What were Shabbos and Yom Tov like? (continued)
The basements of these factories were unfinished. It seems that the Germans had a superstition — they didn’t want to go into an unfinished room. Therefore, they never went down to these basements. We took advantage of this and smuggled many things down to these basements — tefillin, a siddur, a machzor, a Chumash. Whenever we had time, we went down there and put on tefillin. If we felt we had a few extra minutes, we would say Shema and Shemoneh Esrei.
Here was the big chiddush. I smuggled a Gemara into the barraks. I slept on the upper bunk and under me, slept Reb Yaakov Langer, z”l. He was also saved, and lived in Boro Park. Together we made a shiur every day. We finished the whole volume of Seder Moed — which included the masechtos of Shabbos, Eruvin, Pesachim, Rosh Hashanah, Megillah, Yoma and others. It took us almost three years.
How about kashrus?
Kashrus was a separate issue. There was no she’eilah of kashrus. The “stuff” could barely be called food. A little bit of water, or margarine. Potatoes — not good potatoes, rotten potatoes — and the same with the other vegetables. Bread, yes there was bread. It was a mixture of some kind of wheat grass. How we survived, only the Eibershter knows.
How did you keep your emunah through the horrors of the Holocaust?
I must say that I personally had siyatta diShmaya. I could mamash see that the Ribbono shel Olam was holding my hand. I also saw that my father, z”l, was not letting me down. I was in many situations where I needed huge nissim to get out alive. The only way to survive was to go directly against the Germans. It was nissim, mamash, that I wasn’t caught.
I never had any questions in emunah. I always had the vision of my father in front of me. I knew what my father would have wanted me to do.
It was a good thing that I wasn’t a big eater. Those who needed a lot of food to live disintegrated very quickly.
In Markstadt, we hid potatoes for the winter. In order to keep these potatoes fresh, they had to be covered in straw. When we were really starving and osgehingert, we tried to sneak out and get some potatoes. Somehow, we managed to bake them. One night I went to get some potatoes; I was already holding them, when I felt someone grab me. “I’m taking you to the police.” I was struggling with this man and I said to him, “Who appointed you to take me?”
Suddenly a very tall man appeared and said, “What’s going on here?” The man explained to him how he had caught me. The tall man replied, “OK, I am in charge. You run to the office and get the guards here.” As soon as the man who grabbed me ran away, this really tall-looking man said to me in Yiddish, “Get away, run as fast as you can.” I looked up to see him and he had disappeared!
I knew for sure that this was Eliyahu Hanavi. There was no question.
One thing I knew for sure, it didn’t make a difference whether or not I wanted to do something. I would do what they told me to do, because I wanted to live. I felt that my father was tied to me — tzugebinden. He was pulling me to the right side all the time and showing me the right path.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.