’t.
 
They couldn’t tell because– How could they tell?
 
We spoke Polish better than they do.
 
They didn’t ask you to drop your pants?
 
- You mentioned that. - Why should they?
 
They are not the police.
 
You mean the police? No.
 
It was lucky.
 
What were you smuggling out of the ghetto
 
to exchange with the farmers?
 
Fabrics and needles
 
and threads.
 
Something that the farmer would buy
 
to make their own clothes.
 
Because the farm women, they used to buy fabric,
 
and they used to make clothes themselves.
 
They weren’t interested in whether you were Jewish or not?
 
- The farm people around Plonsk. - They didn’t care.
 
It was strictly business.
 
What was that ghetto like in Plonsk?
 
The ghetto was encircled
 
with also a wood–
 
It wasn’t exactly like in Warsaw.
 
The fences were a little bit less strong.
 
They’re not as strongly built
 
like they would be in a big city.
 
They were made out of wood. It wasn’t a big thing.
 
Some of the boards were loose.
 
You could go in and out, and if they caught you–
 
It wasn’t that bad in Plonsk.
 
That’s the reason I went in and out.
 
There were certain spots, nobody was there.
 
What happened after the camp?
 
How did you get out of that camp, and what happened next?
 
That camp, after the people–
 
There were 10 people that died of typhus.
 
The rest of them recuperated.
 
They liquidated the camp.
 
I could have gone anyplace I wanted to
 
because I got a paper not listing me as a Jew.
 
I got a paper as I was liberated,
 
and I paid my dues to society because I was in that camp,
 
and that I was released.
 
And that’s it. That’s all it stated.
 
But I didn’t have anyplace to go,
 
so I went back to the ghetto in Plonsk.
 
When I went back to the ghetto in Plonsk,
 
after being there for a few days,
 
I went back to the family that gave me lodging,
 
and they gave me lodging all over again.
 
So the local Jewish community,
 
the administration,
 
issued the edict or whatever
 
that anybody that is here illegally,
 
who does not belong to the community,
 
that came from other places–
 
like me, I came from Warsaw–
 
we should register so we can get food stamps.
 
Because without stamps,
 
you had to buy everything on the black market.
 
But if you have legal residence and you get food stamps,
 
the merchandise or the products that you buy
 
like bread or whatever else you need,
 
provisions, cost very little.
 
Bread on the black market maybe cost 20 times as much.
 
A kilo of bread with a coupon cost only 40 pfennigs.
 
Like 40 cents.
 
So I registered,
 
and so did many other Jewish boys
 
that came from other parts.
 
In the middle of the night, the Jewish police in the ghetto of Plonsk
 
came to the door, asked for my name, and took me out.
 
We were destined to go to a camp.
 
Instead of getting food stamps, they tricked us.
 
That’s the way they got my name and where I was.
 
They took me and 800 other boys.
 
They had to deliver to the Germans
 
800 boys to build the camp.
 
They didn’t have that many people because the city was also–
 
Only about 10,000 people was in the city.
 
To bring out 800 young men,
 
it was a task by itself.
 
First they took the people that are not residents,
 
the non-residents.
 
Then they took the local people that are poor.
 
Then they went to the rich people in the little town,
 
and the parents were trying to buy themselves out.
 
They decided they’ll pay $500 each
 
for their sons not to go to camp.
 
But the administration–
 
They used to call them the <i>Judenrat.</i>
 
This was the name of the Jewish administration in the ghetto.
 
<i>Judenrat.</i>
 
The <i>Judenrat</i> could not get enough people,
 
so eventually they got the people’s money,
 
and the young men had to go anyways.
 
So we went to a camp.
 
The name of the camp was Nosarzewo, which was–
 
People that know the area would know it’s between
 
Plonsk and Mlawa.
 
In that camp, we–
 
I was among the people that were there
 
eight months in that camp.
 
We built barracks for the German soldiers
 
and a small airport, during the eight months.
 
There was seven of the boys
 
that were the children of the rich people of town,
 
they really did not want to work, and they ran away.
 
About three miles
 
beyond the fence of the camp, they caught them.
 
They brought them back to camp, and they had an <i>appell.</i>
 
Everybody had to stay and watch, and they hung them.
 
This was in March of 1942.
 
I witnessed the first hanging
 
of seven young boys,
 
my age, 18, 19,
 
in Nosarzewo, in that camp.
 
This camp was set up by the Nazis, the Germans,
 
with the help of the Polish Jews?
 
Pardon me?
 
How was this camp administered?
 
This camp was all Germans.
 
Everything was German.
 
It was strictly run by Germans.
 
Getting back into the–
 
I want to interject something
 
about the Warsaw ghetto.
 
Every day in the ghetto, there were many people
 
that dressed up in their best suits and shoes
 
and their clothing,
 
because they had no work.
 
They were very intelligent people,
 
and also, at the same time they were poor.
 
They had no money to buy food.
 
They walked the streets, and, every day,
 
you could see people falling on the street, dead.
 
They looked prosperous, but they weren’t.
 
They were swollen.
 
Trucks used to come by and pick them up every single day.
 
That was also prompted me to leave the ghetto.
 
Do you know how those people were buried?
 
Were they buried in mass graves?
 
- In mass graves, yes. - By whom?
 
By the Jewish community.
 
They were the government.
 
Also the <i>Judenrat,</i> the Warsaw <i>Judenrat.</i>
 
Everybody was buried in a–
 
There was no individual graves.
 
What else did you know about the <i>Judenrats</i>
 
in either Warsaw or Plonsk?
 
The <i>Judenrat</i> were these–
 
When the Germans needed something done,
 
they went to the <i>Judenrat,</i>
 
and they fulfilled the wishes of the Germans.
 
If the Germans needed money, they went to the <i>Judenrat.</i>
 
When they needed people, they went to the <i>Judenrat.</i>
 
So all the people–
 
The <i>Judenrat,</i> which was the administration,
 
and the police and the FBI, all were Jews.
 
They did the dirty work for the Germans.
 
Were the Jewish police under the <i>Judenrat?</i>
 
Were they part of it? The Jewish police?
 
They were part, impartial.
 
- Did they have uniforms? - The had uniforms.
 
Do you remember anything about those uniforms?
 
They had a regular uniform, like a policeman.
 
Like an American policeman.
 
Did they have insignia?
 
Insignia? The mark of David.
 
- Oh, I see. - Right there.
 
Was it anyone you knew from before?
 
I lived in Warsaw. I knew many of these people.
 
How did you feel about them?
 
Well, you know, in the beginning, they just kept order.
 
In the beginning, there was no problem.
 
A lot of people came from outside the city of Warsaw,
 
and they didn’t know their way, they didn’t know what to do.
 
They controlled the traffic.
 
It was a regular police force.
 
But then, after a while, the Germans utilized
 
their knowledge and their cooperation
 
in order to deliver the Jewish kids
 
to the concentration camps daily.
 
What do you think motivated the Jewish police?
 
What motivated them?
 
They wanted to save their own skin.
 
They saved their uncles and their aunts and their cousins and their–
 
They had privileges.
 
And they got food.
 
Back to the camp where you were working in Poland,
 
where you built the barracks.
 
You said you were going to build an airport there?
 
Yeah. I was working–
 
They asked me if I can be a carpenter.
 
I said, “Yes, I can be a carpenter.”
 
So I worked as a carpenter.
 
First, I went in as a helper, and then I got certain responsibilities
 
because there were–
 
Prefabricated parts for barracks came from Germany,
 
and all you had to do is just put them together.
 
Were you in a camp before that? For three months?
 
I was in a work camp, as a smuggler.
 
That was the name of the smugglers’ camp?
 
I don’t know the name of– Oh, Novi Dvor.
 
It was– I don’t know.
 
That’s not the name of the camp, but it was near the city of Novi Dvor.
 
That was the smugglers’ camp?
 
That smuggling camp, yeah.
 
Because the other young man, the Jewish boy,
 
he was from Novi Dvor.
 
That was also the birthplace of my father.
 
That’s the reason I remember that.
 
Your father had been born there?
 
We also had people that came to Warsaw
 
and stayed with us in our apartment from that city.
 
You were released from the camp
 
where you were building the barracks and the airport,
 
and you were released back to Plonsk?
 
Back to Plonsk.
 
Three times you were in Plonsk.
 
This time, I came to Plonsk was
 
1942, around October.
 
The end of October.
 
What happened next?
 
Next, we had a–
 
New things happened in the ghetto,
 
and the <i>Judenrat</i> announced
 
that the ghetto is being liquidated.
 
All the inhabitants will have to leave the ghetto.
 
They will be transported someplace,
 
to nobody knew where.
 
We’re going to stop.
 
Would you tell us what happened next?
 
This time, when we came back from the Nosarzewo camp,
 
the administration told the community
 
that we were going to be liquidated as a ghetto,
 
and they are going to resettle us,
 
but we don’t know where.
 
There were 10,000 Jewish people in that ghetto.
 
There were going to be five groups,
 
each group consisting for about 2,000 people
 
that are leaving the ghetto of Plonsk.
 
While I was in the camps,
 
I met a Polish man who told me
 
that the Jews are being liquidated in Auschwitz
 
and in many other parts in Poland.
 
That they were being gassed and burned.
 
If I could see myself any way possible
 
to run away or save myself in any other ways,
 
he wanted me to know what’s going on.
 
That’s the only thing I knew.
 
That there’s a possibility
 
that the Germans actually kill the Jews.
 
- How did he know? - He knew.
 
He was a civilian.
 
While the transports were taking place,
 
the last of the transports
 
were supposed to be the <i>Judenrat</i> and the police
 
and all other people that
 
deemed themselves privileged.
 
I decided to go with one transport
 
before the last transport.
 
So I went with the fourth transport,
 
and they took us in regular trains.
 
Passenger trains from Plonsk to Auschwitz.
 
We were in a passenger–
 
Pretty much cramped, but it was a Polish passenger train
 
coming from Plonsk to Auschwitz.
 
In Auschwitz, we came in the middle of the night.
 
They told us that the children
 
and the older people and the women
 
are going to go to one side,
 
and they will select
 
men in another side.
 
I was a small person, with a big coat on me.
 
It was cold. It was wintertime.
 
I just didn’t know what’s going to happen to me.
 
If they’re going to look at me as a child or a man.
 
I saw two Germans with their bayonets drawn
 
to separate the groups.
 
I just pushed myself under,
 
and I went over to the men’s sides
 
because I knew all these times that when I worked,
 
I had a chance to survive.
 
I figured when they take men,
 
most likely the men are going to go to work.
 
And I guessed it right.
 
Because the 1,800 people–
 
the women, the children, the older men–
 
they went directly to Birkenau to be gassed and burned.
 
The 200 people that I was among were going to Auschwitz,
 
into the camps, into barrack number 10.
 
We were waiting for 10 days.
 
Then they came and they asked for volunteers,
 
and I was one of the volunteers.
 
They took out 100 men from that group to go to a coal mine
 
in a sub-camp of Auschwitz by the name of Jawiszowice.
 
When you went under the bayonets, they let you select yourself?
 
They couldn’t do nothing. What they going to do?
 
There is 2,000 people they were watching.
 
They don’t know me.
 
They don’t care about one man one way or the other.
 
This was right when you got off the train?
 
Off the train, and it was pitch dark.
 
They didn’t see my face.
 
It was just a lucky thing.
 
A gutsy thing to do.
 
That’s what I always had.
 
- Guts. - Yeah.
 
So you were at this sub-camp of Auschwitz?
 
I was at the sub-camp, working at a coal mine
 
for 25 months, every single day.
 
In that camp, the first 10 months was–
 
I didn’t think I’d survive.
 
I was that thin, and the work was very hard.
 
We were working with Polish miners.
 
Every one of them was an anti-Semite.
 
They didn’t like the Jews for some reason.
 
He said the Jews are not good workers.
 
The Jews were storekeepers,
 
lawyers, engineers, but they never work hard.
 
Whoever was there learned how to work hard.
 
I was working hard for two camps already,
 
so I knew how to work.
 
I wasn’t afraid for work.
 
So because I wasn’t afraid to work,
 
eventually I made a friend.
 
A Polish engineer. I made a friend of him.
 
He used to bring me sandwiches every day.
 
When? At night, or when you were working?
 
Ten months later.
 
After 10 months, you became friendly with him?
 
Yeah. We had a German engineer, but they changed to a Polish engineer.
 
It just so happened that this engineer was my height.
 
A short guy.
 
I speak very eloquent Polish.
 
I was in his league, speaking Polish, and he liked it.
 
Then he became friendly with me, and he asked me if I read German.
 
I said, “Yes, I read German.”
 
If I can translate German into Polish and tell him what’s going on.
 
I said, “I’ll be happy to do it.”
 
He changed my job to a real good job.
 
Just an easy job.
 
They took the Pollocks to Germany
 
because they took the Germans into the army.
 
So the Polish miners they took to the German mines,
 
and the Jewish miners that were helpers,
 
that had something on the ball,
 
they gave them better jobs,
 
replacing the Polish miners that went to Germany.
 
I was lucky enough, and I was already well-acquainted
 
with the type of work to be done in the mines.
 
So I got an excellent job.
 
Except for the first two days on the job.
 
I had an accident.
 
A piece of coal hit me right on the nose, broke my teeth.
 
I had this kind of a face. Swollen and bloody.
 
Everything stopped because I was in a special kind of situation.
 
- Everything stopped after your accident? - Yeah.
 
I was very lucky because this engineer gave me a note
 
that I am an essential worker in the mine.
 
That I have to be back to work.
 
I asked him to give me that paper, even though I didn’t feel good.
 
I was bloodied up. I washed myself off.
 
I broke a tooth, and my nose was swollen.
 
I wanted to come back.
 
The reason I wanted to come back
 
is because anyone that got an accident in the mines,
 
they never return to the mines.
 
Every 10 days, they used to take–
 
came a doctor to the camp
 
and selected about 200 people
 
that looked like they don’t have any strength,
 
their muscles became soft, or they were in an accident.
 
They took them to Birkenau, replaced them with newcomers.
 
Because there were constant people coming,
 
new people coming to the camp.
 
So it was no big thing for the Germans to replace one of these coal miners.
 
I knew about it. I was there.
 
I went back to work, and this engineer took care of me.
 
I had an easy job.
 
Easier job than before.
 
He brought me papers, newspapers.
 
I translated the German into Polish.
 
I also was aware of what was going on
 
because I was reading.
 
Otherwise, I couldn’t get a paper.
 
So I knew that the German army is pulling back from Russia,
 
with different kind of excuses.
 
They’re building bridgeheads.
 
We’re building a bridgehead here and a bridgehead here.
 
We’re going back because this part was not good, or that part was not good.
 
All these rivers were frozen.
 
All kind of excuses.
 
But we already knew that they are losing the war.
 
That was close
 
to 1944.
 
Were you able to share this information with anyone
 
except for this Polish engineer?
 
- Did you tell anyone else? - No.
 
- It was too dangerous. - Too dangerous.
 
Did he ask you to do anything else for him besides translate?
 
No.
 
But he was instrumental in your living then?
 
He helped me.
 
I also had a miner that I worked with previous to that,
 
that I promised that–
 
that I come from a rich family in Warsaw.
 
If he’s going to help me, bring me some food,
 
that I’ll give him
 
part of my inheritance.
 
