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Oral history interview with George 'Gecel' Steinic

Oral History | Accession Number: 1996.A.0586.65 | RG Number: RG-50.407.0065

George Steinic, born on September 30, 1926 in Bedzin, Poland, discusses his parents; his three sisters; his Orthodox family life and education; the town population of about 30,000 Jews and 20,000 Christians; the town’s economy being mostly prosperous based on manufacturing; his father’s awareness of developments in Western Europe and disinclination to leave Poland when others did so; the German invasion in September 1939; the hanging of two bakers for raising bread prices; random killing and bribing of Jews by a Polish policeman; wearing the yellow star; the beatings and harassment of Jews; the burning of the synagogue; burning to death of some 200 Jews in their houses, and a few who were saved in a church; the gradual deterioration of conditions and resettling of some Jews; the deportation of some Jews to Auschwitz and the failure of Jews to believe reports or rumors of atrocities there; being taken with about a thousand Jews on 7 April 1942 to a series of labor camps; living in barracks and the conditions there; the presence in the camps of British POWs; being taken to build work camps; the attitudes of Poles being worse than the Germans; working on munitions for Krupp; hearing of the death of his family with the liquidation of the Bedzin Ghetto; being sent to a new camp where he worked as a carpenter; being aware of the progress of the war; friendships made almost entirely on the basis of mutual support; never believing he would survive the war but wanting to survive to bear witness to events; the approach of Russian forces in 1945, liquidation of the camps, and forced marches during which those who could not walk were shot; arrival at Gross-Rosen; the consolidation of prisoners from several camps; the brutal treatment; washing and maintaining personal hygiene as a key to survival; managing to maintain his health by obtaining food; importance to survival of doing one’s work well; being sent to Buchenwald but then on to Flossenbürg due to lack of room; some Jews voluntarily cooperating to survive; several people being killed by Germans and also by Americans; being liberated by U.S. Army troops on 23 April 1945 and receiving crucial help from an American captain; staying in Weiden, Germany, where he married; moving to Brussels, Belgium in December 1945; returning briefly to his home in Bedzin, and finding it occupied by Poles who said they now owned it and turned him away; briefly recounting the story of a Jew who was soon after killed by Poles in similar circumstances; immigrating to Israel (near Petah Tikvah), but then returning to Brussels for one year; ending up in Melbourne, Australia, where he and his wife raised a son and daughter; not telling his children much about his wartime experiences; and advising future generations of Jews to fight, but not believing he can advise them on religion.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Steinic, George
Maisel, Phillip
interview:  1996 July 16
1 videocassette (VHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Record last modified: 2022-06-23 09:48:07
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