Oral history interview with Rozalia Jakubowicz
Maria Jakubowicz, born in 1918 in Kraków, Poland, describes her father's tannery in Dobczyce; cordial relations with non-Jews; living in Podgórze; participating in Akiba, a Zionist organization; her marriage in 1937; the German invasion in 1939; her husband's imprisonment as a spy (he was in the Polish military) and his release after paying ransom; leaving her son with her parents in Dobczyce; working for the underground in Kraków; ghettoization; obtaining a job distributing food rations, then as a waitress for German soldiers; secretly leaving the ghetto to visit her son; providing a Jewish boy with food; helping distribute medicines received from the Joint; her contact with Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Pole who maintained a ghetto pharmacy (she is critical of him); a round-up when a friend was killed and she was whipped; escaping from the ghetto to her family in Dobczyce; returning to Kraków; moving with her son to Płaszów; their escape; hiding with her husband and others in a bunker; smuggling food while disguised as a Pole; postwar antisemitism resulting in her husband's imprisonment; confiscation of their successful winery; meeting Oskar Schindler; her husband's friendship with Pope John Paul II; the murder of her entire family in the Holocaust; and the music of Mordecai Gebirtig.
Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
- Rozalia Jakubowicz
1995 May 13
6 videocassettes (U-Matic) : sound, color ; 3/4 in..
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, courtesy of the Jeff and Toby Herr Foundation
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 19:51:36
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn507775
Also in Oral history interviews of the Poland Documentation Project
Oral history interviews of the Poland Documentation Project recorded by the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The 26 interviews in this collection date from 1994 to1995.
Oral history interview with Helena Balicka Kozlowska
Helena Kozlowska (née Balicka), born in 1920 in Warsaw, Poland, describes her family; her prewar contacts with Jews; fighting the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939; her membership in the Young People's Fighting Union; local townspeople who assisted in the rescue of Jews; her participation in the rescue of Jews during the war; the Warsaw ghetto; participating in the Warsaw uprising in August 1944, as a member of the People’s Army; her involvement with Jewish resistance fighters of the organization Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa; losing her hand shortly after liberation in Krakow; being awarded the medal of Righteous Among the Nations in 1975; and her role as one of the founders of the Association for Polish-Israeli Friendship.
Oral history interview with Krystyna Budnicka
Krystyna Budnicka (Hena Kuczer), born on May 8, 1932 in Warsaw, Poland, describes her observant Jewish family of 10; her family life before and during World War II; her family members and their social standing; not being integrated with the Polish population; the outbreak of the war and the first persecutions of Jews, such as cutting off their beards; the treatment of Jews gradually worsening and the first deportations of Jewish men to labor camps; the establishment of the large ghetto, where the living conditions are relatively good and her brothers, the carpenters, made a decent living by building secret shelters for the rich Jews; their forced relocation to the little ghetto and the worse living conditions; the frequent routine deportations and the deportation of two of her brothers; the secret shelter that allowed the majority of her family to survive the deportation period; the change in perception in the Jewish community during 1942; her brothers and the influential Jews starting the construction of a long term shelter, a secret underground bunker; her everyday life in the bunker before and after the Ghetto Uprising as well as during the ghetto fire; the gradually worsening living conditions in the bunker; the extreme sickness of her brother, who was the group leader, and reaching out for help from Poles; the discovery of the bunker and trying to escape via the sewer; her parents together with her sister being left behind; the aid she received from an organized Polish group (possibly Żegota); being moved to various hiding places; the death of her last two brothers in 1943; surviving the Warsaw Uprising alongside the Polish population; ending up in a Christian orphanage, where she is treated kindly, and staying there until she finished high school after the war; acknowledging her Jewish roots, but adopting Christianity as her religion; and devoting her life to working with special needs children.
Oral history interview with Jadwiga Gawronska
Jadwiga Gawrońska (Jankowska), born as Fryda Ruer on June 19, 1923 in Lublin, Poland, describes being from a partly assimilated Jewish family, which followed Jewish traditions and religion; speaking Polish at home and having Polish friends; her father, who was an accountant; the beginning of the war in Lublin and the early persecution of the local Jews; the establishment of the ghetto in 1940-1941; the closing of schools and frequent mandatory relocations; shady currency trading emerging in the ghetto; her brother working as a photographer in the local villages and obtaining food for her family; her family leaving the ghetto and moving to the countryside; a Jewish wedding taking place in the area; her father and brother working as farmers; her family being well accepted in the Polish village, due to their knowledge of German and urban sophistication; she and her sister making friends with the local youth; facing oppositions when her family tried to arrange false travel papers; the deportation of all the Jews from the local villages to Piaski, Poland on October 16, 1942 and finding shelter in the homes of many of her charitable friends; her father giving up and deliberately joining the group selected for deportation to the Trawniki concentration camp; the different ways in which her other family members were escaping the deportation; going to Lublin and then Warsaw, Poland and encountering “szmalcownicy” (blackmailers/collaborators) and purchasing identification documents through a well-established black market; the people, places, and details involved with of her life in Warsaw; her boyfriend, his little sister, and her illegally staying with many Polish families and having to relocate frequently; encounters with both decent Polish people (such as Wanda Olbrychska, who received the Righteous among the Nations Award) and mercenary opportunists, who worked for the Gestapo; her boyfriend (Berek) having to remain in hiding; receiving aid from Berek’s family and the Żegota; the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto; the passport black market; the operation of the Polish Hotel, located on Długa Street, which was the center for the Jewish illegal travel abroad; her boyfriend’s pre-war communist affiliations and befriending Poles, who worked for the socialist underground; getting involved in illegal distribution of the PSPR (Polish Socialist Workers Party) newspaper; many situations when she was blackmailed or nearly caught; engineer Cywiński from Sapieżyńska Street, who was saving Jews by means of a small hair-net production hall, which he created in his apartment; the AL (Armia Ludowa; People’s army) partisan battalion commanded by Jan Mulak and Berek being admitted to the group; the murder of the Jewish partisans in Życzyński Forest, including Berek; her life in Warsaw after Berek’s death, when she worked for a Jewish businessman (assumed name of Jan Łaski); joining her brother in Łuków; being accused of being a Jew by a Volksdeutsch and a German specialist being summoned to determine her race; the flight of the Germans in the area and the approach of the Soviet Army on July 23, 1944; her brothers’ “brush with death” while being an insurance collector; returning to Lublin and marrying a Pole after the war; antisemitism in Poland after the war and its roots; feeling guilty for her first husband’s death and her regret that she didn’t talk him out of joining the AL partisans; feeling both Jewish and Polish; the communist system in Poland; not discussing the war much; and her feelings about writing a memoir.
Oral history interview with Jakub Gutenbaum
Jakub Gutenbaum, born in 1929 in Warsaw, Poland, describes his assimilated family; the German invasion in 1939; his father fleeing east (he never saw him again); ghettoization; crowding and starvation; working as an errand boy for the Judenrat; hiding with his mother and brother in an attic overlooking the Umschlagplatz during round-ups; moving when they were seen; hiding in a bunker during the ghetto uprising; being deported to Majdenek after the bunker was discovered; being separated from his mother and brother during selection (he never saw them again); hiding to avoid slave labor moving stones; contemplating suicide; changing his mind when an aunt's tenant gave him extra food; fatal beatings of failed escapees; volunteering for transfer; slave labor in a munitions factory in Skarżysko-Kamienna; a non-Jewish woman prisoner giving him extra food; his Hasidic bunkmate praying and observing Passover; being hospitalized for typhus; a prisoner-dentist hiding him during selection; escaping from a group selected for death; being transferred to Buchenwald, Schlieben, then Theresienstadt; liberation by Soviet troops; observing prisoners killing local Germans; traveling to Liberec, Prague, Warsaw, then Łódź; being assigned to an orphanage in Helenówek; briefly visiting relatives in Belgium; studying in Moscow; his academic career; his reluctance to share his experiences, even with his wife; the importance of Polish culture to his identity; continuing contact with the dentist who saved him and staff from the orphanage; and participating in survivor organizations.
Oral history interview with Anna Lanota
Anna Lanota (née Rottenberg), born in Łódź, Poland on January 11, 1915, describes her observant Jewish family; the backgrounds of her mother and father; speaking Polish at home and attending an expensive Jewish school, which was known for its Zionistic tendencies; visiting her father’s family on a commune near Skryhiczyn, Poland; graduating high school and moving to Warsaw, Poland, where she studied psychology; her affiliations with the communist movement; working for CENTOS (Central Organization for the Care of Orphaned Children) in Otwock, Poland; working with Janusz Korczak (Henryk Goldszmit); fleeing from Warsaw after the outbreak of the war in 1939; going towards Skryhiczyn; her first encounter with the Soviet Army in Kowle and the difficulties she had obtaining the proper identification papers; working in the local orphanage alongside Ukrainians and Georgians; moving to Lvov, Poland (L'viv, Ukraine), where she worked in an orphanage; being unaware of the conditions in the Jewish ghettos; the German takeover of Lvov; returning to Warsaw in the fall of 1941; her first impression of the Warsaw Ghetto; beginning her work in the ghetto orphanage; her family being deported in July 1942; trying to warn others of the death camps, news of which had been told to them by the rail workers; her cousin escaping the gas van; witnessing the march of Korczak alongside his pupils to the Umschlagplatz on August 6; escaping from the ghetto and being helped by a stranger; her friends and family finding permanent lodgings for her and arranging false identification papers for her; working on behalf of the communists and helping to print and distribute the Głos Warszawy newspaper; joining the partisans at the end of 1942 and blowing up trains and reclaiming food supplies from the train transports; being wounded after an accident with a firearm and having to leave her unit; her fellow partisans being denounced, captured, and killed soon after; continuing to work for the underground with her husband; repairing damaged weapons and making explosives; the infamous Polish Hotel; the Warsaw Uprising and her husband’s participation on behalf of the AL (Armia Ludowa; People’s Army) in the Uprising; her husband’s death; her decision to not fight because she was pregnant; bribing her way out of Warsaw and giving birth to her child in Lublin, Poland; settling in Warsaw after the war; not returning to Łódź because it evoked too many painful memories; joining the Polish Communist Party; her work as the head editor of “Przyjaciόłka” magazine; being employed as a journalist and a psychologist; never experiencing antisemitic persecution in 1956 and 1968; and still trying to understand the Holocaust from the psychological point of view.
Oral history interview with Helena Merenholc
Helene Merenholc, born on March 15, 1911 and a lifelong resident of Warsaw, Poland, discusses her life in a well-educated, Jewish family; her parents’ occupations and attending school; her five gifted siblings, who pursued higher education and excelled either in music or science; most of her family dying during the war; studying and completing a psychology degree before the World War II; working as a counselor with the special needs children; problems related to the closing of centers for children with special needs due to the outbreak of the war; Centos, which was an organization that provided care for these children in the ghetto; being employed as a social worker in the ghetto; various forms of aid, such as soup kitchens and learning centers or theatre clubs, which were provided to the orphaned, handicapped, or mentally challenged children; the JOINT providing financial support to these endeavors; her acquaintance with the internationally renowned doctor, Janusz Korczak (Henryk Goldszmit), who later established orphanages in the ghetto and was then deported with his pupils to Treblinka; Adam Czerniaków, the Judenrat leader, who in her opinion was a brave and tragic figure; life in the ghetto, including the sickness, hunger, and the living conditions; finding employment in the ghetto brush shop (“szop szczotkarzy”); being passed over during random selections for deportations; her acquaintance with communist sympathizers, Mordechaj Anielewicz, Marek Edelman, and the historian Emanuel Ringeblum; Jews considering escape from the ghetto a betrayal of their own people and heritage; leaving the ghetto to engage in underground activity on the Aryan side; her work for Żegota (the Council to Aid Jews) alongside Antek (real name: Icchak Cukierman); her underground work related to saving the ghetto survivors and her encounters with “szmalcownicy” (mercenary collaborators); the Polish reaction to the ghetto uprising; her deportation to the camp in Pruszków; her work in Poland after the war; how because of her haunting wartime memories, she devoted herself to work in the Centralny Komitet Żydowski (a Polish organization involved in providing aid to the Holocaust survivors); and working later for the radio and the theatre.
Oral history interview with Tomasz Miedzinski
Tomasz Miedziński, born in1928 in Horodenka (present-day Ukraine), describes being one of five children (four brothers and one sister); his father, Josef Szloime Szlach (Joseph Schleume Schlah), a carpenter; his mother, Klara Kupferman (Clara Kupfermann); assuming his Polish name in the 1950s; his family not being religious but speaking Yiddish at home; attending Jewish and Polish schools; the prewar atmosphere and the demographics of Horodenka; the nationalistic Ukrainian movement changing the relationship between Horodenka Jews and the Polish and Ukrainian nationals; Zionistic organizations in Horodenka; the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 and its impact on Horodenka; the majority of Horodenka Jews welcoming the Soviet Army; the beginning of the German-Russian war in 1941 and the bombing of the sugar manufacturing plant in Horodenka; the formation of a temporary Ukrainian government, which was headed by engineer Rypczyn, and its anti-Semitic character; Ukrainian atrocities and the mass murder of the Jews in Niezwiska (Nezvys'ko), Ukraine; the Hungarian entry into Horodenka and the Commander Isztwan Kowacz (Istvan Kovacs) disbanding the Ukrainian Police; experiencing a period of relative peace; the establishment of the Jewish quarter; the funeral procession of the Ukrainian police commandant, Iwan Waskuł (Waskól); the retreat of the Hungarians and the entry of the Germans in August of 1941; the persecution of Jews and the desecration of the sites of Jewish martyrdom by Soviet authorities; the Jewish quarter under German rule and the conditions there; the first execution of Horodenka Jews in the nearby village of Siemakowce (Semakivtsi); the deportation of his mother and two younger brothers, one of whom (Szmulek) escaped; the second deportation of Jews from Horodenka in the summer of 1942 to the Kolomyia ghetto; many people being sent to the Janowska work camp and highly skilled craftsmen being allowed to remain; the inhuman and crowded living conditions in the Kolomyia ghetto and a selection, during which he and his younger brother (Szmulek) were separated from their father and his older brother was killed; the transport to Belzec concentration camp and how he and Szmulek escaped; locals who helped them during their return to the Kolomyia ghetto via Lvov (L'viv, Ukraine); his brief imprisonment in Jankowska work camp; his father’s death in the village of Szeparowcy; being separated from Szmulek, who likely died in Szeparowcy; travelling in November 1942 eastward disguised as a Ukrainian peasant and finding employment as a field hand for a Ukrainian farmer; voluntarily joining a Jewish work camp in the proximity of Tarnopol, Ukraine, where he worked in the fields until he realized the impending liquidation of the camp; being employed by a Ukrainian farmer, Wasyl Dziuba, in 1943; his nationality being discovered and continuing to work for the farmer; joining the partisans and taking part in the liberation in March of 1944; finding his sister in Horodenka and moving to Kłodzko, Poland; and later becoming a government employee in the Polish Department of Education.
Oral history interview with Arnold Mostowitz
Arnold Mostowicz (former name Aaron Moszkowicz and born in Łódź, Poland on April 6 1914) describes growing up in a non-traditional Jewish family; his father, who had a passion for theatre and was involved in left wing organizations; attending Polish and Jewish schools in Łódź; studying medicine in France, where he was affiliated with left-wing and syndical movements; being a founder of a Jewish student association in Toulouse, France; his analysis of the prospects and obstacles to the young Jewish intelligentsia before the Second World War; returning to Poland shortly before the outbreak of the war; working in a hospital during the German attack on Warsaw; returning to Łódź; the establishment of a Jewish council in Łódź; the Germans killing Rumkowski’s first cabinet; his defense of Rumkowski as a Jewish leader; the gradual changes which took place in the Jewish community; the relocation of all Jews to the ghetto; conditions in the ghetto; the differences between the ghettos in Warsaw and Łódź, particularly the black market; the production of goods in the ghetto; his work in the hospital and the types of illnesses present; having to triage patients; assisting the underground by providing false diagnosis and pronouncing individuals unfit to be transported out of the ghetto; prostitution in the ghetto; left wing activists in the ghetto; the first deportation from the ghetto in 1942 that consisted of the old, young, and sick; the Romani camp in the ghetto and the typhoid epidemic; the Roma being deported to the Chełmno death camp; the transports of Jews from Germany and Czechoslovakia to the Łódź ghetto; saving a little Jewish German girl from starvation; the radio contact and political awareness in the ghetto; knowing about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; the liquidation of the ghetto; selection on the platform in Auschwitz, where he was sent with his wife; his psychological method for surviving Auschwitz; his friend, Kępiński (Kempinski), who served in the “Kanada” unit; starvation and the impact on brain functions; his transport to the camp in Jelenia Góra (Hirschberg); soccer matches between the German soldiers and camp prisoners in Jelenia Góra; being transferred to the camp in Cieplice (German: Bad Warmbrunn), where he assisted in the response to typhoid epidemics; getting sick after the war with tuberculosis and giving up his career of a medical doctor; concentrating on his writing career and becoming the head editor for the satirical magazine “Szpilki”; being a chair of the Society for Jewish Fighters for Freedom and Democracy (Związek Kombatantów Żydowskich); and considering Poland his home country despite experiencing antisemitic persecution.
