Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel.
Testimony # 03/10785
Archives # N/A
Name: Alexander Gutfreund
Date of Birth: 1930 in Bochnia, Poland
Present address: Kiryat Bialik, Israel
Interviewer: Orly Ben-Yona
Date of testimony: March, 10, 1998
Testimony's language of origin: Hebrew.
Translation and commentary by: I. Zelinkovsky
The following is the testimony of a holocaust survivor - Alexander Gutfreund. In this testimony the witness tells about his memories of the life in Bochnia as a Jewish child. He describes the struggle for survival in the local ghetto through all its phases until the final liquidation. This testimony is rich in details and covers the numerous times the witness and his family had a brush with death. The reader will also learn about the life of the Jewish survivors in Poland (and Bochnia) after the war and the witness's success to immigrate to Israel.
I was born in Bochnia, Poland in the year 1930. My father was a barber
and my mother was a housewife. I had a sister
.. actually I have a sister.
Up to the break of WWII I was a grade 3 student in a Polish public school
named Jakovice. Our family was middle class and my father was a Zionist.
My mother used to have a donation box of the JNF (Jewish National Fund) like
all the other "good Jewish women". Father was very active in the Jewish
community. He was involved in building a large synagogue in Bochnia. Until
then there were many small synagogues that were called "Shtibalach". The
Jews of Bochnia were divided. Some were very religious, some were traditionalists
and there were also non religious Jews. My grandfather from my father's side
was a traditionalist. On my mother side I knew only my grandmother, and she
was very religious.
|I lived a normal life, it was like that until the war. I was playing
with Polish children and I felt like a Polish patriot. I knew that I was
a Jew, after school I attended a "cheder"1. I was somewhat bitter
about it but I had no choice. I was never affiliated with any youth movement
since I was too young. Father used to take me from time to time to a certain
Zionist youth movement but I cannot recall which movement it was. Since my
father was a socialist and a Zionist, it probably was a Zionist socialist
In 1939 the Second World War erupted. After about a week the Germans entered Bochnia. We saw the German's might. We could not believe that something like that existed. We lived on the main street and we saw the Germans entering with tanks, artillery and infantry mobilized on armored vehicles. Before entering Bochnia the Germans had a skirmish with a small Polish force that was eliminated from the air. The Germans entered without any problem. The bombing did not take place in the center of Bochnia and we did not suffer from it. At the initial stage, right after entering Bochnia, the Germans did not relate to the Jewish population at all. Sometime later the Germans forbade the Jews from passing in the main street. When the Jews did not oblige, they were beaten. Then the Jewish police organization O.D. (Ordnungsdienst) was established. They put people in every entrance and exit to the main street to keep the Jews away.
Some time later we were instructed to put some kind of sleeve on our hands (identifying band). It was not a yellow patch but white and light blue. It applied to people from the age of 13 so I too, at a certain stage had to wear it. The summer vacation ended and we went back to school. After about a week the teacher called us, we were five Jewish kids in our class, and he told us "goodbye and don't come back". He simply drove us away and we left. The Judenrat2 was established at that time and they erected some kind of Jewish school. The academic level there was not high, its main purpose was to hold the children and to keep them busy.
My father's store was not confiscated. It was the opposite, he was
instructed to keep his store open and to serve the German army. Initially
they even paid very well. The soldiers knew that he was a Jew and they treated
him well. Some time later father kept his store but the Germans moved to
other places. It was until 1940. During that time the Germans imposed all
kinds of levies. The Jews had to give certain kilos of copper, lead and other
materials. People used to buy it in order to comply with the quota and deliver
it to the authorities. They used to post an instruction that everyone had
to bring that many kilos and nobody dared not comply.
|We kept residing in our home. In the same building resided German
soldiers. I do not know if they were aware of our Jewish identity, anyway
they treated us well. Among them there were anti-Semites that talked about
Jews and there were others who couldn't care less. During that period there
was some kind of activity, some people claim that they were Polish partisans
or some underground organization. Shots were fired during the night, two
or three Germans were killed. The Germans hanged the two people who did it.
Later on they took all the prisoners from the local jail and for good measure
they added a few Jews. They marched them through the city. We saw this, and
they were taken to a place near the forest, and this was practically the
first execution in Bochnia.
That how it was until the ghetto. In 1941 we were instructed to move into the ghetto. We left our apartment and we found another apartment in the ghetto. Father was permitted to transfer his business into the ghetto. Polish people who resided within the ghetto parameters were relocated. During that time there was still some kind of school. Something to keep the children. At that time we did not think about escape. No one thought about extermination and no one talked about extermination. We knew that we are facing problems, we knew that the Germans did not like Jews. They thought that the situation will be like in Germany where they imposed restrictions on the Jews, but no one talked about extermination. Even when the transports to the East were discussed they knew that the Jews were sent for labor, no one knew that it was extermination. Each one thought that somehow they would survive. Jews were always optimists. The Germans reached Moscow and we were saying that the situation was wonderful. Possibly that way of thinking kept them going, otherwise, people wouldn't be able to survive.
