niedziela, 27 stycznia 2019

I was sure that no-one survived. The Holocaust Years (2/3)

Jack Borenstein talks:

The Germans invaded Poland September 1, in 1939, and within about 10 days, they occupied Ostrowiec. I remember that during the first week they arrived, one night, we heard shooting that woke us up. We looked out the windows and saw that the Germans took out some of our Jewish neighbors from their home and shot them on the sidewalk. Some of the victims were communists.

After a little while, the Jews were forced to wear a band on the arm and a star on the front of the clothing with the word ‘Jude’ written on it. The Germans forced the Jews to live in a Ghetto on certain streets close to the Rynek marketplace.

I also remember that the Nazis rounded up 29 influential non-Jewish Poles and hung them one by one at the Rynek, after announcing to the residents that they should go to the square to witness the hangings.

2018. Between the marketplace and the nonexistent synagogue

The Liquidation of the Ostrowiec Ghetto in 1942
The Germans announced that all Jews should gather at the marketplace. Most went there, but some families decided to hide. After all the families assembled, they called out: whoever works in the steel mill Zakłady Ostrowieckie, should assemble near the police station (at the Floriana Square - MP).

The only reason I survived was that my father paid to get papers that I worked in the steel mill. I think he must have known something was going to happen. As I told you, no Jews ever worked there until the war. When the war started, they took in some Jews. I think they did it, because Jewish people worked for nothing. That's how I was separated from the majority of the Jews that were gathered at the square. After a few hours we marched down to the factory, to the Zakłady. That was the first I had ever went there.

The rest of the Jews were sent from the Rynek to a nearby field. There used to be a school. They kept them there for two days. I don't think they fed them.

2018. The field by the school

When I was in Zakłady working, well, it was not far away from the train station. So we did see that they loaded the people, all the Jews, on the train that took them away. That train took them to a death camp, really.

How was I sure that my family was killed? Two girls jumped from the train. They came back to Ostrowiec, but they had no place to stay, but at Zakłady Ostrowieckie, they found a place to stay, and they joined us. We knew that they jumped out because they found out that all the Jews from the train will go to crematorium. So we were sure that no one survived. I had no hope.

2018. Railway and Zakłady Ostrowieckie
After the selection (I call it a selection), they cleaned out Iłżecka Street. Since all the Jews left the houses, and most of them lived at Iłżecka or streets like this, we went back and we slept about 10-12 people in one room. Then they made barracks closer to the Zakłady Ostrowieckie, and that's where we lived till the war ended.

Labor Camp in the Zakłady Ostrowieckie
What was the life in the camp in the Zakłady Ostrowieckie? I'll tell you. I was really very shy, especially as a child, but in the camp, I was lucky with one thing. I met a woman who was a teacher of mine, and was in the camp. She knew me, and one time she asked me if I'd like to work – after my work in Zakłady – if I'd like to help out in the kitchen. And I said: yes. My job was just to cut the bread, and most of the bread was cut by the machine. So in there, I ate like a pig. I ate soup, I ate bread. And later, when they sent us to Auschwitz, I was really fat. I think that was what kept me going. It made me survive.

What was my work besides the kitchen in the Zakłady Ostrowieckie? I put the sand and other things from the wagons to the furnaces. Sometimes it was steel, sometimes something else. Sometimes 2 people, sometimes 3 or 4 people, unloaded a wagon. And when we finished, the day's work was finished and we went back to the barracks.

Auschwitz, Bombs and Hope
Towards the end of the war, they sent us to Auschwitz by train. At that time, they promised that nobody was going to be killed. We went to Auschwitz, and from Auschwitz—we stayed there for a couple of days—we went to Buna.

It was 1944, and I was in Buna. Luckily, I had a really good, easy job there. We, two or three people, had a job: whenever a bomb didn't explode, we had to clean the area. We had to find the bomb, dig it and dismantle it. And it was a day's work. Whenever I worked outside, it was not too far away from the camp. And another thing was that I worked with some British POW’s. They lived there, they worked there, and their food was good. They shared what they didn't eat. So I used to go in there and I helped myself. It lasted for a few weeks or months. That kept me going.

Was I afraid of the bombs? No, not at all. It was safe. I figured that if the bomb didn't explode, it's not going to explode. Our work was to find a bomb and dig it out. At the end of the day the Germans came and they took out the detonation. There was no risk.

The Germans, when they knew they were lost, they tried to move us from one place to another. We stopped in two or three places for a few days. I remember each one place exactly now, but I don't remember their names. They did not want to kill us because they needed people to work. So they wanted to take us further into Germany - and during that time, I was liberated. I was in Feldafing, close to Munich, in a cattlecar, when the war ended.

What happened after I was liberated? I wasn't dancing on the street because I could hardly walk. First what you need is to rest.

Feldafing was a camp of the Hitlerjugend. They cleaned it up, and they kept us in the cattlecars for at least more than half a day. We were sleeping on the floor of cattlecars. Till they organized the rooms, and each room had 10 mattresses on the floor, no bed, and it took time to prepare it. But after midnight we went in there, and then we were able to go to the washrooms. And the washing... I could hardly wash my hands, really. And then we went into the lounge room and they gave us soup and Melba toast. I ate the soup but put my toasts in my pocket. I went to my room. I laid down on the mattress and I slept a few hours. I woke up at night and I ate the Melba toast. I didn't really know that I shouldn't eat everything at once. I just didn't feel like. I was too tired to eat. I didn't feel hungry. But many people ate a lot, soup and toasts at once. They got sick and some of them died.


Interview with Ostrowiec Survivor Jack Borenstein conducted and transcribed by Monika Pastuszko
See previous parts:

Brak komentarzy: