Mrs. Molly Joseph (Part II)

Please tell us how you were separated from your parents.

It was too dangerous to travel as a group, and so my parents set out ahead of us. My mother went in one direction and my father went in another direction. My aunt tried to hide me on top of a very tall hay stack. On the first day of Chol Hamoed Sukkos my brother and sister tried to take a different route by train to Munkatch. We had family living there.

In the meantime, a young Jewish orphan had gotten hold of an esrog and went around to the Jewish houses giving each family a chance to do the mitzvah. Incidentally, a few soldiers found out about it and paid this young orphan a few rubles to inform them if there were any Jewish families hiding in any of the homes. This young lad gave away our identities.

On the second day of Chol Hamoed Sukkos, officers came to my aunt’s house and demanded that she hand over anyone who was staying in her home. I ran to hide under a bed. When I heard this very serious discussion, I decided I would come out. They began questioning me as to where my parents were. I was just a child of 11 or 12 and I didn’t know what to answer. My uncle and I were taken away for questioning.

I kept insisting that I had run away from the Hungarian border. I denied that I was ever in Poland. My uncle was set free and I was taken to an army base. It was very scary. I was given a bed, but of course I couldn’t sleep.

It was Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos; the weather was nasty with heavy rains. There was a high officer who was in charge of me. He had Jewish connections, and it seems he knew the truth about my identity and where I came from. He was instructed to take me to the German border, where he would turn me over to the German soldiers and subsequently they would shoot me. On the way, we passed people coming from and going to shul. I tried to attract their attention but they were obviously too scared to get involved. Next, we passed a house with a mezuzah. The soldier said something in Hungarian and took me into the house. There was an old couple living there. But before they had a chance to question anything the soldier turned to me and said, “This is not a good place for you.” I had no idea why, but we continued on our way. Next, we came to a town near the Polish border. There was a family there whom we were related to, but we had no real connection. The family had maids, so it wasn’t unusual for them to get visitors. While the soldier was speaking to the maids, I ran around to the back of the house and I sat there in the dark, all alone, with heavy rains coming down.

I was there for a while before the children living in the house came out to me and took me inside. They prepared a board for me to sleep on. It was Hoshana Rabbah and they were going to shul. I asked for permission to come along with them, and they granted me the permission. As we were traveling along in the wagon I realized that we were going in the direction of the military base. I knew immediately that I would have to disembark from the carriage, because I could not take a chance of getting caught. I was left stranded in the middle of no man’s land.

In the distance I saw a row of houses. There were mezuzos on the doors. Inside one of the houses there was a young girl whose parents had been taken away. She was going to Veretzky and granted me permission to come along with her. She gave me a scarf to disguise myself and we began our journey. Not far into the trip I realized that we would be passing the same military base again. I had to abandon this opportunity to get to Veretzky, for the second time.

At this point, in order to avoid the military base, I climbed up a very tall mountain and then went back down on the other side. At the bottom of the mountain was a church, where I sat myself down. I knew I had to avoid any contact with the soldiers. So instead of crossing over the bridge, I went through a river and came out in front of a little house. The house was the home of our dressmaker.

The dressmaker was very happy to see me. She then brought me to the house of my cousins, the Steinbergs. There were soldiers living with them and they couldn’t have me move in, for it was too dangerous.

to be continued…

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.