My father had a barbershop, at a certain stage there was an instruction that everyone had to work. The happy school days were over and I was accepted as a worker at my father's barbershop this is why I claimed that I was a barber. I learned to do haircut, to shave, to soap, things like that. I worked there for a fairly long time. It was a kind of town life where one lived off the other. There were some that did business and made profit and there were still contacts with the outside. But in reality the economic situation started to deteriorate. That how it was until the first aktion3 which took place in the summer of 1942.
|In the summer of 1942 all the Jews were instructed to report to
the military base. Only people that received a stamp permitting them to stay
were excluded. All those who wanted to stay tried to find a "respectable
work place". The general thought were that only the people without work would
be sent away. Anyway some of the employed people were permitted to stay.
At that time practically all the Jewish population of Bochnia, most of the
Jews who originally resided in Bochnia, were sent to Belzec. We did not know
that Belzec was a death camp. We thought that they were being shipped to
the east to work. At that time there was a hospital inside the ghetto. The
director of this hospital was my uncle, Anatol Gutfreund. Since it was told
(by the Germans) that the sick will not be transported to the east and will
remain in Bochnia, he took his mother and admitted her to the hospital.
people were searching for ways to survive. But the Germans as
usual did not stand behind their word. They took all the sick from the hospital
to the forest near Bochkov and shot them all. My grandmother was among them.
At a certain stage all the people with permits to stay were instructed to
report to the Judenrat court. We were taken to the same military base and
than they performed a second selection.
They asked each one for his/her occupation. My father said that he is a barber and they said, we need a barber so they passed him. Then they passed my sister. She worked in two places, in a bakery and also in the department which cleaned the streets. My mother said that she was working with my father and somehow they let her pass. Then came my turn and he (the German officer) stopped me with his "Paitz" scepter baton. I was a 12 year old boy. Exactly at that moment near the main group of deportees a commotion erupted. I do not know what happened there. He turned his head to see what was happening and at that instant my mother pulled me and I moved to the other side, to the group of people designated to stay, and I remained in the ghetto. It was my first selection, and like in other numerous occasions, it was a matter of a split second one way or the other (to live or die).
In this action the main core of the Jewish community of Bochnia vanished.
We, however, returned to the ghetto. Then they started to bring Jews from
all kinds of towns and villages around us. They gathered all of them into
the ghetto. People who hid during the action and were found were shot on
the spot. Those who were not found stayed in their hiding place. Later on
they allowed them to come out and there was no problem at all. They came
out and received a stamp permitting them to stay. Then they divided the ghetto
into ghetto "A" and ghetto "B". Ghetto "A" was for working people and ghetto
"B" was for people who did not work. They had a long range plan to eliminate
|The second aktion took place in November 1942, it was the winter
of 42. The Jews were quite confused and did not know what to do. We again
got a permit to stay but we were worried since we saw that there were selections
and the people who hid stayed. So father decided that we will hide. He
constructed a bunker in the attic of a warehouse, which was located in the
courtyard of our house. There was another family named Marsend. They had
a little daughter 4 years old named Etinka. This girl was really well disciplined
or even tamed. She was trained to keep silent and not to open her mouth.
She was capable of being silent for hours. She learned that in the event
where she will be put inside a backpack and someone will hit the backpack
(with a club) so she shouldn't open her mouth. She was practically tamed.
She was also fearful and scared. I have to admit that I was teasing her.
I was older than she was and I gave her trouble (grief). I used to tell her
scary stories and she was staring at me for a long time without saying a
word and than suddenly she burst into tears. Whatever people did to her she
kept quiet until she burst into tears. She was a very disheartening girl.
We hid with the Marsend family and also my grandmother, my mother's mother,
was there with us. We hid and the search began. We heard how people found
hidden in any house were being shot. In house after house, we heard screaming
and shooting. They shot and shot and shot. In the next house they also found
the family in hiding. We knew them and they were killed and we heard all
the screaming. After that the Germans came to our house.
I remember that on the door there was written "Ordungdzist Holender" it was our neighbor. I remember it was evening and they called his name. They searched but did not reach the warehouse in which we were hidden. Probably it was dark and they could not see. It was an attic with the entrance from the warehouse. My father piled all kind of things on the entrance so it would be impossible to open from downstairs. It was impossible .. at least this was our perception. On the next day we heard that they renewed the search again. They were moving again (from house to house) and we heard shooting here and shooting there. They were getting closer. They came to the warehouse in which we were hidden. They looked at the warehouse and said "here there must be an attic" and they started to search. They started to push the door with a post and things that were piled above started to move.
The German that was there said "there must be people in there" and then they brought a ladder and they entered through the roof. A Jewish man entered, a locksmith who was brought to assist in opening the doors, and a Polish policeman also entered. Prior to the war, we resided in a building which belonged to the police and all the members of the police force knew us. The policeman saw my father and screamed "good heavens Mr. Gutfreund what are you doing here. The policeman tried to cover my father (to hide him from view). The locksmith who knew the Marsend family started to cover them as well.
|They opened the door. I was the closest one (to the door) so he
(a Polish policeman) grabbed me and threw me downstairs. Mother started to
scream, she was afraid that something would happen to me
not take into account that they were going to shoot us
..I went out
of this warehouse and I stood up in the courtyard. The German (Gestapo officer)
called me. There was only one German officer, all the rest were Polish policemen.
