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Josef S. Holocaust testimony (HVT-3653)

Oral History | Fortunoff Collection ID: HVT-3653

Videotape testimony of Yosef S., who was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1930, the third of six children. He recalls his family's orthodoxy; attending cheder and public school; antisemitic harassment; German invasion in September 1939; cessation of schooling; smuggling goods with his sister and mother to support the family; ghettoization; smuggling food into the ghetto; one sister's death from illness; his illness due to starvation; an aunt assisting his recovery; hospitalization for typhus; learning of his parents' and one sister's death upon release; his youngest brother's death; he and his sisters continuing to smuggle food with assistance from non-Jews; brief imprisonments when he was caught; avoiding a major deportation in July 1942; escaping days later; efforts with his two sisters to throw food to their sister in the ghetto (they never saw her again); living in the attic of a Polish woman; separating from his sisters, although occasionally meeting; living with Polish children on the street posing as a non-Jew; sleeping in fields, basements, and attics; a Polish woman offering to shelter him, his sisters, and their friends (she knew they were Jews); paying blackmailers; visiting the ghetto during Passover 1943; escaping before the ghetto uprising; leaving for a village as it became more dangerous even outside the ghetto; continuing to pay blackmailers; sleeping in a park with his sisters; separating from them to work on a village farm as a cowherd; learning Catholic prayers and hymns; moving when suspicions were aroused; selling bread to Soviets and Italians in a prisoner of war camp; and constantly changing locations.
Mr. S. recounts returning to Warsaw; selling black-market cigarettes with other street boys, Jews and non-Jews; contacts with Joseph Ziemian; playing soccer with Hitler Youth; attending church; Ziemian providing him with false papers; brief imprisonment; Ziemian connecting him with the Polish underground; traveling outside Warsaw to obtain food to sell; observing German executions of random Poles in retaliation for resistance activities; working in German kitchens during the Polish uprising; liberation by Soviet troops; traveling to Lublin; assistance from the Joint; returning to Warsaw, then to Lublin; assistance from the Red Cross; placement in an orphanage; antisemitic violence; observing hangings of German officers after the Majdanek trials; transfer to an orphanage in Łódź; joining a group to emigrate to Palestine; Beriḥah moving in them in September 1945 to Landsberg, Föhrenwald, then Lepheim displaced persons camps; training for emigration; assistance from the Joint and UNRRA; departure for Palestine in April 1947; British interdiction of their ship; incarceration in Cyprus; release to Palestine; his sisters' arrivals; marriage to a survivor; and their births of their children. Mr. S. discusses survivors always sharing their experiences with each other and singing songs from the ghettos and camps; reunions of the cigarette sellers and Ziemian's book about them; nightmares resulting from his experiences; Israelis shaming them; and sharing his experiences with his daughter.

S., Josef, 1930-
Tel Aviv, Israel : Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, 1993 and 1994
Interview Date
December 13, 1993, January 18, February 1, March 8, and 10, 1994.
2 copies: 3/4 in. master; and 1/2 in. VHS with time coding.
Cite As
Josef S. Holocaust Testimony (HVT-3653). Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.
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Record last modified: 2016-11-08 13:02:00
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