Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel.
Testimony # 03/4504 Cassette # 033C/720
           Name: Bertha Braunhut
           Date of Birth: 1922 in Bielsko Biala, Poland
           Present address: 18 Beney Moshe St., Tel-Aviv, Israel
Interviewer: Michelle Mond
Date of testimony: N/A
Testimony's language of origin: English.
The following is the recorded testimony by a holocaust survivor - Bertha Braunhut. In this testimony the witness tells about her life in Poland during the second world war. The outbreak of the war in Bielsko Biala, the escape to Krakow and then to Bochnia. The establishment of ghetto Bochnia, the work and dwelling conditions. The ghetto commander, attempt to keep traditional life, hiding place in the ghetto. Deportation to Szebnie labor camp, The conditions in Szebnie and deportation to Auschwitz. The language of origin is English however the witness' thoughts are racing in her mind and consequently it presents some difficulties when several thoughts are being described simultaneously. In addition whenever you see a ........ within the testimony it represents an unclear portion of the tape or a pause. Some footnotes were added for clarification. The part of the testimony following is the one that deals with ghetto Bochnia or aspects related to this subject.
Partial testimony (pages 12 to 37)

Interviewer: Do you know when that was? Approximately.
Bertha: It was winter. I remember being cold in winter. So it must have been already December or January. Something like that. It was winter. I came back to Krakow and my father had rented a room, had a room in somebody's apartment. But those people also ran away1 . They would run and then borders were closed. Part would be in Russia, part would be in Lithuania. Everybody thought that there they were going to be saved. My father and his three children, the four of us, lived in that one room and we had the use of the kitchen. And then this order that all the Jews, it could have been also only a few months, and that was in '40. Then we had to leave2 . So I would go with horse and wagon searching to (in) different villages where we could find a place to live.

Interviewer: You had to leave because you arrived in Krakow ....
Bertha: After September the first. Then I don't remember how we arrived to Bochnia. I know where I went with that horse and wagon, going the whole night, I couldn't find anything, any place and I guess my father, through connections and paying money. Simple as that. Got the papers, whatever they said that they said that we can come
1 People escaped from the advancing German army into Russian held territories.
2 The deportation of Jews from Krakow in April 1940.


and live in Krakow. I mean in Bochnia. And we moved to Bochnia. We rented there a room in somebody's house.

Interviewer: Was your mother back with you?
Bertha: No my mother was in Russia. Was in Lemberg. I found, my mother died, and going through the papers I found a whole bunch of cards, you were allowed to write to Russia. My mother wound up in Siberia because she wanted to come back to be with the family so it happened to her from what she was telling me, once she went there, the smuggler that was supposed to bring her over the border, didn't show up. The next time she went to that place again, she fell and twisted her ankle and the smuggler wouldn't want to take her because she couldn't walk properly and then the Russians gave out notices. You don't need to smuggle yourself, just register. Whoever wants to go back, will go back legally, just register. They registered. They picked them up at night and shipped them off to Siberia. My father felt very very guilty. He didn't sleep. I remember him whenever I would wake up I would see him. First of all, in the beginning I was scared. I didn't know what it was. Every time I see a little light on and off, on and off. It was his cigarette. It was the whole night that he would not sleep and smoke and feeling guilty and reading (when I read) these postcards after my mother died, I could see how very, I knew already then that he felt very much but I didn't realize to what extent. He didn't know what was waiting for us but he knew that my mother is in Siberia and she suffers cold. And she actually didn't suffer all that much. Because she had a job and she had a job to do and she felt very good and healthy in Siberia. Because later on she was in Asia, in Tashkent, and there she was sick from Malaria. But she didn't rescue our fortune because the man didn't give it to her. He said wait, when you go back and in the meantime they shipped my mother off and he was able to get himself also a certificate that he stayed in Lemberg and when the Nazis later came in, the Germans came later into, took over, made war with Russia, and took over that part, then they didn't survive but my mother's life would have been a little bit easier if he would have give (given) to her. We had gold coins that was ..... We had foresight that money wouldn't be worth anything and that was just on loan to him. It was just on loan. So once she asked for a down cover, it was very cold and we sent it to her and it came back because the war broke out in the meantime and we wrote to this man in Lemberg, he should help my mother. She said, only once did he send my mother some matzot3 for Pesach4 . And these were friends and neighbors before the war. From Bielsko. That's how my mother survived. She came after the war and my father felt very guilty about mother's suffering there and being all alone and he was with the children and he took care of us. And I being the oldest had all of a sudden a lot of responsibility. So I thought that I had. But it really was my father who cared for us.

Interviewer: How did you manage in Bochnia?
Bertha: Well, while we were in Bochnia before the ghetto was established, all the Jews from Oswiecim and Bielsko (Bielsko-Biala) were shipped off to Sosnowiec. So there were two sisters and the one brother in Sosnowiec with my grandfather. The husbands were taken to labor camps. And the one brother kept writing to us. I have to backtrack,
3 Matzot - unleavened bread
4 Pesach - The Passover holiday in Hebrew.


while we were in Bochnia, before the ghetto was established, his brother (the father's brother) made a contact with some underground and he was sending moneys and things for the underground. And my father would go, that was to Krakow and he did it with freight trains, not conductors but they have people that work on the trains, whatever they do there, and those people would bring the stuff and my father would deliver it and he was denounced. And he would come home like on Friday or Thursday and then go back and that was in his aunt's apartment. When he came back to Krakow like Sunday morning, in the afternoon he was back home, he said, I'm going into hiding. I saw the apartment ransacked and the aunt wasn't there which means she was enlisted. You have to go into Krakow and try to get this aunt out of jail. That was in 1940. I was 18 years old but I still felt very inadequate in everything. I thought I'm all grown up and doing things. First of all, I knew she wouldn't eat in jail so I would bring every day kosher food for her and I would try to make contact with people that had contacts with people that had contacts into the jail or to the Gestapo to get my aunt out. I don't know, I can't remember times but it must have taken a few weeks and one day I came to the jail with the food and somebody whispers to my ear, they are looking for you. I don't know how they were looking for me. They must have described me. Because I came daily. So that day she didn't get the food. I went back to that family I had, that lived outside of Krakow. It was called Plaszow. Later in Plaszow, there was also a camp there. And they lived like one story high. I came back and I told them what happened and all of a sudden I hear German voices in the corridor. Not thinking twice I jumped out the window and they were after me. I jumped out the window and that must have been Sukkot5 because there was a Sukka6 and I went behind the Sukka and there was an opening and I went out into the street. And that after a few hours I came back and they told me, indeed they came and asked for you. I went back to Bochnia and I had a contact. My father, I didn't know where my father was hiding.

Interviewer: But your brothers and sisters?
Bertha: Were still in Bochnia, yes.

Interviewer: Who was your father in the underground, who was he with?
Bertha: I have no idea. I just don't know anything about it. Somebody found a hiding place for him and whenever I wanted to see him, I had to call these people and tell them that I'm coming and he would come to that place and I asked my father, don't you trust me? He said, of course I trust you but if they catch you, there is no way that you are strong enough or anybody is strong enough not to give you out and if you don't know they might kill you but you won't be telling on me. And apparently that was very important, maybe for reasons, maybe for religious reasons not to give out your own father, maybe for political reasons. I have no idea. So I told him what happened and I had a very nice warm winter coat but I felt my father sitting there someplace in a shack, freezing. I'm not going to put on that warm coat, I'll put on a light coat. Not look so comfortable. And the first question of my father was, what happened to your coat. Why are you dressed like that. It is freezing cold. I thought it's a very interesting point, what

5 Sukkot - Jewish holiday celebrated around the month of September (Festival of Tabernacles)
6 Sukka - A traditional structure built in Sukkot to commemorate the dwelling of the Israelite in the Sinai desert.


thought and the way my father acted and what my father thought. Anyway, I told him what had transpired and then he gave, there was apparently plenty of money around because I kept on getting money to try to make some more contacts. First of all he said, we have to leave this apartment in Bochnia because it will be very easy to trace us to Bochnia. So we went to Wisnicz. I rented a horse and buggy, rented a room in Wisnicz. I left the two children, my sister and my brother in Wisnicz and I made out of myself, I bought myself glasses, see through glasses because I didn't need any, put on some make-up, got a hat. I tried to make myself not to be recognizable. I don't know if I succeeded very well but that's how I had to go back to Krakow and try to get that aunt out of jail. I guessed the whole thing with whatever they were doing, must have fallen apart because my father never talked to me about it. Most important thing on his mind was to get that aunt out of jail. So somebody gave me a contact I should go there and I should go there on Friday evening, the Orthodox people. And one person was pointed out to me in the street that he is working with the Nazis. When I go Friday evening into the house to talk about the release of that aunt, I see that man that was pointed to me in the street. You know in a streimal7 . Since I couldn't make anything out of it, I ran again. I ran down those two flights of stairs like a bolt of lightning and then whoever gave me this contact, I contacted again and I said, I don't know what to make out of it? I just don't know what to make of it. He was pointed out to me in the street as somebody not to be trusted and from that other person I was sent to him to the house that he will negotiate the deal and he was very Orthodox but since I didn't know what to do, I ran. So, then I was given a different contact and I paid him money. I did get my aunt out of jail and not that it helped that much because she was sent off with her son afterwards, I don't even know to which camp and this Orthodox man that to me were (was) like two different people, wound up later in Bochnia ghetto and then once ..... Whenever I saw him in Bochnia ghetto, when I saw him once, I'm going to the other side of the street. I wasn't sure. I didn't know but I saw him later in Auschwitz, in Birkenau. We were coming from work and he was from the other side. He was not to be recognized. He was all beaten up, his face beaten up. But he recognized me and he called out my name and I looked up and I didn't know who he was. He said, you don't recognize me? And then I recognized his voice. So he must have been 'beseder'8 , I suppose but sometimes that people weren't beseder wound up like that as well. They wound up even dead not only in camp. I don't know if you want to have it that detailed. If you want to have these kind of details.

Interviewer: No, it is interesting. So you are in Wisnicz now?
Bertha: So we were in Wisnicz. And once my aunt, my great-aunt. It was the sister of my grandmother. She was an aunt to my father. Once she was out of jail which means the whole thing was wiped out. We went back to Bochnia and my father came out of hiding.

7 Streimel - Chassidic headdress (Yiddish)
8 Beseder - OK (Hebrew)


Interviewer: Do you know when that was?
Bertha: That must have been a few months before the ghetto was established. The ghetto was established in April '41. So that could have been somewhere in January, February. It was bitter cold. I remember because of the incidents of what I wore, what I didn't wear, I can remember more or less the season of the year than the date. And then the ghetto was established. Again there were problems.

Interviewer: Where were the Jews brought to, when the ghetto was established from where?
Bertha: Well, the ghetto was established, first of all, all the people from Bochnia, from the city of Bochnia were taken into the ghetto. Then and the thing is, what they did is they told you, you are going into a ghetto but they didn't provide you with anything. The electricity was cut off when we got there. So there were always people with , there were people that were ..... inventive. Everybody in the world as this situation changed people invented new things. So the electricity was cut off from the ghetto so they invented lamps. They weren't oil lamps. They were like a solid carbon and you would light it and it would give quite a nice light.

Interviewer: Do you remember any specific reaction of the non-Jews, the Gentiles of the area when the ghetto was established?
Bertha: I didn't have much contact with the non-Jews, not before the war either. The only contact that I had with non-Jews was on my mother's side. I would go every summer to the grandparents, to my grandparent's home and they lived in a small village where there were mainly non-Jews and they would make my life miserable so I don't have very fond memories of non-Jews. But I do remember that while the ghetto was established already that they would come to the fence, not to defense, to the fence. There was a fence around the ghetto and they would bring flour or dread or butter or milk or whatever and they would trade it for things and even though you had plenty of money you couldn't get food for the money. But you could get food if you would bring them a sheet or a coat or a blouse and that's what they did.

Interviewer: Sort of a trade relationship between the ghetto and outside?
Bertha: In the beginning yes, and also we were working outside the ghetto.

Interviewer: Could you describe the life in the ghetto?
Bertha: The life in the ghetto, first there was one ghetto but that was a very short time, maybe a month. And then they divided the ghetto into two - the working and for the non-working. But before they did that they brought in all the people from the surrounding villages like Wisnicz and Breshnov (Brzeznica). I don't know the name of all those villages but there were Jewish families, maybe not too many. Wisnicz has a big Jewish community. But there were others just 10 families, 12 families and maybe some that went there to live like we did from Krakow, came from other cities as well. And once they established that everybody was in, they divided it into two parts, ghetto A, ghetto B, for the working and for the non-working. In other words, the non-working ghetto were people that had businesses, that had the children, they were older people and in the


working, there were mainly younger people and everybody would go out to work. And then there was 'ratzia'9 . That's what I tried to explain. They called this an 'outsidlung'.

Interviewer: What did you worked (work) at?
Bertha: Well I was working in, it was called 'baudings'. We would sew clothing. There were different departments. Some were departments that would sew clothing to be shipped to Germany, to be divided among the 'baunter' people. Other departments were sewing military clothing and then within the departments, there were department that would sew, that would cut, that would iron, that would fold, that would ship, that would package and ship. So everybody was in a different department. My sister and I we worked in this 'baudings' in different departments. My brother had to work someplace where they made brooms and my father, they sent out pruning trees and doing some gardening work. But I have to backtrack a little bit because once they established the ghetto, the sister of my father came also to live in the ghetto. She came to live to Bochnia even before the ghetto. So when the ghetto was established we went first, she had only one little room in somebody's house with one child and her husband but we had to stay with her until we, for money, again, could find a room. Again, a room for four people. Well we got a room which happened to be the kitchen. That kitchen led to other two rooms and in each of the other two rooms, in each room one family lived. In one apartment of two rooms and a kitchen there were three families. That was the beginning of the ghetto. Then there was, I think, they divided the ghetto into two only after the 'ratzia'. On that day, here she gave me the date. The first 'ratzia' was in August 1942. The ghetto was established in '41. The ghetto was established in April '41. I'm sure that they have it all that on record. I'm sure they have all these things there. The first 'ousidlung' was in August '42. We already had our own room at that time. There was talk about it. There usually were rumors a few days before. And my aunt gave her little boy to her cleaning woman to take outside the ghetto and the room that she was renting from, those people had a hiding place and they went into hiding. We didn't have a hiding place and we were prepared to go. This was everybody. In the building, people took pity on us. There were two different hiding places. One woman in that building was very fond of me and asked me to come in hiding. She had a hiding place. She was, I don't know, a widow or divorced and she had a daughter and she said that she had a hiding place and she is willing to take me. I said, no, I can't because I have a sister. She wasn't willing to take my sister. So, I said ok, then I won't go because my father and my brother don't have a place either. In the meantime another family offered a different hiding place in the same building which was a double roof on the attic and there was place enough so they took my father and my brother in there. So, I went back to her and told her that my brother and my father have a place is she still willing to take me and maybe my sister. And she said ok. And she had in the kitchen a double, from the kitchen she would open up, a trapped door and we would go down there. So the four of us were there and my father and my brother were up there. And I could hear his younger sister, that's the one with the braids coming to my father and saying, we are going with the transport and my father kept begging her, please go back from where you came, which means go back into your hiding place. She had a terrifically good hiding place with this old couple. There was an old couple and she said my husband is very much afraid and

9 Ratzia, Outsidlung - round up, liquidation action.


he is afraid because they went with the bullhorn and saying everybody come out of your hiding places. Nothing is going to happened to you. You are going to get transported to a working place and we are going to search the houses and you are going to be shot.

Interviewer: When was this?
Bertha: That was in August 1942.

Interviewer: Who was the lady that you were hiding with?
Bertha: That was a lady that lived in the same building. Had an apartment. That I knew only from the same building. She was found of me I knew because she kept asking me to come up and she taught me how to knit. She would approach me. I was rather shy. And she (the father's sister) said, I left Sholush with the cleaning women and we are going. And my father kept begging her. Go back to your hiding place. Go back to your place where you came from. She said, I can't because Kalman is afraid we are going to be shot and they went. The whole (unclear)10 went. Nobody came back. Nobody returned. And after the transport left there were some people that threw out notes and the non-Jewish population that found these notes would bring in to the ghetto and give them to the Judenrat11 which were the people that would run the place and so the story started to come in that these people are being killed. Nobody really wanted to believe it. And my father was quite a man and they would even quote him in the street. He couldn't believe it either. He said, it is just impossible to take people and kill them. It just cannot be done.

Interviewer: Was he involved in any type of activity, possibly Zionistic activity?
Bertha: During the war? No. Not that I know of. After the 'ratzia', everybody that came out of hiding got new papers with a new stamp and like nothing happened. That woman brought the child to us. There were the grandparents of the child and there were some brothers and sisters of the father of the child. Now they said they cannot have the child because they have to run a business and the grandparents said, we are old and we said, we would love to have the child but it wasn't allowed in our part of the ghetto because we were in the working part of the ghetto but we still are going to have him. We are still going to have him if you don't want him. And we worked different shifts. There is always somebody in the house with the child and if need (be) we can always run or hide. The child was born in 1940. So he was about two and a half years old. He spoke German because my father didn't know Polish.

Interviewer: Can you describe the conditions?
Bertha: The conditions were, I wouldn't say, you mean the conditions of living, the living quarters?

Interviewer: Yes.
Bertha: By that time, now the first time when we were outside the ghetto, we had a nice big room, even only one room but we had the use of the kitchen. Now here we had the kitchen which was our living room and the kitchen. And we had to take a great aunt, a married in great aunt that she just didn't have

10 Unclear - Uncle's family
11 Judenrat - Jewish community council (German)


where to stay. She had a trunk made out of straw, a straw trunk. And she said, I have only this trunk and I'll sleep on it. So it was my father and my brother. They slept in one bed. We had a sofa that pulled out, my sister and I. The little boy, Shorush slept in a buggy and my aunt was sleeping on that straw trunk. Since we didn't get any heating, somebody invented but what we were able to get is saw dust. And somebody invented a stove for saw dust. By the way, I read an article what they do now in Africa, they use saw dust and all kind of stuff that would be thrown away otherwise and the way they describe it is built on this principle, the way they build it in the ghetto. I found it in Newsweek last week. This would be the heating and on this we would also cook. That was about 40 centimeter across, round. It wasn't good. It wasn't comfortable. It wasn't, I can't say, not human, but it was subhuman. There was no bathroom, no washroom facilities. The toilet was outside. And everybody was, the two families that lived, had to go through our, there was absolutely no privacy, at no time at all. How did we do it? There was a public bathhouse. I think that's what we used for once a week or twice a week and then we did the best that we could. We weren't the cleanest people in the world at that time. I don't think it really mattered that much. But if you had money and you had things that you could sell, we didn't suffer any hunger so far. So we are already now in '42. I haven't suffered one day of hunger yet. I had all the things that I needed. We had soap. We had food. We had candles to light Friday evening. We had all the things we needed because for money, even though times were bad, money, there was everything available, everything. I think even champagne if one wanted. I would make dough. We would buy the flour from the people that would bring and I would bake the dough and there was one day a week that people could bring the dough to the bakery and he would bake the bread for you and we would have for the whole week bread. I learned to do an awful lot of things. So did my sister and I had signs here (points to hands) how I would cut, you had to light the sawdust was very difficult and you had to have special kind of wood. It is called keen. I don't know if it is a German word or a Yiddish word or in what language it is but it is a special kind of wood which burns very fast and this would burn and sort of hold the flame to light the sawdust because sawdust doesn't burn so easily. I guess when it catches the flame, it burns ok, but until and this was very very expensive. You would buy them in small bunches. So you made very little thin sticks out of it like toothpicks and I would cut. I'm sure you can see. That's the sign of my experiment and here I have one that I was chopping wood. There are the small scars. The scars in my soul and my mind are different. You wanted me to describe. I think that's about how it was.

Interviewer: And were you Orthodox?
Bertha: Yes. We were Orthodox insofar that we had Kosher. My father was with us, even though my father was not so Orthodox before war, even though he did wear a beard but he was very progressive in his thinking and his beard, I think, he wore mainly for his parents. But he promised himself that he is going to be very Orthodox and very good and he may even go to a rabbi after the war would end to atone that my mother was in Russia. That's what I think. I asked him, why would you want to become a Hasid? He said, I'll tell you after the war and I remember feeling and thinking, what will happen if one of us is not going to live? I'm never going to find out. You'll never have the chance to tell me. But I didn't


dare to say it. I did ask him, tell me. He said, after the war. So I don't know. I didn't have the chance. And he was taken with that little boy during the second 'aksia'12 , during the third one actually because the second one was different again. Then it was again normal life. I was sick one day. I fainted during the night. Sholush was crying. He used to call my father that was his uncle bruder13 because his mother always said, Sholush - ve gents de bruder14 . So my father was not his uncle but his bruder and everybody had their nickname. He cried at night or wanted something and he would call me. I would always tell him stories about our house and we had still pictures from the house and the family and I would show them to him and tell him how it was. And he related to me the best. So he would call me and I get up and did whatever I had to do and I fainted and the next day I went to the doctor and he gave me a note to stay. Not to have to go to work but I had the note and Sholush was with me but it was a working camp. Even though it was a ghetto, it had a 'lagerfuhrer'. It was treated like a, lager15 is camp, like a camp because we had lagerfuhrer. Lagerfuhrer is the camp leader because we were marching out, our part of the ghetto, we were marching out every day to work and we had to march.

Interviewer: Who was the camp leader?
Bertha: Muller. Oberstrumfuhrer16 Muller. He was tried in Nuremberg and that friend that I called, she was in Germany to testify against him. He would come into the houses, into the apartments and look if somebody is illegally at home or something and I'm in bed and that little child stays next to me and he comes in with his whip and his big dog and I didn't know what to think. I thought the child already gone and myself as well. He comes in and doesn't say a word. Sees the child. Sees me in bed and goes to the next room and as he goes to the next room, Sholush says - he called me bukalalah - Bukalalah, it's just the Lagerfuhrer. Is this the camp leader and he heard it. He didn't say a word. He came back. Asked for my papers. Looked at them and went out. If that's not mazel17 , I don't know what is because he was a killer. He was a killer. He killed people in the streets. I mean he was tried. The story about him is known. It is Muller. He was the camp leader of Bochnia ghetto and he was in that apartment and saw me with the child and walked out. Can you comprehend it? But that's the fact.
Very shortly after that, that was in November, there was a second 'ratzia' and then we were already afraid to go into hiding. We were trying to go to Krakow. Krakow was already a ghetto. I thought what will we do with the child? First how do we get out of that ghetto? I don't know how we did it. There was the Jewish police. We had Jewish police in the ghetto. They just looked aside and we went. I don't know where the mazel came from. I have no idea. Food we could buy for money. The papers into Bochnia ghetto we bought for money. Everything else we went by luck. We were at the train station and there was a Jewish policeman and his special job was not to let anybody (any Jew) go on that train. He

12 Aksia - Round up, liquidation action (Jewis)
13 Bruder - brother (German)
14 Ve gents de bruder - How is the brother (German)
15 Lager - camp (German), labor camp.
16 Oberstrumfuhrer - German military ranking
17 Mazel - good luck (Hebrew)


looked the other way. We went through the fence. We didn't go through the regular entry. We went through a hole in the fence. I went to the doctor. I employed a woman to bring the child to Krakow to the gate of the ghetto. That was this Sholush. But she said, I would do that for that kind of money but you have to put him to sleep. He doesn't know me. So I went to the doctor and he gave me something and we drugged the child and the child was crying all the way. He didn't sleep and they picked her up in Krakow and took her at the Gestapo. That woman. We did manage to get away from Bochnia ghetto.

Interviewer: Were there any other police? You said there were Jewish police. Besides the German were there any other non-Jews that weren't Germans?
Bertha: Beside the German police, there were Jewish police and you didn't look too much. You just tried to get away and draw as little attention to yourself as you possibly could and not be conspicuous. That was very important. Melt in. When we did arrive and we managed to get into the ghetto and I was running from one gate to the other asking did a woman bring in a child? did a woman bring in a child? And it was already .....

Interviewer: How did you get across, you said? How did you get there?
Bertha: By train. Just by train. Just unbelievable, but that's how we went. Without bribing, without doing anything. The only thing that we paid is that women to take the child because with the child we had a problem. With the child we would draw attention to ourselves. We thought we put the child to sleep, the woman would carry it as her own child. He was only about two and a half. But because whatever the doctor gave, it didn't work and he was crying all the time and he looked at this strange woman and the woman didn't know what to do and he spoke mainly German. It was a real real problem. So she was picked up and as I am running from gate to gate, somebody tells me, there were among Jews that did do good for Jews but they also worked for the Gestapo. But they did do good. Comes the guy that was working for the Gestapo. He happened to be at the Gestapo. He saw the woman with the child. He took the child and brought it into the ghetto and I was told about it and I went and picked up the child. The child didn't survive. All these things didn't help but just to tell you how people worked. This man was working for the Gestapo. There is no two ways about it because could have access there. He took the child and brought it into the ghetto. So we had the child for another few months, that's all. We had it actually till September.

Interviewer: So you were inside Krakow.
Bertha: We were inside Krakow while the 'ratzia' going on, on November '42. That was the second 'ratzia' and in that time indeed, whomever they pulled out of hiding places, they shot on the spot. It wasn't like the first time around. That's why there was no rule. You couldn't go by anything. You didn't have anything to go by because every time it would be different. Everybody that they found, was shot. They looted. They took everything. I have a friend in San Francisco who stayed even after they made it Judenrein18 . He said, buckets of gold and a great part of it he took it himself but he didn't want to go and testify. He shipped off to his own wife and everybody and he, him personally, shot but that was the

18 Judenrein - free of Jews (German)


second. That was in November of '42 and then when we came back we still lived in the same place.

Interviewer: Where did you come back to?
Bertha: Back to Bochnia. After it quieted down, it came back to normal. It was just like nothing happened. You continued. Whomever you lost, you lost and you continued. Hess in the meantime went to England and we thought that maybe ....

Interviewer: Did you know that at the time?
Bertha: Oh yes, sure. There were short-wave radios and everybody had a little radio hidden someplace and we (were) working outside the ghetto and there were also non-Jews working there in certain capacities. You would see a newspaper. You would see headlines.

Interviewer: What was their attitude towards the Jews?
Bertha: Some of them would just look strangely and some of them would look with pity. Some took people into hiding. If you had contacts with non-Jews, you could. My father established a certain contact to get for me non-Jewish papers, to go on Aryan papers and I refused. I was the only one that looked Aryan and I spoke a very good Polish as well. My sister looked quite Jewish. I was very light blond. She looked quite Jewish - dark hair, dark eyes. The boy was impossible. Only to go into hiding. We didn't have any connections to go into hiding but my father did find connections where he could get for money Aryan papers and I said I'm not going on Aryan papers because I might survive and knowing that I survived and maybe I could have helped and by being here some of you would have survived, I couldn't live like that so I chose not to go on Aryan papers. I chose to go with the rest and whatever happens to everybody happens to me. I just didn't feel at that point it was worth it. I mean you've got to live afterwards as well if you live and you've got to live with yourself. It is not an easy task if you have something on your conscious. That's why I cannot understand how some people, I met a woman who I was in Auschwitz with, I was working with her. I met her. I lived in Holland after the war and I met her and she .... I remembered her casually but I remembered. She told me that she was married. She had a child. I met her at a Purim19 party or someplace in Amsterdam and she was married and she whispers to me. Please don't say that I was married and I had a child. I thought I am going to die on the spot. I'm not a sophisticated person and I wasn't married before the war. I didn't. But I lost Sholush. I raised him practically. How can you deny having had a child? It is part of you. I didn't give birth to Sholush. I couldn't in my life forget him. There were different situations like that where I had opportunity to back up myself. Even Auschwitz I was offered a post as block 'entester', to have a position, but in that position you may have to hit somebody and you may have to do certain things that wouldn't be agreeable to me and I preferred to be the masses. But I'm getting off the subject, I think.

