When did you begin to feel the pressures of the war?
When the war broke out, my parents made the decision to give my sister and brother away to a gentile family living near the Polish border. It was very traumatic.
I was older and understood what was going on. My parents paid another gentile family to take me in. They explained to me that I was going to live with a family on a farm. They had six children of their own. I was to listen to everything they told me to do.
I had to live like a gentile. I was given a cross to wear and I attended church regularly. On Shabbos, I wanted to dress in my Shabbos clothing, but they kindly explained to me that I couldn’t be different than them, for I would get myself and them into trouble.
Every night she would come into my room to say the Christian prayers with me. I was obedient; but when she would leave I would say Shema to myself. To me, the worst part was that I had to eat treif. At first, I wouldn’t eat the pork or other treife foods. They were lenient with me, until finally they got upset and I had no choice.
My father always ruled that the women could eat treif; but he himself never did. My father instilled in us true bitachon and strength.
After Succos, the men of the town went to the woods together and built bunkers that housed 200 people. There were 25 people in each bunker. They built bunkbeds for everyone. The women slept on top and the men slept on the bottom.
My father who was the Rav of the city, did not leave the city until every person was out. He felt that the people were his responsibility. However, he begged my mother to leave. At first, my mother refused. She would not leave my father alone.
Eventually my father was able to persuade her to go with a group of seven men, including the Kain brothers. They went into the woods and hid there. My father stayed in the city until every last person had left. He put their lives before his own.
When did he leave the city?
One day someone came to the woods with news for my mother. He reported seeing my father being taken away and murdered. My mother refused to accept this information. Three days later, my mother received a handwritten letter from my father that he was alive and well, asking her to meet him in the city he had traveled to.
(The man who had brought her the original bad news had mistaken my father for another Rav who had, unfortunately, been killed.)
One of the men hiding in the woods with her was someone by the name of Mr. Mordechai Honig. Mr. Honig had a bicycle, and he insisted that my mother travel with him to meet my father. The other men present were against this idea because travel was dangerous; however, Mr. Honig insisted that the Rav wanted to see his wife and she should go.
My mother got dressed up as a maid and Mr. Honig got dressed as a railroad worker. They began their journey, when suddenly, they spotted three Germans approaching them.
Mr. Honig told my mother that he would pretend as if he can’t hear. Although my mother spoke a beautiful German, she pretended not to understand them. When they asked her where she was going, although she understood every word, she kept repeating, “I don’t understand what you are saying.”
Then she heard them speaking to each other and in German they said these are two crazy people, let’s kill them both. When my mother heard this, she decided to speak up. My mother told them that Mr. Honig fixes railroads and she cooks for the soldiers and it would be to their benefit to keep them alive; and they did.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.