This point was the beginning of the war between Russia and Germany. You were given permission to go wherever you wanted; what did your family do?
My uncles — my father’s brothers — had left earlier to middle Asia. They sent us the proper permits needed to travel. We joined them in Lenibad. It was the winter months, cold and dreary. We stayed in a basement apartment consisting of one room and a foyer. The food was rationed. Those people who didn’t work didn’t get food rations.
I contracted TB while we were still in Siberia. I was taken to a sanitarium in Asia. My mother was allowed to visit me but only on Fridays. At least here I was given three slices of bread and a coffee. Each day I would save one of the slices of bread. When my mother would come I would give her all the bread which I had saved up. Although the bread was no longer fresh, at least it was something to eat. I lied to my mother, telling her that we were being given an abundance of food; otherwise she never would have agreed to take it from me. One day the nurse opened my drawer and she found the bread. She immediately confiscated it all. I was devastated.
My father was told that I would need to eat milk, butter and honey in order to recuperate, but of course it was impossible to obtain any of them. My father didn’t give up so easily. My father purchased a kilo of colored dye and bartered it in the next town for eggs and milk and other food as well. About a year later my younger sister got sick and was brought into the sanitarium, too. Since there was not enough nursing help they allowed my mother to stay and take care of us. My father continued on with his business of bartering for food. My middle sister, Yocheved Mirel, who was five years old, stayed home but there was no one to take care of her. She was very neglected, until she got sick and she died. I lived with a lot of guilt. She was buried in the forest but I have no idea where.
My parents found black cottonseed oil. They distilled it and sold it in the marketplace. This was not legal. My father had an underground bunker where my parents would sneak down at night and distill the oil. They would leave it covered over in the bunker.
I recall one day after a neighbor reported suspicious action, they came to check what was going on. My father, being a smart man, prepared a whole meal and gave them money and they left.
On another occasion my mother was caught in the marketplace and she was taken to the next town to the police headquarters. Before she left she concealed the evidence. When they began to search her they didn’t find anything and couldn’t bring any charges against her. We continued living off the profits of the oil.
There was a Polish public school. I began attending school when I was nine years old. I was the best student. One day I was not paying attention and the teacher noticed so she picked on me to answer the question. She gleefully gave me the lowest mark.
Once the war was over, where did you go?
The war was over in 1945. We remained there until 1946 before returning home. My parents had a Russian passport. My uncles had passports that were citizens free, for which they paid a large sum of money. However, those holding a Russian passport were allowed to leave first. We were told to watch closely which town the train was passing through on the way to Poland because some towns were extremely anti-Semitic. The train stopped in the town of Auschwitz and we immediately disembarked. That night a pogrom broke out which frightened us terribly. My father quickly got hold of a barber and had him shave off his beard so that it wouldn’t stand out that he was Jewish.
That night a very rich man came and took the women and children to his beautiful home and served us a large fleishige meal. At the end of the meal the maid brought out milk. In all this time I was scrupulous about keeping kosher. The maid excused herself; she said she figured it wasn’t a problem for small children.
From there we continued on to Cracow, were we found a Jewish community. In the mornings we went to a secular Jewish school and in the afternoons we attended an organized Bnos group for girls. We were given kosher food there as well.
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.