Around Pesach 1940, you and your family were forced to live in the ghetto. What happened to you there?
On May 9, 1941, the S.S. commander, Lindner, and a group of his men stormed into the city in the middle of the night and ordered all men, women and children out of their homes. We were told to gather in the gymnasium. There, Lindner used a leather whip to beat many Jews. Some people were sent to Auschwitz and some to various work camps. My father did not have with him his papers that showed he already was assigned to a job, so he was sent to Gross-Moslovic, a work camp in Germany. I had my red card stating that I was working, so I was let go.
My mother had some connections and was able to buy my father’s freedom for $300. This was a fortune back then. When my father returned home, people whose children had been sent to the same work camp with him wanted to know what it was like there. He was afraid to say too much except to tell them to send as many food packages as possible.
Not long afterward, the Jewish police force headed by Moniek Marin added to our misery by carrying out the Germans’ orders. We were told to bring all our gold and silver to the Judenrat and were threatened with severe punishment if we didn’t obey. Instead, we traded our gold for food and other necessities and our silver, we put into a sack and hid in a dried-out well in the yard. It’s possible that it is still there today.
That whole summer, we lived in fear. Lindner came almost every week to Kishanev, capturing Jews each time and sending them to Auschwitz.
In the winter of 1941 came new edicts: All Jews had to bring their fur coats to the Judenrat to be collected for German soldiers fighting on the Russian Front. On a Motzoei Shabbos in Teves, we fired up the oven, cut up my father’s Shabbos peltz and shtreimel, my mother’s fur coat and other fur items and burned them all to ashes; we would not give them to the Germans.
For Pesach 1942, we again received some matzos and other products, but we knew that something terrible was going to happen. My father sat at the Seder with bitter tears running down his face. We all cried together.
On the 12th of Iyar, the Jewish overseers dragged out all the Jews from their houses. We were taken to Krzyska Street. When we got there, we could not believe our eyes. On one side of the square were seats filled by the police, Gestapo and regular civilian Germans with their wives and children. On the other side, seven nooses had been prepared. After about half an hour, the Germans brought out seven Jews who had been beaten up very badly. Before they were hanged, they all screamed out Shema Yisrael. One of them also screamed, “Jews, remember to take revenge!” I will never forget that moment.
On May 30, 1942, we were ordered again to gather on Krzyska Street, this time to have our identification cards stamped so we could receive ration cards. There were many Jews who were afraid to come. We all had a feeling that something terrible was about to happen again, and we were correct. As soon as officials began stamping our cards, Gestapo and S.S. troops arrived from Sosnowiec and surrounded the whole street. They separated the old and the sickly from the youth and sent them to their death at Auschwitz. I was one of the lucky ones sent home, since I had working papers.
After this episode, my father decided that we should build a bunker in which to hide. Our apartment was above a store. We built a double wall in the store. Right after it was completed, the Germans rounded up people in the middle of the night. We had just enough time to run and hide in the bunker. The Germans broke down the door to our apartment and searched for us. They knew that we were hiding, because our beds were still warm. They looked for some time before they left. We waited for a while until it was quiet again and then went back to our apartment. However, the Germans returned numerous times and, one day, we were caught by surprise.
On the 24th day of Tammuz, the S.S. descended upon us. My father managed to hide in the bunker. I was caught, like thousands of other Jews. The Germans took us to the public school where they began their selections. I was one of the lucky ones sent to a work camp. My mother, my youngest sister, Bayla, my grandparents, Chaim Shmuel and Rochel Fraide Langer, along with many other cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and thousands of Kishanev Jews, were all sent to their deaths in Auschwitz.
Most of those who hid successfully that time were not as lucky in the last roundup. Lindner came back again from Sosnowiec and, in the black of night, forced all the Jews out of their homes. They were herded into the market square. There, the Nazis again chose the young and middle-aged men to be sent to work camps. All the rest — men, women and children — were sent to Auschwitz.
To be continued….
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.