As told to Mrs. Chaya Feigy Grossman
When did you begin feeling the pressures of the war?
As children, we realized that my parents’ mood had changed. They were more upset than usual; there were conversations between them and my grandparents that they didn’t want us to hear. Although we felt that something was wrong, we were too young to understand.
We were definitely aware of what was happening, but we never believed that we would be affected by it. We thought that life would continue as usual.
Did your family try to escape Poland?
Yes, my parents did make attempts to leave Poland. My father wanted to go with his family to Russia, while my mother wanted to remain with her parents. She was sure that with my grandfather’s Turkish passport they would be safe.
In 1939, all Jews were ordered to wear a yellow band. I, as a one-year-old child, wanted to rip it off, but my parents didn’t allow me to. My sister and I could no longer play outside on the stoop.
After my father’s family was sent to Russia, my parents felt it was not safe to remain in Cracow; so we traveled to Lublin, which was not far from Krakow. We moved in with my mother’s uncle — my maternal grandfather’s brother who lived there.
My uncle’s attic became our new residence for about three months. It was frightening to live there, for we heard all the war planes overhead. After three months we returned to Cracow.
Did you spend time in a ghetto?
Yes. Not long after we returned to Cracow, the ghettos were opened. My family was taken to a ghetto right outside of Lublin. We were there for just three months before they liquidated this ghetto, and we were sent back to Cracow. It wasn’t long before we were sent to the ghetto in Bochnia.
There were close to one thousand people in the Bochnia ghetto. All five of us shared one room; my parents, my sister and I and our Nanny. At night, the room served as a bedroom and during the day it was to be our living quarters. The bathroom was located outside. It was one communal bathroom. My maternal grandparents and some of her cousins were in another room in this ghetto.
When we first arrived, my mother was assigned a job working in the kitchen. My sister and I helped my mother in the kitchen; my sister helped her cook, and I peeled vegetables. Because she worked in the kitchen, we received slightly larger rations. Occasionally we received a little extra bread or an egg. When my family packed our belongings for the ghetto, my father took along some valuables. With these items my father did some trading with Germans and Poles who smuggled food into the ghetto. In return he received sugar and other staples that we needed to keep us going. Minyanim were organized underground as well as shiurim with the Bobover Rebbe.
When the Nazis discovered that my mother was a talented seamstress, they took her to work in a factory where they made uniforms. My father was taken each day to chop wood in the forest. The job was hard work.
We were enclosed in the ghetto with barbed wire and heavy Polish and Nazi patrols wielding weapons. The Judenrat of our town tried to convince my father to be part of the Jewish police, but he would have no part in it.
Three generations of the Bobov dynasty were in our ghetto: Harav Bentzion, Harav Shlomo and Harav Naftulcha, zechusam yagein aleinu. This gave us a lot of chizuk and emunah. The Bobover Rebbe, Rav Bentzion, told my grandparents that since they had a Turkish passport, they should try and escape to Hungary where the war hadn’t yet begun. My grandparents arranged for a wagon to take them across the border from Bochnia to Hungary. One night a Jewish policeman who was part of the Judenrat helped them sneak out. However, soon after they left the ghetto they were caught. It was a big feat for the Nazis. They had been looking to catch my grandfather, Meir Shor and his wife, since the beginning of the war in 1939. They were immediately sent to Auschwitz.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness