Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel.
Testimony # 03/3091
Archives # 2746/203-G
Name: Grinberg Ida
Date of Birth: August 26th, 1903 in Jezow, Poland
Present address: 108 Arlozorov St., Haifa, Israel
Interviewer: Gliksztejn Jarkoni Ida
Date of testimony: February 18, 1967
Testimony's language of origin: Polish
Translation and commentary by: I. Zelinkovsky
The following is the testimony of Holocaust survivor - Mrs. Grinberg Ida. In this testimony the witness tells about her family and their struggle for survival prior and after the outbreak of the Second World War. She describes her husband's nomination to the Judenrat in Brzesko and his execution by the Germans a short time later. Ida tells about her relocation to ghetto Bochnia and the assistance she provided to many other families in doing the same. The witness testifies about the flourishing forged documentation industry and the active part of the local Gestapo chief Schomburg in it. She describes her assistance in relocating people outside the ghetto and her rescue operation of children during Aktions. Mrs. Grinberg tells about her arrest by the Gestapo in Krakow and her release through bribing the head of the Gestapo security police Hermann Heinrich. She discloses her activities in operating an escape route to Hungary and the murder of the participants of the American transport. Ida tells about her escape to Hungary in November 1943 and about the mixed reactions she encountered by Bochnia's survivors upon her arrival. All her subsequent rescue activities in Hungary are not covered in this part of the testimony.
|Recorded Testimony: (partial testimony
pages 1 to 44)
My name is Ida Grinberg of the Schoen family. I was born in Jezow near
Nisko beside the San river on August 26, 1909. My father was a shoichet1
but it was not his actual profession. I would like to elaborate on
the circumstances that caused him to become a shoichet. I had 3 siblings,
two older brothers and one younger sister. My oldest brother, Chaima, was
saved by me during the Second World War. He resides at present in the city
of Chicago. The younger brother perished. His name was Fiszel Schoen, born
in 1906 and he died during the first Aktion of 1942. My younger sister was
four and a half years younger than me. Her name is Chana Zylberman and she
lives at present in Kiriath Bialik (near Haifa, Israel). She was saved by
me during the Second World War. My father Mosze Schoen and mother Eva Braunfeld,
Grandfather from mother's side was the first Jew in Krinitza. He was an owner
of a spa sanitorium and after that he owned a bar. He was a pretty rich man,
and was respected by the local public. He had 13 children 8 sons and 5 daughters.
My mother told me that he was very religious and every Saturday he brought
a minyan2 from Mushinov. In Krinitza there were no Jewish people.
My grandfather from my father's side, Beryl Lajb Schoen established a very
|business, he was very rich and angelshin. People told me that the
train conductor stopped the train on the occasions that my grandfather was
late. He also had 13 children, 9 daughters and 4 sons. My grandmother from
my father's side passed away at the age of 106 years old. She was a very
well mannered person. I would like to mention the reason behind my parents'
relocation from Stary Sacz and Krynica to Jezow. My father owned a spice
shop in Krynica. After giving birth to my oldest brother my mother came down
with an infection. There was no penicillin at that time and her health situation
was very serious, her life was in danger and she was in agony. At that time
there was a doctors' conference and a dance in Krynica. In this conference
participated a famous professor and people advised my father to go and seek
his help. My father made a vow that if mother would survive this ordeal he
would donate all his property to the poor. He swore to give away everything
he owned but the clothes on his back. My father went to the ball and spotted
the professor in a group of other doctors. One of these doctors knew about
my mother's situation and he described her condition to the professor. My
father dropped to his knees in front of the professor begging for his help.
The doctor who knew about my mother's case said that there was no use of
providing additional help to my mother since she had received already all
the help that the medicine of that time could provide. "You have nothing
to lose," he said to my father, "take one liter of 95% spirit and pour it
into her mouth." They made her drink the alcohol and my mother recovered.
My father fulfilled his commitment and divided all his property between the
rabbis (donation to religious institutions) and the poor. He went to Hungary
to learn the trade of shechitta. This is the reason why he came to Jezow
as a shoichet and I was born as a shoichet's daughter.
There was an order to leave the village and all the Jews packed their
belongings and left the village. We went through the woods and swamps until
we came to another village. This village was deserted, its local population
had escaped. Since it was Erev Rosh Hashanna3 we decided to stay
during the holiday but the Cossacks came and ordered us to go back home.
Everything was checked by the Cossacks and my parents decided to go to their
hometown to their families. The journey started again and we came to Gorlice.
During our stay in Gorlice the military offensive (battle) took place. There
was nothing to eat and my father went during the night from village to village
slaughtering chickens and cattle. At that time the bad luck started. When
my father was standing in a line in front of the administration office to
get his rationing of half a kilogram of flour he got shot in his eye and
he lost one eye. They took him to a military hospital for surgery from there
they transferred him to a lazaret4 in Jaslo. The house we lived
in was shelled since it was located on the military front line. Once after
a shell drop I was so terrified that I started to stutter. My sister started
to stutter as well after she was dropped from the baby carriage. It was very
easy for us to start stuttering since our mother was stuttering too. From
Gorlice we moved to Jaslo. The Russians started to retreat and the Austrian
army came in. My oldest brother hid in his cellar 14 Jewish Russian soldiers
who wanted to give themselves up as a prisoners of war to the Austrians.
The people who lived in the building were worried of the consequences of
the Russians presence but my brother did not take any notice of it and kept
even the Russian flag in the cellar. When the Austrian army arrived to Jaslo
those Russians came out of hiding with the Russian flag and surrendered.
|prince Karl Habsburg came to Jaslo my father (who was a
chazan5 ) and my oldest brother sung in the synagogue for his
glory. After the war we arrived at Nowy Sacz and decided to stay there for
good. I attended school there but I suffered due to my stuttering since kids
in school laughed at me. I was afraid to open my mouth worried that the other
children will ridicule my speech. There was poverty in my house. My father
could not continue in his previous profession and had to resort to smuggling
in order to survive. Later he got a shoichet position in Myslenice. There
we resided with the Jakob Riegler family. Sometime later my father stopped
working as a shoichet and started to teach children "melamed"6
. My mother got sick but she continued helping father serving food to people
who came on vacation. We had a very pleasant atmosphere in our home. Our
parents never raise their voices and never argued. They talked to us in a
calm way. Father and mother were very good people.
Later my mother had to have surgery and I stopped attending school.
I quit school altogether. I had completed the sixth grade in public school
and that concluded my education. I suffered for that, since I wanted to proceed.
Later I attempted to continue my education through reading. My father got
the sleeping disease (Mononucleosis) from which he suffered for seven years.
After that he was struck with pneumonia and passed away. I was 19 years old
at that time. I had some sewing skills and I become a seamstress. I did not
learn this skill but acquired it by myself. I was very ambitious and made
up my mind to become a seamstress. Actually I became a seamstress due to
my landlord's daughter because she gave me some clothes for alteration. The
youngest Riegler's son was a handsome boy and I fell in love with him. When
my mother noticed it, she told me that he is not the right guy for me. He
must be dreaming, she said, of a wealthy bride. Once he became rich (through
marriage) he would have to support his sisters. For this reason our families
stopped talking to each other but we kept our friendship. He adored me and
I was still in love with him. We kept seeing each other in private. After
that he become ill with infection of the bile duct. He was taken to the hospital
where the bile duct was surgically removed and due to this operation he lost
his mind. He kept repeating again and again that he still had a full blown
internal infection since the surgeons left the scissors in his stomach. They
had to take him to a mental hospital in Kobicrzyn. (Kolbuszowa a city near
Krakow where the regional mental hospital was located). Three months later
he came back in good health. I continued to meet with him but my mother warned
me that the mental disorder may reoccur. She was sure that he was not fully
recovered. I did not pay attention to my mother's warnings and in November
1933 we got married. A year later I gave birth to our daughter. When my daughter
was 6 months old my husband become sick again and half of his face become
paralyzed. I took him to a hospital in Krakow and paid for 10 days of treatment.
Two days later my husband returned after escaping from the hospital. He came
home a crazy man like before the time he went to the Kobierzyn hospital.
He kept saying that in that hospital they wanted to poison him and that he
suspected that they gave him gas injections. On the other hand he blamed
me that I am the one that wanted to keep him in the hospital. I was depressed
and ashamed. We discussed the situation with his parents and decided to take
my husband to his cousin in Krakow. The cousin knew a doctor that would treat
him in his house. My husband was obsessed of doctors and did
|not believe in them. Instead he wanted to go to a healer. We invited
Dr. Borensztajn, who is today a very famous neurologist in Tel Aviv, to his
cousin's house. My husband trusted this doctor, and after Dr. Borensztajn
tested him he sent us to Dr. Eichenholc, who resides today in the city of
Haifa, for blood analysis. The blood analysis proved that my husband had
I was shocked since I was worried of people's reaction to this information. I could not believe it since I knew this boy from childhood. The doctor suspected that he got it genetically (hereditarily). My daughter and I were tested for this disease but the results were negative. My husband evidently was sick and we had to cure him but he did not want to be cured since he was afraid of physicians. On the occasions that we did take him to see a physician he escaped from the waiting room. I had no money for survival. I needed money for my mother, for my daughter and for my husband's medical treatment. My sister wanted to become a teacher and I paid for her education during three years. After three years my sister stopped her teaching training due to her stuttering. She came back home very depressed. Dr. Borensztajn said that I had to take my husband to the hospital since it was impossible to cure him at home. My husband did not want to be hospitalized. Finally I had to trick my husband and took him to the hospital without his consent.
At that time I came to know the Fisher family. This acquaintance had an influence over my life during the Second World War. This Fisher helped me since my husband believed in him. When my husband was in the hospital I rented a small apartment from a shoemaker since I decided to stay in Krakow. Later I brought my daughter and my mother to live with me in Krakow, we had a real hard time then. Meanwhile my brother who resided in Wierzchowica near Zabna agreed to take my mother and daughter to live with him.
