Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The Great Escape



“It’s late at night and my heart is beating and everybody is wishing me good luck. I don’t know if I, if anybody is going to see those people anymore, if there is any chance… Some are envying me – I am already on my way to survival. It is, I don’t know, eleven-thirty, twelve o’clock, dark, and late and I walk out of the ghetto, and I am going towards the train station. I am passing… I didn’t even know Miedzyrzec very well, because we came there into the ghetto and I never really knew, even it’s a small town.

“There apparently was this main street that the railway station was on. I passed by a restaurant – a hotel, an inn, G-d knows – and there is a group of people cooking and laughing and as I pass by, they start shouting, ‘Halt, halt.’ I think to myself, well, that’s as far as I got. So I stopped and somebody addressed me in German. And I pretend I didn’t understand, and I answered in Polish. They started laughing, ‘Ah, this is one of ours.’ It was a young group of Poles, men, and women, half-drunk already, I think. And where am I going? And I tell them I have to catch my train to go to Lublin. I am coming from Warsaw because of my smuggling… Again, a new story. Ah, so I have so much time, I should join them. They are just going into this inn for a meal. And where I am from? I had this story. I was born in this town far away from there, and my mother died in childbirth, and I was raised by this uncle… Anyway, they all had all kinds of different stories. And one of them was from this town, he had relatives there. He is sure I am his relative. So we go into this inn. Apparently, this is the only inn in the town. And they sit down, I don’t know, maybe ten people.

“We sit down at the long table and the proprietress; she knows them all. And he introduces me as his cousin from this particular city. We sit down and we eat. I never ate such food before – maybe one time when I was in Warsaw. Anyway, they order. You know the Poles like to drink and they don’t know how. I mean, they get really drunk one, two, three. And the sausages and the hams and more vodka, more vodka. Everybody is having an absolutely grand time and I am right there in their midst.

“Then it was getting already late. It was getting two o’clock, two-thirty. So this fellow, I forget their names, anyway he says to me that one of his friends is also traveling, he is going to Warsaw. He is going to Warsaw, I’m going to Lublin, and he also has to catch a train. But he was as drunk as anything, so we are trying to… So he says, ‘Why should you go to the station now? After all, it’s only two o’clock. Why don’t you come up to my apartment, you will lie down for a little while,’ I still can’t get over it, ‘you lie down for a little bit, you rest up, and then you go to the train.’ And I do.

“We take this other fellow – this other fellow was so drunk two people had to drag him up to the apartment. He threw him on the bed in this other room – he was really quite a nice young man – and he sits down with me in his living room. There is this couch, and we talk a little bit, very seriously.

“We talk a little bit about the war, and about what’s happening to the people, and how they are scattered, and about people being sent off to Germany, and how will the war end, and what do I think of this, and what do I think of that. Anyway, I have to promise him that anytime I pass through Miedzyrzec again, I certainly have to come and pick him up. He is really very polite. Then he said goodnight. ‘If you want to rest a few hours and then,’ he says, ‘you just walk out and lock the door.’ He disappeared into his room, and I was sitting there for another half an hour.

“Then I got up and I come into the hall. You know the Poles are Catholic and they are very religious – and I, all this time, I think to myself I know hardly anything about prayers, and I really should get hold of a little prayer book. And I come into this hall. There stands a little table with a few little books and there was like a pocket prayer book. I take this prayer book, I put it into my pocket, and I walk out. And that is what I was studying all the time on the way to Germany. By the time I came, I really knew this paternoster and all this by heart – how to cross yourself. And that was it.

“I come to the station, and I take the train and I come to Lublin. I come to this camp. There were hundreds, hundreds, maybe thousands of people. I am telling you all these little details. Some of them really sound like bragging, but these were those little incidents which happened. And I thought to myself, if I survive and I ever tell it to anybody, nobody will believe it, including myself. Anyway, we come to this camp, and everybody’s assigned a little cot, upstairs and downstairs. I have this little cot downstairs and a young girl, really a nice girl, was upstairs. I have this little cot downstairs and a young girl, really a nice girl, was upstairs.

“She took a liking to me. You know, I was sort of a few years older than her. She was maybe 15 years old, and we sort of became friendly. She went with me to breakfast, and this and this. And I came, I had this suitcase and I had one pair of stockings, which – it was a war, it was a fantastic fortune that I had it. And of course, breakfast you have to go with this little, whatever, what do you call this little thing one carries like the soldiers do, this little metal thing you put your food on? I forget, what do you call it in English?”


A tray.

“Yes. Then we went to be examined, went back, and showered, and went to this office to register and to be assigned. Anyway, I was there only a short time, the man in the office said we’d stay at this place only a few days. ‘There would be a few who have assigned places in Germany, six or eight people. You will all travel together to Germany and everybody to his own place.’ And here I had another story already.

“I’m going to Stuttgart because my fiancé is working there.’ Why do I go? I mean there was always this little bit of suspicion. Why would, a quote-unquote, a young, obviously well-educated Polish girl from a city volunteer to go to Germany? Very, very suspicious. I really don’t remember anymore, whether it was suggested to me, maybe this fellow… Anyway, I was going because my fiancé was caught, and he works in Stuttgart and that’s why I requested to go to Stuttgart. That’s why I’m going. That’s why I volunteered and that’s how come I had a position already.’ You know you had to manipulate those things all the time. Anyway, fine.

“In the evening when we come to our cots, I go to open the suitcase: my stockings are gone. And I had this suspicion of this one girl. So first I think to myself, should I keep quiet about it? But if I keep quiet about it, she may suspect something. I am going to make a noise. And I said to her, ‘You stole my stockings. What a nerve!’ I have to say she stole my stockings, for all she knows, I may be a Jew. And she said, ‘You’re a rotten Jew,’ and everybody turned around. So I said, ‘Well, if that’s the case, we are going to the office right away and we’ll find out who is a thief and who’s a rotten Jew. We’ll go right away!’ And I walked out with my friend. We come back half an hour later: my stockings were there. But the chances that I took, because if she went with me to the office; then this would be…

“Anyway, those two days passed, and the Poles – what was going on! They were drunk and they were singing and… We finally got into the train, and I came to Stuttgart.

“I came to Stuttgart. I got off the train and I came into the street, and I looked around.

I didn’t feel as free for years. Now here I am in a big German city. Nobody knows me. And you start looking. You know in Poland – up until now I think the same thing – in Poland I knew immediately whose face is Jewish and whose isn’t. So did the Poles. And I never felt 100% safe with them. I would see my face as they see in my face: it’s a Jewish face. I came down in Stuttgart, I looked around and I thought, those German faces, some of them look like character Jewish faces who are pure Aryan. I said to myself, unless of course something can happen, here I feel much safer.

“I had studied German in school for five years, so I spoke German pretty fluently when I came to Germany. So I asked where I had to go to the employment office. He told me and I went. I had my papers and I showed them. And whoever it was, they said, no, I’m not going to work in this restaurant, I’m going to work in a hospital. There was this request for help in this hospital and they already let them know that if somebody would arrive who speaks German, he is going to call them.

“He called and there came this nun. It was not a Catholic hospital, it was a Protestant hospital, she was a Protestant nun. She came and she took my suitcase and took me to the hospital. Then this Mother, Mother Superior, she was in charge of the – she was actually a very nice woman.

“When I came, so they showed me the room. I slept in this room with three other Polish girls and four Ukrainian girls. It was one of those attic rooms in one of the buildings. It was a civilian hospital. Then she talked to me a little bit. She asked me if I am hungry. You know, the Germans ate five times a day: first breakfast, second breakfast; then lunch, the main meal, afternoon tea, ‘vesper’ they call it, and supper. So what time we came, it was time for afternoon tea.

“She asked me to her office and – fresh bread and jam, coffee. I don’t know maybe it was not authentic coffee, sort of a substitute, but I thought it was absolutely manna from heaven. Clean and nice, and then she said if I wanted to take a bath, and then she showed me up to my room. You have no idea, you know, that’s another thing. How we hid it.

(To be continued)


Previous articleA Little Ditty About Chaya And – Let’s Call Him ‘Benny’
Next articleMPs Arrest IDF Gaza Fighter Based on Testimony from Man Who Stole his Car