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Josef S. Holocaust testimony (HVT-3653)

Oral History | Fortunoff Collection ID: HVT-3653

Videotape testimony of Josef 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; his youngest sister's death from illness; his illness due to starvation; an aunt assisting his recovery; hospitalization for typhus; learning of his parents' deaths 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 them in September 1945 to Landsberg, Föhrenwald, then Leipheim 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, and January 18, February 1, March 8, and 10, 1994.
Soviet Union
Warsaw (Poland)
Lublin (Poland)
Łódź (Poland)
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.
View in Yale University Library Catalog:
Record last modified: 2018-06-04 13:26:00
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