It was before Purim7 when I sent my child away. On Chol Hamoed Pesach8 I received a telephone call from my brother informing me that my daughter was very sick and asked me to come urgently. Naturally, I went there immediately. My daughter had pneumonia after (as a complication of) Odra (measles). She was in terrible shape. I brought physicians and they did whatever they could but my daughter passed away. She was sick for ten days.
It is impossible to describe the way I felt at that time. I was in shock since I lost my daughter. But at the same time I had full realization that I have a mentally sick husband and I cannot have any more children. I knew of the Jewish law that mentally sick husbands cannot give consent for a divorce. Nevertheless I was considering a divorce at that time. His sickness persisted and he drained my energy. I kept explaining to him that he had to get cured. Several times he suggested to give his consent for a divorce. He wanted me to go on with my life since I was still young. I did not want to hear of it. I wanted to spend my life savings him because I was still in love with him.
After my daughter's death I suffered very hard. I never envied anybody
in my life and accepted my loss. But whenever I saw mothers with their children
I could not bear it and had to leave. I avoided
|walking through the park since I did not want to face children.
That might be the reason behind my activity in rescuing children during the
Second World War. I adored children. I lost my daughter in 1938 and during
that year I was severely depressed.
That same year some people from Zboszyn who were deported from Germany, came to Krakow. I always dreamt of helping other people. I used to live on Poselskiej street with my cousin. She was a Jacket maker. I lived with my mother and sister. My sister finally gave up on her dream to become a teacher. I accommodated in my place some of the deportees from Germany. I cooked for them. All of them wanted to keep going eastbound since they were worried of the anticipated advancement of the Hitler forces. I remember the beginning of the war. It started on Friday and on the following Tuesday the Germans were already in Krakow. On Wednesday my husband escaped from the Kobierzyn hospital and came home wearing his hospital clothes. He could not believe that in one year our daughter died. He always believed that our daughter is still alive and I would not let her near him. Sometimes he suspected me of killing our daughter. What kind of person was he?
Then the very hard time begin especially for me since I had my sick husband with me. I did not work at that time and I remember that I had only 80 Zloty cash with me. I started to smuggle in order to survive. I took my husband to my in-laws in Mislanica since my cousin was afraid to stay with him. I committed myself to pay for my husband upkeep cost.
In my cousin's house I met an escapee from Austria. His name was Yosef
Goldman and he was seventeen years older then me. He was a very good man
and knew how to deal with people. He seemed to be very rich. Yosef began
to adore me and later asked for my hand in marriage. He inquire with rabbis
about the possibility of obtaining a divorce for me. My husband came periodically
to his senses and on such an occasion he gave his permission for our divorce.
I got married to Yosef Goldman one week before they closed ghetto Krakow.
It was in March 1941. He was working in the exchange market (black market)
and dealt a lot with Germans. Governor Frank's driver used to send him the
money. In the Arbitzant labor ministry office (manpower office) Mr. Goldman
had a friend from his school days. Another friend of his from school was
the commissar in the Royal Hotel. They were Austrian people from Wine where
my second husband used to live. My husband did not want to move into the
ghetto and proposed to move to Warsaw since it is the capital city and we
could find more food there. My oldest brother was a shoichet in Bzesko ,he
lived there with his wife and his three sons. I decided to move to Bzesco
because it was easier to find an apartment there. Many other people chose
to live in Bzesco for the same reason. I rented an apartment in Gurno Kotchim
(a town near Bzesco) and we relocated there. My husband liked
Kuhel9 and used to go to the local municipal office and the people
there liked him very much. In spring 1942 he was offered a position in the
Judenrat due to his knowledge of the German language and his ability to deal
with the Germans. In the meantime my husband got acquainted with one doctor
from the medical office. This doctor's name was Kossowski
|and people said about him that he was a volksdeutsche10
. My husband had a permanent permit to enter the Krakow ghetto and this permit
applied to me as well. We were friends with the Zylber family and they relocated
from Krakow to Brzesko. They had some valuables in Krakow which they had
buried. They wanted to dig it out of the ground and bring it to Brzesko.
I told my husband that I would like to help them in this case. It was my
first underground activity since I was never placed in such a situation before.
I helped them to dig out the valuables and that was the first time that I
helped other people.
In Brzesko used to live my cousin and she was married to Berisz Landau. His brother was arrested for money smuggling and he become friendly with the person who had arrested him. Finally this person released him from Jail. People had different theories about it, aside from the fact that he had some connections in the German general government11 . His name was Lejzer Landau. His oldest brother was Uszer Landau he was a director of a municipal office. Once they (the Germans) caught him and killed him. Finally in April 1942 my husband become the Vice-President of the Judenrat. Mr. Hendler was the president. When my husband started to deal with this new job the contribution period began. He always came home very upset about it. He used to say softly "die Leute tun mir so Leid, das letzte geben Sie her und wer weiss, ob das wird helfen"12 . The 18th of May was the date in which the Gestapo from Tarnow was supposed to come and collect the contribution. Mr. Hendler probably knew about it and was (conveniently) out of town for that day. My husband was the first Vice-President (the second in command) and therefore had to take the contribution upon himself. After the contribution the Germans said to my husband "Du gibst uns 100 Juden zum Erschiessen"13 . My husband answered "Ich kann nur mich geben"14 . Then Mr. Homelman said to Mr. Nowak "Hau ihn nieder"15 . My husband was killed while doing his job. (I will be a witness in the court procedure against these Nazis, This month they promised to come from Germany for my testimony) But my husband did not do anything, despite this they killed him anyway. In addition to him they killed 150 people and took away many more. I received the information about his death only after a few days. I was under the illusion that somehow he was saved and was hiding in Dr. Kossowski's house.
I had no time to morn since at that time the Germans established the
Gemeinschafts (workshops). I was working in sewing and I managed to get a
permit from the municipal office to open a manufacturing establishment in
my home. I was sewing pants for the army. Later the Germans proclaimed that
we had to move into the ghetto. At that time I moved into my brother's house
in Brzesko It was in summer 1942. Along with me came to the ghetto my sister
my mother and my father-in-law who was over 80 years old at that time. A
year before he was relocated from Vienna and we received his postcard
|informing us of his location in Krasnik near Lublin. We asked a
certain person to help us in transferring my father-in-law to our place.
Two weeks later Mr. Berisz Landau came to visit us. He was a good man and appreciated me very much. There was some kind of psychosa (panic) and people started to collect food. I mentioned to Berisz Landau that I had bought some food since I had two older people to take care of. He said to me that I should be relocated from Brzesko but I should not mention a word about it to anybody not even to my mother and brother. He said that he will help me when needed. Later I figured out that the whole Landau family relocated to ghetto Bochnia.
Mr. Berisz came again to me and said that he will allow me to use his own travel permit to enable me to move to Bochnia. I relocated with all my family to Bochnia and resided in Mr. Berisz's apartment. Then I used this permit to bring my brother with his family and later on half of Brzesko's population escaped using the same document. I did not reveal any information to anybody but people figured out by themselves and there was a little panic. Every week I went to Brzesko and tried to take out more people with me. Once I was stopped by an Ordnungsmann16 who knew that my real name is not Landau but I told him that the Germans do not have any doubt about it and he should not disturb me. I continued my activity as long as I could and brought more people from ghetto Brzesko. I had to work in Bochnia since all people had to work at that time. I had to put on the work list even the old members of my family. Because my father was 80 years old I altered his documented age to 55 and I covered for him by doing his job. My brother and sister were producing for my mother. In this way we got some food rationing for the elderly. We had to hide the old people and we made some hiding places for that purpose.
After some time I asked Mr. Berisz for a permit to go to Krakow. I went to Krakow and visited the manager of the Royal Hotel and asked him for a job. He agreed and hired me as a seamstress and I was working there repairing clothes, sheets and bed covers. Due to my work I obtained a permanent permit to go to Krakow. It gave me added freedom to maneuver between the ghetto and my home in Krakow. I dealt with some money smuggling and took certain articles into the ghetto since these items were not available in the ghetto. It was a very low scale operation because I did not know how to expand on it.
Ghetto Bochnia was divided into ghetto "A" and ghetto "B". Ghetto "A" accommodated people that were able to work and for this reason I had to locate my older family members in ghetto "B". At that time I resided in my friend's house. Her name was Rosa Gros and she did not like to live all by herself. Then I heard that some people managed to obtain foreign nationality documents and with these documents they are permitted to reside outside the ghetto.
I knew that in the town of Prokocim (town that was adjacent to Krakow
and at present is integrated with metropolitain Krakow) resided such people
who managed to establish their foreign nationality status since 1939 however
I did not consider it very seriously. Some people mentioned that the chief
|Gestapo in Bochnia, whose name was Schomburg, started to deal with
people and those deals enabled them to relocate outside the ghetto
Once Mr. Berisz approached me and said that his brother Lejzer wanted to talk to me. People said of Lejzer at the time, that he dealt with the Gestapo in Krakow. He started with the Arbeitsam (the labor office) and later on he changed his job and started working for the Gestapo. People were saying that he become very rich. As a matter of fact he was a very rich person who became very influential in Bochnia and helped people a lot. After the Second World War people were saying that he was not acting in the proper way but I have no recollection of it. I did not have very frequent contacts with him except through my cousin. Only a few people had the knowledge of the fact that I had any contact with him. Lejzer promised the family of the Bobow rabbi to prepare Hungarian documents for them, however this family was a known family in the country. Their name was Halbersztam and they were known as Polish people. Lejzer felt that pursuing this matter will be considered as going too far even for him since he had to seek the approval of his boss. He suggested that I will go in his place and he promise to be there and support me in the matter. I agreed because I assumed that I will be appreciated for my help. I had a permit to exit and enter the ghetto due to my work in Krakow and I went to the Sicherheitspolizj17 building. Mr. Lejzer Landau was there at that time and he supported me. The manager signed the papers and stamped them and the deal was done. The ease of accomplishing my task gave me an idea. Since it was so easy to approach the head of the Gestapo I probably could do it again for other people.
I would like to mention that this Halbersztam is the same person (rabbi) who came later from the USA and established (constructed) near the city of Natania (Israel) the urban settlement of "Kiriath Bobow"18 . He is a very influential person and he was very influential before the war as well. At that time I got the papers for them and later on I went to Budapest to help them.
I knew already that people got themselves foreign nationality papers
through this Gestapo commander, his name was Schomburg. They left the ghetto
legally and in order to do that one must have owned a Hungarian
Heimatschein19 (document identifying the holder as a Hungarian
citizen). I reminded myself that I had a cousin in ghetto Krakow who came
from Koszyca. She was a real Hungarian citizen. My mother had three sisters
who got married in Hungary and one of their daughters, Mrs. Mina Lustig was
married to Mr. Glezer and resided in ghetto Krakow. I went there, found this
cousin and told her " In the name of God Mina why are you staying here in
the ghetto with your husband and children when other people are leaving the
ghetto with false papers. Your papers are legitimate, and you are Hungarian
citizen with a real Heimatschein" She told me that she gave her Heimatschein
to the Rubin family. She went to the Rubin family and requested back her
Heimatschein and they returned it to her.When I took the Heimatschein in
my hand I found out that this document covers a couple with seven children.
I realized that there were great possibilities. In time I found a person
who could translate from Hungarian
|to German. His name was professor Bobrzynski and he resided at 7
Kanonbcza St. I helped her to approach this professor since she was very
As he (the professor) observed the Heimatschein he said " Ah, the Lustig family, your brothers were here the other day." It came as a shock to my cousin and she asked "what brothers?". "Szlomo and Jakob" he replied. She was very upset and her face turned red but she realized that the Rubin family used her document for their own purpose. Sometime later I took her to Bochnia where we found the Rubin family. She started to argue with them and they said "do not make a tragedy out of it. We will get ourselves other papers since in Bochnia such a thing could be arranged. Schomburg is accepting bribes so we could obtain documentation under our own names. Don't let the fact that we live here under the name Lustig stand in your way, you can use this name for your own purpose."
My cousin reacted spontaneously (later she regret it when she realized how valuable those papers were) proposing to use this document for herself for me and my family. It was a great opportunity. I made a copy of the Heimatschein for myself, for mother, for my brother and his three children and for my sister. Later I went to Mrs. Schomburg's wife. I took with me a small package, fabric for a coat and a dress and introduced myself as a good seamstress and proposed to prepare some clothes for her. She let me into her house where I asked for my papers to be signed (by her husband). In this way we escaped from the ghetto. I rented an apartment near the ghetto at 10 Polna street. In the ghetto resided a distant relative of mine, a rabbi from Krynica, with his family. His name was Cymetbaum. He relocated to Brzesko and when I had the opportunity I transferred him to Bochnia. I reminded myself that Mr. Cymetbaum is from Siemiogrod and he is a real Hungarian citizen. I located them and told them that there are some possibilities to get out of the ghetto. They appreciated it very much. I helped them to leave the ghetto and to rent an apartment outside the ghetto. Whatever I did was at my own expense since they were very poor people. Then he told me that he got his brother's Heimatschein in his possession. I sold this paper to a friend of mine, named Roza Gross. She with her husband and daughter came out of the ghetto and moved into my apartment under the assumed name Cymetbaum. I remembered that in ghetto Krakow I had a cousin, a young man who remain there. My documents permitted me to register another person under the family name Lustig so I took him too. His name was Ichek Schoen, but now Lustig. Later I took out of the ghetto his cousin and his girlfriend, Lusa Goldfinger. When they came out I arranged the wedding party in my apartment. The wedding ceremony was conducted by the Bobow rabbi. They left later to Hungary and at present they reside in the city of Haifa.
Mrs. Glezer lived in my apartment with her husband and children. She
figured out that her decision to give me the documents was a hasty one. She
realized that people are making profit from these kinds of documents. I took
a family named Heller from Krakow and changed the name of Mr. Heller to that
of her oldest brother Jakob Lustig. (I was under the name Ilona Lustig).
This Heller had a wife and a daughter. They moved into my apartment. My home
became the center location for all those people who wanted to escape the
ghetto using these papers. Lots of other people still came. I searched for
them myself and prepared documents for them. I kept going to Mrs. Schomburg
carrying gifts for her,
|sewing for her and even helping her to make confiture (jam). I did
not make any profit on it and did not even realize that for that I could
have charged a large sum of money. I just wanted to help.
My cousin Glezer confronted me for helping my other cousin and other people. In addition I would like to say that when I made my document under the assumed name Ilona Lustig, I knew that this cousin (the real Ilona) is in Cuba. So I put on this document two children. That I am a widow with two children and I thought that I had to put whatever possible on this document because it will be necessary for saving somebody in the future.
At professor Bobrzynski's place I met Mrs. Schlesinger. She was a Portuguese citizen, a widow of a diplomat. She was Jewish and very rich. At her house I met Mrs. Wanda Reinisch. This Reinisch was hiding at a house of a German person named Dr. Ewald. She told me that Mr. Ewald will be willing to help other people since he had good connections with the government. I came with the idea that Dr. Ewald would go to the Hungarian embassy in Berlin and will document that Ilona Lustig was in Poland at the brake of the Second World War, that she is an Hungarian citizen and she would like to join her parents in Hungary. My name was added to the list (of Hungarian citizens) in the Hungarian embassy and it helped me a lot. My fictitious parents were in Israel (Palestine) at that time and I knew about it. Only Frieda and Hersz Lustig out of the whole Lustig family resided in Hungary at that time. However Mrs. Glezed did not want to put their names for sale.
I applied for a Hungarian passport and was confident and fearless. I felt that I have a mission and therefore must use all my energy and external appearance to help others, not only from my family. I made a vow not to refuse anybody who would ask for my help. Since I did not have any access into the ghetto I used these occasions in which I made clothes for Mrs. Schomburg and told her "Alle beste Stoffen kann ich nur bei den Juden im Ghetto bekommen"20 . She prepared for me an access permit into the ghetto and only then was I able to operate. It all became public knowledge. Some people from Brzesko knew that I am able to help and on occasions when I came to the ghetto people stood in long lines wherever I stopped. One person wanted me to take a letter, another wanted me to take money for somebody who was hiding using Aryan documents. One asked me for help obtaining some kind of job and another wanted help obtaining some documents. In this way I become a central figure in all these events.
Some people produced a replica of Schomburg's stamp in spite of the
fact that he was so willing to cooperate. Each of his official approvals
cost the applicant $50 and not everybody could afford it. There were two
very clever boys (I can not remember their names) who could duplicate Schomburg's
signature and stamp. We acted on the principle that for every authentic single
stamp we could produce hundreds more. Half of the ghetto Bochnia population
possessed Hungarian papers approved with Schomburg's stamp. They kept it
for cases of emergency, if something happened, for relocation purpose and
so on. Other people attempted to contact Schomburg himself since he was willing
to deal with the Jews. Before the end of the war the Germans executed him
for that reason. Many people who had his official stamp were living outside
the ghetto. They were able to move without restrictions and
|naturally maintained a different standard of living (in comparison
with the people inside the ghetto). For example there was the following event.
Rabbi Ehrenberg who is the head rabbi of Tel-Aviv at present, the second
to Rabbi Untermann, he came to me because his wife was arrested in Krakow
and was held in the police jail on Szlak street. He asked for my help. I
made an Heimatschein for him and for his wife and took him to Krakow where
we succeeded to release his wife. Other people asked for my permission to
reside in my apartment (for that they needed an official document). Once
came a person from Vienna, his wife was Aryan, he lived in hiding and wanted
to get legitimate status. I had his documents approved by the authorities.
His name was ..(unreadable). There was another lady from Wieliczka who was
hidden at an Aryan's home. I did not know this lady and had never seen her
before. Someone came to me with her Kennkarta21 and I validated
it. I just can not remember all those events. Even some partisans came to
me with different needs. One of them was hidden by me in my attic for a few
days. They came very often because they wanted to contact some people from
within the ghetto and so on and so on. There was a lady Dr. Szoszana Karmel
who resided in Wieliczka with her son and her mother-in-law. My documents
indicated that I had two children and I proposed to her to let me keep her
son (as my own) but she refused. She thought that Wieliczka is a safe place
for him. Unfortunately everyone there got caught and she was the only one
who managed to survive. There was one family in Myslenica, named Nussbaum
who worked for Schindler. They had one daughter, Dobusia. I went to them
and proposed to arrange them Hungarian papers but they declined my offer.
They said that they had good accommodation with Schindler but they let me
take Dobusia. I kept her at my place without charging for her expenses.
It is impossible to list all the details of my activities at that time. For example there was a family named Blumenfrucht and one of them was an Ordnungsman in Bochnia, he is living at present in Bruessel (Belgium), I helped him to obtain such papers too. A person named Chaskiel Zylberfeld came to me and wanted to be rescued. He was a young man. Chaskiel got engaged with my sister. I took him out of the ghetto produced papers for him and arranged his wedding with my sister. I integrated nice and practical things together by marrying my sister to Chaskiel.
My cousin, Mrs. Glezer, took out a lot of her belongings from ghetto
Krakow to an apartment of a building's gourd22 at 45 Dietlowska
street. Meanwhile this gourd was a collaborator with the Nazis but we did
not know about it. When she relocated into my apartment I promised to transfer
her belongings to Bochnia. Almost every day I went to Krakow and transferred
some of her articles. I used to stay overnight at that gourd's home very
often. Once I was joined by Hanka Heller, her father was register as my brother,
Jakob Lustig. The Heller family used to live before the Second World War
in that building. They were the ones who gave the address of the gaurd to
my cousin. As long as I use to come to that guard by myself he believed that
I was a real Hungarian citizen but when I came with Hanka (It was very careless
of me) he started to suspect that something was not right. Later on I was
arrested at his place.
|Once I met in the ghetto a friend of my late husband, his name was
Fischer. He also was registered under the name Lustig since he was fearful
of being identified under his own real name. His brother, who was a doctor,
obtained ID documents through me as well but he had to remain inside the
I was always notified about any Aktion (roundups or liquidation's) in advance by Berisz who was informed by his brother Lejzor. Jejzor had contacts with the Gestapo officers Heinrich and Kunde. Before every Aktion I took children out of the ghetto. I could have done it because I had two children registered in my papers. Before all I took the children of the people I knew. Other people figured out such a possibility and wanted me to take their children too. Several times a day I used to enter ghetto "A" and ghetto "B" entering through one gate and than through another. I kept on getting in and out of the ghetto taking out with me two children at a time. Some people gave me Aryan addresses (in which to put their children) but some others did not have such addresses. For these cases I used my friends' residences or gave refuge in my own apartment. Berisz used to advise me to leave my apartment during the Aktions because I resided too close to the ghetto. On those occasions I used to take everything and hide it wherever possible. I risked a lot since I was known by many people. They used to call me "Die Frau mit den Vielen Kindern"23 . There was one case in which I attempted to take a larger group of children to ghetto Krakow. then I was arrested and detained in the Ordnungsdienst24 building. I managed to send a massage to Berisz and he released me. Upon my release Berisz told me to be careful because they (the Germans) were suspecting me. He added that I am taking too much of a risk but I did not care and kept utilizing my ability and energy to its full capacity. People thought that I maintained strong ties with Mrs. Schomburg. I did not deny it but tried to put it in a different light since it was very useful for me.
I continued with my activities until May 1943. At that time started discreet panic among the "Auslander"25 (the foreign citizens). Directly speaking people started to escape from Bochnia. It become apparent that even people close to me knew about it but were reluctant to disclose it to me. They knew that I would have tried to save not only my family (but many others) and the escape procedure would become public knowledge (something that would put the whole escape operation at risk). Once I heard my cousin talking to someone about "Czarny Olk" (Black Olek) but when I inquired of his identity I was told that he is a person who transported watches from Slovakia. Only later I realized that he was smuggling people. I asked Berisz about the situation and he said that we have to escape from here since this area became too dangerous. He did not explain how to escape and where. I went to Lejzor Landau. He was already prepared to escape to Hungary at that time but he did not say anything to me about it.
On the 20th of May I was in Krakow in the guard's house at 45 Dietlowska
street. I kept there a suitcase with all kinds of documents since I thought
that these people are trustworthy but instead I was inside the lion's mouth
(in the lion's den). I put some documents in my purse and left the building.
When I closed the gate behind me a man, whom I had seen before at this guard's
house, approached me and
|ordered me to come with him. He searched my purse for a weapon,
then he hired a horse pulled wagon and we left. On our way, near the corner
of Starowislna street, I noticed Mr. Weininger walking by and I shouted toward
him "Mr. Weininger, I got arrested, please go and tell about it in Bochnia".
I knew how many papers I had on me, papers which could be used as incriminating
material against me. When they searched me in the police station on Szlak
street they found in my clothes a passport of a lady who was hidden by Aryans.
She requested through somebody to obtain a permit which would allow her to
stay in my apartment in Bochnia. I always believed that I had the ability
to predict the events that would follow in the near future. When they put
me under arrest I asked myself "is it the end?". I felt that the answer is
no but I could not foresee what the future would deliver. At that time I
can describe my state of mind as calm. Mentally I was able to handle the
worst. I was kept in the police jail on Szlak street for a few more days.
When I was transferred from Szlak street to Monteluppich26 I had some money on me. I asked a policeman to help me purchase some things. I bought 2 kilograms of candies, cigarettes, matches and bread, whatever I could. The first night in Monteluppich I spent in a big cell all by myself laying on a pile of straw. On the following day they transferred me to another cell located below ground level where more then 60 other female prisoners were held. When they opened the cell door I came in with a bright smile and said "Children, I came here to sweeten your life" then I threw some candies on the table. They all stared at me as if I was out of my mind. Up to that time nobody ever entered this cell with a smile.
During that time a lady prisoner named Dr. Rozen was held at the same
cell. She was the president of the Jewish community in Bochnia27
. I knew about it because she was arrested two weeks before. There was another
lady, the mother of Mrs. Schlesinger, who used to reside on Bobrzynski street.
Ten days later they took me for interrogation. I was depressed since I knew
that they have substantial incriminating material against me. I was exhausted
and nervous and started to stutter very heavily. I had no idea how to explain
(the existence of these documents) but I believed that I would manage somehow.
They took me to 2 Pomorska street, into a room where three Gestapo officers
were waiting. One of them was sitting at a desk, after my release I was told
that his name was Olde. (He is residing in Germany right now. I testified
against him and my story still has to be confirmed). He began to interrogate
me and asked about my knowledge of the false papers which were found in my
possession. He questioned my real identity as Ilona Lustig and claimed that
my place was the center of all those illegal activities. I replied "Ich weiss
garnicht, das ist alles uebertrieben. Ich bin Ilona Lustig, eine echte ungarische
Staatsbuergerin, ich bin in der ungarischen Gesandschaft in Berlin rejestriert,
das konnen Sie feststellen und ich kann keine informationen
geben"28 "Nu ja, Du wirst schon sprechen!"29 . He called
|his subordinates. They tied my hands behind my back to the chair
and sealed my mouth with a gas mask. On the other side of the Gestapo commander
stood the other two subordinates armed with rubber clubs. They started to
hit me on my thighs. I do not know for how long I was screaming from pain
since I lost consciousness. They poured water on me and proceeded with the
torture and I kept on screaming. The process of torture and fainting and
being woken up by means of cold water was repeated for several times. Finally
they figured out that I am not going to reveal anything to them. They removed
the gas mask and started to question me quietly. I told them that all the
papers and documents which they had found in my purse were legitimate and
belonged to my relatives. Suddenly the investigator pull a drawer open and
took out the American passport and I became scared. When he asked me about
this passport I answered that I do not know anything about it and neither
do I know this woman or her whereabouts. I do not know from where I got the
strength to answer in this way. It must have been inspired by the almighty
himself. In my mind I have decided to describe the situation in one way.
I was finished anyway but I did not want to link more people to my activities.
"Herr Chef, Sie konnen mich erschiessen, Sie konennen mich totschlagen, aber
ich sage nichts anderes, nur so, wie es die wahrheit ist"30 "Wir
sollen Dich erschiessen? So gut wird es die nicht gehen. Jeden Tag wirst
Du so bekommen, Du freche Juedin! Du kannst nicht diesen Pass? Das hat man
doch in deinem Busen gefunden!"31 . When he said that I stood
up with anger "Wie ist das moeglich? Den ist nicht war. Wer hat das gesagt?
Ich kenne nicht diesen Pass. Das ist eine Luege. Das hat jemand gesagt, der
mir schaden wollte!"32 . I saw that he was pleased with my answer.
He sat at his desk and started writing. (From the Ida Grinberg testimony
we can see that she had the ability to improvise and she had always an answer
ready for every question. Since she was investigated at first by the police
on Szlak street, she could have claimed that this passport they found was
not hers and the fact that as Hungarian citizen she can not speak Hungarian
she explained that her father was Hungarian and her mother was Polish and
after her parents divorced she was raised by her uncle in Krinitza)
After that they brought me to the cell. I was in very bad shape and my legs were swollen. Dr. Rosen's wife was not there already. Later on somebody told me that Schomburg came from Bochnia and released her. My prisoner friends encouraged me to see a physician but I refused. I felt that my defense went very well and believed that people from the outside will help in my release. On the other hand I was worried that a visit to the doctor and documenting my torture marks will not work in my favor. (by the way, I carry marks of that torture until today).
I remained in this cell until June the 21st and this day was very
significant for me. During all that time I had to lie down because of my
swollen legs. My prisoner friends helped me with different activities. On
that specific day I woke up at six o'clock and I told my friends that I have
the feeling that I am about to be released. Naturally they respond with laughter
and asked if I was notified about it from Berlin. "I can
|feel it" was my reply. At three o'clock in the afternoon the door
to our cell was opened. "Ilona mit allen Sachen"33 called the
guard. They took me to Pomorska street to Heinrich (I figured out his name
later). He provide me with a document saying "Schau dass wir nicht mehr
zusammenkommen"34 . I was released. When I came home I learned
the details of my release. Immediately after my arrest .......Somebody (line
is missing) brought documents from the Hungarian consulate proving that I
am a real Hungarian citizen and registered at the Consulate as such (this
document was given to me upon my release). Mr. Jume Landau, the cousin of
Beisza Landau, was detained at the Ordnungsdienst jail. At the time that
I got arrested Lejzer Landau was in Hungary. Before his departure he brought
his sister to the Gestapo requesting to nominate her in his position. Her
name was at that time Korngut. At present she is the wife of rabbi Epsztejn
and resides at 126 Szderoth Rotschild in Tel-Aviv. This lady received a six
karat diamond from the relatives of Jume Landau to be used in the process
of Jume's release. When Mr. Berisz Landau delivered this diamond to Heinrich,
as a bribe, he told Heinrich that it was not only for the release of Jume
but for the release of Ilona Lustig as well. I believe that my answers during
my investigation were satisfactory for them and that was another reason for
After I came home I recovered from my torture. My family pleaded with me to collect money for my activities. They claimed that with the money I could have collected, we would have been able to flee to Hungary. People escaped and tried to save themselves. It cost one kilogram of gold to save a single person but we did not have the economical means to be saved. At that time I started to explore some ways of escape to Hungary. I met Mrs. Rubin, the one who took the Haimatschein from my cousin, and she informed me of an address she knew, in which I could get an assistance in escaping to Hungary. They were charging 350 dollars for this service. When I inquired with another lady named Braunfeld she told me that she got an address of a person who will assist with an escape to Jordanow but this person is charging 500 dollars. It was not in the range of my capability. I kept looking for a proper way of escape. After a day or two an Ordnungsmann came and informed me that the Schiff family is requesting to see me in regards to a matter which was of extreme importance for them and for me. I helped this Schiff family before to escape from Brzesko. I found out that they knew of an address of a gentile lady, who resided at (address not readable). Mr. Schiff told me that he received this address from a person named Teitelbaum. Naturally when the escape route would be established, this family had to be rescued too. He mentioned that he expected a profit from this rescue operation. This incident opened my eyes to see that people are making large monetary gains from these kinds of activities.
