Shlomo Lerman Testimony
Written on behalf of his brother Yechiel Lerman .
The below testimony was written by Simon (Shlomo) Lerman , on behalf of his brother Yechiel . It appeared in the Ostrowiec Yizkor Book- 1949, Argentina (pg. 165-190). Translated in 2023 by Pamela Russ as part of the Jews of Ostrowiec Memorial Project. Edited by Adriana Lerman and Avi Borenstein
Ostrowiec under the German Nazis
What does Yechiel Lerman relate about his experiences with the Jews of Ostrowiec and the surrounding areas under the Hitler regime? If I would write about everything, then I would have to be busy all day and all night and would not be able to finish. The mind could not withstand, and the heart could not bear that which the Nazis did to us. I will try briefly to give over [the information] here, and also not [describe all] the horrors that the Nazis did, [but only to relate] according to what was told to me by my one surviving brother and his son Levi, the only remains of my large family that I had in Poland.
It was Friday morning, September 1, 1939, when a test alarm went off. At that time, we did not yet know of any war in Poland. In the afternoon on that very same day, we heard that Germany had declared war, and they had already crossed the Polish border. Some news came on Shabbat, that the Germans were already in Czestochowa. We already saw placards in the streets that all men were called up to be mobilized. All the men were mobilized by Monday morning, and they were immediately sent to the train station to go to Sandomierz, and even before those mobilized men boarded the train, the train station was bombed and they no longer could leave.
Many men quickly ran off to the Lublin border.
On Sunday, the Germans were already in Wierzbnik. The following day, Wednesday, all the Jews already went into hiding for fear of horrifying things [that would happen]. That same day, we already heard the stomping of German boots and also [the sound] of their tanks. We were afraid to go into the streets. That same night the Nazis acted like wild animals, invading and looting Jewish stores.
On Friday, they shot seven Jews in the street, and after that they forced their families to sign that those people were shot because of treason towards the German military.
My Levi went out of my house, 22 Rynek, into the yard, and immediately a Nazi saw him and wanted to shoot him. Fortunately, at that minute the watchman Bezimek of the courtyard grabbed the gun of the German and said that the boy was Polish, and that’s how he saved him.
On Sunday, the Judenrat was formed at the house of Grobolski under the directorship of Yoske Rosman (Henoch’s son), which began to function immediately. Their first task was that they set up a contribution [tax] which had to be paid right away. I also paid the required sum immediately, a sum of a few thousand zloty, which was quite a lot. Then people began to meet in the street, mainly women, who began to pay off the monies in the city hall. The Jewish councilmen were of the first who started to circulate in the streets with their signs and Star of David on their arms. They immediately created a Jewish police force who wore the same insignia on their arms, so that they could help collect the required monies from the Jews, and then also forced them to add in all kinds of items. That is how the first fifteen days went.
Soon, a newly demanded fee was added, and immediately the Nazis took away ten Jews, among them was also my brother-in-law Yechiel Kestenberg, as hostages. If the money was not paid up immediately then these ten Jews would be shot. The monies were paid right away, and the ten Jews were released. This is how it went, week after week. There were always new monies demanded. And you had to pay. If the demanded sum was not paid up, the Jew was taken to the SS and he was beaten to death.
On November 3, 1939, all the Jews who were expelled from Poznań, came to us. All these Jews had to be set up with the Ostrowiec Jews. I too reported to the Judenrat that I would take into my house, where I live, two families from those evacuated Jews. They set them up there.
Also, a law was passed that any Jew who owned a store had to keep it open. My children opened my store. I was still in the house and afraid to go into the street because Jews with beards were not allowed to appear in the open. If they found a bearded Jew in the streets they chopped his beard off with a bayonette and then beat him to death.
At the beginning of 1940, a law was passed stating that manufactured leather and thread that was found in Jewish stores was not allowed to be sold but had to be registered. And in order to be able to sell it, you needed a special permit from the magistrate. After that, another law was put forth, that all Jews had to work. And all the residents of their own home whose income is more than 200 zlotys per month, would fall under the control of the city commissioner, and these residents would have to pay a rental fee. That means that I had to pay a rental fee for my own house where I lived. Each time there was a new tax that you had to pay.
That’s how it went for a few months. At the same time, a terrible typhus epidemic broke out and many Jews died. My older daughter Hendel also died from the epidemic in 1940. At that time, the SS imprisoned Yoske Rozman.
When the war broke out with the Soviet Union, an order was issued that every Jew must wear a yellow patch with a Star of David on his arm. All the Jews who lived in the village had to leave and come into the city; those Jews who had fur coats would have them confiscated, and all these coats had to be brought to the Judenrat to be given to the Germans. Along with a warning: Any Jew, by whom even the smallest fur coat would be found, would be shot. In fact, the Jewish policeman Baumstein was actually shot, because they found a coat of his by the non-Jewish watchman. Then the Judenrat moved to the Heine and Rubenstein became the chairman.
On April 28, 1941[correct year was 1942], the SS attacked many Jewish homes and removed about 70 Jews: merchants, doctors, lawyers; among them Dr. Wacholder, Stamm, Pancers, the Bainermans, Shimon Fishman and son [Ela], and so on, and then killed them immediately right near their houses. The families were forced to sign a paper that said they were communists and that is why they were shot.[Details and victims names at:https://jewsofostrowiec.com/night-of-slaughter-april-28-1942/ ]
At that time, they were already beginning to force out all the Jewish doctors who worked in the non-Jewish hospitals, saying that they were laid off and should no longer come in to work. They were allowed to form a Jewish hospital. They set up the Jewish hospital in the Study Hall [Beis Midrash]. A law was also passed that every German or volksdeutsch [of German ethnic origin living outside of German territory], if he liked a Jewish house, could come to the magistrate for a certain type of permit and he would get the house. The permit stated that the Jew had to leave his home within fifteen minutes, and he was permitted to take with him only that which he could carry in his hands, and then the German would take over the house.
On a market day, that was on December 10, in the year 1941, civilian dressed Germans went around, accompanied by Polish police, to all the open Jewish stores, with a permit to confiscate anything that they found: manufactured items, leather, fabrics and cotton, and so on, they then closed the stores and took the keys.
Even though the stores were closed, they [the Jews] still had to pay the tax to the Judenrat, give money to the SS to maintain order and not have them shoot people in the streets, as the Nazis were used to doing at every opportunity if someone did not give the money.
Thankfully, a Jew from Wolbrom came to Ostrowiec, he knew the Germans who confiscated the stores. He worked out with the "Aryan" commissioner that the businesses should open again, and the Jewish owners of the businesses should be employed there once again, so that they should not have to look for work in other places, because at that time every Jew was required to work. Understandably, this was not done for nothing, and the Judenrat did not like that a Jewish stranger was mixing into this business. So, in a few days’ time, this Jew was summoned by the SS, and later they found out that he was shot.
On January 1, 1942, a new law was issued, that Jews were forbidden from living anywhere in the city, but they must occupy only a portion of the city. That means, living in a ghetto. The ghetto was immediately formed from the marketplace, and partly from Drildz [Ilzecka] and Kinowa streets, and the Jewish cemetery was also absorbed into the ghetto. This was all set for a population of 15,000 Jews who lived in Ostrowiec at that time. On these streets there were these signs: “Leaving the ghetto is punishable by death.” Soon there were victims because people snuck out of the ghetto to take care of different things that had to be done outside of the ghetto. The Jewish police were in charge of collecting the bodies of the Jewish victims. At that time there were about forty Jewish policemen. And the Jews who worked outside of the ghetto were escorted to work by the Jewish police.
There were also some arrests that took place. Some were told that they would be sent to work, but no one knew where they were going to be sent. The police also always came to Jewish homes and confiscated whatever they wanted – the furniture, clothing, linens, and whatever else, all for the Germans.
Three months later, the first news came from Lublin and the surrounding areas, that the Jews there were being evacuated and they did not know where they were to be sent. One month later, the same news came from Warsaw, then the same from Radom, Kielce, then the Jews were being evacuated from everywhere and no one knew to where. We thought that our city Ostrowiec would be next, and the Judenrat demanded more money now to try and postpone this decree. So they said that our city would be one of the last to send out the Jews because here the SS had everything available to them that they wanted. At that time, no Jew was allowed to trade and have a business.
All Jews had to work and have a work permit from a German factory. And those who could not have such a workplace in the city were sent to Starachowice or Skazisko. It was a lot worse there. I tried to get a card in the steel factory in town and got one for my son Levi, even though he was still underage [under 18]. There were already about 600 Jews working in the factory there. I got to work at the German "Jaeger" factory on the outskirts of the city. The work involved making “ponds” to catch fish for the Germans.
People over age twenty-five were not allowed to work in the steel factory. I still had to get a worker’s permit for my wife Rivka, and my two children, Yitzchak and Aidel. But the Judenrat was busy trying to set up a shop of all kinds of work for the Germans so that people could stay and not have to be sent away. To organize this shop, a lot of money was taken from the wealthy Jews. So, I tried to get a job there for my wife and children. But the end result was that the Judenrat could not acquire the appropriate permits from the higher authorities, and the shop did not compromise, so I began to try and get workplaces for them in Bodzechow. I came to an agreement with A.A. Kerbel and paid him for giving over the work positions and for the work permits for my wife and two children. He assured me that he would definitely get the permits so that my wife and children would be able to work in the Bodzechow factory. He continued to reassure me that he would bring the permits.
On October 10, 1942, it was on a Shabbat, we noticed that the Jewish police were taking their wives to Bodzechow. We understood that the situation had worsened. That same day, at five in the evening, we heard that the SS was in the Judenrat, which at that time was in the Heine house.The chairman of the Judenrat at that time was Rubenstein. The SS demanded from Judenrat several kilos of gold, coffee, rum, and in the case where this would not be given over, then the worst would happen. And they began shooting in the air to create terror. The Judenrat immediately sent out the Jewish police into the city to gather up the wealthy Jews. There was a great uproar in town. People rushed into the streets and grabbed to go to Bodzechow to their workplaces. My wife and children could not go because they had not yet received their work permits which they were told would be brought to them. They stay in town. That same night, we heard the military marching in the city, as their boots pounded.
It is dark in the city. The windows are covered with black paper so that the [indoor] light should not go into the street for fear of bombings. Just as it dawned, we already saw that the ghetto was guarded by Ukrainian military in black uniforms, and they did not even allow anyone to go to work. There was an order that no one was to leave his house. He who shows himself in the streets would be shot. We saw that we were all in despair. I, my wife and children, all hid in a small, dark little room.
On Sunday morning, October 11, 1942, an order was issued that all Jews must present themselves in the marketplace. Those who were sick in the hospital were immediately shot. Those who had work permits went to Florian Square. My son Levi was among those who had work permits, and those who did not have one remained in the marketplace.
In the evening, the captain of the steel factory arrived and read the names of 620 people who had previously worked for him. He took them all to the factory, and my son Levi was among those. The rest of the people who were assembled at the marketplace were taken away to a place behind the city. We already knew that this was the evacuation in order to make Ostrowiec “cleansed of Jews.” Later, a search through the houses took place, in which there were also Jewish police who participated. And whichever Jew was found hiding was immediately shot.
I, my wife and children, lay hidden in a small, dark little room, and because of the narrow space, we were one on top of the other. I heard them entering my house and searching. Any small movement could cost everyone’s life.
On Monday night, I came out of the hiding place and climbed onto the roof to get some air because it was already impossible to stay there. I remained there until morning. I noticed that it was quiet in the marketplace. I also noticed that there were Jewish police walking around.
On Tuesday, I went onto the roof again in order to view the city. I saw how Jewish police were herding a few Jews from Drildz [Ilzecka] Street, with bundles on their backs. This was where the Judenrat was located for the magistrate, and this was also where the labor office was located. I knew that we had to leave our hiding place.
On Wednesday morning, we all left the small, dark room and went into the yard with the notion that we would be able to get to the Judenrat and acquire a workplace. As I was leaving my yard, I called out to a Jewish policeman that he should take us to the Judenrat, because you were not allowed to go alone because of the danger of being shot by a policeman or the SS. The Jewish policeman approached me and asked for 4,000 zlotys to do the task for me. I gave it to him. But then he said that he could not take us today because the people who were taken away on Sunday to be sent away were still outside the town and were being sent away only today. I risked myself and then went with the policeman, and my wife and children went back into the hiding place. I thought: Maybe I will receive the promised work permit in Bodzechow.
I came to the Mizrachi place which was on Drildz [Ilzecka 32] Street, and saw a long line of people standing there, who had been there since Sunday. Among them was also my brother-in-law Yechiel Kestenberg, who told me that those who had the permits from before have to be registered again, and this had to cost money again for the Jewish policemen so that they would make it happen. I began to look for someone who could do this for me.
I ran through the field to the Judenrat and there I found more people, many women and children, who were holding their bundles in their hands. There were also Jewish policemen there. Soon, two SS men came and immediately dragged the children away from their parents. They took them to a separate place. Near me in the lineup was the Rosh Yeshiva [head of the yeshiva], Reb Mordechai [see: https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/ostrowiec/ost309.html#Page315], and he also had his child with him. He wanted to hide his child. He hid him under the flap of his coat. But the murderers noticed this, so the SS approached him, dragged away the child, and immediately shot him with two bullets to the head.
He fell dead, right near me. I became very frightened. From a wild reaction, I fled back to the Mizrachi place, and found people there who already had signed work permits. The SS men came here to do the same thing. They took the children and threw them into a room, and to the older people who were there, they shouted: “March!” And no one was allowed to leave that place. The Jewish police set us out in a line and then encircled us. Since I did not have a signed card, and since I had not yet been able to take care of this for my wife and children, I stayed back and did not go into the lineup. Maybe I would be able to hide myself. But the Jewish police Zeifman saw this, and he gave me a big slap on my behind. So, I went back into the lineup. That’s how we went to the work office. I met Leibish Zeifman there again, and I asked him how much he wanted to arrange to have my work permit signed. He asked for 10,000 zlotys. I gave him 6,000 zlotys and promised to give him the rest later on. Later, I saw the German man Jaeger, for whom I had worked before. Today he came with permission to take 100 men to work for him. I begged him to take me, and he included me into his count of 60 men and 40 women.
They took us away to the brickyard of “Glowatzka,” and that’s how I got back my work permit. I thought that now I would be able to do something for my wife and children. I went to see the secretary of the place that dealt with the Jewish workers. She was a customer of my store. I asked her to bring me the work permits from Bodzechow for my family, as she promised that she would do. Understandably, this was not done for free. On Friday morning, she told me that she would be going to Bodzechow that night. After four o’clock, she had someone call me out from work to go into her office, and she told me that she saw my wife and Yitzchak and Eidel being taken to the train in order to be sent away. So now she had no reason to be going. When I heard this, I fainted right away. When I came to, I was as if paralyzed.
I remained alone, my wife and two children had been sent away, and I had no idea where my son Levi was because there was no news from the steel factory. Later, we communicated through a Christian in the steel factory, and I found out that Levi was working there. I let him know that our entire family had been taken away. Shocked by the news, he suffered an accident, and he was bedridden for a few days.
Two weeks later, on a Sunday morning, they sent us back to the city to a smaller ghetto with a few houses on Drildz [Ilzecka] Street. The houses had already been well searched and had everything taken out. In the ghetto I met my sister-in-law Raitze. We both started to cry. She also began to tell me how my wife and children were taken out of the house on Thursday, October 15, 1942, and then they were sent away on Friday. She also told me that she was wandering around here for a few days and she was looking for a workplace. She comforted me and told me that she gave the Jewish policeman Beinensperg 25,000 zlotys and jewelry as well, so that she should be able to work for the policemen in the kitchen, and so she would also get some work for me. She also told me that my wife Rivka told her that she had given a large amount of money to the policeman Hirsh Balter so that he would get my son Yitzchak out of hiding. He took the money but did not go to get my son. (Before that, this person was a friend of my son Yitzchak.)
After this talk with my sister-in-law Raitze, I went back to the brick factory to eat, and at four o’clock, I returned to the ghetto to sleep, because recently, they invoked a law that you had to eat in the brickyard, but you had to sleep in the ghetto. They told me that a train had gone through Cmielow and Ożarów which was not crowded with Jews, so they grabbed up more Jews here and put them onto these same train wagons so that, heaven forbid, they should not travel empty, and among the Ostrowiec Jews that were packed into the train, the same Jewish policemen sent my sister-in-law Raitze.
