After two weeks I was taken together with my father and one other man to work with a different group in the factory. When we first arrived they tested us and we passed with flying colors. We were then given a slip of paper to get the tools needed to work with the sheet metal. When I went to pick up the tools I needed, there was a Polish gentile in charge. I asked her for a pair of scissors needed to cut the sheet metal. She refused to give it to me. I went back to my boss and reported that the woman in charge of the tools wouldn’t give us the tools we needed. He immediately went back with us and warned her that anything we needed we were to get or she would be punished severely.
The third man who was with us was extremely skilled and he made hundreds of small metal buckets which we used as cups to drink from. Because we were such good workers and able to produce whatever was needed, quickly, our bosses (“meister”s) earned extra vacation and were very happy. In addition, because of our good work we received other privileges.
One of the Rabbanim who was imprisoned there was a Rav that my father recognized from 1918. During the war years it was very difficult to get kosher food and this Rav had given my father a good meal of kosher food. My father felt that now he could repay him for his good deeds. Each morning when I came to work I was privileged to be allowed to take hot water. I would bring the water in a bucket and give it out to the Rabbanim.
Can you tell of some miracles that you encountered while in the camps?
One day, outside, I met a Polish prisoner who said to me, “You should be very careful over here because “di Malach Hamaves dreit zich du — the angel of death roams around here.” He was referring to Mengele. He warned me that it wouldn’t be good if he saw me roaming around. The Polish prisoner told me that if he comes I should begin working on one of the machines that were there. Sure enough, about a half hour later, in walked an officer. I quickly picked up a piece of metal from the floor, ran over to the machine and began working. When the agent saw me operating the machine, he began to question me. “Du bist a Jude? — Are you a Jew?” When I answered in the affirmative, he argued that it could not be true. “Dos ken nicht zein, Dus iz unmöglich, dos ken nicht zein.” They were trained with the notion that Jews are not capable people so how could they work such important machinery? I even showed him my yellow star. At that moment my Meister (boss) walked in. He verified that I was a very good worker. When he heard that, he left me alone and didn’t come back again.
In the meantime, another German officer standing nearby overheard them speaking and became very jealous. A few weeks later he reported to the S.S. headquarters that we were involved in sabotage. (He was referring to the small buckets we had handed out to the prisoners and especially to the many Rabbanim who were there.)
The next day the Blockeltester came over to us and informed us that we were being summoned to S.S. headquarters. We were petrified. He then began questioning me: “What have you done? This is very, very serious.” He went on to tell us that a year ago two other people had been summoned to S.S. headquarters and on the following day they were hung. We tried to defend ourselves; we told him that we only did what the Meister told us to, no more — no less. In the morning I went to work and my father and the third man went to the S.S. headquarters.
At work, the Meister questioned me as to the whereabouts of my father and the third man. I told him that he was accused of sabotage and they were summoned to the S.S. Immediately the Meister called up the S.S. and told them that it was just a case of jealousy and not sabotage. The officer in charge allowed them to go home. He said that he would come over to the factory and see what they were being accused of.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.