I don’t know if he believed me or not, but he brought me a sandwich anyways.
 
In this sub-camp, it wasn’t all Nazis at all?
 
- It was the Polish miners and– - Polish miners.
 
- Polish engineers. - Engineers and Jewish prisoners.
 
Not everyone you worked with was anti-Semitic?
 
Some were, but then there were these people–
 
They weren’t friendly. Let’s put it that way.
 
Miners work very hard.
 
It wasn’t a picnic for them neither.
 
They didn’t have what they really got before the war as miners.
 
They had a limited amount of food, a limited amount of money.
 
- They were like semi-prisoners. - Were they living there, at the camp?
 
Were they living at the camp there with you?
 
No. They were civilians, but their economic condition
 
wasn’t very good.
 
Tell us about actually working in the coal mine.
 
Did you go underground every day?
 
We were marching from the camp to the coal mines
 
about three, two and a half miles
 
from the camp to the mines.
 
They had shafts that brought us into the mines,
 
about 300, 400 feet, 600 feet, 1,800–
 
There were different kind of levels in the mine that you had to work
 
digging coal and the coal–
 
It was like a city.
 
Except it was dark.
 
Everyone had his own lamp.
 
And his lamp is his guide,
 
like a guide dog for a blind person.
 
Without this lamp, you’re dead.
 
So in many cases, just breaking up the story,
 
many people committed suicide by throwing away the lamp.
 
They throw away the lamp. That was it.
 
They got lost in the mine, and they died.
 
Tell us the difference between you and the people–
 
the attitude of you, the young person, and the people who committed suicide.
 
Well, I tell you what. I really wanted to survive.
 
I did everything possible to survive.
 
I had to survive.
 
Naturally, some situations, it couldn’t be helped.
 
When you’re surrounded,
 
and there’s no place to go.
 
Like the people that were taken to Birkenau.
 
They had no choice.
 
That’s it. For them, it was just like cattle.
 
When you worked with civilians, you had a chance.
 
You could lie. You could talk your way out.
 
You could do all kind of things.
 
You had to work, had a chance to work with civilians.
 
Otherwise, your chances were nil.
 
I was lucky that I was at a work camp.
 
I was healthy, and that really kept me alive
 
because a lot of people got sick and they– that was it.
 
You got sick, it’s all over.
 
They don’t need you.
 
Why would they take you to a hospital?
 
There was no hospitals.
 
There wasn’t a hospital for prisoners.
 
Once you got sick, it’s good-bye.
 
You said something to me about
 
the men who had lost their wives and children.
 
Yeah. These are actually the people that didn’t want to live any longer.
 
They not only went–
 
In my camp, they went in the mines and threw away the lamps.
 
But they also ran to the electric fences.
 
They jumped into the fence to be electrocuted.
 
Lots of people.
 
You wanted to know about the routine. I want to tell you about it.
 
We had to work eight hours in the coal mine
 
because there were three shifts.
 
One shift prepares for the next shift.
 
It’s a routine that takes place in 24-hour segments.
 
If you didn’t finish your job in eight hours,
 
and you had, let’s see, an hour or two to finish it,
 
you stayed for an extra eight hours
 
until you get back to the barracks.
 
You didn’t have much sleep to catch up to
 
because you had to be up in your particular shift.
 
It was a tough life.
 
Then we had to work in the camp four hours.
 
So eight hours in the camp, in the mines.
 
Four hours in the camp.
 
An hour to go. An hour to come back.
 
Then you had to shower every day because you came out from the camp,
 
you were full of dust, about a half an inch of coal dust
 
on your person and on your clothing.
 
You had two different type of clothes.
 
One to work in, and one to be in the camp.
 
Actually, there was a laundry,
 
and you gave the dirty clothes
 
and you get a set of fresh ones every day.
 
You showered every day. Cold water.
 
How were the barracks?
 
Everybody had their individual bed.
 
- Individual bed? - Yeah, but three stories, three rows up.
 
But you had a bed for yourself.
 
They had to give you pretty good conditions
 
because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to work.
 
Coal mining is hard work.
 
They gave you a piece of salami every day.
 
Maybe a quarter of a pound of salami.
 
And soup and a piece of bread, and that’s it.
 
What kind of soup? Was it a real soup?
 
It wasn’t too bad.
 
Soup. You got a good soup.
 
Soup at night. Soup, salami, a piece of bread.
 
In the morning you get tea or whatever. Some kind of a tea.
 
- That’s all? - That’s it.
 
You got the piece of bread in the evening, and you had to divide it.
 
You had to eat half of it, and then keep–
 
But nobody kept it, because you were very hungry.
 
So you ate everything.
 
You went to work, and you worked without food for eight hours,
 
waiting to get back to the camp to eat.
 
You got your number at this camp, right? In Auschwitz?
 
- My number? - When did you get it?
 
When I came to Auschwitz–
 
I think it was in November 1942.
 
- Or was it in December? - Or December.
 
I don’t remember exactly.
 
But it was in the end of either November or December.
 
Yeah, probably December.
 
We were taken to that Auschwitz camp and waiting to be–
 
The first thing they took us is to go into showers.
 
We had to take everything off, throw away our belongings
 
and our toothbrushes and shoes and whatever we took with us.
 
Clothing. Nothing counted.
 
Had to put it on a pile.
 
We went into the showers.
 
It was lucky that these particular showers didn’t contain gas.
 
Afterwards, we found out–
 
After we got liberated, we found out that some of the showers–
 
People got showered, and instead of water came out gas.
 
After the showers, went out to the other side,
 
and we got a towel to dry ourselves.
 
We got a uniform with stripes and some shoes.
 
We had to pick shoes.
 
I was lucky. I got a good pair of shoes.
 
Shoes. This was the most important thing in my life.
 
Shoes. Then I could walk.
 
Without being able to walk, you can’t work.
 
You can’t do anything because it’s snow.
 
Is that what you wore in the coal mine? Shoes?
 
- Not boots or anything? - Shoes.
 
All the time. Good shoes.
 
I had a Pollock who wanted my shoes.
 
He said if I don’t give him my shoes,
 
he’s going to do this, he’s going to do that.
 
So I gave him a very Polish dressing down
 
because I knew how to speak Polish better than him.
 
And it worked.
 
He walked away.
 
- Was this another prisoner? - Another prisoner.
 
But a Pollock.
 
They thought that they are going to be privileged
 
because the Jews were so downtrodden.
 
Whatever somebody says, it’s “Yes, okay, I’ll give it to you.”
 
They were afraid.
 
But I knew how to handle them.
 
I remained with the shoes, and I always made sure
 
that I have a good pair of shoes to work in.
 
When you went to the coal mine, were you just in that uniform,
 
or did they give you something heavy to wear?
 
Was it cold down there?
 
We had a work uniform and a camp uniform.
 
But it’s the same fabric. It was a flannel.
 
Was that warm enough?
 
We were warm enough.
 
- Do you know where the coal went? - We didn’t pay attention.
 
We were young.
 
I was young.
 
Were most of the people in the work crews young?
 
Not really.
 
- Or just healthy? - All kind of ages.
 
Do you know what the coal went towards?
 
What they used the coal for?
 
- What they used to? - The coal.
 
- Cold? - The coal.
 
- The coal that you dug. - Oh, the coal.
 
It was regular coal.
 
They used to make gas.
 
Gas out of the coal.
 
They make various kind of chemicals
 
out of coal.
 
They used it as a heating coal.
 
They used to heat homes.
 
This coal was used in Europe,
 
just like here they use gas.
 
They used to have–
 
Electric stations used coal for power.
 
Did you also learn to be a mechanic there?
 
I was in the camps, in the coal mine, everything.
 
Whatever they wanted, I used to do.
 
I learned everything because of
 
necessity.
 