I sent my neighbor, the one I resided with in Bochnia, to Piwnicza to
bring Hanusia to me. We all sat in a cellar and discussed how to organize
the operation. She resided near the border and promised to recruit people
to help. On the first trip I sent Mr. Schiff's sister but she drowned in
the Strum river. I sent my 82 year old father-in-law, my brother's two sons
and another girl. The transport was successful we received a message from
Slovakia that everything was OK and that we should go on and send some more
people. They sent me people and I had to take them out of the ghetto. How
much did this
|procedure cost? My landlady Marysia, her sister her brother and
brother-in-law who was a train conductor transported these people to the
border. I paid for this service 5000 zlotys per person. To Hanusia I paid
an additional 7000 zlotys. Later I found out that Mr. Schiff collected from
each person 20,000 to 25,000 zlotys. Sometimes he used to pay me some money
from these people.
On the way to the border we had to take a train to Tarnow and there we had to wait for the train to Piwnicza for two hours. For this purpose the Hungarian papers were not sufficient since these papers were valid in the Krakow district only. I remembered that in Okocim (a town near Brzesko) we had a good relationship with the municipal governor. We went to him and asked him to provide us with blank Kennkarta documents. He gave us a whole pile of these documents. I tried whatever I could, I took people out of the ghetto to my place. I prepare Kennkarta documents for them and put their fingerprints in it in order to help them make it to the border. There were other people who were running underground operations like me. My activity started very late due to the time I had spent in the Moneluppich prison. For example the whole family of the Bobow rabbi was in Hungary already. My brother-in-law and that Halbersztam were arrested on the way to Hungary and Mr. Weininger released them. There were underground handlers like "Czarny Olek" but they were charging huge sums of money. I had the privilege to enter the ghetto and I used to take people out of the ghetto very often to other dealers and my place become the center (of this activity). Then my cousin relocated from my place since she did not want to take the risk.
I continued to visit Mrs. Schomburg but she warned me "Ilona, Sie sind brfreit worden, aber trauen Sie sich nicht mehr nach Krakaw zu fahren. Alle Detektive haben lhr Bild. Das war ein lrrtum, dass man Sie befreit hat"35 . When I left the Gestapo I took with me a list of prisoners' names (prisoners held in Monteluppich) and some notes. Each detainee had somebody outside the prison both inside and outside the ghetto. I had notes from each prisoner instructing me to do something as a favor for them and it was very risky for me. In spite Mrs. Schomburg's warning I took the evening train to Krakow, found the people these notes were addressed to, and deliver the messages. This service was of utmost importance for the people inside the prison.
Mr. Schiff provided the people to be transported to Hungary and gave
me a percentage of the money he received from them. I always tried to add
some of our people to the transport list. In many cases children were added.
I reminded myself that there was one widow with two children. She resided
in Piszczan and her husband was killed on the same day that my husband was
perished. One day when I was still in Brzesko she came to me and mentioned
that we both had the same destiny. I helped her to relocate from Brzesko
to Bochnia and a few times I hid her children. Now I added her children to
a transport. On many occasions I told people who approached me in the ghetto
"OK I will take you but you will have to pay for somebody else who can not
afford it. I did the best I could. On my house list I always kept two children
in addition to myself. That girl whose parents worked at Schindler, was taken
away when I was arrested and unfortunately she died. There was another child
of whom I would like to tell you. Her mother was from Vienna and got married
in Krakow to a man named Weitman. I met her
|through Dr. Szoszana Karmel, who was called formerly Feilich. This
Mimi Weitman was hidden by a volksdeutsch who was involved in underground
activities. Mrs. Weitman relocated to Bochnia since she had relatives residing
in the ghetto. My house was open for her and many times she spent the night
with me while I was contacting her relatives. Also Marta (I do not remember
her last name) I knew through the volksdeutsch and have been numerous times
in her residence. This Mimi Weitman's husband was living in Lwow on 10 Janowska
street with his mother Gusta Weitman (who resides at present in Tel-Aviv)
That Marta brought them from Lwow to Bochnia.
At one time Marta's place was burnt (was discovered) and Mimi who resided there with her 3 year old son had to escape. I relocated them temporarily in professor Bobrzynski's house. She started to look at the possibilities of escaping to Hungary and finally she contacted a Slovakian Jew. He promised to marry her fictitiously and in that way to enable her to be rescued (move to Slovakia). He had a Jewish appearance and when they took a ride on a streetcar together someone noticed them and they got arrested. I was in Krakow at that time. When I met Marta she said to me "Ilona, Mimi got arrested. What happened to Casza?" I hurried to Bobrzynski's house and took the child to my place. When I established the route to Hungary I considered sending the child there. I sent her grandmother to Hungary too and they survived the war there. The mother had no idea that I saved her daughter and only after the war she learned about it. Mimi Weitman survived Auschwitz and then came to Budapest to look for her mother. I met her in the street and told her that her daughter is alive and that I saved her.
I would like to explain why I was successful in these kinds of rescue operations, something that was very unusual. I managed to do all these great things because the Ordnungsdienst were afraid of me. Why? Because when I was released from Monteluppich (the prison that nobody ever came back from) a rumor started to circulate that I must have some contact with the Gestapo and people treated me with suspicion.. It was understood that nobody wanted to have anything to do with a person like that (like me) and everybody was afraid of such a person. It worked in my favor because now I could expand my rescuing operation to its maximum. In order to get a permanent entrance permit into the ghetto I had to continue my dealings with Mrs. Schomburg which required more dresses and accessories to be added to her wardrobe.
Mr. Werdiger did me a favor. He came to me in the ghetto and said "I
know that I can trust you. I know that all those dealings were done by Lejzer
Landau with Kunde and Heinrich, and I have a proposal for you. I have some
possessions burried underground in Prokcocim and I would like you to talk
to Schomburg about it. Will you ask him to go with me to this location and
help me dig it out. I would like to offer him 50% of my possessions for his
trouble. Naturally on my next visit to the Schomburgs I felt more confident
since until now I could bring them only clothes but now ..... Mr. Schomburg
called me into his office and requested to show him the location of that
place on the map. He asked me to bring this Jew to him and confirmed that
he is willing to pursue the matter. I informed Werdiger about the developments.
In the meantime Mr. Werdiger was advised by somebody on this matter and he
asked me. " Mrs. Goldman are you sure that Schomburg is a man of his word"
"No" I said "I could trust myself alone. How can you ask me to confirm that
you can trust a German? He could dig it out and kill you too." Mr. Werdiger
thought about it and decided to back out of the deal. However Mr. Schomburg
|would not hear of it. Every time I came to his house he kept on
saying "Bringen Sie mir den Juden! Wo ist der Juden?" (Bring me the Jew!
Where is the Jew?) I went to the ghetto and said to Mr. Werdiger " we have
to decide what I must do. They will not leave me alone and keep on asking
me about that treasure. I am scared to go there. They want me to bring you
there." "No" said Werdiger, "I do not want to do it. Please advise me what
should I do." Schomburg asked me for his name and his address. Than I got
an idea and I said "Ich habe nicht gesprochen mit diesem Betreffendem direkt,
ich habe Ihn zwar gesehen. Ich habe gesprochen mit einem Vermittler und der
ist jetzt in Ungarn"36 (They knew that people were escaping to
Hungary). "Ich weiss nicht, wie er heisst und wo er wohnt aber ich koennte
ihn erkennen, im Ghetto muss er doch sein"37 . Based on this
information my entrance permit into the ghetto was extended. I was supposed
to enter the ghetto and search for this Jew. However from this point on I
was uncomfortable going back to Schomburg and produced only false documents
(for the rescue operation).
Ghetto Bochnia was liquidated on Tuesday, September the 1st 1943. On Saturday morning, the last Saturday before the liquidation, I was approached by many people who said to me "Mrs. Goldman, something is happening. Gestapo delegation have arrived from Krakow. Would you please go there immediately and find out what it is all about". They brought me big parcels and I took it to the chief's wife. Across from the Schomburg's house there was a small park. I noticed two parked limousines and on the terrace I saw a few Gestapo officers sitting with the chief. On my way to the steps leading to the kitchen I had to pass by that terrace. I figured that I better sit on a park's bench and wait. Sitting on that bench I met Mr. Ferster. There were two brothers Ferster. The younger one who sat beside me on that bench was a very good and helpful man (that was what people were saying about him). but the older brother had a good relationship with Heinrich and Kunde and used to drink a lot with them. People said of him that he is a collaborator. They probably killed him later on in Krakow. The younger brother resided in Bochnia and he too, kept contact with Schomburg. He also was a German Jew. I sat on the bench with him and waited. Some time later they went to their cars and drove away. Then he (Ferster) approached the chief and I went to his wife with the parcels.
"Ach, Ilona, bringen Sie uns den Juden. Ihm ist schon alles eins. Es
ist schon Schluss"38 . "Wenn soll das geschehen?"39
I asked. "Wann ist der erste?"40 she inquired and I told her.
"Heute muessen alle Auslaender gehen ins Ghetto, aber Sie haben nicht was
zu fuerchten, aber bringen Sie mir den Juden"41 . "Gut, Frau Chefin,
ich bring den Juden"42 . I left her feeling fearful. I thought
to myself that I had to do something about my old mother. I was trying to
come up with an idea. I came to the realization that at this time I must
escape too. I had two alternatives, either escape alone and rescue myself
or relocate into the ghetto with my mother. In my mind I could still hear
Berisz's words, who was a very religious man and feared god, "Save yourself,"
he used to say. "Your mother is old and almost concluded her life but you
are still young." my answer to him was that either I stay with mother or
I will take her with
|me. It was easier said then done. All the transports that I arranged
between the end of June to the first of September were successful but one.