He told me to stand under the fence. Than my sister also went down. He asked
me how many people were hiding up there. I did not tell him how
I knew that they hid father and the other family. I answered
that up there were my mother, my sister and grandmother. I said that since
these people were with me and we were discovered immediately. Then he stood
me under the wall, he lowered his rifle and loaded a bullet. At that moment
I just wished that it would be painless since I knew it was the end. At that
moment a messenger arrived, riding on a motorcycle and screamed something
in German. The German took the bullet out of the rifle, put it in his pocket,
hung the rifle on his shoulder and approached the messenger. They discussed
something in German but I could not hear what they were talking about, and
he signed to acknowledge the new command. During that time they brought down
grandma and mother. He said, "keep on searching, there are more people up
there". There was no choice. They brought out father and the other family.
Later on we found out that they stopped shooting after they had been ordered
to stop. Soldiers in the military base I was talking about before started
to inquire about the reason of the shooting. The SS did not want the soldiers
to know what was going on so they issued a command to stop shooting. It was
a miracle that we did not get shot. It was our own private miracle.
Then father told the Polish policemen that we had a permit to stay in the ghetto however since we were late (to go to the selection) we were afraid to go during the curfew and we stayed here. Could you please take us through the Judenrat office, they will confirm (my claim). They could not care less. The Polish policemen horrible anti-Semite .. To our good fortune at that moment a German citizen, Gestapo officer, passed by, and father who spoke good German, had served in WWI in the Austrian army, told him that we were supposed to stay. We have a permit to stay, and that we should be brought to the Judenrat. Father took off a ring decorated with gems (offering it to him). The German took the ring and told the Polish policemen to take them through the Judenrat (to the transport). In the Judenrat office they confirmed that we were on the list (of the people that were permitted to stay), but anyhow there was an instruction to move us to the transport where everybody was assembled. After that came an instruction from the Judenrat to move us back to the Judenrat office. Grandmother was left in the transport.
|We were inside the Judenrat office. I remember there was a baby
boy, a few months old. He had been given sleeping pills to stop him from
crying and revealing the whereabouts of the bunker he was hidden in. Probably
he was given an overdose and he was at death's door. My uncle the physician
asked for some milk to wash the baby's stomach but there was no milk. I believe
that the baby died eventually, but I do not know for certain. Anyhow we set
there until the afternoon, and we saw how they transfer these people to the
train. All these people that had to go, and whoever could not walk was shot.
Later on we saw that the old were transported on wagons. We saw grandmother
on one of these wagons. Where they took them I do not know until now. All
these that were taken by train were transported to Szebnie labor camp but
the elderly I have no idea. Either they were taken to some place where they
were shot or they were taken to Belzec (death camp), we just don't know.
At that time we already knew about the extermination. In the same hospital my uncle was running, there was an orderly, a medic, who went with the first aktion. After two to three weeks my uncle received a letter from Belzec with the Belzec stamp. " they are all dead. I am the only one left. They all went into the gas chambers. I met a friend from school" This man was from Bielsko Bjala on the Czech boarder. The German was from Czechoslovakia from the boarder area. He recognized him and kept him alive. But this Jew asked from my uncle to send him poison since he did not want to keep on living. There was a dilemma what to do with this postcard. On one hand it may cause panic . To reveal or not to reveal. Uncle and father decided to give the postcard to the Judenrat. In the Judenrat they also did not know what to do with it. Then came another postcard, " I beg you, please send me poison, I do not want to live." Later came another postcard and this is where it end. Nothing came since. So then we knew about the holocaust. The first time it was clear to us.
After the second aktion they released us back to our homes. They took us to collect all the bodies of the people killed in the bunkers and all that. They brought us to a hill. Initially we put the corpses inside a wooden house. The plan was to put them in the house and then they wanted to light the house and burn everything. That was the instruction. But there were too many corpses and they could not fit them inside. Then we received a new order to disassemble the house and to collect the wood. The corpses had to be collected in piles. At that time came three solders from the military base. They heard the shots and came to investigate what was happening. The spotted the piles of corpses and inquired about it. My father who spoke good German said "Verbrecher" criminals. They saw on the side a pile of dead children. They asked are these also criminals? Father said yes.
|What did they do?
Then these soldiers realized what was happening. They said "these dogs, the SS, what are they doing on our account and we are going to pay the price". They returned with the whole company, it was close, and they wanted to go against the SS and to raise a scandal about what they were doing. We begged them not to do that since it will only hurt us and make it even worse. For the others it would not matter anyway. In any case we saw that the soldiers did not know what was happening. They were shocked and definitely were not aware of the situation. It is possible that certain Wehrmacht units did all kind of things but these guys did not know anything about it.
I forgot to mention something. In the first aktion a few rabies were
killed. They took us to collect the corpses. I saw the rabies and I asked
my father who are those people. These are rabies. Where are they and where
are we? (how come that we are still alive while they were killed). Father
explained that they died on behalf of the other Jews sacrificed as a punishment
for the sins of others. Yes, I said, but there are also children, For what
reason were they killed? So father started crying, what could he say? (He
could not come with any reasoning for that).
The third aktion took place in summer 1943. One morning they announced "everybody out, everybody to the appellplatz5. "Everybody get out immediately. Take with you only small things. I had a stamp collection and I went with my friend to hide it. We thought that again we would get out of it (alive) somehow. I went to the cellar with my friend and we hid it. We wrapped it with old rugs. We went outside and there was nobody around, they took everybody.
|We lived not far from the Judenrat office, opposite, about 200 meters
from the Judenrat. Near the Judenrat stood many Germans. They saw us coming
out and they shouted "Stehenbleiben!" which means, "stop!" but I did not
we started to run. My father taught me that in case that
I will be shot at, I should escape in zigzag, and that what I did. My friend
passed me. He was about ten meters ahead of me. They open fire at us. I saw
a red stain on his back and he fell down. I kept on running and entered an
alley. I ran to the appellplatz (the roll-call court) the place where everybody
were taken. I searched and found my family. My family looked around but could
not find me, many people were there already but they could not locate me.
We stayed again among the group of people designated to liquidate the ghetto. At that time we were not aware of the liquidation. Father got the permit to stay, we all got the permit to stay. They took us aside and all the rest they started to transfer to the transport. Then I saw the family who dwelled with us and I noticed a large backpack on the father's back. We all knew that inside this backpack he was carrying his daughter Etinka. We saw how the Germans strike the backpack with a stick. They strike not only this backpack but all the bags. We saw how they strike and also stabbed. This girl kept quiet, did not make a sound. They managed to pass her and they went to Szebnie. I was told what happened after that. While they were in Szebnie, it was a labor camp, at a certain stage they discovered that girl and they killed her. The father was notified of the identity of the German who murdered his daughter and during one of the roll calls he broke ranks and attacked this German and strangled him. They shot the father on the spot but I was told that he managed to kill this German. This was a separate chapter.
While they were transporting the people to Szebnie we set on the side. The whole group. Then I saw a Jew escaping from the transport. We set near a Jewish kosher slaughterhouse. The Jew ran into the slaughterhouse and the Germans chased him. We heard shots and we heard him shouting "Shma Israel" and than it was silence. Ten minute later we heard him calling "water water " I guess he was still alive. But no one could come near him and than it was all silence. Later we were taken to the residence of the Jewish police (the Ordnungsdienst) It was in Kraszewska street. We were supposed to be a group of 160 people but 260 people left. Then they took all of us, it was called the bloody roll-call. They decided that one hundred people have to be eliminated. The head of the Judenrat, Simcha Wise, was ordered to produce the list of the people who were suppose to stay. His reply was "I do not have a list". For some reason the commander of the labor camp Miler, said that he does not have the list. The commander who oversaw the aktion, some colonel, said " You do not have a list, O.K. shoot this whole pile" (kill the whole group). He got into his car and started to drive away. Mr. Wise, the head of the Judenrat, ran after the car, like a puppy he started begging, "listen we will do something ." He (the German) got out of his car and said "choose who will get out of here" He (Wise) reapplied " I can not choose, I can be the first". This I remember. Then the Germans talked among themselves and started pulling different people from the group. Initially we were sure that they are pulling out the people that were going to stay, since they pulled out people who were close to the Germans. But later it become clear that every German who had a score to settle with a Jew took that Jew out of the group for the purpose of extermination.
|After that they said "all the children move to the front row. I
wanted to get out but father grabbed me and stopped me from doing that. He
lifted me with his hand behind his back. He stood ahead of me and held me
and somebody from the row behind lifted me by my pants so I will be higher,
so I will look as if I was higher. They went back and forth, searched. But
they did not notice that I was a young child. They took out one hundred people.
They took them aside and shot them on the spot. Later on they took us to
some place, to the appellplatz, where some huts were erected, we were there
(we were located there). We were given the task of liquidating the ghetto.
But first they took us to cover all the
.. I did not go than, my father
.. to eliminate all the dead people that were
. And there
were many corpses. Countless corpses. I can not give you a figure but there
were hundreds of them. We were left for the purpose of liquidating the ghetto.
We worked from both sides of the ghetto
and there were many Jews that
were hidden. At this time anybody that was discovered was killed. In all
(previous) cases people who were discovered after the aktion were allowed
to stay but not this time. Whoever was found was killed. There were a few
that were taken to the cellars (the jail) of the Jeudenrat but mainly they
I recall a case where I was with my father and two children were found. A girl maybe thirteen years old and a boy seven or eight something like that. Father called me and showed me a tiny suitcase and inside the suitcase there were a few carrots and a few potatoes since there was nothing to eat. . They were hidden possibly over a long time. Father started crying he started crying because he saw that of course , these children were shot. They took us to light the fire. They put them in a straw basket there were in Poland straw baskets in a large size. They burnt them and than they scattered their ashes.