I was very young, very handy.
 
How did you happen to leave that camp?
 
As the Russian army
 
approached Poland,
 
and the German army somehow got disintegrated,
 
they liquidated the camps around Auschwitz.
 
In January of 1945,
 
they liquidated Auschwitz and all the sub-camps around Auschwitz,
 
and they took our particular camp on a march.
 
We were marching about 70 miles
 
to a train, an open cattle train.
 
I don’t know whether it’s a coal train or a–
 
It was an open train.
 
Finally, we reached that train, and the train took us to Buchenwald.
 
Buchenwald didn’t have
 
a direct connection with the station,
 
so we had to go to a city called Weimar, with a W.
 
W-E-I.
 
Wei– M-A-R. Weimar.
 
In Thuringia.
 
It took about seven kilometers from Weimar
 
to walk to Buchenwald.
 
When we reached Buchenwald,
 
in January of 1945,
 
they did not have room for us,
 
and they said we cannot enter the camp.
 
So we had to lodge on the snow.
 
Outside the gates of Buchenwald,
 
we slept in the snow, hungry
 
and tired and cold.
 
And the next day, half of the prisoners didn’t get up.
 
They died in the snow.
 
We still didn’t get any food.
 
We had to stay another day, and another 50% of them died.
 
Finally, from the 2,000 people
 
that marched out of our camp,
 
maybe 700 survived to enter Buchenwald.
 
We got in Buchenwald.
 
We got in a, like, isolation camp.
 
Because they had a regular camp, and they have newcomers,
 
and they didn’t want to mix both groups up.
 
So we were what we called the small camp in Buchenwald.
 
After being there for a couple of weeks, they sent us away.
 
They sent us out to a camp by the name of Ohrdruf.
 
Ohrdruf. It was a bad camp.
 
There were Russians in that camp.
 
There were Ukrainians.
 
The guards that guard us
 
were Germans and Ukrainians.
 
The prisoners were also Ukrainians.
 
So there were– Members of the Russian army
 
that did not behave in their regular camps
 
were sent to this particular camp called–
 
They used to call it <i>Strafe</i> camp.
 
<i>Strafe</i> camp was a punishable camp,
 
to punish prisoners that did not behave.
 
There were really not that much to do there.
 
Did you have trouble from those tough prisoners?
 
These Ukrainians–
 
They mistreated– They were prisoners.
 
They mistreated the Jews.
 
They were tall, gigantic people.
 
When we stand in line to get our bread ration,
 
they used to grab it.
 
If we didn’t take the ration, the bread ration,
 
and put it into our shirts fast enough,
 
they grabbed it out of our hands.
 
There were a lot of prisoners
 
didn’t eat for days.
 
They died of starvation.
 
Jewish people.
 
I was lucky in that particular camp.
 
A German guard that guarded me
 
in the camp, in the coal mining camps,
 
recognized me.
 
He had a little bit conversation with me,
 
and he said, “Hey–”
 
They didn’t call you by your name. They called you by your number.
 
Your number was in front of you, your outfit.
 
And he say, “I remember you.
 
You were in that coal mine for a long, long, long time,
 
and I think that you should be the one to have a little–
 
I’m going to give you a good job.”
 
So he gave me a job, and I worked part-time in the kitchen,
 
and part-time I worked in his office.
 
You know, cleaning, putting away, making fires.
 
It’s not like here. You switch a button to make fires.
 
You had to gather wood, add a little coal, to make a fire.
 
They had these stoves.
 
It gave me an opportunity to at least have food.
 
And I didn’t have to go outside to work.
 
I was lucky enough to have enough food not only for myself,
 
but to bring into the barracks where I was staying
 
and to share it with my fellow prisoners.
 
So I became some kind of a hero.
 
Which made me feel good, not only because I was a hero,
 
but at least I could help somebody.
 
These guys had a problem getting their rations.
 
Not all of them, but many of them.
 
You said there really was no real work to do.
 
No real work, but there were so many
 
German guards and Ukrainian guards
 
that they actually had to create work for them.
 
We used to shovel snow from one place.
 
Clean the highways.
 
But there was really not specific work.
 
You came with a group to Ohrdruf.
 
When they transferred the group, you were among the group.
 
You are a member of a group.
 
That particular group was transferred
 
to another camp called Garfunkel.
 
In Garfunkel, not too far away, maybe 50 kilometers,
 
and the same thing happened.
 
We were newly arrived into Garfunkel,
 
and there was no specific work to do.
 
We were cleaning the highways,
 
taking the snow from one area to another area.
 
Just wasting time.
 
The war is almost coming to an end.
 
It was already March of 1945.
 
Then they liquidated the camp of Garfunkel
 
and took us back to Buchenwald.
 
By that time, the group was emaciated.
 
It was maybe about 200 people.
 
So we came back to Buchenwald, into the small camps.
 
The conditions were very bad.
 
It was cold, was freezing.
 
We had the kind of lodging
 
like the pictures I showed you.
 
Like in Birkenau.
 
We used to get in with the feet first,
 
and the heads like a row of sardines.
 
Laying one next to the other.
 
In the morning you get up,
 
your partner, your next door neighbor, was dead.
 
I wake up in the morning, and two guys beside me were dead.
 
We had to drag them out and pile them up on the place.
 
Then they took them away.
 
We didn’t know what happened to them.
 
- That was day in and day out. - They just died slow deaths?
 
- Of starvation? - People died slow, fast.
 
Day in and day out.
 
Was very little food.
 
We had to stay in an <i>appell.</i>
 
<i>Appell</i> means outside.
 
They used to count how many people are alive,
 
how many people are dead.
 
Until this camp commander came to count us,
 
many of us froze to death.
 
I was lucky. I don’t know how I survived.
 
We stayed there until
 
I think it was in the very beginning of April.
 
April 1945, which was about,
 
I think, the fifth or the sixth of April,
 
they rounded up all the people in the small–
 
the newly arrived people
 
from the sub-camp of Auschwitz–
 
and took them to the train.
 
They put us on a train.
 
We didn’t know where we were going.
 
In fact, after the liberation, I found out that Buchenwald as a camp
 
was liberated on April the 11th by the American army.
 
But in the meantime, we were on a train going to nowhere.
 
On that way going to nowhere–
 
we did not know where we’re going–
 
an American plane were shooting
 
at our train and disabled the locomotive.
 
Some German soldiers
 
that used to guard us got killed
 
and also many prisoners.
 
They made us leave the train.
 
I don’t remember the name of the place
 
where they made us leave the train.
 
There were many people that got killed by the Americans on that train,
 
which was unfortunate.
 
And we started marching.
 
We were marching.
 
Going nowhere.
 
On the way marching, we found out that we are in Bavaria.
 
We stopped over one night in a camp.
 
I don’t remember the name of the camp.
 
Only for about two days. Then we got out.
 
We were marching, and on the way we were marching,
 
the commanding officer on the march
 
asking for volunteers,
 
because many of the people that were marching
 
fell dead on the road, and we had to bury them.
 
He was asking for volunteers to dig graves
 
to bury the people that fell dead.
 
So I was a volunteer to go to work.
 
The reason I was volunteering
 
is I thought that maybe I’m going to meet a civilian.
 
Every time I meet a civilian,
 
I somehow talk him into bringing me some food.
 
But as luck had it, I didn’t have a chance to meet any civilians right away.
 
That was April 21, 1945.
 
I was digging graves in Bavaria on the side of a road.
 
I had four other people, Hungarian Jews that didn’t speak Yiddish.
 
I had a hard time conversing with them,
 
but somehow we made it happen.
 
We were digging graves together.
 
We used to put in six to eight people in a grave.
 
On the night of the 22nd, following night,
 
about 12:00 at night,
 
it was raining so strongly
 
that I asked the guard who was guarding us
 
that we cannot work any longer.
 
I told him we have to go into a farm
 
to dry out and get something to eat.
 
Otherwise, we’re going to have to be put into these graves ourselves.
 
He agreed, but he told me, “You have to knock on the door.
 
You have to ask the question.” I said, “I will.”
 
He saw that I have a spade in my hand.
 
A shovel.
 
It was raining, so he has his carbine turned around.
 
He was covered up with a raincoat, that he couldn’t move.
 
If he said no, I don’t know what I would have done
 
because I was very serious.
 
He saw in my eyes that I’m very, very serious at the moment.
 
It was a life-and-death situation.
 
So I knocked on the door of the farmhouse.
 
A German woman, the farmer’s wife or whatever she was,
 
she opened the door, and I ask her–
 
I really didn’t ask her.
 
I really almost demanded
 
that she should let us in to dry out.
 
She says absolutely. No question about it.
 
She welcomed us.
 
She brought hay and put it on the floor
 
in the kitchen and in the living room.
 
She brought up blankets, put the blankets down,
 
and gave us blankets to cover every one of us,
 
including the soldier, the guard that guarded us.
 
She made us a very thin potato soup.
 
Hot potato soup.
 
And she dried our clothes.
 
She washed it and dried it.
 
She made us eat that soup.
 
We fell asleep like little babies.
 
We didn’t care what happened.
 
The following morning, about 6:00 in the morning, we got up.
 
She gave us our clothes back, dried.
 
And we were of the opinion
 
that we were going to have to go and dig graves again.
 
So when we got up, she made us another portion of thin soup,
 
and she also gave us a piece of bread.
 
She says, “Eat that.
 
It’s not much, but I don’t want you to have much.”
 
She seems to be knowledgeable what she was doing.
 
We went out from that farmhouse to the road.
 
We thought that we were going to dig graves.
 
But the guard says. “We’re not going to dig graves anymore.
 
Let the community deal– The local people, let them do it.”
 
We were going to catch up to the group.
 
That was early morning on April 23, 1945.
 
The name of the community that we reached–
 
The name of it is called <i>Nürnberg Farn Wald</i>
 
in Bavaria.
 
The moment we– that group of mine, the five people–
 
we reached the rest of the group,
 
we turned around, and there were no Germans.
 
No guards. Where did they all go?
 
There were white flags
 
hanging out from the little homes,
 
from the farmhouses.
 
We didn’t know what’s going to happen.
 
We thought that the German army are going to come back,
 
and the American army or whoever army is going to come after them.
 
So we were a little afraid.
 
There was a few men that I was in the coal mines with.
 
We went into a little forest.
 
In Germany, right in front of every little community,
 
they have like a small forest.
 
So we went into that forest, and we lie down, and we waited.
 
We didn’t know what’s going to happen.
 
We heard some shooting into that little forest,
 
but we didn’t say anything.
 
One of the people that were there were an ex-soldier in the Polish army.
 
So he said, “Lay down, don’t say anything.”
 
Then after a while–
 
I had a towel for a shawl.
 
I took my shawl, my towel, put it on a twig,
 
and we went outside, going like we give up.
 
We surrender.
 
But instead of Germans, soldiers, they were Americans.
 
The Americans on tanks.
 
Big American tanks.
 
There were Jewish soldiers, speaking Yiddish, from Brooklyn.
 
He told us, “Don’t be afraid anymore. You don’t need it.
 
You’re free.”
 
They told us they liberated other camps,
 
so they know what’s going on.
 
They warned us not to eat
 
because nurses are coming,
 
and doctors are coming, and they will take care of us.
 
Please don’t eat.
 
But at the same time, they gave us chocolate
 
and cans of food, C-rations.
 
He said, “You’re going to have this for later.”
 
I didn’t eat.
 
But there were some people in the group that ate,
 
and died because they ate.
 
Unfortunately, they lived to be liberated by the American army,
 
and they didn’t have the patience to wait just another hour or so.
 
That was the day I was liberated.
 
April 23, 1945,
 
in <i>Nürnberg Farn Wald</i> in Bavaria.
 
Did you have the patience because you thought of it yourself,
 
or because the woman had told you that earlier?
 
I was lucky because I was happy to be in that farm,
 
and the woman gave me some food, and I wasn’t–
 
I wasn’t that deprived anymore.
 
I felt like I had something in my stomach.
 
I listened to the American soldier,
 
and I realized that he had a point there
 
because the woman told me
 
we should eat very small portions in the beginning
 
to get our stomachs used to food.
 
And I took her advice.
 
Personally, I was rationalizing.
 
She’s absolutely right. She’s correct.
 
So that was the day of my liberation,
 
and I usually celebrate that day as a new birthday.
 
So, actually, I was born April 23, 1945.
 
I’m a young man!
 
You went back to Poland afterwards to look for your brother?
 
I organized a group of boys
 
in that little place, Nürnberg Farn Wald.
 
There were one Jewish boy and myself.
 
About 20 boys, and we decided we’re going to go back to Warsaw
 
because I hoped that my brother is going to be alive.
 
We got the– In July–
 
That was like April, three months later.
 
We were already recuperated. We felt good.
 
We were young.
 
In July, they gave us a truck.
 
An American truck with an American driver.
 
A soldier.
 
He was supposed to take us
 
to the Russian frontier.
 
Germany was divided into American zone and Russian zone.
 
In order to go to Poland, you had to go
 
from an American zone to the Russian zone,
 
and then from the Russian zone to Poland.
 
So instead of going to the Russian zone, they took us to a camp.
 
The camp was situated in a city called Fulda.
 
Also in Germany, about 100 kilometers from Frankfurt am Main.
 
This camp was a displaced person camp
 
run by the Polish
 
government in exile,
 
and their headquarters was in London.
 
We got there, and they treated us very nicely.
 
They gave us food and everything.
 
The Polish officers came in from London,
 
and they warned us not to go back to Poland.
 
Because our aim was to go back to Poland.
 
That’s what we told the American authorities.
 
They decided to try to indoctrinate us not to go back to Poland
 
because the Russian army is there, and they mistreat the population.
 
They kill, and they maim, and they rape.
 
They take everything away. It’s not safe to go.
 
Why don’t we wait until it’s going to be safe.
 
All the Pollocks are going to go.
 
So the next day, we broke the fence.
 
Cut the fence out.
 
There was a guard. He didn’t let us out.
 
So we cut the fence. It wasn’t an electric fence.
 
It was a regular fence.
 
We just got out one by one.
 
Then we came to a bridge.
 
At the bridge was an American soldier, guarding all the bridges
 
because they didn’t want the–
 
They didn’t know what’s going to happen.
 
The bridge was to make sure
 
that the American trucks go in safely, go through.
 
So he asks us, “Hey, where are you going?”
 
I told him, “We just got liberated by the American army.
 
We’re going home.” He says, “Go!”
 
We somehow got transportation from place to place.
 
Farmers took us on horse rides with hay.
 
Then eventually we got to, on the Russian side,
 
a city called Chemnitz.
 
In Chemnitz, we met the Russian officers.
 
Jewish officers.
 
I could talk to them– both Russian and–
 
A little bit of Russian, but mostly Jewish.
 
They gave us accommodations.
 
They went into a hotel, and they kicked everybody out.
 
Everybody got a room.
 
They brought us food and everything.
 
Then they took us the next day to the railroad.
 
Put us on a train.
 
We went to the Polish frontier.
 
We had to go–
 
From the passenger train, we had to get off on the Polish border.
 
On the Polish border was also Russians.
 
Somehow, they divided the territory.
 
So we went onto the flatbed.
 
On the flatbed, we– Everybody had some belongings.
 
Some kind of clothes, whatever the Americans gave us.
 
They went into the German homes,
 
and they say, “Take whatever you want.”
 
Because we didn’t have anything.
 
So we take suitcases. We put in some stuff.
 
Pants, shoes, whatever we found that fit, we took it.
 
I had a
 
bicycle
 
that I also took from a German.
 
Americans said take whatever you want.
 
So I took that bicycle all the way to Poland.
 
I fell asleep on that flatbed, and I got up in the morning,
 
and that bicycle wasn’t–
 
The bicycle was taken away by a Russian soldier.
 
He says, “It’s military goods.
 
It’s a form of transportation that you cannot have.”
 
It was just an excuse to take away the bike.
 
Then half of my belongings was missing.
 
So I went into the local commander, was also Jewish guys.
 
Everybody was Jewish. All the officers.
 
Every officer was Jewish.
 
So he says, “I can give you 10 soldiers to go look for it.
 
What good is it going to do?
 
While you look for the other suitcases, somebody is going to steal this one.”
 
He said once they took it, they can’t get it back.
 
He said, “Don’t waste time. Go back to Poland.”
 
I said for myself, maybe he’s right.
 
See, when the Russian army came into Poland,
 
they didn’t come just as soldiers by themselves.
 
They had their wives, their children, their girlfriends.
 
Everybody.
 
Anyways, what happened is
 
you didn’t know who they were.
 
They were Russians.
 
The soldier had his wife, his mother, his uncle, his aunt.
 
Everybody was in the army with him, as civilians.
 
They were occupation forces.
 
They were stealing. They were robbing.
 
They did everything.
 
Finally, I went to a big city like Lodz.
 
I went to Lodz, and I had some friends of mine in Lodz
 
that I was in camp with,
 
and I stayed at their place.
 
It was funny. Before I found them, I went to the Jewish community.
 
I went in Lodz to the Jewish community, and it was nighttime.
 
It was 5:00, 6:00 at night.
 
It got a little bit dark,
 
and I was sitting at the door of the Jewish community,
 
figuring that I’m going to sit there until morning,
 
until they open the offices.
 
Came a lady.
 
A Polish lady.
 
She looked at me and she says to me that
 
“I know you’re Jewish.”
 
In Polish.
 
She says, “I was married to a Jewish man
 
that the Nazis took away and never came home.
 
I realize that you’re waiting for the offices to be open,
 
but they’re not going to be open until tomorrow morning.
 
If you want to come to my house, I have a room
 
that I am forced to give to a Polish officer,
 
but the officer went away.
 
So the room is empty, and you can stay overnight.
 
But I know that you don’t trust me.
 
I have a couple visiting somebody, a Jewish couple.
 
Wait until they come down, and they will vouch for me.”
 
And that’s exactly the way it was.
 
She was waiting for that couple anyways.
 
So the couple comes down,
 
and they guarantee me there’s no problem.
 
That whatever she told me is true.
 
So I went with her to her apartment,
 
and she had a room ready for me.
 
I took a shower and washed myself and cleaned myself
 
and was almost ready to go to bed.
 
The Polish officer come back.
 
Not only by himself, but he brought maybe four other guys.
 
They brought a case of vodka and food,
 
and we celebrated my liberation.
 
They celebrated my liberation all night.
 
And I was drunk.
 
The following morning, I took off, thanked them very much.
 
It was a very unusual evening. Night, rather.
 
I went to the Jewish center in Warsaw,
 
in Lodz,
 
and I found people that I was in camp with.
 
They opened a grocery store right away.
 
Anyways, I wasn’t staying.
 
That’s not the reason I came back to Poland.
 
I went to Warsaw, and I went to Czestochowa, to Katowice,
 
to a lot of different cities in Poland, looking for my brother.
 
I couldn’t find him.
 
I registered my name everywhere,
 
in case he registered his name, so he knows I’m alive.
 
Then I sold everything I had on my back,
 
except one shirt and whatever I had on.
 
They had a market
 
that you could buy German marks for Polish zlotys.
 
You see, the German– Germany occupied Poland, right?
 
There were a lot of German marks,
 
and the Pollocks didn’t have any use for German marks.
 
So you could buy, let’s see,
 
10,000 marks for one zloty, which was nothing.
 
They gave you a lot of money for your socks and for your pants,
 
and whatever I didn’t need I sold.
 
I put all the money around my body,
 
and I went to the Czechoslovakian border to go back to Germany.
 
I didn’t have any papers,
 
but I had a paper that I was liberated in Bavaria.
 
So the Polish guard on the border says, “Where is your papers?”
 
I took out a paper, and gave him my paper.
 
He says, “I can’t read that.”
 
So I figured, even if he brings his superior
 
who could read,
 
he can tell that this is not exactly
 
a passport to go to Czechoslovakia.
 
So I left him holding the paper, I turn around,
 
and I jumped up the train
 
that was on the Czechoslovakian side–
 
Slovakia, then, on the Polish frontier–
 
and I locked myself in the toilet.
 
I was sitting there for about an hour until the train left.
 
In a little while, I was in Prague.
 
That was the story. From Prague, I went to Germany.
 
It was also an interesting sequel to that.
 
In Prague, the Jewish boys told me what to do.
 
He said, “Now that you’re in Prague, go to the Polish consul
 
and tell him that you’re on your way to Warsaw.
 
They’ll give you money.
 
They’ll give you lodging and a hotel.
 
They’ll give you a permit to stay in Prague for 10 days.
 
Also, you’ll be able to go to a doctor
 
for an examination at no charge.”
 
So I went to the Polish consul and I told him,
 
“I just came from Germany, and I’m on my way to Poland.”
 
He says “Oh, wonderful.”
 
He did exactly what they told me he was going to do.
 
He gave me some money
 
because I didn’t have the Czechoslovakian kronen they used.
 
Also, food stamps.
 
At that time, they still had food stamps.
 
Well, in 1945.
 
When I had all these privileges, and I went to the doctor,
 
the doctor pronounced me fit, nothing wrong.
 
It was a very lucky occasion for me to know.
 
Then I went to the Jewish organization
 
that organized transportation to Germany.
 
Their objective was to get all the Jewish boys and girls and families
 
that came through Czechoslovakia
 
from Poland and Russia to Germany.
 
So from Germany, they should go register.
 
Either go to Israel, Palestine at that time,
 
or America or wherever.
 
At least they’ll be out of Poland.
 
So they joined, and HIAS, whoever was there,
 
worked with all the Jewish survivors
 
to get out of Poland as fast as they can.
 
- Why? - Because it was a bad place to be.
 
- Germany wasn’t? - After the war.
 
It was worse than Germany after the war?
 
It was worse. It was more dangerous to be in Poland than in Germany.
 
In Germany, they organized displaced person camps.
 
In Poland, they tried to kill you.
 
Jewish people in Poland were in danger.
 
Many Jewish people in Poland joined the police
 
and various Communist organizations in order to be safe.
 
Very dangerous life.
 
Tell us how you moved between Paris and Germany.
 
Oh, that was a different time.
 
Right now, I am telling you
 
the way we completed the exit
 
out of Poland,
 
back to Germany, through Czechoslovakia.
 
Let’s stop here for a minute.
 
Yeah. Now, we came as a group.
 
We went from Czechoslovakia back to Germany.
 
Our first station was Munich, Germany.
 
In Munich, I took all my German marks that I had with me,
 
and I changed it into dollars.
 
So I had just a few dollars from a lot of German marks.
 
But I had dollars, and they were worth a lot of money.
 
So with these dollars–
 
I was in Munich, and I found out that a lot of my friends
 
that were in camp with me were in Frankfurt am Main.
 
So I went to Frankfurt am Main.
 
I was in Frankfurt am Main for a little while,
 
and I met a Polish officer
 
who I got acquainted with
 
who somehow introduced himself to me,
 
and we became friendly.
 
He asked me if I would be interested to go to Paris with him.
 
If I had money to buy something in Germany,
 
so I could sell in Paris, and the prices in Paris are tenfold.
 
So I trusted him, and he took me to the Polish headquarters–
 
the Polish military headquarters in Frankfurt am Main.
 
That was in 1946, in January.
 
They gave me a complete custom-made outfit for me,
 
as a Polish officer.
 
I was an officer.
 
I was a lieutenant in the Polish army,
 
wearing an American uniform with a side saying Poland.
 
He had all the legitimate papers because he was a real officer.
 
He had all the papers listing me
 
with my Polish name, date of birth, everything.
 
We went from Frankfurt.
 
I bought certain things in Frankfurt in order to sell them in Paris.
 
We went on the American train
 
that went directly from Frankfurt all the way to Paris.
 
No problems.
 
Then arriving in Paris–
 
We went to a certain area where he knew hotels.
 
And we registered in a hotel.
 
So he left me in Paris, and he went to Belgium.
 
But he told me where to go in Paris,
 
where the Jewish neighborhood is.
 
He said, “Once you go to the Jewish neighborhood, you’ll have no problem.
 
You’ll find things for yourself.”
 
He figured that if I had money to buy stuff in Germany,
 
I’ll find my way through Paris.
 
That’s exactly the way it was.
 
When I went into the Jewish neighborhood,
 
I found guys, and I sold what I had with me,
 
and I got a substantial amount of money.
 
Well, I waited. We had a 10-day furlough in Paris.
 
We were supposed to go back to Frankfurt.
 
That was our idea.
 
Ten days later, he was supposed to pick me up in Paris
 
to go back to Frankfurt am Main, but he never showed up.
 
So I wore the uniform.
 
I went to Champs Elysées.
 
I walk on Champs Elysées, and all the Polish soldiers salute me.
 
I’m an officer.
 
Interesting.
 
Then I went back to the Jewish neighborhood,
 
and I got acquainted with a man who has a factory.
 
A clothing factory.
 
He had dinner in that restaurant, and I had dinner in that restaurant.
 
We start talking, and I ask him, “How do you stay in Paris?
 
Now that this guy doesn’t come back, what do I do?”
 
He says, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll give you a contract.
 
You work for me for a year and–
 
You don’t have to work, but I’ll give you the contract.”
 
And with this contract, you go to the <i>prefect de police,</i>
 
you know, the city hall.
 
If you have a contract to work, they give you a permit to stay in Paris.
 
That’s exactly the way it was. Now I’m a legitimate citizen of Paris.
 
So I shed my uniform,
 
and I bought some civilian clothes.
 
You’ve got to have money.
 
Then I met some young Jewish guys,
 
and they told me what to do.
 
They say, “Listen.
 
You have to learn French.
 
Otherwise, it’s very hard to live here unless you speak French.”
 
So they took me
 
to some kind of organization that
 
had the Eiffel family chateau
 
to the disposition of the Jewish family service in Paris.
 
That particular chateau contained only Jewish boys from Poland
 
and from France and Romania and Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
 
Boys that were in Paris that have no family.
 
All of us were young, single men.
 
They enabled us, every day.
 
We stayed there in the chateau.
 
They gave us food, lodging.
 
No money. No charge.
 
They gave us money for transportation,
 
and we had to go to the <i>l’Ecole l’Alliance Française</i>
 
to learn French.
 
In six weeks, I was speaking French. I had no problem.
 
So I left that chateau, and I rented a hotel,
 
and I went back to Germany.
 
I bought merchandise, brought it again back.
 
As a civilian, but different papers.
 
Everything legitimate because I was a resident of Paris.
 
So that went on for me for about three years.
 
What were those years?
 
From 1946–
 
From 1946 to 1949.
 
Then in 1949,
 
the borders became a little bit more strict.
 
You had to have more official papers.
 
You had to have visas.
 
Everybody regained their authority.
 
The German area was not occupied anymore.
 
They had their own government and their own border patrols.
 
So instead of going directly on a train to France
 
and having just one border patrol,
 
we had two border patrols.
 
Now I had a German border patrol and a French border patrol.
 
It gets to be more complicated.
 
So I decided I want to leave, go to America.
 
I registered in Germany to go to America,
 
and I waited about three months.
 
I came to America in 1949, in October.
 
About November.
 
In the end of October.
 
November of 1949, I came to a city
 
called Modesto, California.
 
They sponsored me.
 
They only were looking for single Jewish boys,
 
and I was a single Jewish boy.
 
I was in Modesto for three months.
 
I couldn’t speak English.
 
In Modesto, they wanted me to go to school.
 
I was of the opinion that I’m too old to go to school.
 
All I wanted is a job, and they gave me–
 
I got a job by a Jewish man
 
that had a jewelry store in Modesto.
 
He gave me a job. Paid me $25 a week.
 
With this $25 a week, I was going to school at night to learn English.
 
They gave me lodging.
 
So the $25 was just for food.
 
I managed pretty well.
 
Then six weeks later–
 
it was in January of 1950–
 
I talked to the people of Modesto,
 
and I told them that I speak English well enough to go to a big city
 
because I am from a big city and I couldn’t live in a small community.
 
And they agreed with me.
 
So I went to Los Angeles,
 
and I got myself a job
 
in a rubber stamp company in Los Angeles.
 
The first three days I was in the city, I got a job.
 
The going rate for the minimum wage was 65 cents an hour.
 
When I got a job setting type–
 
barely speaking English–
 
the company offered me $1.35 an hour.
 
I was very happy because it was unbelievable money.
 
Then about two weeks later they say, “We’ll give you a raise to $1.65.
 
Plus, we give you all the overtime you can handle.”
 
I was very happy. I was all alone.
 
A single man.
 
Then three months after I was in Los Angeles, I bought a car.
 
I bought a car for cash, $350.
 
Right away, a rich man.
 
I met my wife in the meantime.
 
We got married in December of 1950.
 
In December 1950, I still worked setting type for a little while.
 
Then I went with my wife buying a pair of shoes,
 
and I looked at that shoe business
 
and I said, “You know, I like the look– I like that.”
 
So I decided to look into it,
 
and eventually I got a job as a shoe salesman.
 
A few weeks later, I was the manager of a shoe store.
 
After a certain time being a manager of a shoe store,
 
I opened my own shoe store.
 
At one time during my shoe business career,
 
I had three shoe stores in Los Angeles.
 
I was married. Children were born.
 
I had one son born in 1953,
 
and another son born in 1957,
 
and a third son was born in 1960.
 
They all live in Los Angeles.
 
Two of them are married,
 
and, thank God, I have seven grandchildren.
 
Going back a little while– this is 1990–
 
my wife got sick.
 
She died in March of 1990.
 
I was a widower then.
 
By that time, my children were grown,
 
and with seven grandchildren, I was established.
 
I had a new business.
 
The end of ’92,
 
I was lucky enough to get acquainted with a lady
 
that happen to be my wife at the present.
 
Her name is Rita Lowy Moore.
 
We’re married.
 
We knew each other for about three years,
 
but we married about a year and a half.
 
She is a member of my family
 
as well as her family’s a member of our family.
 
Two families got together, and we just like each other so much.
 
It’s almost like loving each other.
 
Especially the grandchildren and my children
 
are in love with her, that’s for sure.
 
And her children have a wonderful relationship with me.
 
- That’s good. - So this is my story.
 
You’re still in the construction business at this point?
 
Right now, I am in the construction business.
 
For the last 12 years,
 
I was in the–
 
This 1983,
 
I am in the home construction,
 
reconstruction business, with a partner,
 
and I’m very happy doing what I do.
 
And I’m still working.
 
This is–
 
September 1995.
 
How did your Holocaust experience sort of shape the way you look at life?
 
