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Yaakov F. Holocaust testimony (HVT-1841) interviewed by Gidʻon Graif and Iris Berlatzky,

Oral History | Fortunoff Collection ID: HVT-1841

Videotape testimony of Yaakov F., who was born in Suwałki, Poland in 1924, the sixth of eight children. He recounts his family's affluence; attending Jewish school; antisemitic harassment and violence; one brother enlisting in the Polish military; brief Soviet invasion, then German invasion in 1939; a local German warning his father of imminent deportations; his parents arranging for him to hide with a non-Jewish family; attending church and wearing a cross; moving to the barn when the family feared discovery; escaping to the forest when the Pole hiding him tried to kill him; assistance from Polish villagers; arrest as a Pole by German soldiers; transfer to Kaliningrad; beatings and interrogations; deportation to a stalag in Olsztyn; assistance from a Polish officer from Suwałki; his grief when a Jewish prisoner was beaten to death; assisting the camp underground; burying Soviet POWs; transfer elsewhere in July 1942, then later to a prison in Wojciechowice; his assignment digging a mass grave and burying those executed, then cleaning mobile gas vans; transfer to Sieradz; deportation to Auschwitz/Birkenau; exposure as a Jew; and interrogation and torture.

Mr. F. recalls transfer to Jawiszowitz; his failed suicide attempt; transfer to Canada Kommando; contact with Josef Mengele; Mala Zimetbaum assisting him; public hangings; glimpsing his brother's arrival (he was gassed); smuggling medicine to Gisela Perl; friendship with Zalmen Gradowski; praying with him and others on Yom Kippur; assisting the underground; a doctor saving him from selection; the Sonderkommando uprising; transfer to Berlin; Allied bombings; a death march to Oranienburg; assistance from a guard, an antisemitic Pole from Suwałki; transfer to Sachsenhausen, then Ohrdruf; slave labor for Organisation Todt; a death march to Buchenwald; transfer to Theresienstadt; a woman (his future wife) caring for him; liberation by Soviet troops; traveling to Łódź; marriage; smuggling Jews out of Poland; traveling to Berlin; working with Yitsḥaḳ Ṭabenḳin; living in a Zionist kibbutz; his daughter's birth; assistance from the Joint and UNRRA; his wife and daughter emigrating to Israel; hospitalization in Merano; frequent nightmares; and joining his family in 1949. Mr. F. discusses contemplating suicide several times; attributing his survival to help from others; one brother who survived; at a young age, his son overhearing him discuss his experiences; and testifying at a German war crime trial. He names many camp officials and fellow prisoners, and shows photographs.

F., Yaakov, 1924-
Ramat Aviv, Israel : Beth Hatefutsoth, Nahum Goldman Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, 1989-1991
Interview Date
March 9, 1989, July 6, 1989, July 20, 1989, March 1, 1990, April 9, 1991, April 24, 1991, and May 7, 1991.
Suwałki (Poland)
Kaliningrad (Kaliningradskai︠a︡ oblastʹ, Russia)
Olsztyn (Województwo Warmińsko-Mazurskie, Poland)
Wojciechowice (Opatów, Poland)
Berlin (Germany)
Łódź (Poland)
Merano (Italy)
2 copies: 3/4 in. dub; and 1/2 in. VHS with time coding.
Cite As
Yaakov F. Holocaust Testimony (HVT-1841). Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.
View in Yale University Library Catalog:
Record last modified: 2018-05-30 11:38:00
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