Photo courtesy of Wojtek Mazan
Photo courtesy of Wojtek Mazan

Fela Katz

Standing in the back, from left, are: Izak; a cousin and Moniek. Seated from left are: Rubin an aunt from Germany; her son; Mosze; Gila and Fela Katz. (Photo courtesy of Katz family)
Standing in the back, from left, are: Izak; a cousin and Moniek. Seated from left are: Rubin an aunt from Germany; her son; Mosze; Gila and Fela Katz. (Photo courtesy of Katz family)


Fela Katz was daughter of Moshe and Gila Katz and born  in Ostrowiec, Poland. She had five siblings: Moniek, Izak, Lejzer, Abram and Rubin. During the German occupation the family remained in Ostrowiec until the liquidation of the local ghetto in March 1943.

Below is a translation from Yiddish of text  received and described by Tzvi Rozenboim, expressed by Fela Katz in Bad Reichenhall near Munich.

A Story of the Misfortune of Ostrowiec

I was born on the 17th January 1924 in Ostrowiec in the district of Kielce. Ostrowiec was an old historic town. Until the outbreak of war, about 15 thousand Jews lived in the town. With the outbreak of war between Germany and Poland, 500 Jews left for Russia and other Jews arrived from surrounding areas, such as Konin, Kala, Lublin and Lodz.

On the 13th October 1942, at the command of the Wehrmacht, a locked ghetto was created for the Jews in the town. Having been in the open ghetto (Dzielnitze) and being witness to the torture and acts of excessive abusive, I decided to organize Aryan documents. On the 10th October, I escaped over to the Aryan side with Aryan documents from Ostrowiec, that were stamped in Warsaw. When I arrived on the Aryan side, I decided to return to my house.

In 1940, the cursed Poles from Poizn arrived and took over all the Jewish houses in the town. That was called “trust management”. I went to the “trustee” of our house. With great effort, I climbed over a 4-meter fence, and as I came into our house that was occupied by a Christian, he showed me the door. I burst into tears and pointed out all our possessions that I recognized. He showed some pity and led me out to the courtyard and took me into the “outhouse” where I stayed the whole night. In the morning I returned to the town. As I arrived, I noticed that there were many Jews standing around that had escaped the deportations, and I decided to return to the ghetto.

On the 14th October, I became aware that Jews were working behind the town, on ground leased for building purposes, administered by the town authorities, so we 10 girls, went to that site. Only women worked there, and we were known to them, so we had to go to the second site, the so-called Manovski ground, that was managed by an S. S. man Yeger. As we approached the place where the Jews were working, no one recognized us; the Jews who worked there were standing half immersed in water, it was bitterly cold, and everyone was crying. This was the first act of revenge by the bloodthirsty German murderers. Despite all of this, I decided to accompany them to the ghetto, because I found out that my parents and my five brothers were in the ghetto. When I spoke to the workers, they told me that of the 15,000 Jews, only 800 remained, a number that comprised the two units that were at work.

Then I began to think, where should I go now? As I was quite desperate, and not knowing what to do, I began to enter the forest. Suddenly, I stood still and began to think about a Christian acquaintance. Perhaps I should go to her? And I went to her. I will never forget, that as I approached her, I felt that my life hung in the balance between life and death. I went down on my knees immediately and pleaded with her to save my young life. She promised to help me, on condition that I would leave her house immediately, as she was in great fear of the Christians with whom she shared the same courtyard. She did not want them to notice her, as her own life was at stake. At the same time, she told me to go to the train station and wait until 8pm and we would leave by train. I left, and on the way, I reflected on this arrangement; what does this mean? Does she truly want to save me, or on the contrary, does she want to hand me over to the Gestapo. I felt my heart beating and I was faced with a difficult struggle; I had to overcome a very difficult experience and I decided that I would go, and whatever will be, will be. Death is not so terrible . . . I went to the train station and placed myself alongside the pillars in a dark area and waited to see what would happen. While I stood, I kept looking at my watch and waiting to see who came and who went. At exactly 8pm she arrived. I did not approach her immediately but continued to stand there and see what would happen. Perhaps someone had come with her . . . . then I noticed that she went to the ticket window and bought tickets and then she went to look for me. As she came closer to me, I called her name quietly and she shoved a ticket into my hand. Then I was convinced that she seriously intended to save me. The ticket was for Krakow.

The train arrived immediately, and all the passengers came on to the platform. I latched on to her so that I would not lose her, and at 8.20pm the train moved. While sitting in the carriage, I did not say a word for the first half and hour. When all the passengers had fallen asleep, I tried to ask her where she was taking me. She explained that she would introduce me as her cousin, and that she was taking me to Lutshitz, a village, two train stations before Krakow as she had friends and acquaintances living there that trade with her.  I would stay there as a resident from Warsaw, a daughter of a Commandant, as there is so much aggression in Warsaw towards high standing officials; so she was bringing me here because it was peaceful here. She then described the role I was to play. At 7am we arrived at Lutshitz and we went to her acquaintance. When I came into the village house, I played my part well, so as not to arouse any suspicion, and she immediately repeated all the instructions that she had given me on the train. I introduced myself as a teacher and I immediately undertook to teach the children in the village. After one month, the whole village already knew that I was an escapee from Warsaw and when there was a disturbance, they would warn me to go into hiding.

In November 1942, the “cousin” came to visit me and brought me many letters from my parents. I discovered that my brothers were seriously ill. I took this strongly to heart, and when I was asked what happened, I told them that my father had died, and the Christian lady [who brought the letters] left. The next day, I decided to return home. I went to the train station, and at night, on the same day, I boarded the train, and at 4am, I arrived in Ostrowiec.

As soon as I left the train, a defense worker attached himself to me and started a conversation with me. As we were walking in the street, I noticed a group of Jews being led to work, and he pointed out that these are Jews who are being taken to Ostrowiec as hostages. I pretended not to know anything and turned with my shoulder towards the Jews so that they should not heaven forbid, [recognize me] and call my name. When all the Jews had passed by, I took leave of him. As I left him, I immediately began to think of how I could enter the ghetto. While I was walking, I remembered from the letters, that my parents were working at Yeger’s building site on Galovski Street. Then I took different side routes and garden paths until I reached the site. As I approached, the Jews recognized me immediately and took me right away to the kitchen to hide me from the work force. Soon my brothers arrived, and many young acquaintances, and we conversed. I advised them all to cross to the Aryan side.

In the evening they brought me the sign of shame – a yellow patch, and together with all the workers, I marched into the ghetto. This was also a terrible experience for me, walking in the streets while the Poles looked on with joy, and mocked the Jews. As we came closer, the sight of the ruins, had a terrible effect on me. With that, we came closer to the gate of the ghetto, and once we were inside, I was taken to see how my parents were living. When I came inside and saw the condition of my parents, I sobbed, - eyes torn out, gloomy, extinguished, hardly recognizable. After a short conversation, my parents told me that my older brother had died in hospital from the murderous beatings and trampling by the police. Later, I became aware that the whole family had been sent to Treblinka. A little later in the evening, friends came over and they took me around to all the blocks and showed me a picture of what life was like in the ghetto. As I entered block V. H. (Vilodovanne Huti), each person had a tin badge attached. This was the mark of identification (the Jews called it the “Vay Hak”). The Jews in the block looked at me in astonishment. I was still smartly dressed, and they were wrapped in rags, cold, hungry, everything about them was despairing. Then we went to another work site called “T. Y.” (Ton Yinvestri). The Jews called it “Toite Yidn” (dead Jews). Their mark of identification was as a badge on the left side of their chests with the initials “T. Y.”.

After seeing everyone in the ghetto, I decided to leave the ghetto and to settle on the Aryan side. Again, I stole out of the ghetto and again, I travelled to Lutshitz. There I went back to the same Christian woman. During that time the secretary of the town fell in love with me, and he did not leave me in peace – all he wanted, was for me to marry him. Seeing that he was tormenting me  unbearably, with his love, I decided to travel to Warsaw, and at the end of March 1943, I left for Warsaw.

When I arrived in Warsaw, I organized work for myself as an Aryan at various workplaces, as a cook, a warehouse-supervisor etc. This is how I worked the entire time until the Polish uprising in 1944.

Then the worst began. Poles were grabbed in the streets and from their houses and taken to Auschwitz. Seeing that the situation was very bad, I fled to Unyan and later to Vlachi, near Warsaw. Here, I again went to Poles, and every day I travelled to work in Warsaw. This is how I lived and survived until the liberation of Warsaw by the Russian army.