Interviewer: From Bochnia, where were you sent from Bochnia?

19 Purim - The feast of Ester celebrated around February, March.


Bertha: Well, after the second 'ratzia' we lived in Bochnia till September '43 which is almost a year and Sholush was with us. He was by that time already three and a half and he understood a lot and he, children knew about munitzion, and munitzion lagger. Munitzion means ammunition. But we still were working different shifts and he was with us all the time in the working and after that we came, had any problems. He (Oberstrumfuhrer Muller) didn't come into the apartment again. But there was a new law that came out that they divided the working ghetto again into two. Male and female. Just for the nighttime. In other words, during the daytime you could see your family and at night, so, there were two women, two sisters. Her name was Yetti. Unfortunately she committed suicide about four years ago. But she all along had a lot of problems. As a matter of fact, her daughter taped a session with me. She wanted to know everything about her mother. We were friendly. She suffered an awful lot. Yetti and her sister Gazella were put into our place and my father and my brother had to go into the place there until one early morning in September with the bullhorns again. They were going, everybody on the 'Appellplatz'20 . 'Appellplatz' that's the big place where you gathered. That's when my father divided ... I guess he must have known that that's going to be the end because whatever money we had in Jewelry he would give everybody a little bit in case you can save yourself whatever. And we would go on the 'Appellplatz' and sit there. I think more than a day. And then, I don't know who it was but it was one of the big guys. He was so handsome looking and so aristocratic looking. It is almost unbelievable how people with looks and manners like that could be killers. We were sitting there and everybody was speculating and philosophizing what's going to happen, what's going to be. We were seeing by the next morning - we sat there through the night - by the next morning they came and that's the first time we knew about having these expulsions I think you can call it. Take the people and here we were the first time, we came across where they started to segregate. Now, we didn't know what (selected group) was good, what was not good but rumors, always rumors. This one is good. This one is not good. This one will go to camp. This one will not go to camp. This one will go to Auschwitz. This one will be sent to another camp. Rumors flying. I don't know whether they were spread with a purpose or they just were born out or maybe somebody really had real inside information. Anyway, my father was sent to one side and the child was sent to another such side and my brother and my sister and I were sent to a different side. I went to get the child. I ran. They made like groups. It was a big, enormous place outside. I went to get the child. Then I was sent to a different place when I had the Child (people with children were labeled disposable). And my father came to get the child and said, I'm going to get the child because where I am we are going to be sent to death and you haven't got a chance with the child anyway. And he took the child.

Interviewer: Your father knew that?
Bertha: Apparently. I don't know if he knew it. Maybe he heard some rumors and was working on the rumors. Then my sister ran after my father with the child, I don't know trying what. Now the SS man sent a dog after her and the dog bit her in the calf and she came back to us. And then we were separated. It was my father and the child that we could see from far away. He was only four years old. The child was about three and a half. And my sister with a bleeding calf, in pain, and my brother and I

