Recorded testimony of Mr. Pinkas K.
The following is the testimony of Holocaust survivor - Mr. Pinkas K. In this testimony the witness tells about his life in Bochnia from the first day of the Second World War. He provides details of the forced labor the local Jewish community was subjected to. Mr. Pinkas describes the formation of ghetto Bochnia and the first Aktion there. He tells about his hiding during the second Aktion in November 1942 and his escape to Hungary in 1943. The testimony ends with the witness's liberation by the Russians in 1945 and his immigration to USA.
I was born on July the 1st 1923 in Bochnia. I was raised and went to a Chaider1 in Bochnia. We were 10 children (in the family) and I was the youngest. Too much of a childhood, I did not have. I do not know how to tell this, I am not complaining but in 1939 in September, when the war broke out, right away they took me to a certain work, to built shelters against airplane-attacks when they bombarded Bochnia. Right away, the first Friday it was I remember, I was out to work already.
Did the Germans really bomb Bochnia from the air?
No, but they (the Poles) were afraid (of being bombed). They (the bombers) passed Bochnia (over). But we built the shelters as the first thing. And then people started to run away they were afraid. There were all kinds of stories about the Germans2 . They drifted you know, they ran away. We also ran away. I went as far as Tarnow. From Bochnia till Tarnow. In Tarnow the Germans got me already. There was no use for me to go farther.
How many people ran away from the Germans at that time?
Many people, young and old. Old people remained but most of the young
people middle aged people .. escaped.
|Did you go with your family?
I went with my sister but on the way we lost each other. I rested in Tarnow and from Tarnow I came back. I must have walked all the way since we did not have any transportation. I actually escaped from Bochnia with two sisters. One sister came with her husband and with a baby. On the way she had some transportation. Later we came to Tarnow, a big town. Her husband, my brother in law, was looking for her and they could not find them, I do not remember exactly what happened and there we (became) separated. I remained in Tarnow and then when the Germans came I went back to Bochnia.
So you had two sister that went farther and only you came back?
What happened when you came to Tarnow?
I came into town and I entered the first house there, it was an empty apartment, people probably left. Downstairs the people were very baptish people Jewish people, with the whole family I remember a son and a daughter and they cooked. And I was upstairs without even a cover, nothing but a coat, and it was already September. They asked me down for a meal and it was very nice. There was a store right in the same building and he (the store owner) was a Polack who was (sided) with the Germans probably. He wanted me to go to work (forced labor for the Germans) The people that lived there, the ones who gave me food, told him not to bother me. And I was afraid, I was a young boy without any experience in this. So I figured I better go home. I remember on the way back it was very dangerous. I had to cross the Dunajec river. The bridge was damaged. On the bridge stood German soldiers. They searched us to see if we had anything. I remember I opened the Tefillin3 , they wanted to check if I had ammunition or something (like that). They looked at the Tefillin and they threw it into the water. That was my first experience (with the Germans). Finally I came home and my mother was so happy that I came home since I was the youngest (child and she was worried about me). And then problems started, under the German (rules) we could not open the bakery, we could not bake. I learned that they robbed our place. We had a lot of coal and a lot of flour. They came in, the Polacks and cleaned out (the place). I do not know how my mother, may she rest in peace, and my father they saved something a little flour, very little. Because they came in like .......
Do you know of other cases where Jews got robbed at that time?
They must have robbed a lot of stores and other bakeries but I was not
home at that time I was away so I do not know. When I came home, then my
father and mother told the story that they came in and robbed everything
that we had. We had a good bakery and we always had a lot of flour. We did
not buy 100 or 200 Lbs. of flour but we bought 15 to 25 sacks.
|Were the robbers Poles from the villages or
They were Polacks from Bochnia. Finally a month later we got an order and we had to start to bake. We could not bake anything luxury only dark pumpernickel bread.
Did you bake for the Jewish population?
Not only for the Jewish population. At that time we were still in the house. It was 1939 in the winter and it started to normalize so to speak. But all that we could bake was bread. Not white, not rolls not cakes, just dark bread and that was the way we lived. And then there were all kinds of problems, we had to go to forced labor. There was a company that was building the streets in Poland and especially in Bochnia. They (the Germans) started to come with their trucks they wanted the transportation to move better so they started to build the roads. There was a German company called Wolferst and Gaible and in every town where they came they got so to speak laborers. And this so many (for a certain number of) miles from the town, so many miles before the town and so many miles after the town. After that (beyond that limit) they took people from the other ...... (municipality). It was very primitive work but it went very fast because they (only) improve the (existing) roads. This work was taking place in 1940 already and was conducted in the winter as well. When there was a lot of snow we could not work (in road construction) but we went out to shovel snow. This kind of work.
Did the Jewish police used to guard you?
At that time there was not Jewish police (in existence), it was still outside the ghetto, it was the Polish police. There was already a Judenrat and maybe Jewish police too, I can not remember. We all worked all kinds of (work) and had to register for forced labor.
Was your first work for the Germans on the Strassen Bowm - Road construction?
First started Tzwings Arbite which means forced labor. (We went) to the military barracks to clean the stables, all kinds of work. And then when they (the Germans) settled than a road (construction) company came and they started to build the roads, improved the roads.
Were only young people taken for this work?
Only young people 15 to 19 years (old). If you were 16 years old you were obligated to work.
Did they send many people from Bochnia to labor camps at that time?
At the beginning from Bochnia they send only to Klaj's ammunition camp.
They did not take any people away at that time. To Klaj went only young people
up to about 25 years old. Only a short time before the formation of the ghetto
they took us to Pruszkow it was near Lancut I think. Anyhow the name was
Pruszkow it was a labor camp, a very bad labor camp. Right after Tarnow around
that place. That was before the first Aktion, long before. about the middle
of 1940. They took us all in (into) the movie (theater) in the
Kino4 this is the place that they got us altogether and than on
trucks they sent us away.
|I was lucky, I was also among them I do not know how it happened
but I was out of there. They asked people to come to the movie theater without
any explanation. I remember that I was there but I do not know how I got
out. They took then about two to three hundred people (to labor camps). They
asked the young people to come to the theater and than they took them away
with trucks to Pruszkow.
Do you remember when you were instructed to put on the Jewish identification badges with the star of David?
It was in the middle of the winter of 1940. It used to be an armband with a blue star, star of David, 3" high and 3" wide. At that time you still could travel with a train. In the beginning of the winter of 1940 you could travel. People went to Krakow to do business (on business trips) I do not know what kind of business I was still young, about fifteen and a half or sixteen years old. And later it was already forbidden to go (to Krakow).
Did you not have yellow badges attached to your clothes?
Not in our town. In our town it was a white arm band with a blue star. Nothing on the chest and not any yellow star.
And it was like that all the way till the very end?
Yes. Then started the forced labor. The first forced labor was the Shtrasen Bowm the road construction that I had already mentioned. And then started ... (the draft to a labor camp). In a small town not far from Bochnia called Klaj (pronounced Kway in Polish) there was an ammunition camp (erected ) by the Poles (prior to the war). There were in the camp 32 Magazyns (warehouses in Polish) in the forest. They were spread (apart) in the forest and to everywhere (to each and one of them) there were railway tracks (leading) from the (railroad) station came in there. Then they (the Germans) started to come in, they used to take us there for forced labor. We went in the morning and we could go home in the evening, I think six times, six days a week from morning till evening. In the beginning they paid us something every two weeks there was a payroll so to speak. Anyhow it was pretty hard work. When we came from the station not far from there was the German headquarters and we had to report there. They came out with a list and called our names and we had to answer "I am here". Then we walked with (followed by) a soldier deep into the forest. It was quite a walk. There we were divided for work. As I said there were 32 warehouses, a Magazyn, in Polish they call it Magazyn. At that time there was not too much to do. The tracks were ..... I remember a lot of weeds over the tracks. Because it was more than a year that they probably did not use them. So (we had) to clean the tracks to take out (the weed) with picks and certain shovels we had to clean between the tracks because there were a lot of weeds. And then their people, Germans, they were checking the tracks to see if they are good and then some people tried to tighten the tracks or knock in certain (sections of the tracks)
Then we had to go to the warehouses to clean them off. Because at the
beginning there was not too much action there, there was not so much to do.
I did not see even any ammunition there, after a time it
|looked like baby's work but you had to be there. Later on when it
started to get warm on the Russian front the ammunition started to come in,
a very heavy one. Maybe 75 Lb. I remember was (the weight of) a certain cannon
(shell). Then there were patrons5 for regulars, it was in boxes.
Two people had to pick up a box. Sometimes the handle, if you were not careful
enough, came off. The nails or the rivets came off the box so you dropped
(the box) sometimes. It (the response) was depending of the kind of soldier
(that was supervising). If there was a soldier who was not so bad he did
not say anything and of course this was not dangerous, others reported. When
you went home (upon completion of the work day) and (if) you were reported,
after they called your name they arrested you for the night. You had to stay
overnight there in a small room (cell) only standing (the size of the cell
accommodated a person in a standing position only) probably (this cell) was
in use previously by the Poles as a form of punishment. This was the story
at the beginning. Later on you had to stay overnight there, a certain group,
a few people. So we went home at five o'clock, it was only 10 minutes travel,
two (train) stops, and you had to come back for night dyzur (duty in Polish).
So you had to be up ... (for extended length of time) that was what they
wanted. And then it became very bad. We used to build barracks later on in
the forest, in this place. We had to cut trees. We did not know how to cut
(the trees) but they taught us. They showed us how to cut the trees, there
were pretty heavy trees. And then we built barracks it was for German police
like SS or the Gestapo that were supposed to be stationed there. So we
anticipated some trouble. But they came and located in their barracks and
did not bother us so much. But we had work, there was real work to do. We
had a lot of unloading and a lot of loading. A lot of ammunition came in
(on a train) and we had to unload it into the warehouses and a day or two
days later when they had to send it to the (Russian) front we had to load
the ammunition on other (train) wagons. This work went on like this for two
years. I was working there till the middle of 1941.
We had the bakery and at that time Nathan6 was working there. We needed help and I was the youngest son. There were no other sons in the house and I was still unmarried. So my parents spoke to someone in the Judenrat and I got freed from my work in Klaj and started to work in the bakery. And then I remember we worked together Nathan and I.
So Nathan was working there in 1941?
In 1942 he was still in the ghetto but he worked in another place and then he worked at our place.
Tell me about the first liquidation of the ghetto in August 1942.
Then came the first Aussiedlung. I was lucky because at that time that
I came back from Klaj I was working also near the station. There was a river
near Bochnia called Raba. And there were water pipes connected to feed the
locomotives. The pipes were old and rusty. A Polish company, I do not remember
the name, took out those pipes and put in new ones, a little larger. Since
they worked near
|Bochnia they asked for people (from Bochnia). So the Judenrat right
away gave them (Jewish workers) and I was among them. They took me out of
the bakery, nothing helped, and I had to work there. And this work saved
me from the first Aussiedlung7 .
What about the rest of your family?
The other members of my family were my parents and my oldest brother that was married and had children. He was also working in the bakery. My job, which I worked near the station replacing the pipes, saved me. Because they came for my OusWice for my documents. I gave them (my papers) and they brought it back with a stamp from the Gestapo that I was saved from being touched by the first Aussiedlung. Since this was a very important job and this job saved me. And the others, my parents and my brother, the bakery saved them. There was a whole story how we had to go to the Judenrat and they asked for money. On the day of the Aussiedlung we thought that it was finished but I do not know how to explain. It was a side story. ....... After the first Aussiedlung I remained in the bakery.
I understand that after the first Aussiedlung they closed the ghetto.
Yes, at that time they closed the ghetto. And they made also ghetto "A" and ghetto "B".8
Was the ghetto before the first Aussiedlung completely open?
There was a fence around the ghetto but in certain places it was open, you could go in. Because when we went out to work or something (else) it was no problem. It was a Zelnica9 , first it was completely open. (Initially) It was completely open, there was no fence.
Do you know the date at which the Jews were ordered to move into one designated district?
It was in the winter. I remember they came out and ordered that we have to leave our places. They gave us, so to speak, transportation. They organized all those farmers from the villages that they should come with their wagon and horse. I remember that my mother cried for leaving the house. But what we did, we took over a gentile's bakery and a house which was in the ghetto (the designated Jewish district) and he took over our house outside the ghetto. It happened in the winter of 1941.
How high was the fence that they built around the ghetto?
It must have been at least six and a half feet because you could not
look over from the top. You could only see in between (the boards) but at
least I will say 6.5 to 7 feet. It was all wood and there was an openings
of half to three quarter of an inch in between one piece (board) to the
|We lived on Leonarda St. and not too far from Leonarda, maybe half
a large block, was the Kasarna, the military base which was established
previously by the Poles. Not far from there were the railroads (the train
station). And people ....... I was standing there in the morning, the street
was black (packed with people). It was on Tuesday morning and they started
the first Aktion with the people around Bochnia. People from Wisnicz and
Kopalina they had to come into Bochnia. And there they stood, remain in Bochnia
"Of gehaktes tzures" for a few days. But on Tuesday came the order that everybody
had to come to the Kasarna, to the military base. There they put them on
the wagons. And I was standing outside, I had the document that I am saved,
that I will remain (in the ghetto) and the street was black from people,
women, children, carrying walizas10 carrying on their backs. I
remember there was one the Motila Ruv who came to Bochnia he went .... inter
getantz. He was like happy he was going .... because they told them they
are going to work. Some terrible picture to see this with all these
What did the people from the surrounding towns do in Bochnia from Saturday till Tuesday?
People went in wherever they could. I know what happened in Leonarda. People came Mechatunim11 , people we knew. And it was summer, the month of August. So where we kept the coals and the wood ..... Because this place belonged to a Polack, this house, he had a stables and people were sitting and sleeping there. They slept any place they could. Everybody knew somebody. They came from Wisnicz to Bochnia every week, a lot of people. It was a Yarid12 every Thursday. So all the farmers came and sold their products they bought products. Also people from Wisnicz and from other towns around came to sell their goods.
When they brought the people from Wisnicz on Saturday, didn't they put them straight in the Kasarna?13
It could be, I can not remember, at that time it was still time to run away. But people with family and children they could not run away. And they came with horses and wagons with their goods. But single people they could run away.
During the first Aussiedlung did they take you to the military base?
No. The day of the Aussiedlung it was early in the morning 7 or 8 o'clock,
I do not remember exactly at what hour (time) you had to be there. But later
on the Jewish police came to 20 Leonarda St. to our yard, there were still
people who lived there, (informing us) that we should come right away to
the Judenrat (building). My father and mother and I went and stood in a line.
Not too many people were there. And he came out the president (of the Judenrat)
with some Gestapo people. I looked up to my left there was Nobel Mondy I
saw that the soldiers took him out and they shot him right there. Whoever
they found after the hour (the deadline) who was supposed to be in the Kasarna,
the patrol went all over
|the houses, whoever they found that did not have the legitimization,
the OusWice with the stamp of the Gestapo, was shot on the spot. He (the
president) told us that we had to give, we call it in Yiddish Shechitah
Gelt14 . That we had to pay for the wagons and for everything.
I do not know if my parents had something (to give). Finally we went home
back to the house in the ghetto with my parents. But it was a terrible picture,
it was something terrible to ...... I was cold like frozen already and this
happened in the summer.
What did you see in the street after the first Aktion?
People came out. Most people from Bochnia went (on the transport) a lot of people who came from little towns who were hiding remained (in the ghetto). And they started a normal life. You had to get a legal identifying document with a stamp of the Gestapo. Later on they hid so they remained until the second Aktion. I remember at the first Aktion I had to go with a group to pick up people on a wagon to take them to the cemetery.