Schiff's younger brother (he had a noticeable Jewish appearance) remained
in Tarnow. He was taken to the washroom and unfortunately never returned.
The truth was that I wanted to save more people but they were afraid to go
through Tarnow. There was a control enforcement in Tarnow and the people
(of the transports) had to spend two hours in that city. It was very dangerous.
I had to improvise different people's characteristics. For example my
father-in-law was born in Vienna and could not speak a word of Polish but
he liked to talk. So I made him documents which indicated that he was hearing
impaired. I made him a yellow stripe of fabric with black signs indicating
his deafness. I had a really hard time conveying him the message that he
was not allowed to speak. I used the same method with my brother. His appearance
was good but his spoken Polish language was bad. My sister-in-law (had a
Jewish appearance) I bandage half of her face and Marysia was supporting
her as if she was a sick person. Some women were dressed in black. This city
of Tarnow was very unsafe. My mother could not even be considered to go through
Tarnow. Because first of all she was wearing a wig43 (I used to
wear a wig myself until the break of the war) and secondly she was ill and
her legs were swollen. There were other escape methods. For example, people
were driven in trucks. The trucks had double floors. The trucks were loaded
with vegetables and underneath the load the passengers were laying horizontally.
In this position they were transported up to the boarder. Truly speaking,
most of the people that were saved took my escape route, in spite of the
fact that it was that unsafe.
Now, on my way back from the chief, I kept on thinking what should I do with mother. I noticed a convoy of horse pulled coaches coming from the train station. A very good thought crossed my mind, with God's intervention for sure. I called one of the coachmen and told him that I have to go to Brzesko and asked to be taken there. He agreed and I instructed him to go to my apartment at 10 Polna street. Somehow I became relaxed and I hurried home. Here as well I improvised in recruiting the coachman and especially in my plan to flee to Brzesco.
At this point I would like to touch upon another subject. My husband
had a good relationship with Dr. Kossowski. People were saying about Mr.
Kossowski that he is a Volksdeutsche and would have nothing to do with Jews.
He used to provide my husband with permits on a regular basis. I personally
arranged a few permits for people from Mielc but that was a year before when
I left Brzesko. During that year I had a few contacts with Dr. Kossowski's
wife in Krakow at Mrs. Elwira's house. She (Elwira) was a dressmaker of Hungarian
extraction. She was a Christian and her husband was a Jew. Both got killed
unfortunately. She helped a lot. All the workers who used to work for her
were Jews with Aryans papers. I also maintained contact with her, lived in
her apartment and used her address. Mrs. Kossowski ordered clothes from her.
I was bragging, as I was used to do, that I had contacts, That I had different
type of papers and that I resided outside the ghetto. I told them that the
wife of the Gestapo commander is my friend and I am not scared of anything.
Now however I wanted above all to escape due to the fact that all foriegn
nationals (Jews with foriegn papers) had to move into the ghetto.
|I went home and saw many people gathering at my place. I said "Menschen
, sbrent!"44 I told them that I would not be able to help them
any more, that I am taking my mother and escaping by myself. I went to Marysia
and told her that the transport that was already prepared must move immediately.
As usual I sent 8 people legally, 4 of them were: my neighbor, her sister,
her brother and her brother-in-law. Each of them brought two additional people.
Other people, who took their chances, joined them as well. My friend Mrs.
Gross, who used documents under the assumed name Cymetbaum, she knew Marysia
very well and according to my request joined her (joined Marysia on the
transport) without paying any money. One "szmalcownik" threaten her and said
"I know that you were sent by Ilona. We are observing her very closely but
she got a good backing. I told Marysia that I am going to Brzesko to Dr.
Kossowski. I asked her to come to me so we could discuss what to do next.
On that transport was a woman named Mrs. Braunfeld. On the previous day I came to her and wanted to take her two older children. I was planning to take the youngest child on the next transport. When I came to take the children she said to me " Mrs. Goldman, I will leave my older children with my sister for the next transport and I would like to take this transport myself with my youngest child". "As you wish" I replied. All the people who heard the latest news from me hurried to the ghetto. The panic was horrendous. The coach arrived. I dressed my mother and we left on our way to Brzesko. I told the coachman to put the coach cover on and people were calling after me "here is a Jew riding".
I went to Kossowski with a lot of hesitations since I was not certain of the way I will be treated. I said to him "Dr. Kossowski, as you know I reside in Bochnia and I am a well known person there. I would like to go to Hungary and my papers are in order but I do not want to cause a panic. For that reason I have decided to wait one day. I would like to have a place in which I could hide my mother so I could quietly liquidate my possessions. I would appreciate it if you let us stay in your house for a day". They agreed with pleasure and gave us a small room in a clinic where we stayed. I was relieved since we had a roof over our head.
My story is very scattered and I did not cover a lot of essential information. I neglected to mention the American transport. When I was released from Monteluppich I was told that there was some hope. The people with American citizenships would be allowed to go to the USA legally. It was an illusion but people believed in it. Mr. Weininger spread the word that people had to pay for it (a huge sum of money) to the Gestapo in Krakow in order to be transported to the USA. He wanted to enlist the interested people and said that he even added his brother to the list. Mr. Heller, who resided in my apartment wanted desperately to join this transport. He had a son in London (England) and he said that his son sent him American papers (documents identifying him as an American citizen). The truth was that these documents were not sent by his son. It was Schomburg who arranged everything. He converted Hungarian papers into American papers.
This transport was scheduled to leave in July. On a certain day the
people had to gather in front of the Sicherheitapolizei building. I escorted
Mr. Heller (to the transport). I saw some trucks parked on the street and
Gestapo officers with automatic weapons were walking around. There were about
|hundred people, all waiting with their luggage. Suddenly Heinrich
appear at the door. He recognized me immediately and I recognized him too.
He signaled toward me "Komm mal her, Du dist doch die Ilona, was machst Du
hier? Du fahrst auch mit dem Transport?"45 . "Leider, ich kann
mit diesem Transport nicht fahren, ich bin ungarische Staatsbuergerin, nicht
amerikanische"46 . "So! Schau, dass Du weiterkommst!"47
He said to me bluntly and I got scared and left. In doing so he saved my
life. As the people were loaded on these trucks it went out of control (everybody
that was standing there was put on the truck indiscriminately) because it
was all a deception. At first they were taken to Monteluppich (prison) and
later to Plaszow (concentration camp) where they were all shot to death.
From this transport escaped only two people. One young boy named Neuhof and
one American citizen named Ast. We were even told that Mr. Heller, said before
his death " If someone will survive the war this person should kill Mr.
Weininger!" Later on we found out that at the very last moment Mr. Weininger
took his brother off the transport. So he must have known that this transport
was a deception. At present my testimony will be compared with Heinrich's
testimony. He is in the midst of the pretrial process and I am the only witness
who can report him as the officer who went with this transport to Krakow
and was the person in charge of the whole operation.
Now I will go back to the time when I was in Brzesko and we were waiting for a message from Bochnia. During supper at Kossowski's house I asked him if he would be willing to transport people to the border with his own car and he agreed. On the following day, Monday, I received a message from Schiff that all the "Auslaenders" (people with foreign citizenship) had been ordered yesterday to move into the ghetto. 6 Ordnungsmann came for me since I was a significant figure. Right now it is all quiet and there is no reason for me to return. But I could not sit idle since if the situation quieted down I could have utilized that day. I suggested Dr. Kossowski to take me back to Bochnia to 10 Polna street. I went to Marysia to find out how the last transport came about. The transport was all right. The people spent the night at her sister's house and proceeded to the border on the next day. We even received a card as a proof that they were on the other side of the border. I wanted to go to ghetto "B". It was dark, very dark. When I approached the gate I noticed two Polish police officers equipped with flashlights. A few meters from the gate I sensed that something was wrong. I turned around and left.
I thought to myself that if no one is allowed to reside outside the
ghetto then my permit must be invalid. I ran to the Gemeinschaft48
and there I saw people being lined up to be taken to the ghetto. I was put
into the line and from there in orderly fashion we were brought to the ghetto.
There we gathered at Schiff's house to decide what to do and how. They told
me that it will be good if I could obtain an exit permit from the ghetto
through the chief. So I could "im Kreis Krakau mit jedem Fahrmittel sich
frei bewegen"49 . In Bochnia lived at that time the younger son
of the sandecki rabbi, he was the Czchow rabbi (Der czchojwer rebe). By the
way, the daughter-in-law of this rabbi was the sister of Szlojmy Halbersztam
and her name was Rywcia. I was mainly among Chassidic people and these people
|very eager to save this rabbi. When I told them that Kossowski agreed
to transport people with his car to the boarder it was a good possibility
(opportunity) since it was impossible to take him (the rabbi) through Tarnow.
His son, who was a rabbi in Sucha, with his wife and four children I sent
earlier, and they were in Budapest. I told them that the chief's wife asked
me "Wann ist der erste?" There was one Ordnungsmann named Blumenfrucht, he
is residing at present in Bruessel, who says "She wants to make business,
it is scarry"50 . Right away they printed permission papers for
me and for my mother and by the following day I had to go to the chief's
wife in order to have it signed. They wanted 100 dollars for it (Until then
I used to pay 50 dollars for a stamp of approval). I spent the night in the
ghetto. During the night I heard rifles shots. The following day I was told
that more than 10 people who wanted to escape to Hungary were discovered
and they all had been executed. It made the access to Schomburg that much
more difficult. We went to Mr. Weiss, who was the president of the Judenrat
at that time, and he phoned Schomburg to say that I wanted to talk to him
and inquire if I am allowed to come. "Ja, soll Sie kommen mit einem Ordnungsmann
und wenn jemand wird Sie anfassen, soll Sie sagen, das ist auf meinen
I went with Blumenfrucht to Schomburg. "Wo haben Sie Ihren Ausweiss?"52 I handed out (my document) to him and he tore it into pieces. I inquired if I could go to see his wife but he did not answer and turned his back to me. I went to his wife weeping and told her that the chief (her husband) ripped my Ausweiss which designated me as a foreign citizen. Her reply was "Weil Sie ihn zum bestem gehalten haben, Warum bringen Sie nicht den Juden?"53 . I pleaded with her to get me an original stamp on a new document which this time will not designate me as a foreign citizen but only that "Rosa Lustig und Ilona Lustig sind genehmigt im Kreis Krakau mit Jedem Fahrmittel sich zu bewegen"54 . She took the document to the office and when she returned she said "Kommen Sie nachmittag"55 . Very often I used to pick up documents at 2p.m. when he was asleep. As I came down the stairs from her he stepped out of his office and turned to Blumenfrucht and said "Sie gehen mit der Ilona ins Ghetto A Zur Feststellung"56 . At two o'clock I returned to her escorted by Blumenfrucht and met her in the garden. When she gave me the signed document I asked for a few more signatures on similar documents. I assured her that at 2 o'clock on the next day I will come to collect the documents and by that time I will be able to locate this Jew.
