When did the Germans take full control of the town?
On the first night of Pesach, the Germans arrived in our town. By the time the sun rose the next morning, the town was flooded with soldiers. As I stepped out of my house to join some other boys my age, a German soldier stepped out, pulled out his rifle and instructed me to follow him. I told the other boys to run and hide for they hadn’t been spotted. I was taken to work for the Germans. One of the officers present said to me, “For a Jew, you are a very, very good worker.” They would have wanted me to continue on with this work day after day, but I refused. I went into hiding but it was a mere few hours before I was caught again. By the time I was caught a third time the soldier warned me that he would report me to a very tough German whom I would never be able to run away from.
Did you spend time in the ghetto?
Within a few days we were told that we were going to be taken to a ghetto. The ghetto was situated a few km away from my hometown. The townspeople got themselves ready to move into the ghetto. Some went by train; we were transported by horse and wagon. Being that the German headquarters was situated in our town, we were given eight days to prepare ourselves. My mother cooked a lot of food and baked lots of bread. She sewed rucksacks for each of us.
Life in the ghetto was very tough, especially for those who did not bring along food. However, my mother prepared enough food for 20 people. Baruch Hashem, we had plenty of food for us and for my paternal grandparents who were with us.
Within the ghetto walls we were ordered to go into the basement of a yeshivah. My mother was unable to sit down in our new residence for it was very dirty. My father’s brother lived within the permitted area, and although it would be very crowded, we decided to move in with them. When we arrived at my uncle’s residence, the police were there, chasing them out; the ghetto was being made smaller and smaller. We tried other places, too, but everywhere we were told the same thing. We found a large stable in the center of the town. We went to the top of the stable to rest. The cows in the stable were so noisy they did not afford us any respite.
When the sun rose the next morning, we climbed down and went in search of a new place to stay. We found a large, clean, wood shack, which seemed perfect for our needs. We spread out whatever clothing we had brought along and slept on the floor, including my grandfather, who was 76 years old.
What were some of the restrictions placed on the Jews while in the ghetto?
New laws were enforced each day, beginning with an order for all men to shave off their beards. My father had a short little beard so they didn’t bother him. However, when my grandfather shaved off his beard, I started to cry. When I went out into the street I met the Rabbi of our town, who had shaved his beard, and many others whom I knew; all had shaved their beards. It was a horrible sight to witness.
By then our food supply had run out. We went to the Germans, begging them to allow us to go out of the ghetto to get potatoes from our cellars. We were given permission. We hired wagons and went into the town. We filled our wagons with potatoes and brought them back to the ghetto; this improved the situation a little bit. However, the potatoes lasted just a short time and the situation became unbearable again.
Then rumors began to spread that in a week’s time we were going to be leaving the ghetto and would be transported to Hungary to work. We accepted that, for it didn’t sound so bad. They began making selections. My family and many others from our town were selected to go with the first transport. We weren’t upset. We thought the situation could not be worse than what we were already experiencing; we were almost happy to leave.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.