Father was a leader of a work battalion, and there was a woman that hide in a bunker and came out joined the work battalion. She was illegal . Father covered for her, he helped her to make contact with the other side, with the Aryan side, she managed to escape.
At a certain stage in the ghetto during the liquidation they perform another selection. We were 160 people and only 100 people had to stay. My father was a leader of a work battalion. The whole group worked so so. Probably my father was a diligent man, "did his work, and for some reason the Lagerfurhrer who was riding his horse saw him working, I assume that he liked what he saw. He called him, took out a cigar and gave him the cigar. It was Saturday, and my father did not smoke on Saturdays. How could you tell a German that you are not smoking on Saturdays. So father said " I am not smoking during work time, I will smoke (the cigar) after work". He liked it even more. Two to three days later the selection took place and he passed us. He let us stay. We stayed as part of the one hundred people, the whole family, also my mother and also my (sister).
|At the end of 43 ghetto Bochnia was no more, it was liquidated.
All the articles from there they brought to the trains. Everything went to
Germany. Everything was packed, organized.
While we were in the ghetto there was a case where a Jewish policeman escaped from the ghetto, and he had a mother there, very old . So he took his mother, and killed her this camp commander, Muller. Obersturmfuhrer Muller. Actually there were the two cases that he personally shoot people. In this case and in the case of the woman who were not supposed to be in ghetto "B".
Later on they put us all into big single hose. The whole ghetto was liquidated. In one sunny day they said "everybody out", they put us on trains and brought us to the concentration camp Plaszow. It was at the beginning of 44. The winter of 43 - 44. We reached Plaszow, my father and I were transferred to work in the paper department while my mother and my sister worked in sawing. We worked there, at a certain stage there was a need for many work tools in the battlefront - picks, shovels. Then they transfer the men employed in the paper department to the carpentry shop. The food was below any standard there was no food. There was a constant rotation in manpower. Some were transported and some were executed.
We worked in the carpentry shop. The foreman, I don't know his name, but he was nicknamed Mongul was a special character. When we worked on night shift we were lucky since there were alarms. At that time the allies' bombing took place already. During night times people hardly worked since they had to turn the light off during the bombing and it was impossible to work. But there was heavy work and it was done under pressure. Sometimes we used to see mother and my sister.
Nearby the carpentry shop there was an execution place. They called it with a non polite word "Chojowa Gorka" and there they executed people .. we saw many of those. At a certain stage they started to burn the corpses. At the beginning they used to bury it. Later on, when the battlefront came closer, they started to burn. They dug the bodies out and there was a horrible smell, the smell of the rotten corpses and the smell of the burning. We worked very close to it, it was about fifty meters. They transfer the execution place to another place, on the other side of the carpentry shop.
|One day I wanted to rest a little and I hid inside a pile of logs.
They put the wood to dry, and inside there was a space, and I set inside
there. I saw possibly Germans. First a German platoon in brown uniforms brought
someone and shot him. It was a German in brown uniforms. Later on came a
platoon in black uniforms and they shot a person wearing black uniforms.
It was some kind of internal execution, but I was almost died from fear because
if they realized that I observed this, It was very unpleasant
In May 7, 1944 there was a big selection. We stood all day bare-naked
and a Doctor whose name I could not recall arrived. He stood in a huge fur
and we stood naked all day and it was raining. He pointed with his pencil
"links, rechts, links, rechts" (right and left). I obviously went links since
I was small. The name of whomever went to the left were put on paper and
that was it, the person was register for the transport. On the same day they
put my mother's name on the transport list in the selection which took place
in the women camp. And I caught cold on that day. The Germans did not play
games, if you have a cold go to the hospital. They were afraid of epidemics,
afraid of disease. I was there (in the hospital) and after two or three days
I felt better. I was only a child, and one German, doctor Kalfus, he constructed
a goldfish pond near his office. Me, a child, I went out and started to assist
him. I handed him cement, stones
Later I was informed that he was
the worst murderer in the hospital. He used to inject petroleum to patients
in order to kill them
he was a criminal. The fifteen of May arrived,
it was a week after the selection and all the people whose name had been
added to the list were called to report to the transport. Obviously my name
also was announced since I was on that list. They called me and called me
but I was in the hospital. Later they came and took the whole hospital (all
the patients). There were about 900 people. When they came to take me, there
was a Jewish Physician that liked me a lot
a child, he said a word
to Kalfus. And Kalfus remembered me that I had helped him, and then he said
"he is still young, he can work" and they left me. It was like that, if I
had been healthy they would have taken me, if I were sick they would have
taken me from the hospital. From all these people I was the only one that
remain. On the same day they took my mother. We found out that this whole
transport went to Auschwitz straight to the furnace, since it consisted of
sick people, skinny, those who could not work
|There were a few more selections. Once I participated in a selection,
they move me to the left and also put me on the list but something
they could not find me in the general list. There was a Jewish policeman
"O.D", later it was called "Fire fighter", Finkelstein. He was a criminal.