On Tuesday evening Dr. Kossowski took me back to Brzesko and on Wednesday
morning I went back to ghetto Bochnia by train. I told my friends that Jozek,
Marysia's brother, would accompany me to Brzesko. On Thursday before dawn
he would go with Mr. Kossowski to show him the way to
|Piwniczna. On Thursday evening, providing that everything will go
as planned, we will be able to take at first the old rabbi, reb Szajele Czchojwe,
and others from the ghetto. Before 2 p.m. I was ready to go to the chief's
wife in order to pick up the documents when the oldest brother of my school
friend from Myslenic, named Jusiu Hurowitz, came to me and said "Mrs. Goldman,
I am worried that you are taking your life in your hands for our sake. It
might be better if you will not go to Mrs. Schomburg today since anyway we
are not ready to leave as yet. We will not require these documents as long
as Mr. Kossowski does not know the way. I am afraid that if he (Schomburg)
will find out that you did not deliver this Jew he will be ready to shoot
you. His friendly approach and his strong words stopped me from playing with
fire in those dangerous days.
I left the ghetto at 9 o'clock. Horowitz escorted me (to the gate) everybody greeted me since I was the only link to the outside world. I was supposed to go to Brzesko by the 9:30 train. I was overcome by a sense of fear, like I never felt through the whole war period. I ran to Polna street and asked Marysia to bring Jozek immediately. I told her that I am going to Brzesko by a coach since I am afraid that something happened to my mother and I left. I arrived to Brzesko, Mrs. Kossowski was pacing in front of the house clutching her hands, my mother was crying and yelling that something happened to me. I came in and my mother followed me crying. She said that she could sense that something horrible is about to happen to me. Later on somebody told me that as soon as I left with the coach Schomburg came with soldiers and dogs searching for me.
The next day at 4 a.m. Dr. Kossowski and Jozk left on their way to Piwniczna. They were supposed to be back in 4 hours but returned only at 2 p.m. The roads were blocked due to the liquidation of ghetto Tarnow. At half past three I took the train to Bochnia in order to take the people out of the ghetto for the Kossowski's transport. When I stepped off the train in Bochnia I heared somebody calling: "Mrs. Ilona Goldman go back!, run away!". I looked around and I saw that on the next railroad track stood live stock cars. Through the barred windows I noticed the faces of the people who called to worn me. I reentered the train very quickly and continued my trip towards Krakow. I decided to get off the train in Prokocim. I knew that the local Auslaenders were not forced into the ghetto as yet but I did not know any of them. I met two women who knew me and they took me to the Leblowicz family. There they knew already that the relocation process was taking place in Bochnia. I asked Mr. Leblowicz to call Dr. Kossowski and warn him not to go to Bochnia and to tell him to calm down my mother and to inform her that I will come back by tomorrow.
On Friday morning I returned to Brzesko and met with Dr. Kossowski.
We agreed that on Sunday morning he will take me and my mother to Hanusia.
We put pillows in the car and bandaged my mother, pretending that she was
sick, and we left Brzesko. The night between Sunday to Monday we spent at
Hanusia's house. At that time I realized that she was stealing from the
transports. She was searching in my belongings as well but I had only some
old clothes. Mother could not walk so I hired three strong peasants and they
carried her all the way to the Slovakian border. There we went to a peasant's
house and spent the night in the attic. How my mother found the strength
to climb to the attic I do not know to this day. I knew that it was impossible
to proceed with my mother through the Tatry mountains. I inquired with a
peasant for the closest town and about whether he knew of any Jews there.
|confirmed that there was a town named Nowe Miasto about 18 km from
us and that he knew a Jewish pharmacist there. I sent a note with the peasant's
son, that I am here with my old mother and inquired about the way to get
there. I added that I am Ilona from Bochnia, the one who had sent all the
transports, mainly children. The reply was to take a wagon and to come straight
to town. Even if we will get arrested we should not worry about it.
The peasant gave me his wagon and we left. Jews in Nowy Miesto treated us well and after a few days they transferred us to Preszow. In Preszow there was a committee which was involved in sending people farther away. There was a person named Szwarc who was very helpful. He proposed to transfer mother by car since there was such a possibility. I sent my mother to Koszyc where one of my cousins from the Lustig family used to reside. From there they transferred mother to Budapest, where my brother resided. I was told that among the people who knew me there was a big movement and they were saying "Whatever Ilona was able do, nobody else could".
For a while I stayed in Preszow, where I had many friends. The Leblowicz
family and Szor family were there already (residing at present in Tel-Aviv).
I became acquainted with Mrs. Luba Wolf from Krakow who was working in the
"Mittelstandskueche"57 , it was a kitchen which provided food
for refugees. I rented an apartment and started to work as a seamstress.
One day I met my cousin Mina Lustig in the street and she called me Gestapo.
I remember taking her out of the ghetto and accommodating her in my apartment.
I was feeding her, her husband and her children. Later on she became very
hostile towards me since she figured that she could have made a fortune on
the documents she gave me. I paid her $50 per person while I was making only
$20 at that time. During those days I had large expenses. At my house the
table was always set with food and anybody could have come and eat. I made
$20 per person through Fisher however I also took many people for free. When
she found out about that she took me for "Din-Tojre"58 to the
Krynica rabbi David Cymetbaum, who was her relative as well as mine. She
demanded that I will leave a deposit in trust with the rabbi. I had some
jewelry from my late husband, a diamond ring and a broach and I had some
British currency which I gave to the rabbi as a deposit. I was certain in
winning this process. Mrs. Rozia Gross and her husband were my witnesses.
These witnesses are still among the living. The grievances were not settled
in one court session and we had to reconvene in a few days. When I was arrested
it caused a great panic in Bochnia. Anybody who could, fled to Hungary. This
Krynica rabbi was a poor man and my husband and I used to support him
economically. I relocated him from Brzesko to Bochnia and I took him out
of the ghetto. Surly I could have helped him to escape later to Hungary but
when I was held in Monteluppich somebody offered him an escape route to Hungary.
He paid with my deposit to save his own life. Nobody thought that I would
ever get out of Monteluppich. Unfortunately it was a provocation and the
people (of that transport) got killed. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Lustig
contributed indirectly to the death of the Krynica rabbi. If she had not
demanded this deposit he would not have had the means to pay for the trip.
I did not do anything to justify her calling me a Gestapo. It hurt me very
much and to this day I am offended by it.
|While I was in Preszow, a letter from Budapest written by Mrs. Braunfeld
addressing the committee arrived. In this letter she blamed me in the death
of her two children. She added that I was not an honest person and people
were telling all kinds of stories about me. Mrs. Braunfeld said that she
is waiting for me to arrive from Poland in order to (from here the print
is not clear) (confront me or to take revenge). I would like to add another
thing. During my stay in Preszow more people came from Bochnia. People who
were hidden in bunkers (during the last Aktion) came to Marysia at 10 Polna
street and traced my escape route. My way of escape was the best and most
of the people chose to take it. Mr. Schiff and many other people came in
this way. The committee inquired with them about me. I would assume that
they got good reports about my conduct since they called me and showed me
that letter. Reading the letter devastated me. I was not liable of any wrong
doing. I wanted to save the children first ant to take her later on but she
was the one that changed it. She left with the last transport and right after
that the relocation took place and I had to escape myself. Upon sending her
with the child I received $100 and a note stating that I should use half
of the money for her and for the child's transport and the rest should be
given (and so I did) to her sister in the ghetto until I would send her (the
sister) with the children as well. It just happened that on Monday evening
when I came to 10 Polna street with Mr. Kossowski's car, I met Mrs. Braunfeld's
sister there and she asked me of any messages from her. At that time I gave
her the $50 and I promised her to take her and the children on the next available
transport. These two incidents that I had in Preszow hurt me very much.
After that we left Preszow. Mr. Schwarz (there were the four of us) took us by car to some village. There stood a locomotive and we were placed two people on each side of the locomotive. The windows of the locomotive were shut. In Koszyca the train engineer told us to get off and we purchased train tickets to Budapest. The four of us got on the train and before dawn we arrived in Budapest. My sister was already waiting for us. Later on I went to the Polish committee under the name Kawecka Jadwiga. I still had a Kennkarta from Poland and (based on that) I received new documentation. All the people in this place were living under refugee status. They received from the Polish Committee 150 pengo per month and it was a very handsome salary. I located my father-in-law. In Budapest I had no trouble with him since he was under the care of the sister of his son's wife named Bebi Stern. Initially she put him in a hospital and later on she put him in an old folks' home where he passed away in March 1944.
Mother was under state supervision. In Budapest there was such a camp
where they kept all the foreigners. It was in a Jewish hospital on Sabdes.
I wanted to visit my mother and in order to do so I had to go by subway train.
