Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel.
Testimony # 03/7048
Cassette # 033C/2740
            Name: Dov Landau
            Date of Birth: Aug. 10 1928 in Brzesko, Poland
            Present address: 6 Lacish St. Tel-Aviv, Israel.
Interviewer: Shoshana Ben-Avraham
Date of testimony: June 6, 1993
Testimony's language of origin: Hebrew

Translation and commentary by: I. Zelinkovsky
Testimony Summary:

The witness Dov Landau, was born to a Chassidic family and textile merchants. He resided in Brzesko until August 1942. He describes the orderly relationship between the Jewish and the Polish communities prior to the war and the escape of the Polish army from the Germans upon the outbreak of the war. At the beginning of 1940 the local Jews were drafted to perform degrading jobs while Jews were harassed in the streets. The witness's father was nominated as the representative of the Jewish community in dealing with the German authorities. In 1941 the synagogues in Brzesko were set ablaze and soon after all Jewish males from the age of 13 were drafted to work for the Germans. The witness worked in preparing straw for the German's horses. In June 1941 the local Jewish community was forced to supply furniture and dishes. At the same time about a thousand women and children (among them his mother and brother) were captured and transported to an unknown destination from where they never returned. In the summer of 1942 the Jews of Brzesko were ordered to relocate to a designated area in town. At this stage the witness, his father and other family members escaped to Bochnia. In Bochnia the witness was employed in a tailoring workshop. The manager of this workshop was a Jew named Yosel Frankle. The workshop was producing and repairing clothes for the Germans. The witness describes the living conditions in ghetto Bochnia. In September 1943 Mr. Landau was transferred to the Szebnie labor camp and he describes the conditions in that camp. In Szebnie the witness worked in shoe repair. In November 1943 Mr. Landau was transferred to Birkenau and was employed in road construction. In December 1943 he started working in a coal mine in Jawiszowice and he describes the harsh conditions of this work. A Polish worker helped him and brought him some food. Mr. Landau remained there until January 1945 when he was taken and participated in the death march of three days and nights without food until they reached the train station. From there he was transferred to Gros-Rosen and Buchenwald where he was liberated by the American forces on April the 11, 1945.

Remark: This witness is the person after whom the character of Dov Landau from the book Exodus was modelled.


Partial testimony (pages 15 to 22)

Landau: ....... This is how life continued for a few months until the end of 1942. When we saw that the situation is getting worse and worse we decided to move out of this town, and to escape to the nearby town of Bochnia.

Interviewer: You and your father?
Landau: Me and father and grandfather and grandmother and all the surviving members of our family. We rented a horse pulled wagon and we escaped to the town of Bochnia about 13 to 15 Km. from our town.

Interviewer: Did you prearrange for a place to stay?
Landau: While in Bochnia we rented an apartment, and we took in the two children that stayed with the other grandmother in Bochnia, since my mother originally came from Bochnia and was part of the Rigenbowm family. This grandmother was a sister of the first grandmother, both grandmothers were sisters, and when father and mother got married it was a wedding between cousins. When we arrived at Bochnia we had to start and arrange our life all over again. To Bochnia came all the other family members from other towns like from Mielec, Dembica, Wisnicz and Krakow.

Interviewer: How are you surviving, what is your source of income?
Landau: In Bochnia we had no source of income since even here you had to work in work places erected by the Germans. These work places employed Jewish workers, especially men and the young people. They worked in workshops supporting the war efforts of the Germans.

Interviewer: Where did you work?
Landau: I worked in a sewing room repairing shirts, in Polish they called it: Szmaciarnia. They used to collect the shirts of Germans that served in the close vicinity or in military camps in the area. They used to bring them to the workshop when there was a need to repair a sleeve, pockets or buttons. The supervision in the sewing factory was handled by a Jew by the name of Yosell Fenger that was from Wieliczka, Wielspo, and he too arrived at the town of Bochnia.

Interviewer: Did your father work at the same place?
Landau: Father was employed in the same building in a trico workshop, they were producing sweaters there, my father and my aunt worked there. I was employed in the shirt repair workshop and acted as tailor's apprentice. I used to deliver the material to the ladies tailors and men's tailors and used to collect the repaired shirts and put them in the store room. I was in constant motion between all the sewing machines. There were at least one hundred sewing machines. At that time I also learned to sew and learned to sew on a sewing machine.


Interviewer: What were the work conditions there. Were there Germans that supervised the work as well?
Landau: No, all the supervision was handled by Jewish professionals, the report and the production. The repaired products and the brand new product were delivered to a German's gathering place located away from there.

Interviewer: But about the work conditions, did you receive a salary or food, what did you get in return?
Landau: We received a minimal salary, and there was a common dining room, sort of a restaurant, were we ate our lunch.

Interviewer: Who cooked in this restaurant?
Landau: Also Jews, it was organized by the managers of these factories, It was organized so people will not have to waste time going and dining each one by himself. This way they all ate right in the factory.

Interviewer: Until when did you stay there.
Landau: We were there until the month of August 43.

Interviewer: And what happened then?
Landau: Then the Germans probably decided that the town of Bochnia should become Judenrein1 , which means clean of Jews. And one sunny day they gathered all the Jews from ghetto Bochnia and they brought them to a gathering place called Appellplatz2 (Gathering court in German). They announced that by a certain hour every one had to leave their houses and come to the gathering place. All houses had to be left open with all their contents. Anyone who did not leave their house by that time was destined for execution. Every one feared for their lives and therefore managed to make it to this gathering place, women and children, old and young.

Interviewer: Before we get into this I wanted to ask you what were the conditions in ghetto Bochnia. How did it look? If you looked through the window what did you see there? Was it fenced, were you guarded, how did it look?
Landau: In this ghetto life carried on in a free and normal way. The area designated for Jewish dwelling was fenced by a wooden fence around it. There were two to three exit gates guarded by Germans. Those who were permitted to leave the ghetto were equipped with work permit documents of course. Those who had to work in workshops outside the ghetto used to leave in an organized group and returned in a group. But if someone had to leave by himself, he had to present his worker papers and explain where he was going. I would like to add something regarding the ghetto in Brzesko-Brigal, after I escaped from this ghetto to Bochnia, then on the second day of Rosh Hashanah in 1941 they surrounded the ghetto. They gathered all the Jews and took them on trucks to an unknown destination. Later we found out that they had not been transferred to another location. They had been executed in a
1 Judenrein - Free of Jews (in German)
2 Appell - Roll call, Platz - Place, Appellplatz - Roll call square (in German)


certain place in the woods and were not given a proper Jewish burial. They were buried there in the woods and the location of their burial sight is unknown. They were about two thousands to twenty five hundred people. The last Jews who remained there.

Interviewer: How did you managed to escape this fate.
Landau: When we felt that they were going to tighten the belt there, then we the family members, and this is all because my father sensed or heard that they are going to implement the Judenrein3 in ghetto Brzesko, father informed probably the well off families, and they had the capability to spend the money and get cars or other means of transportation, to load all our belonging and escape. Then the Shiff family escaped, the Tichdail family and many other families that managed to escape from Brzesko to Bochnia. But evidently after that they did not managed to survive except the very lucky ones like me.

Interviewer: We are returning back to ghetto Bochnia.
Landau: In ghetto Bochnia resided many families related to us from grandmother's side. There were seven sisters and one brother at home.. They all escaped their towns thinking that it is safer here. It was known that here it is possible to survive and to obtain Aryan papers. We all held a meeting in order to decide how to go about it. Unfortunately what they were concerned about was their properties, their houses and their belongings that they had given to Poles for safe keeping with the intention of getting them back at the proper time or at a time of need. They said: now we will not get out (escape) without our clothes and belongings (we will not leave everything behind). They hesitated and by the time that they made a decision it was too late. Then came this horrible thing. They gathered us in this large square and there they started to perform a selection, who will live and who will die.

Interviewer: Did you know right away that this was a selection?
Landau: We knew ahead of time that here will be a selection or that all of us will be transported to an unknown destination. As a matter of fact about the selection we learned upon arrival at that place. The whole German operational machine had arrived. One was taller then the other (they were very tall). They all wore SS ranks on their shoulders. They had wolfdogs and were equipped with whips and had guns attached to their belts. They located themselves on the side of the square and from there they conducted this selection.

Interviewer: Do you know the name of the officer in charge of the operation in this place?
Landau: I don't remember. Anyway they started the selection, and we saw that all grown-up men, young men and young women are taken to the right, and the old, the weak, the women and children to the left. I was the last one in the line and ahead of me was grandfather. My brothers hid together with grandma in a bunker and did not come out. I, my father and grandfather went to the gathering court. All of a sudden I saw that they charged a dog against grandfather and they told him (grandfather) go! It was
3 Judenrein - Free of Jews.


not clear to me if he was directed to the right side or to the left. He was ahead of me. The Germans saw a nice looking Jew, tall and distinguished, he had a bag on his back or that he had a pillow case in which he put his small belongings like: towel, pajamas and also talith and tfilin, and that was on his shoulder. And they saw him walk like that with his head tall so they charged a dog after him. The dog caught him by his pants and he fell on the ground. The dog tore his trousers and the bag that he had. His belongings were scattered all over. Grandfather probably was wounded as well in his leg. I saw that he hardly stood up and they hit him forcing him to continue walking, and he was limping and could not proceed walking. This is how he reached the truck in which he was transported with all the old people and children. After that it was father's turn and they told him to go to the right. When I saw that he is going to the right so I trailed after him. I was trying also to look like a man fit to work. Father had shown me what kind of boots and pants to wear so I would look like a man fit to work. Due to these clothes they agreed to send me to the right together with father. During that time obviously they did horrible things. It is unbelievable how they took a baby from the arms of her mother. The officers asked from one of the soldiers to throw the baby in the air, when he threw this baby in the air, and it was a small baby of one week to one month old, in front of all the people standing in the gathering court they shot the baby to show off what good sharp shooters they are.

Interviewer: Did you see it with your own eyes?
Landau: Yes, I saw it with my own eyes and I will never forget it.

Interviewer: What did the baby's mother do?
Landau: It was inside the crowd. She probably was crying and supported by others. It was a horrible thing. But probably this mother too was taken with all the crowd into the trucks that transported them to an unknown destination. Anyway when we were gathered we had to go to the train station. There all the remaining people were loaded on a train and were brought to the Szebnie labor camp, near Jaslo. It was a camp that was erected probably a year before that. In this camp we found Jews from different places: from Tarnow, from Krosno and its vicinity, there were people from Mielec, from Ropczyce. All the Jews that remained after ghetto liquidations were brought to this labor camp.

Interviewer: Please describe to me this labor camp. How did it look?
Landau: This camp was like all the other death camps. It was fenced all around with a fence that might have been electrical fence. Anyway it was a double barbed wire fence with watch towers and guard dogs around it. On the outside I saw some huts that probably served as the residence for the camp guards.

Interviewer: Outside the camp?
Landau: Yes, outside the camp. And inside the camp there were huts for dwelling.

Interviewer: How many people approximately were there?
Landau: In the whole camp there were about ten thousand people.


Interviewer: Men and women?
Landau: Men women and children. There were children of different ages from ten years of age and up. I was considered a big boy there, I was fifteen years old.

Interviewer: How many people managed to get into a single hut?
Landau: In every hut resided approximately one hundred and fifty people.

Interviewer: what was there inside the huts?
Landau: There were wooden couches on which we had to sleep. The shacks were on one side of the camp and on the other side there were workshops that were located inside shacks as well.

Interviewer: Did you have toilets or running water inside the huts?
Landau: Water was brought into the huts. The water was in barrels and I don't remember exactly where they brought the water from.

Interviewer: There was no running water?
Landau: There were taps with basins located outside, this was the only way that people could wash themselves. Every few meters there were taps like these with washing basins. The toilets were outside, it was a septic pit or a cesspool, these were the toilets there.

Interviewer: How long were you there?
Landau: There we had to work. Father worked in a workshop for baskets and straw mat weaving. There was a workshop like that in which they wove baskets. I was employed in a workshop doing shoe repair for the German army. One day there was an announcement that within a few days people will have to dispose of all their money, gold and other valuables. In this day there would be a roll call and all the camp residence had to concentrate in the camp's square. People must dispose of all valuables: money, gold and dollars. Disobedience to dispose of valuables would be punished with death. When we heard about it, father had in his pockets some gold, and since I was working in this workshop for shoe repair, it crossed my mind to hide the gold in the soles of our shoes. I did it in hiding. I put into each sole two to three coins of twenty dollars and did the same with the soles of father's shoes. I sewed into my belt and into father's belt some money too. The rest we did not dare to hand over. Then I dug a hole in the ground in the gathering place where the money had to be delivered, and I put the rest of the coins inside this hole, and I hid it in this hole. After that they conducted a search, and if they found someone with gold coins or other valuables they put him in the center of the square. They announced that since we did not obey their instructions and all valuables were not delivered into the designated boxes here in the center, one person out of a hundred would be executed. They took ten people out of the gathering crowd and stood them in the center of the square, and executed them in front of everyone. Among them was my aunt her name Virofshitz. She did not hide anything, but her luck was to be chosen out of a hundred. Her name was Rachel, Virofshitz-Vigelbowm. After that, some time during the month of November, they decided to liquidate all of this camp.


Interviewer: Before the liquidation I wanted to ask something about the subject of nutrition. How did they feed you, what did they feed you, do you remember how it was there in Szebnia?
Landau: The food distribution took place in every hut. The food was delivered to the barracks from the kitchen. There out of cardboard boxes each one got his own portion: quarter loaf of bread with one triangle of cheese, a peace of margarine and a litre of tea. That was in the morning. At noon time they brought the food from the kitchen in large pots. Each one had his own mesting, sort of food dish, and we got one litre of soup. In the evening it repeated itself, one litre tea and quarter loaf of bread and a piece of cheese.

Interviewer: At that stage did people feel the sense of hunger yet or not ?
Landau: Yes, of course, but here it was not that restrictive. If someone wanted another plate he stood again in the line and received an additional plate. However it was not legal and those who stood again in order to receive another plate had to wash their mastings on the side (away from the guards view) before standing in line again.

Interviewer: When they liquidated Szebnia where did they take you?
Landau: When they liquidated Szebnia they took us to Auschwitz - Birkenau. not everybody was loaded on trains. There were people that did not end up going to Auschwitz - Birkenau but they were finished (eliminated) in the woods near Szebnia. They took there a few hundred Jews and among them was one family very well known to me ..........


   Go to