Were you taken to the ghetto?
We were forced to leave our houses. We gathered the belongings that were most important to us and loaded them on a wagon that was supplied by one of our Christian neighbors. We transferred ourselves to stay at the house of Aunt Alta Diamond (our mother’s sister).
Three days passed and a new order was published. Anyone who was 14 years of age must work or move to Stry and live in the ghetto. Our former teacher Mr. Pesach Lew, who worked in the employment office, registered my cousin Jozik and me as 15 and 14 1/2 years old. (We were actually 12 1/2 and 12.) We were directed to work in the barrel factory. Again, in exchange for a bribe, Aunt Luba succeeded in convincing one of the anti-Semitic foremen to keep a watchful eye over us in the barrel factory.
The barrel factory was located about 100 meters away. After several days, an order was issued that all Jewish workers had to live in a camp near the place where they worked. The camp for the Jewish workers of the barrel factory was set up in a house belonging to the Cymerman family. Jozik and I took a space on the third upper layer of a long bunk. Jozik and I didn’t work in the same shift.
During the first several weeks we got some salary, which was almost nothing. Sometimes, in order to survive, we took off our white band and snuck to the city’s center where Aunts Alta and Luba, as well as my sister Miriam, were living. We used to get a piece of bread and several eggs from them. In this way we could survive until the next time.
In the barrel factory we had to carry about 10–12 wooden oak boards to a stand next to a machine on the upper floor, about 20 steps up. The planks of wood were made into the bottom or the top part of a barrel. When we weren’t fast enough, the Ukrainian machine operator, who was paid according to his output, would shout at us: “Hurry up or I will see to it that you will be sent to the Himmelkommando.” (In German, this means heaven management.) Sometimes I wasn’t able to catch the planks fast enough as they came out of the machine and they would fall on my legs and injure them. In addition, the vinegar smell which the planks omitted caused me to sneeze continuously.
On the break, when the operator went to drink coffee or eat his lunch, I used to put sand into the grease opening while I cleaned the machine. The next day the machine was dead. My friends and I enjoyed the unexpected rest. I did this three times. In the end of 1942 we were transferred to other houses. The rumor was that in March we would be liquidated; therefore, they felt it wasn’t worthwhile to prepare bunkhouses. Jozik and I tried to plan different escape routes.
In March 1943 the Germans liquidated the work camp where my aunts, cousins and sister Miriam were working. They were all killed in the cemetery in Bolechow. We were left without anything because everything valuable was hidden on their bodies. Now Jozik and I were totally alone; Jozik was 13 1/2 and I was 12 1/2 years old.
The Jews in the work camps who could afford it paid the Christians to hide them. Anyone who made these arrangements started to disappear. They began to join their old parents or their children who were in hiding already. The Germans began to worry that one day they would find that most of the Jews had disappeared before they’d noticed it.
We tried various options as hideouts. After much struggle we arrived at the home of the Czerwinski sisters. We reached the door, knocking on it lightly. The door opened. One of the sisters was standing before us.
“Who are you and what do you want?”
“We are the Adlers’ children.”
“Get out of here! We have nothing to do with Jews. We don’t want to see you here.”
The Book “A Jew Again” was published recently by Shlomo Adler; ISBN # 978-965-550-403-3. For purchasing information please contact email@example.com
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness