Ida Tenenbaum (Part II)

What kind of education did you receive?

As a young girl I attended public school. One morning a teacher came into the classroom and announced that there would be a test that day. Anyone who feels prepared for it should come to the front of the class. The student with the highest mark would receive a prize. The prize was an educational geography book which everyone longed to have.

As I walked to the front of the classroom, I heard murmuring. One student in the class was mumbling, “She’s a Jewish girl, she will never make it.” Sure enough, I received the highest grade. I was able to prove that Jewish girls are smart.

In the afternoon I went to Bais Yaakov. We learned all the Jewish subjects and I truly loved it. Shabbos afternoon we belonged to a Bnos group, where we socialized.

When did you begin feeling the pressures of the War?

The war broke out on Friday, September 1, 1939. I was 14 and a half when the Germans declared war on Poland. Hitler was in power at the time, and his goal was to eradicate the Jewish nation from the world. Baruch Hashem, he did not succeed.

Did you spend time in a ghetto?

Immediately upon arrival, Hitler organized a ghetto. Jews were forced to wear arm bands with the word Jude imprinted on it. Young Jewish men and woman were banned from attending all universities.

Then one day there were signs all over stating that all Jews must gather and register on the appel platz. We walked out of our house and straight into the ghetto walls.

In the ghetto there was a shortage of food, hygiene was not too good either, and we suffered a lot in the ghetto. Every family was given one room. Living conditions were terrible and people were dying all around us.

During the two years that we spent in the ghetto, we had to work. People like me were given horseradish to grate. We also cooked marmalade. We did not get paid for our work, although once in a while we were given some marmalade to compensate.

When they made this ghetto Judenrein — they liquidated it, we were separated and taken on different transports to various concentration camps. I can’t be sure which crematorium they [my family members] were taken to, but many ended up in Treblinka and Belzec.

Before we were separated, my father said to me: “Remember — du bist a Yid — you are a Jew. This guided me throughout my years in the concentration camps, no matter what situation I found myself in. Growing up in a Chassidic home, so much emunah was instilled in me, so much belief in Hashem that He will help and take care of me. I truly believed that I would survive.

Which concentration camp were you taken to?

I found myself in the Ploszow concentration camp. Ploszow was a very harsh camp. There was an officer by the name of Armon Ghet. He would ride into town on a white horse with a loaded rifle and shoot randomly. We were so frightened who would be the next korban.

I would like to share with you a story. I refer to it as my Yom Kippur nes. I was about 16 years old at the time, when I worked in a factory, sewing uniforms for the soldiers. In this factory we decided that in honor of Yom Kippur, we were not going to operate the sewing machines. We sent someone outside to patrol and alert us if they saw a Nazi coming. The guard would whistle and we would immediately start the machines.

Near my machine there was a big bolt of flannel material. I lay down near it and buried my head in the material for it was soft and warm. I didn’t hear when the whistle sounded and everyone started up their machines.

Suddenly I felt a kick in my leg. I opened my eyes and before me stood Ghet. I immediately understood that this would be my last Yom Kippur. Fortunately, next to him was standing a woman who happened to be Jewish (although at that time Ghet didn’t know it). She said to him, “Luz gayin.” Let her go. Imagine! He moved away from me and let me live.

to be continued…


These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.