Dead people, (there was a person) half dead he was the first (one to be put) on the wagon and on him were bodies it was bloody, I do not know what happened. He was still half alive.
Were they picked up from the streets of Bochnia?
Yes. People that did not have the (Gestapo's) stamp were hiding they took them out and they shot them. When I was standing near the Judenrat building, the case with the Shechita Gelt, Just across the street they were shooting a man. They shot with dumdum bullets that opened the whole body. One of the dead was Mordechai the Shamesel. He was once a Shames15 but he was an older man and he had children. His business (together) with the children was a tailoring business. They also on Fridays used to cook food so people who came out of the Mikve - bath house, so they stopped there and eat. They called him Mordechai the Shamesel.
Before the second Aktion, I worked together with Nathan in the bakery,
they were looking for people to be sent to Rakowic. Near Krakow there was
a Polish air base, a very primitive one, called Rakowic. It was the night
that we were working (in the bakery) and I got scared. I left Nathan alone
and we had another bunker made and we were hiding. And they came with dogs
and found (located our bunker) and they took me to work. I left the bakery
and I could have been saved and they took me to Rakowic. I was there for
three weeks and there we were working putting (pouring) cement making new
runways and widening ( existing ones). There were Germans working there,
they did the technical work. We were carrying cement bags on our backs. Sometimes
they took knives or magnets and they put them in the bags and the bags (broke)
open and we all got covered with cement, they were playing jokes on us. I
was sent to a place where I gave out the cement. It was safer there
|Did Nathan also go to Rakowic with
No. When I left he was working there. I left him alone and he was so mad at me. When they took me out he said to me in Polish "why did you hide? you could have stayed right here, you could have been saved". I was a very good help at that time.
How did you managed to escape at that time?
I escaped, we bought false documents. They called it Na Przepustka16 which means a permit to go out, that something was wrong with me or they sent me home for a few days. And this went through ten different hands already but eventually we had a document. And we had to walk passing all kinds of labor camps from Rakowic there to a certain station. Anyhow we made it and we came home. A week later the second Aussiedlung took place. And I was so sorry that I had escaped, there I could be (have been) saved.
In 1942 there was a second Aussiedlung. We all could have been saved in the bakery but we went and hid ourselves. We had a bunker and we hid about eight people in the bunker. We were very lucky because we could hear from (through) the chimney the Germans from upstairs. We heard them saying "here is Neiman da" we could hear exactly the words. And if God forbid, there was a child there, the child would have cried they could have given everything (all of us) up. This chimney was opened upstairs and downstairs as well. At that time, for a very short time we were in hiding. But still we were lucky, we were hiding and we came out and again started to work in the bakery. After the second Aussiedlung it was a Juderrine17 (Bochnia was declared as a locality free of Jews) At that time it was camp "A" and camp "B". But we were all the time in ..... our place was later in camp "B".
Coming out of hiding after the second Aktion did you see signs of violence like blood and dead bodies in the street?
At the first Aktion we saw that. After the second Aktion there was already ghetto "B" and I was in ghetto "B". I could not go to ghetto "A". I was the only one who was taking care of the bakery and working there. It was very sad.
Did they supply food to ghetto "B"?
We tried to bake something. People had you know. We could survive everything
but the bullets we could not survive. Polack people came to the ghetto, they
sold, of course you had to be very careful. The Polish police was always
standing on guard in the ghetto. So for a few dollars everything was O.K.
I do not remember if we used to bake the official bread or did mostly what
people prepared. We
|announced that at 3 o'clock in the afternoon there is going to be
an oven (the oven will be turned on) and at that time we are going to bake.
and everybody could bring their own (dough). So when came 3 o'clock I started
to put in the oven their own bread. There were all kinds of big problems.
From time to time we must have baked (the official bread rationing of the
ghetto) I think we did18 .
In 1943 in the month of Ellul a month before Rosh Hashanah we started to feel in the air that something is going on. I was lucky that I met a girl, they were also bakers from Rzeszow, and they were three sisters and a brother. And they were lucky, they had somebody with false papers of Hungarian citizenship. And a brother married a sister on the paper you know, (obtained forged wedding documents) and they lived outside the ghetto. And they lived outside the ghetto and then inside the ghetto not everybody, only one couple saved themselves. Later on the brother got already the papers. And they came to us to bake. They got a little white flour and baked very nice rolls and kaiser rolls all kinds. We got friendly and luckily through my fiancee at that time, the brother (who) was very capable, he (survived and) live here, he organized a Volksdeutsche19 . A Volksdeutsche is one who comes from the German border and that the father or the mother was German so he has special privileges they called him a Volksdeutsche. And he had a truck who had a permit to carry vegetables to the Czechoslovakian border. In the truck he made a partition that we could slide in. He made another higher floor with partitions underneath that 10 to 11 people could have slid into and on the top he had vegetables. And he organized with smugglers at the forest at the border. The transportation in this group cost $2,000 (per person) we paid in dollars, but gold dollars. So he had the truck and he had some people who financed it. With all that it was 99% dead (99% of the escapees ended up dead). Once (prior to that) we escaped and they got us in Tarnow the Gestapo commander came and picked us up. He saved us because we were Hungarian citizens, Argentinean citizens all false papers. So he came from Bochnia to Tarnow. We were caught on Thursday late afternoon and he came Friday afternoon to pick us up. He took us to the ghetto in the Judenrat (building), they (used to) kill us in the Judenrat, Then he came and he talked to us and he said that we are free people (released us).
The second time (the second escape) with the Volksdeutsche who had the
permit to (travel to) the Czechoslovakian border he had smugglers already.
The smugglers had to be paid extra. On Saturday evening, it was already dark,
11 people and two children we went into the truck and one of the Jews was
following us. He knew that we had (organized) something and he got into the
truck too. We had two controls (check points) on the road but he (the
Volksdeutsche) was so smart. He did not stop right near the (check point)
but he stopped quite before. He went over with a bottle of whisky and cigarettes
and he showed them the papers and right away we went (were allowed to proceed).
It was (the truck had) a diesel motor when he went out of the truck he made
the truck to go (run) a little louder so no one will hear anything. And then
he went back and we went farther. We came to the forest, it was very well
organized, people were waiting for us. They took us deep deep into the forest.
and told us that we can
|not go (proceed) now but we had to stay overnight, it was pretty
late in the night. Because these people had another group to take to the
Czechoslovakian border. And they told us that we will remain (there till
Sunday). On Sunday they did not come for us, Monday they came for us.
We came into Czechoslovakia, the first town was Mikulas (Liptovsky Mikulas) and it was very well organized. They took us to a place where we could eat and we could sleep over. There we rested for a day or two. Mendel Richberg I met there. He came two days later and he told me about the Aussiedlung he was there. He told me that my parents are not alive and I cried, he found out that his parents were shot. From there we went to Preshburg it was Bratislava. In Bratislava it was on Friday night we had a Shaboth meal. The first time in two weeks I saw a cooked meal. We had a Kiddush20 with wine but they were rushing us, as the cars were waiting and we had to go right away to the Hungarian border. The Hungarian border was not far away from Bratislava. On Saturday, overnight we came to the first Hungarian city, the city's name I can not remember. We came there to the Shule21 and they started to bring us coffee and cakes and they gave us certain houses (to stay in). There you had to be very careful because if you were caught in this city, it was a border city, they would send you back to Poland and you would be shot right there (on the spot). When (in the event that) they get you on the train they (would have) put you in an Interneerus Lager - in a certain camp. But we were lucky we had a nice girl she went in front of us. She was Polack but we did not know her. She went and we followed her, a small group of three people, and we came to the station. She bought tickets for us and she told us where to go, on which train, and then she left. And we came to Budapest there we had (to avoid) the Hungarian police they were very dangerous and we were told right away where to go. It was a certain restaurant in which most Polish people use to get together. From there right away we had to go to the secretary of interior. There was a police department and detective (secret police) and there we were told that we should forget about our names. We took up Polish names and the rest can be the same date (date of birth), everything. That we are Polaks (Polish) and we are Roman Catholics. Although I did not understand, that was what I had to do. I registered myself, I changed my name. I took a name of another baker that used to live on our street. I remembered it exactly and I changed my name. From there I had a document and I was a free man.