A Jew. He looked in the lists and said in Jewish, I do not know why
his heart soften, "Hopefully I will not find you (on the list). All of a
sudden I saw that the people from my barrack, all of them
and I saw
my father, I did not asked too many questions
I broke between these
people and no one said a word. I entered the barrack and I was saved at that
Life in the Plaszow Labor Camp was very hard. There were many cases that after work they used to take us to do all kind of chores with the sole purpose of degrading us and making our life more difficult. There were many cases that after the night shift especially, they used to take us, tied four people, loading them with a section of a hut.. There were (pre fabricated) huts pre assembled The huts were assembled from different sections and the used to load the group of four people with such a section. The section was heavy, and after that they used to load on top of that section anything they found on the way. It was a spool of barbed wire, it was stones, it was dirt. Until the people collapsed. He was simply a sadist. I cannot remember his name, some kind of SS officer. It was his hobby. (When) These four people collapsed, he used to take another group of four. It was almost every morning after the night shift. The living conditions were awful. We lived in huts with beds . It was not exactly beds, banks, three floors, and in every section there were three people. And there were loads of fleas they were called paratroopers since it was red and used to fall on us. It was impossible to fall asleep. We used to sleep outside since it was impossible to sleep inside (the barracks). So it was very hard. Outside there was rain, cold and snow. But it was better to sleep outside in the snow and rain since inside it was impossible. Economically it was very hard also. Food was not sufficient. Father left the money he had with a Polish man in Bochnia. This Pole used to work for my father. This Pole once in a while used to send some money to the concentration camp. It was possible to transfer it to Plaszow. How they did it I do not know. There were people who . There were Germans who did it . They probably got 90% from the transferred amount, but the remaining 10% were sufficient It was possible to buy bread or something. It was a certain time period but then it stopped. The economical situation was very bad. After that there was a time when father became ill. He was in a hospital. I was also sick. I got inflammation of the joints, I could not even walk. At that time they (the inmates) were passing through gates twice a day and they (the Germans) were counting. We used to march five abreast. Than when we had to pass the count they (fellow inmates) used to lift me, pass me through the gate so I will be counted. Later on they used to put me aside. I simply couldn't make it to the clinic. Somehow I made it to the clinic. I can not recall what . I received some kind of medicine. It helped me a little, and it was gone (the sickness), but it was a very hard period.
|There were a few Jews that were not better than the Germans. There
were others that were even worse. There was the "Jewish leader" Chilewicz.
He was a criminal. There was Finkelstein, the same one I had mentioned before.
They were not less cruel than the Germans, sometimes even worse. At that
time there was nothing to eat. I always attempted to sneak into the kitchen.
I was a small and skinny child. I used to dig under fences and I used to
steal soup. I used to run with it
.. so that way it was possible to
find the weekly menu on my shirt
. Since I held it like that. But these
were the means of survival , otherwise it was impossible to survive. We had
a lot of lice. After work, people used to sit and kill the lice. It was not
possible to boil or wash (clothing).
At the end of 44 we were sent on a transport, we were sent to Gross Rosen7 in Germany. At the same time they sent my sister to Auschwitz and after that to Rawensbrick. My father was quite ill. We did not know but he suffered from kidney problems. His legs swell in a terrible way. We reached Gross Rosen. We were ordered to take off our clothes. They put us into a small hall in which we set for three days and three nights naked. The Germans believed that people carried in their bodies gold, dollars, things like that. Maybe there were some people who did that, I do not know. Whoever had to relieve himself was taken outside. He had to relieve himself in a place where it was possible to search. It was some kind of container and there were Jews equipped with strainers and they searched if there was something inside. We set there for three days and three nights, with no food, no drink, cold.
After three days they reached the conclusion that everybody had a bowel
movement. We were given a cold shower and then we had to run about one and
a half kilometer, we ran through the snow. We stood inside a hut and they
throw for each person a pair of pants, a shirt and a hat, a funny looking
hat made out of wool, and shoes. It was striped clothes. It was the middle
of the winter, terribly cold, but these were the clothes we had. We slept
also in a small hall
They brought us for the night to
a small hall. The first person set under (against) the wall. The second person
set between his legs and the next set between the legs of the second person,
and like that row after row. Whoever had to go out
since it was cold
to relieve himself, had to go from one person to the next since there
was no place to put the foot on. It was a slim chance that a person would
make it to the door. On the way people restrain themselves, did not want
until they reach the door they already did not need to
|When there was a noise
. it made any kind of noise
A Kapo8 entered and ordered us to exercise - to get up and down,
up and down, with cruel beating. That is how we passed the nights. We worked
there in construction. The Germans still build. On one hand they retreated
but on the other hand they continued in construction. We were there only
two weeks after that they send us to Woldenburg. In Woldenburg we already
lived in buildings. It was a camp not very big. Most of the people worked.
There was a chemical plant and some worked in construction in different places
and had to walk about ten kilometers every day back and forth.
I forgot to mention that in Plaszow before the liquidation of the camp but after the elimination of the carpentry shop for a certain time they took us to work outside the camp. We build railroad trucks to Prokocim, it was a town near Krakow, in horrible conditions. There the foreman was a real murderer. There were brutal beating for every mistake or without it. On the most insignificant things they beat people to death. Also the walk all the way to Prokocim and back was long, people collapsed, could not do it. The good thing about it was that there it was possible to buy things from Poles and to smuggle it to the camp. Initially there was no money. Later on father organized somehow money to buy things in order to smuggle it into camp. But the Germans also knew that, once in a while they conducted a search. One evening they started a search. Every person who had something was brutally beaten. I somehow realized what was going on, and there were pots mounted in wooden stretchers. I told someone there "come, lets take this stretcher and go". We took the stretcher and we started walking. The German saw us walking and he run after us. He was sure that we are hiding something in the pots. When he realize that it was empty he gave us a single blow and we kept on going. But I was covered with groceries (hidden on my body) and then we managed to get money . But after that we were taken to do other types of work.
In Woldenburg we did not work in the kitchen but in the place where
they peeled potatoes. Near the camp there was a bachelor's building. In the
plant worked Italian and French men since the Germans were at the front.
They were civilians and they earned salary, so they resided in some kind
of bachelor's building. They lived there and whoever succeeded to be assigned
there in this bachelor's building, saw it as a success, since the manager
was a Polish woman "Volksdeutsche "9 she was Polish with German
origin. But she was very honest it was sheer luck that my father succeeded
somehow to get there. Due to her he was saved because he was swollen
hardly survived. There she was not too fussy about the work being done. She
was all right. We worked it was not anything special. From time to time people
were beaten but relative to other camps it was
. However we prepared
ourselves for evacuation. .. people thought that we had to go. The camp commander
told us that there are SS units who travel from camp to camp and exterminate
these people who remain. I did not hear that but people told me that he said
"If these will come here, each one will escape wherever he can". He was simply
|Then the end of the war draw near. We saw around our camp gathered
German civilians, every time more and more, since they were very frightened.
They already started to through into the camp food and attempted to tell
stories that they are not to be blamed since they do not know and did not
On May the 8th at two thirty p.m. the camp commander locked the
gate, he throw the keys inside and said "Jetzt zeit ihr frei" now you are
free, and he escaped. That is how the story ends.
We did not know what to do, people were scared. We knew that this was the end but we did not know what to do with our freedom. People did not know what to do, they simply did not know. We were afraid to get out maybe the SS will still come maybe they will not. People did not know what to do. For awhile they waited inside (the camp). After an hour or two they broke through the gate and started to run towards the main road (highway). We reached there around four thirty P.M.. Then we saw the first Russian units that arrived. Russian tanks units. They did not have food. They too probably did not have too much to eat. But people broke into factories and homes and started eating. it was a disaster, since after that people got dysentery and stomach complications and they were taken to hospital many died after (as a result of) that. Maybe it was again my luck that the Russians broke into alcoholic drinks factory since that was what they were after. I entered there and filled a few bottles with all kinds of drinks. For some reason I did not think about food I do not know (why). I took it (with me) and made my way back, and I brought it to father. Father drank a little and I drank a little, and we did not have too much energy we fall asleep. The next day we woken up to see how people throwing up something terrible. It down on us that that little drink saved our life.
After that we went to (live with) German women. German men were not there, they were (participating) in the war. The German women wanted to bring in men from camps to dwell with them in order to protect them. We lived there about two months. There were no trains, no means of transportation, there was no possibility to go back. We did not know where to return to. We lived there about two months, we did not do anything. There were incidences with Russian soldiers who were looking for German women and my father did not let them in . There were stories.
After two months we started walking. In a matter of fact we took with us a small wagon. We loaded a few things that were . At that time personal things were worthless. When I wanted a shirt I took a (new) shirt and threw the old one. Who needed two shirts? It was such a situation that property was worthless. So we took a wagon and put in it I cannot remember what, and started walking. There were sections (of the way) where trains were operating and there were sections where trains did not operate. We reached Glowice from here the trains were operating. We traveled from Glowice to Katowice. The trains were heavily crowded. It was not organized like today
|We walked there and we pass by Polish people who said "more Jews
are coming back". I knew that mother is no longer among the living since
I was told by other inmates who had come from Auschwitz. They told me that
transports that came on the 15 and 16 of May they all went straight to the
Gas Chambers. I did not say a word about it to father. My sister went through
terrible hardship. She hardly stayed alive. She was in Auschwitz
it was a horrible situation. From Katowice there was a
train to Krakow. In Krakow we boarded a coal train going to Bochnia
we were hoping that someone remain alive. We did not know
We reached Bochnia. There stood a horse pulled wagon
who knew my father asked in a total astonishment "what, did you stay alive?
