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Oral history interview with Israel Unikowski

Oral History | Accession Number: 1998.A.0159.12 | RG Number: RG-50.472.0012

Israel Unikowski, a Jewish displaced person at the OSE (Oeuvre de secours aux enfants) school at Chateau de Boucicaut, discusses his life in an orphanage in Kalisz, Poland at the outbreak of World War II; the abandonment of his orphanage in Kalisz and the orphans' journey to Łódź, Poland; his experiences in the care of Chaim Rumkowski, head of the Łódź Jewish Council; witnessing episodes of Jewish persecution at the hands of Germans in the Łódź ghetto; his memories of Hans Bukov, "Führer of selections" in the Łódź ghetto; how Chaim Rumkowski turned over the children of the Łódź ghetto to the Germans for deportation in 1942; how he and a few friends escaped the 1942 round-up and hid in a nearby Jewish cemetery to avoid deportation; the problem of tuberculosis in the Łódź ghetto and the death of his brother in the Łódź ghetto hospital; his deportation to Birkenau concentration camp and how he received his tattoo of his prisoner number B-7687; his work at the Buddy "estate" for SS officers near Birkenau; his death march to Buchenwald concentration camp after the evacuation of Birkenau; his experience with the Blockältest Gustav, a former SS man, in Buchenwald; his time in the "youth block" in Buchenwald and how he and other youth participated in theatrical and educational activities; the liberation of Buchenwald and his participation in the capture and beating of fleeing SS guards; his memories of the gas chambers and crematoria in Birkenau; his recollection of how Birkenau officials killed all the Romanies in the camp to make room in the camp for the Jews from Łódź; and his life after liberation studying to be a dental technician at an OSE school.
At the end of the interview, David Boder invites Unikowski to sing any songs that he might have learned while in the camps. Unikowski sings for him the song, "Es brent," attributed to Polish-Jewish songwriter Gebuertig. He sings two more songs, both untitled. Before administering the TAT (Thematic Apperception Test), Boder encourages Unikowski to write down any recollections that he might have of his experiences during the war.

Israel Unikowski
David P. Boder
interview:  1946 August 02
2 sound cassettes (60 min.).
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, acquired from the Library of Congress
Record last modified: 2020-04-07 11:00:07
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