So I did not have to worry any more. We could not live there though,
since I could not find work. I tried to work there an entirely different
kind of work and I was not such a strong boy at that time. So we got a certain
pension from the Polish government in England (Polish government in exile).
We were told to go some place in Hungary, a certain place where real Polish
people were there from 1939, and remained there. Soldiers, officers, police
all kinds. Some (of us) went to Romania from there they went to Israel but
we stayed there. The minute we came there they recognized who we are, and
what we are, but they had an order to treat us as their own. And we received
the money and we came together, and there they had a place where they observed
their holidays. Right away we went out to look for a room. And they rented
us a room. As a Jew I did not have confidence to stay with them but I had
to go. In this village there was a Shochet22 his name was Radushnok.
He was from the Croats (from Croatia) and his wife was from Germany and they
rented us a room, of course we paid her. On the next day when I went out
to buy bread I heard people calling me Zido Zido (Jew, Jew). They did not
recognized us but they were told by the Polacks. We came 21 people to this
village and there were 90 real Polacks.
|And then on March 19, 1944 The Germans came in and occupied (took
over) Hungary officially. You could see the German officers in the Hotels
of Budapest. There was an order that we had to come to the Noltar - the head
of the village. They said (that) they have to control the pillows and the
covers they had given us. They had to see how many there are since some are
missing. It was all deception. We saw that they called all the Polacks first
and it did not go according to the alphabet. They did not call even one of
the Jews until the very end. So we realized that something was wrong but
we stayed right there. Then they started to call us. I came to the room and
in there was a special little room in the back. In the small room was sitting
a doctor and the door was open. We came in to this doctor and he said that
we should pull down our pants. The moment we pulled down our pants, he made
a sign with his head to the people in the big room and called Igen Igen -
yes, yes something like that. And then he said O.K. we can go out. It was
just to make sure that we, the 21 people, are Jews. So we came home. We did
not have too much to pack. We had a waliza and we put everything, the three
people my wife and I and my wife's sister, we put everything in one waliza
and we brought it to the post office and I sent it to the place where I lived
before in Budapest. And we organized (a transportation to the train station)
We had to go about 18 miles to a (train) station it was (in the city of)
Kalocsa. We knew already (how to manage since we) had to go to Budapest before
in the good times so we had also to hire somebody. So on Friday morning at
five o'clock we were right there and we went to Kalocsa to the station. We
bought tickets and we went on the train on the way to Budapest. This was
on Friday and we found out that on Saturday or Sunday they surrounded (the
place) and they were looking for all of us and from there they sent us to
Did all of the Jews run away?
Most of them ran away, and in Budapest it started to get bad. We were afraid because you could not sleep over one night without being registered at the police. And without registration of the police nobody will take you in. So we went (to live) with a Gypsy but she was Jewish or she was not but her husband was Jewish. She lived outside of Budapest. Budapest have a lot of small towns before the city. They called it Kispest, Ujpest and others so we went there to live. It was very bad conditions especially around the beginning of the winter (the end of 1944). Before the battle started in Budapest the shrapnel was already over our heads. We lived in a wagon of a circus there we lived without being registered. We saw that the conditions became very bad so we were not going to stay right there and we went back to Budapest.
In Budapest there was already the ghetto. And we went to a house where we lived before or (it was a) place we knew.
Did you go inside the ghetto?
No. This house was left out of the ghetto. It was a corner house, one
house that was left from the ghetto. Just because it was one of the new
buildings, a beautiful building, it was left out of the ghetto,
|and right there was the ghetto, and we lived there. Then started
the battle (the Russians were taking over Budapest) we went all down in the
basement, for four weeks we lived downstairs in the basement. We did not
have anything to eat. Every day I had to go out and stand in line at a bakery
not far away, like two to three blocks (from our house) and planes were going
and dropping bombs and I did not care I was hungry I had to stay to get a
piece of bread.
Were the Russians on the attack?
Yes. And we came back to the house. They (the local Hungarians) were prepared. They had meat. A lot of horses were killed by the shrapnel and this was the end of December and the beginning of January. They went out to cut the meat because they said that horse's meat is very clean and it is sweet meat. They put on paprika and all kind of spices and they had a picnic. They made kapusta - sauerkraut all kind of sauerkraut so when they took of the leaves..... We did not eat meat, I did not want to eat any traiffas23 , and I could not eat horse meat. So when the trough out the external leaves of the cabbages I went up and put it in a bag and I brought it in. My wife and my sister-in-law cleaned it up and they cooked it so we also had something to eat. We made something, a little bread and a little soup and this is how we survived. And then our two storey house was bombed. But it did not go to the basement and only the second storey was (destroyed). It was (made of) very heavy thick walls. We were lucky that it was bombed so we could use the beams for fire-wood so we could cook. They also went up and started to yell at us "you have no right to use this wood, it is ours, it is our house". We had about 6 to 8 families in the house. Anyhow we also had some wood. They did not know who we are, they knew that we were Polaks.
In January the 18th the Russians came in. We did not want to tell them
who we are because we were afraid. Because in all the places that they came
in like Uipest the little town before Budapest for example, they were in
and out in and out (the Russians advanced and retreated). So we were afraid
that maybe they will not stay permanently and we did not want to say anything.
The first time they found out who we were it was the first day of
Pessach24 in April. The Russians had came on January the 18th,
1945. When the superintendent came to the window and saw what we were doing
(celebrating Passover) he was so surprised that we were Jews. He could not
get over it. And we told him that this was exactly what we were. I made a
stove (the second floor was bombed and there was no chimney). I attached
a pipe to the window. We did not have electricity but we cooked using the
wood from the beams. We had guests, some people came for the
Saider25 and we had a couple of Matzos. Size been a labadik laben.
This is the story of how I got liberated. Later my wife was afraid to go
to the street for months because what the Russians did to the women. We could
not go out, we could not wear a watch. The first thing they did in the street,
they pulled your sleeve up and looked for a Chasse - for a watch. And they
robbed, you could not get Aspirin because they robbed all the stores. They
threw everything into the street it was terrible, terrible. Later on I remember
at the end of summer 1945 we got an order that a free market was allowed.
So everybody got out and fixed the stores and they took out whatever they
had been hiding and you could get everything. Then I started to go to Vienna
to make business.
|How did you end up in the United
We were told that our future could no longer be in Hungary and we had to go to Germany. And then the Bricha26 ....The Jewish agency they organized, they wanted to have as many Jews together in Germany (as possible) to have large concentration (of Jews). They wanted in this way to cry out "listen they are in camps, open the border to Israel (Palestine) let the people in". A lot of people from Romania went to Germany and a lot of people from Hungary and all those people from camps who survived they first came back to look for survivors and they went to Germany. In Germany I was in a town called Poking and not far from Poking there was an air base and a German base. There was a Lager and we were there in there you could get everything. You could get a Shochet and all your spiritual needs. There was a little bus that went three, four time a day from Poking to the camp. We had anything we needed so we stayed there. And then was organized a trip to Jerusalem. Then came the UNRA and anybody who got an affidavit from America could go to America. My wife had an aunt and an uncle there and we got an affidavit and we went to America.
Mr. Klepholz's testimony is helping us to understand the developments in Bochnia during the initial stages of the Second World War. Unlike most survivors of ghetto Bochnia, Mr. Klepholtz was born in this city and could have covered all stages of decimation of the local Jewish population from the beginning to almost the very end. He was very helpful with specific technical descriptions of the fence surrounding the ghetto and provided dates (approximated only) of exploitation stages of the Jewish community and the formation stages of ghetto Bochnia. Mr. Klepholz is also one of the very few who could give some firsthand description of the first Aussiedlung which took place in Bochnia on August 1942.