At six o’clock in the evening, once again they sent people from the steel factory to sleep in the ghetto. I ran to search for my son Levi, and I found him, but he was hardly recognizable. He told me that two days after they had been taken to the factory, that was October 10, 1942, they told all the workers to assemble, bring along all their things, and then stand in a line, because they were being sent to other workplaces in a distant region. And that is what they did.
Then someone from the SS came and announced that each person must give over every single thing that they had, from clothing, to jewelry, dollars, and everything until the last few zlotys, and if later they find something on any person who had not given over everything, then he would immediately be shot.
Everyone actually put out only a portion of what they had. In order to terrorize the people, the SS immediately took two young boys out of the crowd and shot them. Right after that they started to put out everything: several million zlotys, dollars, gold, and all the clothing that everyone had. Everyone was left only in their work clothes. Since they had to sleep in the small ghetto on the bare ground, many of the workers climbed through the ghetto’s gates and ran to some abandoned Jewish homes to try to bring back something on which they could sleep. All this under risk of death. Many of the Jews were actually shot. One of those who was shot by a Nazi was the son of Mendel Newhaus. Over time, many more people came to the ghetto who were in hiding before that. Also, the Ostrowiec Rav, Reb Yechezkel and his children, Naftali Shpiegel and his wife and children, Moshe Orenstein, and others came, so that the ghetto, where there were 700 people, now comprised 2,000 people.
On December 10, 1942, it was published in the newspapers that four cities in Poland were to become Jewish cities. That means, that those cities would be allowed to have Jewish residents. Those cities were: Tsoizmer , Szydlowiec, and two others. Those people who had no workplace, actually did go to Tsoizmer (Sandomierz). About 1,500 people went, and among them was also the Ostrowiec Rav [Yechezkel Halstock] and his son. When the traveling was over to those cities, news came that some SS men came from Kielce to Tsoizmer, summoned out the Ostrowiec Rav, and shot him. They also found out that a new list of workers was being formed and there was going to be another expulsion.
On January 16, 1943, the small ghetto was surrounded by SS men and policemen. They came with lists from the steel factory and from Jaeger. Soon, a group came from Bodzechow, those who had been rejected from among the workers, and they were put on the side. They began to read the lists from the steel factory and from Jaeger , and the one whose name was called out was placed in a separate lineup. When the reading was complete, they immediately took those people whose names were called to the steel factory. Among those were me and my son.
The rest of the people who remained were sent to the train and were loaded into the wagons that had come from the “Jewish cities,” from Sandomierz. And among those from Sandomierz was my sister Chaya Rivka, along with her husband and children. There was a search in the small ghetto for those who were hiding, and whoever was caught was immediately shot.
In the factory, the SS put out an order that everyone had to give up all their possessions. Everyone gave up all their things, which were packed up into cartons and immediately sent off. Then the SS men searched every individual to make sure no one was hiding anything. And this is how we were detained for several hours in the factory. After that we were sent back to the small ghetto that now consisted of three or four houses. Now there were about 800 people. After a few days, new people came to the small ghetto. These were the few who hid themselves so as not to be sent away. Now we were 1,200 people. The workplace stayed like that for about three months. Then one day, in Jaeger’s brick factory, there were ten men missing who did not come to work. That night, they told all the workers who were in the --- [missing in original] to line up.
On April 1, 1943, they said again that the workers would work in one factory, and they would make Ostrowiec Judenrein [“cleansed of Jews”]. They were going to set up barracks for the workers. Meanwhile, many people left the ghetto and went into hiding. They feared a new evacuation.