I was told that all died". He was not very happy about it, but somehow he
took us to commercial center of town and there we met a man who had been
in concentration camp with us. He said that my sister is in town. There were
(only) a few Jews (in town) and my sister were among them. For awhile we
resided in Bochnia but there was nothing to do there. My father was occupied
erecting tombstones. The Germans destroyed all the tombstones (in the Jewish
cemetery) and used them in road paving. There was Mrs. Schweimer, an elderly
woman. She was a good person, a respectable woman. Together with my father
they erected many tombstones that they found. A Polish person had found the
tombstone of my grandfather paved on a certain road. At nighttime he came
with his sons, pulled it off the road and hid it in his barn. After we returned
he told my father that he could not allow himself to see Mr. Gutfreund's
headstone paved on the road. He hid it and after the war he returned it to
my father, and this tombstone exists today.
Practically I did not have reading and writing skills
did I learn? Father hired for me a professor
a private tutor who was
a teacher in the local high school. Within half a year I completed the primary
school program. I covered the whole material and than I was tested in the
Jakovice School, the one I was attending before the war. The school's principal
was there, he was the examiner. Among other things he let me write in Polish
whatever I had to go through during the war. It was practically the first
time in which I set and thought about what I had went through. He entered
the classroom a few times, I was by myself.
|"Are you sure?"
"No one was in the classroom, I was by myself".
"And you went through all that?"
"Yes" I said.
Then he said to me "Biedne dziecko"- "poor child" and asked if I could let him keep the notebook. I did a mistake and left it with him. But I did
Here end the Bochnia story. We stayed in Bochnia for another short period. We moved to Krakow. In Krakow I attended a high school, a Hebrew high school. There we covered in every year the material of two classes. It was for adults, simply to catch up with the material.. Later the Jewish school seized to exist and I transferred to a Polish school. At that time I was already active in the "Hashomer Hatzair "10 and my head was more in the "Hashomer Hatzair" and the immigration to Israel than in my studies. But I did study since father was pressing me. Father open a barber shop in Krakow. In the meantime he got sick. Actually he was sick all the time. He had Ormia, a kidney disease. He passed away in 1950 and my sister immigrated to Israel. I was left alone. I had an aunt uncle, but in reality I was by myself. It was a time period when they did not let people live the country. It was a big problem. I went to Warsaw a few times, since the main "Hashomer Hatzair" center was located in Warsaw. Later on the "Hashomer Hatzair" center sized to exist. Zionist movements were forbidden. My uncle was a captain in the Polish army, he was a dentist, he was the deputy commander of a military hospital. I lived in the same apartment. I organized in there meetings of the "Hashomer Hatzair". If he would have known he would have killed me but it was a safe place, since he was a captain in the Polish army.
At that time the Israeli ambassador to Poland was "Barzilay", he was
a member of Kibbutz Negba. He very much supported
as much as he could
. Zionism, but we did not get immigration papers, and I was all alone.
One day I went to Warsaw. Internal affairs ministry office was handling all
it was an office of the KGB and
I was searching for a
way to get inside. Somehow I managed to get in, and there was a guard in
every floor. When the guard was talking to someone I sneaked in. I reached
the fourth or fifth floor, I do not remember, to the office of the general
director of the internal affairs office.
|To reach there it was
. I myself can not understand how I did
it. Than I could
When I entered the office there was a secretary,
she started screaming "Oh God, how did you make it here?" I told her listen,
I am a Jew, I have no one here, I want to go to Israel, I have nothing to
do (here)". The general director who heard her screaming came out to inquire
"what is going on here?"
Than she said "he sneaked into here"
He asked, "What are you doing here?".
I told him "I am a Jew, my father passed away, my sister left, I have nothing to do here. I passed the whole war in camps, I have nothing to look for in here. He looked at me and hugged me and said, "go home, you will get your passport". Than I said, "but you don't know my name". He replied "give it to my secretary". I gave my name to the secretary. I went down with authorization. Two weeks later I got my passport. To this day I believe that he was a Jew. That is what I think. Since he I saw that he he showed consideration. The fact is that I received my passport. Than I immigrated to Israel. I went immediately to the kibbutz "Gan Shmuel". I immigrated by myself, but as a member of a group. We were a "Hashomer Hatzair" part within a group. They gave exit permits but very few.
We went by train through Czechoslovakia, Koshitza, Austria, Italy, Venice. In Venice we boarded a ship "Galila". We came to Israel on the ship "Galila". Obviously we too were greeted with DDT but for some reason we did not complain. We understood it. I was in Kibbutz "Gan Shemuel" and later I was in Kibbutz "Harel". There I decided to join the army. I served in the army two and a half year in the artillery. When I finish my service I was all alone. Actually my sister was in Israel there was an aunt . But . Somehow I got a job in ATAH, a large textile factory, it was one of the most known in the country. To get a job there was a big thing, it was considered to be a good job. I worked there as a manual laborer. Before that I worked in construction, all kind of other things like all the "good Jews". There I was slowly promoted. I took courses and training, I became an instructor, production line manager and later on I headed the manpower department. It took time.The factory closed in 1985. I worked in another place. I worked in the tax collection office in the city hall of Kiriat Byalik. I retired, and that is how it ends.