My Holocaust experience taught me that life is just destiny.
 
Destiny.
 
Every one of us is destined for a different experience.
 
My experience is–
 
I told you my story
 
that this was probably my destiny.
 
In the Jewish, we say it’s <i>bashert.</i>
 
Each one of us has a different destiny.
 
Is it to be called–
 
You have to be in the right place at the right time
 
and have a little luck.
 
You can call it that.
 
Everyone calls it differently.
 
But basically, this is what it is.
 
I was in the right place at the right time, and I survived.
 
Did you remain religious?
 
Have you remained religious?
 
I had many years that I wasn’t religious at all.
 
But when my children
 
came of the age of going to school,
 
I decided to become religious again,
 
mostly because of them.
 
Because I didn’t want them not to have the experiences that I had.
 
At least they’d know about it.
 
All my children went to yeshiva.
 
My middle son went to yeshiva in the beginning,
 
and then he didn’t want to go,
 
so he went to public school.
 
My oldest son went to yeshiva,
 
and he graduated yeshiva school in Los Angeles.
 
Rabbi Wasserman’s yeshiva on the Westside.
 
He’s a highly educated person.
 
He’s a PhD in psychology.
 
My middle son became a CPA.
 
My youngest son went to Hebrew school all his life,
 
except for the universities.
 
He graduated the Rambam, in the Westside.
 
Rambam High School.
 
He went to the university. Yeshiva University in New York.
 
He went to yeshiva in San Jose,
 
and the University of San Jose.
 
He went to the University of San Diego.
 
He went to college of optometry in Fullerton.
 
Right?
 
He is now a practicing doctor
 
in the San Fernando Valley.
 
He is married. He has three children.
 
My oldest son is married,
 
and he has four children.
 
So I’m a grandpa, and I have a brand-new grandma
 
for my grandchildren.
 
Would you say that having your family, your children and your wife–
 
your two wives, one after the other,
 
helped you fill the emptiness that you felt losing your family so early?
 
You lost everyone.
 
I lost everyone in my family, and I build my own family.
 
I created a family, brand-new, and I feel good about it.
 
Because I was all alone.
 
I’m not alone, and thank God.
 
My wife of 40 years, that was my partner.
 
It’s just one of those destinies that she is not with us.
 
But thank God, like we say in Jewish.
 
In Jewish, we always say thank God.
 
Even the non-believers say thank God.
 
True, isn’t it?
 
So I have a wife, and thank God that I’m happy.
 
Okay, good. Thank you very much.
 
Rita, would you like to give us your full name?
 
All the way through. Rita Panster was my maiden name.
 
Then I was Rita Panster Lowy.
 
Now I’m Rita Panster Lowy Moore.
 
I’d like to ask you how it has been for you living with a survivor.
 
When Maurice told me his story,
 
I really couldn’t believe all that he had gone through.
 
He’s such an amazing person.
 
He loves life.
 
He knows how to live life.
 
He has made me appreciate even more what I had
 
and be thankful for having met him
 
because he’s just added so much to our existence with each other.
 
Is there anything else you’d like to say, Rita,
 
before I ask Maurice another question?
 
No, I think this is his life.
 
All I can say is for everything he’s been through,
 
he’s just remarkable.
 
I don’t know how other survivors are, personally.
 
My first husband was also a survivor, but he was very young at the time.
 
But to come through all that he did
 
and love life the way he does
 
is really wonderful.
 
Maurice, you did talk about how you believe
 
that a lot of what happened to you was destiny.
 
Is there anything else that you would like to say to future generations,
 
based on the Holocaust?
 
Destiny is also something that you make.
 
You make it happen.
 
You have to believe in yourself.
 
Life is very precious
 
because we only have one time around.
 
So when we respect life
 
and the things that were given to us,
 
it’s a miracle in itself.
 
Okay. Well, thank you very much.
 
This document shows that I was a prisoner in Auschwitz,
 
and I arrived to Auschwitz
 
on December–
 
in the month of December 1942.
 
I was taken out of Auschwitz,
 
from a sub-camp of Auschwitz,
 
to Buchenwald in January of 1945.
 
This is a statement
 
from the now governing office
 
of the museum in Auschwitz, in Poland.
 
This picture is taken of me–
 
in 1946.
 
The reason for that picture is mainly
 
because the tie that I wear was given to me
 
by an American soldier in Frankfurt, Germany.
 
So that I remember,
 
and the picture is here to prove it.
 
Did you say that you had that tie for a long time?
 
I had it for about 45 years.
 
This picture was taken of me in a studio
 
by a professional photographer in 1945.
 
About the end of ’45.
 
Not bad.
 
This picture depicts a memorial
 
to the ghetto fighters in Warsaw,
 
which is built on the area
 
where I used to live before the war.
 
That street does not exist anymore as a functioning street,
 
except it’s a memorial park in the city of Warsaw.
 
This picture is part of the memorial
 
to the ghetto fighters of Warsaw, depicting their leader,
 
and his name is Anielewicz.
 
He was killed in the fighting
 
in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943.
 
Maurice, you said that when you went back to Warsaw,
 
it was not the same as before?
 
The streets of Warsaw were rebuilt entirely differently,
 
and the people that were not in Warsaw for many years
 
could not find their way,
 
so differently rebuilt is the city.
 
This is the gates in Auschwitz
 
that I came through in 1942, in December.
 
The same gates, the same camp that I revisited in 1995
 
to the 50th anniversary of the liberation.
 
And the sign above the gate?
 
The sign above the gate says?
 
The sign above the gate says <i>Arbeit Macht Frei.</i>
 
Work keeps you free.
 
This building depicts the barracks
 
that I was taken to in 1942 in Auschwitz,
 
waiting to be taken to work.
 
I spend there 10 days in the month of December in 1942.
 
Luckily so, for me.
 
This picture depicts my first wife.
 
Her name was Dolly,
 
and we were married for 40 years.
 
This picture was taken approximately in 19–
 
I would say ’65, ‘66.
 
This picture shows my wife–
 
my present wife, God love her.
 
And I love her.
 
We’re together now for about 18 months,
 
and we hope to be together the rest of our lives.
 
This picture to the left
 
represents my wife and I and my three sons.
 
To the left is Ira.
 
He is my middle son.
 
Next to him, to his right, is Jan.
 
Dr. Jan Moore.
 
And to myself and my wife.
 
Then Doctor Brian Moore, my oldest son.
 
This was during your wedding?
 
This is during our wedding.
 
And the date again?
 
- Nineteen– - May 29th–
 
- Ninety-four. - Right.
 
May 29, 1994.
 
May 29, ‘94.
 
This picture depicts–
 
The elderly lady is my wife’s mother,
 
and her name is Rae Panster.
 
Next to her is my daughter-in-law, Anne.
 
My son Brian’s wife.
 
Next to her is– the lady, her name is–
 
My daughter-in-law. She’s Lori.
 
And next to Lori is my granddaughter,
 
standing next to my wife.
 
Her name is Jessica.
 
My wife’s name is Rita.
 
Next to Rita is my son, Ira.
 
Then next to Ira, a little bit to the right, is Brian, my oldest son.
 
And right in front of him, next to myself, is my son Jan.
 
Next to me, standing to my right, is my grandson–
 
- Richard. - Richard.
 
Next to him, the young man is my–
 
grandson, Jason.
 
Standing up.
 
Now we’re going to the girls.
 
The girl next to Jason is Shelley.
 
She is between two boys.
 
The little girl, and to the left is–
 
What’s her name?
 
We’re going to get back to her.
 
The little boy, his name is Andrew.
 
Sitting with the funny face.
 
Next to Andrew, to the right, is Morasha.
 
The little girl’s name is?
 
- Devorah. - Devorah.
 
Now we’ve got them all.