20 Appell - Roll call, Platz - Place, Appellplatz - Roll call square (German)


were in a different side. And then the SS started. We were lined up five abreast and then the SS started to go line by line and they caught a man with his child in a book sac hiding. They took them away. And something else that he (the SS man) said to my sister when he (she) was running after my father. You'll go there where he (your father) goes and die but you're going to work first for us. So we knew already that that's for sure. That this transport we'll never see and we are going to a working camp, for how long, we don't know. And that's how we wound up in Szebnie and that was in September 1943. Szebnie, we had a 'laggerfuhrer'. His name was Bjemick. He was also a killer. Bjemick is actually a very Polish name. And they had the guards were being Ukrainian. They had, I think, like navy blue uniforms with green lapels. The attitude was horrible. I think when we were there about two months. I think in November. It was after Yom Kippur21 because Yom Kippur, they killed that one man there and it was such a beautiful sunset and I was thinking about Jews all over the world. Fast now and start to eat and start to fast. Light the candles. Now it is Yom Kippur. We knew for some reason, there is always somebody that knew what Chag22 it was somewhere. And the quietness of this 'Appellplatz' and the sunset was breathtaking and this man hanging with his arms behind him, already out of his sockets mounting, shoot me, shoot me. Take me out of my misery. And they kept on digging a hole under his feet so he won't have any support. And we had to stand there and look at it and listen. And finally he (the lagerfuhrer) did tell them. He told one of his aides or one of his inmates, I don't remember, to cut him (the prisoner) down and he did shoot him. He said, that he tried to attack. I mean Bjemick, the camp leader, the 'lagerfuhrer'. I don't know. He wasn't a camp leader. If you say a camp leader, it sound too nice. This 'lagerfuhrer', he said that he was trying to attack him and this man claimed, all I wanted is to ask something. Ask for a transfer of work. That was one incident. And there was another incident where they shot 10 people23 . Before they shot them but before that I have to backtrack. My mind is racing ahead of me. After being there less than a month, maybe a few weeks, I was working, again, in a sewing capacity somewhere in a sewing place.

Interviewer: Were you with your sister?
Bertha: With my sister and my brother. But the women were in separate barracks and the males were in separate barracks.

Interviewer: Can you describe the camp?
Bertha: Yes. Barracks were long and it had bunks. I think it was two or three high. That I don't remember whether it was two or three high and we did get blankets. I don't remember sheets? I think, maybe, you see when we did get out, when they told us in Bochnia ghetto to go on the 'Appellplatz' we put on as much clothing on ourselves as we possibly could and we took as much in our hand what we could. They said to take as much as you can and that's all. Not more than you can carry. So we did have some of our own stuff and there was a kitchen where some of the inmates were employed as cooks and there was people who would fix shoes and fix clothing. All kinds of things that you need for

21 Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement
22 Chag - Holiday (Hebrew)
23 See also D. Landau's testimony.


a self-contained camp as well as the work that we did for the outside. Whatever we had to do. And again, the center there was a big 'Appellplatz'. They called it 'Appellplatz'. I don't know any other name for it.

Interviewer: A plaza?
Bertha: A plaza. Well, that's where everything happened. That's where they made role call. That's where they made the segregation's. That's where they killed people. That's where they took everything away from you. By the way, before we got into the camp, we went through a search. So we were allowed to take everything with us from .......

Interviewer: How did you get from Bochnia?
Bertha: We were transported by train.

Interviewer: And can you describe that journey?
Bertha: The journey, I think most of us were numb and unconscious. I lot of crying. It should take only a few hours from Bochnia to Szebnie. Szebnie was not far from Przemysl. Somewhere around there. How do we know? Because later people from Przemysl came into that same camp. So maybe it was two three hours. We were going maybe half a day, maybe a whole day. I told you, I think most of us were numbed, dulled unconscious, unhappy. Unhappy is not a description. I don't think really what we felt. Maybe we didn't feel anything. There weren't many old people. There were mainly people between anywhere 13 to 35.

Interviewer: You were going to mention about the search.
Bertha: They were searching us and since my father had divided whatever we had in jewelry and in dollars, I had taken the rings in my mouth that I wore. I had forgotten my earrings. In Poland they used to pierce the ears as a baby. And you sleep and didn't know. This they took off. I didn't even remember I had them. And I had an awful lot of hair. I look bald now but I had an awful lot of hair and at the time the style was to make here a big role, like this. I would roll some gold things and had the dollars rolled up like this in my hand. We didn't get undressed there. In Szebnie we didn't get undressed. That's how I got into Auschwitz. To Birkenau actually with my dollars in my hands. The gold that I had rolled into my hair was taken away and the earrings. The two rings were still in my mouth. But in Szebnie we didn't suffer any great hunger. We didn't have an awful lot food but you could survive on it and then once I got a package from somebody because after they sent us to Szebnie, they still retained a certain amount of people in Bochnia because they needed people to clean up. First of all they pulled out everybody out of hiding places because not everybody showed up. Women saw their children being killed right there in front of the house, hiding the children. You didn't really have a chance unless you had a little bit luck. Nobody was smart enough to figure it out. You either had luck or you took a chance and again you took a chance. You were either lucky and you survived or you didn't survive. There was no way of figuring out. Not the way I saw it and the circle of people that I was with. Besides, my father was a very smart man and I trusted in him but it seems that I wasn't stupid either because the things that I did also amazing but maybe not that I was smart but maybe because I simply had mazel. Simply had mazel. Even though right after the war I said, I don't think that the people that survived are really lucky because they have to live with all that. Nobody understood it then. It is only years later that people started to realize this thing. And I didn't know myself what I was saying but that's how I felt.


   Go to