My brother resided on Kiraly and I was residing on Klausalter. My brother
joined me and on the way to the subway he entered a coffee shop to buy something
for mother (In this place the local Jews were still living without noticing
a war). While I was waiting in front of the pastry shop I noticed Mrs. Braunfeld
rushing towards me. She was screaming "this is the person who murdered my
children. She has my children on her conscience and many other people as
well". Naturally a crowd started to gather and all I wished for at that moment
was to be buried underground. I only told her " You should be ashamed of
yourself. You are the mother who deserted her children. I am the one who
wanted to save the children but it was you who took their turn". She started
to scream hysterically. My brother came back and took me quickly to the subway
station. When I arrived at my
|mothers' I started to Cry very hard and I could not stop. At that
place (in the camp) there was another lady who was under state supervision
by the name of Mala Lefenholc, I sent her before with her daughter. (she
resides at present in Haifa). She and my mother tried to calm me down. It
hurt me so much that I was even contemplating suicide. It terribly hurt me
to get such a response after all the things that I had done. Due to the incidents
with Mrs. Braunfeld and with my cousin Mrs. Glezar I was afraid to go to
the Jewish committee. I did not want to see anybody at all. People from Poland
who were rescued enjoyed themselves. They went to movies and to coffee shops.
I was depressed because I felt that I should have done even more.
First of all - the Schiff family started to annoy me. I just realized that they were after large profits. They charged each person 20,000 zloty and told me that they were charging 15,000 zloty. For example, there was a lady named Lusia Steinfeld, at present her name is Liberman, who wanted to pay for herself and for her mother 30,000 zloty but he demanded only 40,000 zloty. She ended up being sent to Auschwitz but managed to escape at a later date. She told me that they (the Schiff family) used to talk about me in such a way that people were afraid to make any contact with me. I prepared Hungarian documents for Mr. Schiff without any profit. He sent people to me and charged them 15,000 zloty each. It used to cost 10,000 zloty, later 12,000 zloty. The difference he used to split with me. Very often I used to take the money that he gave me and I paid for the transport of other people with it. During all that time I never took any person for profit behind his back (without his knowledge). I felt that we were working as a team because he had given me that address. There was only one incident when a lady named Mrs. Frenkl (they have a textile store in Tel-Aviv) came to me with her child without Mr. Schiff's knowledge. I received from her 30,000 zloty (the equivalent of $300). I profited $150 which I used either for the rescue of one member of my family or for a poor child. Mr. Schiff met me in Budapest and told me that he found out about it from Mrs. Frenkl and that he was upset with me. Upon arrival to Budapest I had only $100 on me so I gave him $50. At present he (Mr. Schiff) owns a scrap metal wearhouse in Tel-Aviv and his business is thriving. When I arrived in Budapest he let me borrow 100 pounds.
My cousin Ichek Schoen used to reside near Budapest in a town named Cilaghegy. Right after my arrest he escaped to Hungary. I was informed that due to him, not intentionally of course, I got arrested. This cousin had a brother in a labor camp in Rabce (his name was Josiu). Ichek asked me to prepare documentation for his brother as well so he would be able to escape to Hungary. Naturally I agreed. He sent a letter to his brother through this building's gaurd at 45 Dietlowska street. In the letter he told him of the people who lived (outside the ghetto) using foreign papers. He added that if he (the brother) will manage to escape (from the labor camp) then "Ida is willing to arrange such document for him". Obviously this letter went straight to the Gestapo (the gaurd was a collaborator) and as a result they killed this Josiu in the camp and I got arrested.
Before I conclude my testimony regarding my activities in Poland I would
like to shed some positive light on professor Bobrzynski. At the time when
I took the child, named Sasza Weitman, from him the Gestapo searched his
place. Although he knew my name and address and in spite of the fact that
they arrested his son for that reason, he did not reveal anything. I would
also like to say some good words about my landlady Marysia Karczmarczyk.
When I organized the escape route to Hungary she profited
|very well economically. However prior to that I resided at her place
using Hungarian papers and (due to my activities) there was always a reason
to live in fear. I never heard from her even one word of complaint. Her behavior
was indeed appreciated. For example when Schomburg was looking for me she
did not say a word and did not betray me in spite of the fact that he put
pressure on her (I am not aware of the type of pressure).
Now I would like to describe my activities in Budapest. When I arrived in Budapest I started searching for a job among the Aryans. I can not recall how I came to pension Radky. There resided Polish refugees from the beginning of the war, Aryan people. She hired me as seamstress. She used to meet with her mother and some neighbors who resided on the lower floor. There was the wife of Dr. Boytha who was a Fascist that came from Germany. Her husband was a military doctor. It was Hungarian aristocracy. We became friends and she liked me very much. Naturally they had no idea that I was Jewish. I introduced myself as a widow of a Polish officer.
I arrived at Budapest in December 1943. It was already very difficult to get permanent status and I had to move to the country. I succeeded in releasing my mother and we brought her to Nadzwarod. My brother relocated to there as well. Mrs. Boytha and other members of her company appreciated my work. I told them that if they wanted me (to provide my services) in Budapest they should help me to obtain permanent status since the keok refused to grant me this permit. Keok was the office which handled foreign citizens. Mrs. Boyta said that she had a cousin who was a member of parliament and is an influential person. His name was Dr. Gorgeffi. He promised to meet me in a coffee shop (the same coffee shop in which the meeting between Joel Brand and Eichmann took place). I needed to make contact with Dr. Farkasz who was the person in charge of the approval of a permanent status. Dr. Gorgeffi phoned Dr. Farkasz from the coffee shop and also gave me his personal business card to be used when I met with Dr. Farkasz. The business card had his family symbol since he was from an aristocratic Hungarian family. On the back of the card he wrote that Mrs. Kawecka was related to his cousin, can be trusted and her family is known as Aryan for generations.
When I took this card to the Keok office to Dr. Farkasz he let me in immediately and provided me with a permanent residency document in Budapest. It was such an achievement, that when I told my friends about it they just could not believe it. Did you manage even here to have doors open for you? they asked. It was not necessary for me to reside in the center of Budapest, instead I lived in the suburb at Caiylaghegy. A Polish camp was located there. It was known as a place populated by Poles but there were lots of our people too. In order to go to work I used to take a ride to Budapest. Dr. Boyta's wife gave me a room so I would not have to commute back and forth every day.
On March the 19, 1944 the Germans came. I neglected to mention that
my nephews (my brother's children) were registered as Jewish children and
were not equipped with Aryan papers. There was a youth hostel in Vau (near
Budapest) where orphan children and children of poor families were kept.
This hostel was run by Dr. Kotarba, real name Osterweil, he resides at present
in Rishon Lecyjon, and by Dr. Bratowski at present Brettler who resides in
Tel-Aviv. Immediately upon entering Budapest the
|Germans killed Kollataja from the Polish committee and right away
started to search for Polish people. This youth hostel ceased to exist since
above all they were interested in Polish Jews. My nephews returned to their
parents, but there were many other children that had no place to go to. They
were walking around (homeless) and were spotted very easily.
Later on all the Polish people had to pass a medical examination and the special medical counsel had to determine if they were real Poles or Polish Jews. Naturally there were different attempts to bypass the system. We did whatever we could to make it look proper. Each Pole was equipped with certificates indicating that he/she passed the examination and proved to be non Jewish. It was funny since we as women were given these kinds of certificates which also indicated that we were Aryans..........
The testimony of Mrs. Ida Grinberg reveals a lot of details about the escape operation which existed in ghetto Bochnia from the end of 1942 to September 1943. The escape operation involved Poles and Jews who profited handsomely due to it. It is understood that whoever wanted to be rescued from the hell of Poland had to pay large sums of money to cover his/her escape. Nevertheless the idea of Jews profiting from this kind of operation and even worse, refusing to help their own brothers due to lack of economical means is less than appealing.
One may look at these events from a different perspective altogether. The people who were active in the rescue operation had to make an enormous amount of money in order to rescue their own families. They might have chosen to be merciful and rescue people that could not afford to pay but at the same time they were sacrificing members of their own families in the process. Whatever route they chose to take they ended up feeling guilty of some wrong doing. As a matter of fact many survivors of the holocaust ended up feeling that way. The situation of Mrs. Braunfeld brought this scenario to its extreme. We will never know why she chose to take the earlier transport and leave her two older children behind for the next one. It does not have to be an attempt to rescue herself and the younger child before the others. It might have been out of caring for her children knowing that no one will be in Hungary to care for them when they arrived there. She also knew that she could trust her sister with the children while she was gone. Whatever the reason was, Mrs. Braunfeld had to bare a horrible guilt. She realized that her decision to go first sentenced her two children to death. It was too much for her to take and out of desperation she lashed out not at the person who killed them but at the only person she could get a hold of, the person who failed to rescue her children from death. By shifting the blame to another person she tried to ease her own pain but to no avail.
The information regarding the head of the Gestapo in Bochnia, Mr. Schomburg, portrayed him as a money hungry person. His greediness pushed him into betraying his superiors by approving any documentation for the right price. Knowingly he signed forged passports and ID documents and in doing so he aided the escape operation of Jews to Hungary. Eventually his habits caught up with him and he was executed by his own organization, the Gestapo.
Another aspect of the struggle for survival was the collaboration with
the Nazis. Some people faced with the prospect of certain death, chose to
collaborate with the oppressor in order to save their own lives. The Ferster
brothers are mentioned here in brief. The older Ferster resided in Krakow
and maintained close ties with Heinrich and Kunde. The younger Ferster who
lived in Bochnia was close to Schomburg. Mr. Lejzer Landau was working, according
to this testimony, for the Sicherheitspolizei (the Nazi security police).
We know of his arrest by the Gestapo and at this time probably he decided
to work for them instead of being killed by them. The details of his duties
and what capacity he was working at were never revealed. We do know that
Lejzer helped many people in Bochnia however nobody was working for the Gestapo
for the sole purpose of helping his people. Lejzer had a close friendly
relationship with Hermann Heinrich and Kunde. Both of them held high positions
within the Gestapo organization. He knew ahead of time of any pending Aktion
in the Krakow district and informed the targeted victims of the coming events.
From this testimony we can see that his relations with the Gestapo were so
close that he fled to Hungary with the full knowledge of his superiors. He
was even involved in the nomination process of his replacement in the
Sicherheitspolizei. Mr. Lejzer Landau became very rich while holding his
position and it is not difficult to figure out the way he obtained his