Mrs. Osnas Weitman part V

What else do you remember from the year in the forest?

One time when we arrived back at the bunker it was full of smoke. It appears that when the Nazis found the bunker they removed whatever was valuable to them. Just in case we would try to use the bunker again or have any benefit from it, they decided to destroy it. They threw in grenades, which we found as smoking pillars.

When we saw this, my uncle said, “Look how good Hashem is. Look how he saved us!” Then he took his shovel and we walked to a different location, where my uncle began digging a new bunker. This time we had no blankets or any other clothing at all. It was very painful walking without shoes in the wheat fields, as the green grass that was freshly cut dug into the soles of our feet; but we had to do it, we had to walk on.

There were times when my uncle and my mother would leave us in the forest. They would say to us, “You sit here and say Tehillim all night until we come back. We’ll try to bring bread and water.”

Sometimes when they got to the village the gentiles were kind enough to prepare bread and water. Other times the gentiles would chase them away, saying, “You can’t come in tonight, the Germans are searching the village. Our lives are threatened. Please leave.” It was extremely disappointing when they returned without any bread and water; we were so terribly starved. We learned to lie down on the ground after it rained and lick the puddles — that was our water — and eat the foliage off the trees. My mother and my uncle risked their lives again and again because they knew how hungry we were.

One night when they left us, we were so exhausted and tired we couldn’t say Tehillim all night; we just fell asleep. Suddenly we felt rifle butts touching our bodies, flashlights shining in our faces and two Nazis, who were boisterous and fearful, surrounding us. With them were my uncle and my mother, who had been caught while trying to obtain food and water for us.

The Nazis were prepared to kill the pair. However, my uncle said to them, “You can’t kill us until we are all together. We have three little girls hiding in a bunker and it is more painful to die of hunger than from your bullets. Kill us as a family.” Finally, after much pleading, they acquiesced. We lined up to be killed with the knowledge that “mir gein tzum Tatten.”

Then my uncle said to one of the Nazis, “If we give you something precious, would you let us go?” The Nazis agreed. My mother took off her diamond ring and as she was handing it to them it fell to the ground among all the leaves. My uncle suggested to these two Nazis that they help us find it, and they bent down to help us look for it. Then my uncle said to my mother in Ivrit (because Yiddish was very similar to the German language), “Grab your children and let’s run!” While the Nazis looked for the ring, we escaped.

A similar scenario happened later with two different Nazis who caught my uncle and my mother as they walked back with food and drinks. We lined up, ready to be killed. It took a lot of persuading to convince them that there were only three girls in the forest. When they saw that it was true, they were so relieved that they took out their bottles of liquor and soon became very drunk. While we stood in line waiting to be shot, they stood there laughing and poking fun at us. Then they came up with a wonderful idea: they would play hide-and-seek. While they turned around, we ran — and my mother and we girls were separated from my uncle.

When my mother realized what had happened, she panicked. “I can’t feed you by myself and I can’t navigate the forest by myself!” My uncle would look at the sky, and the stars would tell him which way was north and which was south. “If we find him, we will survive; if we don’t, I will not be able to help you girls. The only thing we can do is yell and scream. Yosef!

As we ran we screamed his name. We ran and ran until we were so exhausted that we dropped to the ground and slept for a very long time. When we awoke we continued running. We yelled his name at night and during the day we were very quiet. The next night as we were yelling Yosef, Yosef, we were answered. My uncle was right near us. Another miracle!


 

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.