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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.
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.
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Record last modified: 2012-08-23 15:16:00
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