On April 10, they already did not allow anyone to go out to work. The captain of the factory arrived at ten in the morning, and he read new lists of workers, and they were set out in a row to go to the factory. At that moment, the SS from Radom arrived with a new list, and they began reading their list of names. Among the names on their list was my son Levi. They were taken into the Heine house.” That is where the Judenrat was and also the Jewish police. The workers were told that they would be sent to Blizyn. There were very few people left in that place because many went into hiding. All of us were taken to the factory, even the children. They needed about 800 workers in the factory but only had 600. They took us into two barracks that they had set up and were surrounded by barbed wire. Ukrainians were all around and were told not to let anyone out. And those people who were in hiding but were caught were taken to the cemetery and shot there. At that time, they shot about 100 people. Among those who were shot was Frau Lola Erlich and her child. The SS shot both of them. Fortunately, however, of the two bullets that were shot at Lola Erlich, one hit her hand and the other hit her ear.[see https://jewsofostrowiec.com/jewish-residents-of-ostrowiec/lea-erlich/ ] As soon as the Nazis left, she stood up and returned to the factory all bloodied. Today she is in Israel with her brother.
My son was not in the factory. Suddenly, from a distance I saw that the commander from
the camp, Efraim Shofel [Shafir], was driving through the ghetto where we were previously, bringing all kinds of things. I ran to him and asked him if it was possible that I could take home my son Levi from there. He promised me he would take care of it.
There were also the 150 men there that they wanted to send away.
He called my son Levi, but they did not allow him to be taken out of there. When Levi heard that someone was looking for him, he climbed out from the first floor and landed directly onto Shofel’s [Shafir's] car and came back into the factory.
Three days later, they once again selected those who would stay at work in the steel factory and who should go to the brickyard of Głowacki. After hat, an order was given that older people who were already not working as much
should no longer come in to work at all. They chose a few men, I was among them, and
they did not allow us to go to work any longer. Everyone already knew what it meant not
to go to work. They built another horse’s stable in Czestochowa and they took us there.
With time, a new order was given, that every “Jewish camp” that had fewer than 2,000
workers would be dissolved. So, the Germans from the Ostrowiec factory became
interested and received a permit stating that they had to have 2,000 men in the factory.
Understandably, they had their own interest in mind, which was to make money off the
Jews. So they brought more Jews to Ostrowiec from Radom and Plasow, until they
reached the full count of 2,000. From those who were previously selected not to go to
work, now they fulfilled the total. I too went back to the factory with all the others.
On April 1, 1944, an order was issued that a selektzia [selection] was to take place.
Those who were too weak were removed from the factory and from the brickyard, along
with sixty other men, and they were to be sent away to Perlowa, near Radom, and the
same cars would soon bring back their clothes…
Two weeks later, the SS came into the camp and removed the commandant of the
ghetto, Efraim Shofel [Shafir], along with the commandant of the Jewish police, Ber Blumenfeld.
In about three days, we found out that both of them were shot. The sub-commandant A.
Zajfman from the ghetto remained, as well as the sub-commandant of the Jewish police,
Puczic. Things became bad. You were not permitted to bring bread into the camp.
They were always making new searches of the workers looking to find out if they had bought a small piece of bread to add to the portion they already were given by the German from the factory.
It was bad. It continued like that until June 1, 1944. Suddenly we found out
that the Russians were already near Lemberg, Lublin. We tried to find a way to escape
from the camp. But the Jewish police did not allow anyone to leave. A few men got out
of the factory, among them the two Stein brothers, but they were caught. Two days later
all the people in the camp were ordered to go to an empty place and the captain of the
factory delivered a speech. He announced that the two brothers were being brought here.
They were immediately shot in that place of the camp. Ten days later, we were all
placed into wagons and we were taken to Oswiecem [Auschwitz]. Among us were Naftali Shpiegel, Moshe Orenstein, Ch. L. Baumstein, and others. There we already saw the gas chambers. They took us to wash ourselves. We thought that we too were going to be gassed right away. Among us was also Avremel, Miriam Baile’s son. He had a little poison on him, and he poisoned himself because he did not want to die by the hands of the Nazis.
We were taken into the showers and told to wash ourselves. They took
everything away from us and gave us other clothes, like prisoners. They cut off all our
hair. And two days later, everyone received a number and we were sent deeper into
Germany to work. We were sent to Buna where we were to remain to work.
In September, there was a selektzia once again done by a doctor from the SS, and they
selected out all the weaker ones and majority of the elderly. They were no longer
permitted to go to work. The rest of the workers were led back to work, and those frail
ones who were selected by the Nazi doctor were taken back to Auschwitz. Soon their
clothing was brought back…
Thanks to my son Levi, who passed by the doctor using my card for himself, and later
he went once again using my card, until I was saved, and I would not be among those
who were selected. That way, I was left to continue working with my son.
At the beginning of 1945, when Russia approached Germany, we were once again sent
on foot to Gliwice. We trudged for 72 kilometers for 48 consecutive hours. People fell
like flies as they were trudging. The snow was deep, and that’s how we were forced to
go. I was going to give up too, but my son and the Belfer brothers from Ostrowiec helped me get to Gleiwitz. When we arrived, there was another selektzia of weak ones and healthy ones. Each person was forced to go through a narrow doorway,
they told one person to go to the right and another to the left. The weak ones
separately and the healthy ones separately. I too was now among the weaker ones. The
weak ones were soon surrounded by the SS so that no one, heaven forbid, should
escape. We all recited vidui [confessions before death]. The cries of “Shema Yisrael”
[prayer before death] reached the heavens. The SS began to shoot the people. Many
fell dead. I too fell and miraculously I was able to crawl away and reached the group of
healthy people. I remained together with my son. The rest of the weak people were
taken away. The healthy group stayed in place. They were given some food, just enough to survive.
We revived. We began to get undressed, pulling off the striped pants and
removing the wooden shoes, and we lay down on the wooden boards to sleep.
In the middle of the night, we heard screams: “Quick! Get out!” They were beating and
shooting. Some were without pants, some without shoes, everyone ran out. We were all
chased to the train. Once again, we were beaten. We quickly boarded the train. In each
wagon, there were about 150 men. You could have choked to death. We rode for eight days
and nights. They gave only one kilo and 40 decagrams of bread per man, there was no
water to drink. Even basic human needs had to be done inside the wagons. After the third day of riding, there were already several dead in each wagon. Before dawn each day, the dead bodies were removed and put into a separate wagon. Then more live people were stuffed into the earlier wagons so that, heaven forbid, no one should be comfortable, but everyone should suffocate.
We rode like that until we arrived in a place between forests and mountains. We did not know what this place was called. All we saw from a distance were barracks that had been set up there. We were taken there, then given a little bit of water and we remained just barely alive.
Soon we were ordered to strip naked, and they led us through the snow, even though it
was freezing, to the next barrack to wash ourselves. After we washed, they did not allow
us to drink water, and that’s how we were taken to a third barrack and get other clothes
there. Everyone was given a torn shirt, an over-shirt, and striped pants, and a pair of
wooden shoes, and then immediately we were chased into another block for sleeping.
The SS were not cold because they were dressed from head to toe in the fur coats that
they had stolen from the Jews, so they thought that the Jews were also not cold, even
though they were naked in the worst of frosts. People fainted from the cold. As soon as
we arrived in the block, we were beaten again. The shoes that we wore were dirty with
mud and snow. “A Jew must keep himself clean,” shouted the SS man. We had to clean
our shoes with our hands because there was nothing else to use. After this scene, an
order was given that everyone had to go to sleep. And if the overseer of the block heard
someone speaking even one word, he was beaten to death.
At four in the morning we already heard screaming: “Get out!” In about five minutes, all of us were already dressed, and prepared for roll call. Each person received 25 decagrams of bread, and we were taken directly to work in a factory. The factory was in a tunnel by the name of “Mauthausen.” [It was later learned that correct place was Dora-Mitelbau]
We worked for twelve hours without stopping. That is how it remained
until the front came closer. The bombing started, so everyone was sent farther away,
riding for five days without food or drink, just with hard beatings which everyone was
given, until we arrived in the Bergen Belsen camp. There, eight men were given bread
of one kilo and 40 decagrams each day. We were already more dead than alive, until
the British arrived and liberated us. We still maintained terrible conditions because they
gave us little to eat. Soon after the liberation, around 10,000 people died, since they
could not be saved. We were taken from Bergen Belsen to Celle. Conditions there were a little better. We recovered a little after years of difficult pain and suffering.
From there I communicated with my brother, and with time, I and my son Levi, who married in Celle, came to Argentina.