Oral history interview with Teresa Prekerowa
Teresa Prekerowa, a non-Jew born in 1921 in Zapusty, Poland, describes her family's estate; attending a convent boarding school in Warsaw; not having any social contact with Jews; the German invasion; the expropriation of their estate; moving to Warsaw; befriending a Jewish woman; ghettoization in October 1940; secretly visiting her friend in the ghetto; smuggling in food and medicine; persuading her friend to leave the ghetto; smuggling her out using another friend's document; finding housing and jobs for her; finding a Jewish child in the street; hiding her in a convent; hiding a Jewish man, her brother's underground (Armia Krajowa) colleague, in her home in Skolimów (Konstancin-Jeziorna); her brother's execution for underground activities; the Polish underground groups, especially Armia Krajowa, helping Jews; various Polish attitudes toward the Nazi treatment of Jews; Polish collaborators; Poles who helped Jews, risking the death penalty; media reporting of Jewish suffering; limited knowledge of the extermination camps during the war; Jewish fighters in the underground; the ghetto uprising in 1943; the Warsaw uprising in 1944; specific crimes of some Polish underground members; Polish-Jewish relations; and the moral implications of choices people made during the war.
Oral history interview with Zdzisław Szparkowski
Zdzisław Szparkowski, the Righteous Among the Nations Award holder born in Włocławek, Poland, describes being the youngest child in the family; losing his father at an early age; attending technical school in Włocławek, where he got involved with the PPS (Polish Socialist Party; Polska Partia Socjalistyczna) along with many of his Jewish friends; the good relations between the Polish and Jewish population until 1931; the rise of radical antisemitic organizations; Włocławek being raided by Polish nationalists and taking part in defending against them; finishing school and joining the military and later working in a steel plant, where he got acquainted with Mordechaj Anielewicz; being mobilized shortly before the war; escaping a Nazi military camp after Poland’s defeat; returning to Włocławek; being a witness to many repressions towards the Jews, which led him to participate in organizing Jewish evacuations to the Soviet Union; fleeing to Warsaw, Poland after being denounced by a local Pole; organizing help for the Warsaw Ghetto Jews; distrusting organizations, such as Żegota, which were large enough for traitors to penetrate; supplying weapons to ŻOB (Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa) in the ghetto as well as providing shelter to several Jews, both in his own apartment and in a specially outfitted bunker; funding these endeavors with profits initially made on minor trading; encounters with szmalcownicy (black mailers); the inhuman conditions in the ghetto and his support for the Ghetto Uprising; his views of the Warsaw Uprising; working for the MSZ (Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych; Ministry of Foreign Affairs) after the war; receiving the Righteous Among the Nations Award; feeling offended that the Polish nation is blamed for the Holocaust; Polish citizens helping Jews during the war; and his pride for the present-day Jewish community.
Oral history interview with Anna Zaluska
Anna Zaluska, born in 1926 in Częstochowa, Poland, describes her assimilated Jewish family; their frequent, cordial relations with non-Jews; going on European vacations; summering in Ustronie in 1939; the German invasion; moving to Sródborów; her father, brother, and uncle fleeing east; moving to Warsaw in October; returning to Częstochowa; the German confiscation of their house; living with her uncle; attending a Polish school; receiving religious instruction and converting to Catholicism in January 1940; moving to the open ghetto; her father's and brother's return; being sent to her Polish godmother outside of Częstochowa; living with a Polish family in Warsaw; receiving false papers; caring for a Jewish child in hiding; being placed in a convent in Karczew; writing to her father to remove her (the nuns suspected she was Jewish); being hidden in a Warsaw rectory with other Jews; working in a candy factory; her father's visits and the cessation of his visits; visiting her uncle; being caught on the street during the Warsaw uprising of 1944; receiving food from the Polish underground (A.K.); evacuation to Pruszkòw, then Breslau (Wroclaw); volunteering for forced labor in Berlin; liberation by Soviet troops; returning to Częstochowa; learning her parents and brother had perished; and working in publishing.
Oral history interview with Wladislawa Zawistowska
Władysława Zawistowska, born in 1913 in Łęczyca, Poland, describes her large, Hasidic family; participating in socialist activities; experiencing antisemitism at Warsaw University; recuperating from a broken leg in Rabka with Zionists friends; her brief imprisonment for leftist activities; moving to Łódź; the German invasion; moving to Białystok, then Stanislav (Ivano-Frankivs'ka, Ukraine) in the Soviet zone; getting married; teaching near Korolëvka (Oliievo-Korolivka, Ukraine); cordial relations with Ukrainians and Poles; sending packages to her family in the Warsaw ghetto; visiting L'viv when Germany invaded the Soviet Union; returning to Korolëvka; trips to Kolomyia; being smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto in March 1942; the deportation of her parents and sisters; escaping; receiving false papers; hiding her brother-in-law; blackmail and harassment by a Pole; helping another brother-in-law to hide; hearing non-Jews discuss the ghetto uprising; struggling to stay alive during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising; hiding until liberation by Soviet troops; working for the Ministry of Propaganda; moving to Łódź; returning to Warsaw to work for the Ministry of Commerce; her former belief in socialism which motivated her to remain in Poland; disavowing her Judaism until antisemitism in 1968 prompted her to reclaim her Jewish identity; and their survival due to the help of many non-Jews.
Oral history interview with Josef Reiner
Josef Reiner, born in 1921 in Krzeszowice, Poland, discusses growing up in Kraków; having a comfortable childhood; attending secular and religious schools; having cordial relations with non-Jews; participating in Hashomer Hatzair; the ending his education due to Jewish quotas; the German invasion; fleeing to Tarnobrzeg with his parents; their return to Kraków; forced resettlement in Borek Szlachecki, Borek Fałęcki, and Samborek; hospitalization with assistance from a non-Jewish physician; joining his parents in Prokocim; doing forced labor for a German railroad company; ghettoization in Kraków; round-ups, selections, and deportations; smuggling food; working at a military factory; being transferred to Płaszów in March 1943; surviving execution by Amon Goeth (he was left for dead); prisoners hiding him during a six week recovery; public hangings and executions by Goeth; evacuation to Częstochowa; his assignment to the kitchen; smuggling food; liberation by Soviet troops; returning to Kraków; resuming his studies; working in a clothing cooperative; his marriage; testifying at Goeth's trial; his present fears arising from his experiences; believing his survival was due to luck; and how only one of his relatives survived.
Oral history interview with Renata Zisman
Renata Zisman, born circa 1924 in Żywiec, Poland, describes growing up in an affluent family; their strong Polish identity and interest in music; having cordial relations with non-Jews; living in Bielsko-Biała; the German invasion; relocating to Kraków and thinking it was safer; ghettoization; forced labor; an informal music group; the deportation of her parents in October 1942; her parent's friend caring for her and her sister (she married him after the war); being sent to Płaszów; experiencing humiliation and abuse by an SS man; slave labor; Amon Goeth tearing her earrings out; a Polish civilian worker giving her extra food and sharing it with her sister; declining a Polish woman's offer to hide her, fearing other prisoners and her sister would be killed in retribution; being transferred to Auschwitz/Birkenau; losing hope for survival; slave labor in a factory; volunteering for the camp orchestra; the conductor teaching her the double bass; remaining with her sister at night; train transport and a death march to Ravensbrück in January 1945; being transferred to Neustadt-Glewe three months later; liberation in May; returning to Poland hoping to find their parents; her career as a music teacher; learning ten years ago that her parents were killed in Belzec; having chronic fears as a result of her experiences; frequently discussing the Holocaust with her sister and husband; and her recent visits to the camps as a guest of the German government.
Oral history interview with Stella Madej
Stella Madej, born in 1930 in Kraków, Poland, describes her wealthy and assimilated family; an antisemitic incident in school; cordial relations with non-Jews; vacationing in Rabka; German invasion; escaping east with her family for two months eluding the Germans; reaching Tarnów; deciding to return; obtaining a horse in Bochnia; expulsion, from their home; their maid hiding valuables for them; ghettoization in March 1941; non-Jewish friends sending them food; her father working as a ghetto policeman; his warning others of pending round-ups; the liquidation of the children's home; being transferred to Płaszów; her mother reporting her as two years older and always working next to her; Kommandant Amon Goeth abusing her uncle (he was the camp architect); the Rosner family playing music; random killings and public hangings; deportation of all children (she remained with her mother); her uncle arranging for her, her parents, and brother to be on “Schindler's list”; her father's and brother's transfer to Gross-Rosen (she never saw them again); transfer to Birkenau with her mother; hospitalization; a Jewish prisoner doctor caring for her; transfer to Brünnlitz with the other “Schindler women”; meeting Oskar Schindler; liberation by Soviet troops; prisoner relations in the camps; the loss of her childhood; pervasive sadness for many years; and her atheism.
Oral history interview with Jadwiga Gawroinsk
Jadwiga Gawroinsk, born in 1923 in Lublin, Poland, describes being one of three children; her family's affluence; attending Polish school; having cordial relations with non-Jews; the German invasion; ghettoization; moving to Melgiew in the summer of 1941; her future husband joining them; visiting friends and relatives in the Lublin ghetto; obtaining authentic documents as non-Jews; the round-ups of Jews from nearby villages in October 1942; returning to Lublin; her father leaving and being robbed enroute (she never saw him again); her father’s non-Jewish, former employer arranging to include her mother and sister as Polish forced laborers in Germany; hiding with her husband; feeling relatively safe going out since she did not look Jewish; moving to Warsaw with funds from her husband's very wealthy family; moving frequently to avoid detection; receiving assistance from many non-Jews and underground members; moving with her husband and his younger sister to a rescuer's summer home in Zielonka in November; returning to Warsaw in March 1943, fearing detection; meeting escapees from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; printing underground papers; visiting friends in Hotel Polski (they were killed); her husband joining partisans in the forest (he was killed); receiving funds from Żegota; a Gestapo interrogation during which a German “race expert” declared her a non-Jew; moving to Łuków with her brother; liberation by Soviet troops in July 1944; moving to Józefów; getting married to a non-Jewish Pole; reuniting with her mother and sister in 1945; the fates of her relatives and the many non-Jews who helped her; having nightmares from her experiences; continuing her contact with rescuers, friends, and relatives in Poland and abroad, including her first husband's family; experiencing antisemitism in 1968; believing her survival was due to good luck; and losing her belief in God after the Holocaust.
Oral history interview with Henryk Prais
Henryk Prais, born in 1916 in Góra Kalwaria, Poland, discusses his father's death when Henryk was a baby; cordial relations with non-Jews; attending six years of Polish school; participating in Hapoel Hamizrachi; apprenticing as a tailor; working for a Catholic; being drafted into the military in November 1937; serving in an elite unit in Suwałki; becoming an officer; transferring to Raczki; the German invasion; skirmishes in Cimochy and elsewhere; being transferred to Hrodna; being captured by Soviet troops in Shchuchyn in September; doing forced labor; being released in December; returning home via Warsaw; forced labor assignments from the Judenrat; ghettoization; escaping to the Magnuszew ghetto; obtaining false papers from a priest with help from a Polish friend; being sent to a labor camp; escaping to Magnuszew in December 1943; learning his mother died in the Warsaw ghetto when visiting his brother and sister in Głowaczów (he never saw them again); being warned to leave; a poor woman hiding him in Podwierzbie, even from Narodowe Siły Zbrojne, a Polish nationalist group (he had her recognized by Yad Vashem); liberation by Soviet troops; seeing the flames from the Warsaw uprising; believing he was one of the only Jews left; working for the Soviets in Podłez; returning to Gora Kalwaria in 1945 to join other survivors; his marriage; Poles who hid Jews in Sokółka; many Poles who risked their lives for Jews; the influence and escape of the Chasidic rebbe, Abraham Alter, from Góra Kalwaria; and Jewish pilgrimages there to this day.
Oral history interview with Konrad Skarzynski
Konrad Skarzynski, born in 1940 in Poland, describes the orphanage records which document that he was found abandoned in the Warsaw ghetto; being taken to an orphanage by a Polish policeman; being transferred to a convent orphanage outside of Warsaw; living in thirteen orphanages until he was 18 years old; experiencing ostracism and abuse from peers and staff, including some Catholic clergy; being frequently hungry; his inability to form emotional bonds; unsuccessfully seeking help; attending special education classes; working for a year, then being fired due to not having official documents; his military enlistment at age 19; being discharged after six months for health reasons; experiencing frequent beatings while sleeping in a Warsaw railroad station during 15 years of homelessness; suicide attempts; hospitalization for mental illness; obtaining official identity documents through a court procedure; finding an apartment; having a brief marriage; receiving help from a Jewish organization and monetary compensation from Germany; unsuccessfully searching for his parents; and participating in a "Children of the Holocaust" organization.
Oral history interview with Samuel Wachtel
Samuel Wachtel, born in 1913 in Kraków, Poland, discusses his early life; attending a Polish school; having cordial relations with non-Jews; the picketing of Jewish stores; the German invasion; being arrested with Poles and Jews in early September 1939; being detained at Gestapo headquarters, then Montelupich prison; the release of the non-Jewish prisoners; being transferred to Troppau (Opava, Czech Republic); encountering Gustaw Morcinek, a prominent Polish writer; being transferred to Sachsenhausen some two years later; the separation of Jews; a sadistic barrack commander; the loss of his toes due to severe cold; the relations between prisoner groups; slave labor in a quarry; being transferred to Gross-Rosen; the frequent deaths and beatings; being transferred to Auschwitz in 1942; working in Buna/Monowitz; the selections; being tattooed; meeting and helping two friends from Kraków; becoming head of a Kommando; a severe beating; being transferred to Janina (Janinagrube) as punishment for smuggling food; returning to Auschwitz; the death march in January 1945; escaping and receiving help from a farmer; liberation by Soviet troops; returning to Kraków; unsuccessfully seeking his relatives; receiving help from Polish friends; getting married; details of camp life and his state of mind; sharing his experiences with his children; his reluctance to be videotaped; his participation in ceremonies at Auschwitz; and his membership in the Association of the Former Political Prisoners.
Oral history interview with Leopold Koslowski
Leopold Koslowski, born in 1918 in Przemyslany, Poland (now Peremyshliany, Ukraine), discusses his family's history as famous klezmer musicians; attending a multi-ethnic school; his studies in L'viv; his friendships with non-Jews; the Soviet occupation; the German invasion; escaping east; returning home after the Germans overtook them; the formation of the ghetto and Judenrat; working in a hospital; a mass killing which included his father; building a bunker under their house; hiding in an outhouse, which still haunts him, and in the bunker; receiving food from non-Jewish friends; reluctance to escape from the ghetto; escaping execution after playing music for the German police; being deported to Jaktorów concentration camp; working in the Krosenko (Korosne) quarry; playing in a camp band; under threat of severe punishment, teaching an SS-guard to play a waltz; a German for whom he played bringing his mother to Jaktorów; being transferred to Kurowice (Kurovichi); being abused while playing to a group of drunken Germans; making contact with A.K. partisans; stealing weapons for the AK; his mother being shot during his escape to the partisans with his brother; fighting Germans and Ukrainian partisans; writing songs and playing for his platoon; returning to Peremyshliany; moving to L'viv; joining the Polish Peoples Army; playing for the soldiers; meeting American troops at the Laba River; living in Kraków; organizing a singing and dancing group; studying conducting at the Academy of Music; becoming the music director of the Jewish Theater in Warsaw; and writing songs and music for film and theater.
Oral history interview with Tushia Silbering
Tushia Silbering, born in 1925 in Kraków, Poland, describes her assimilated childhood; vacationing in Zakopane in the summer of 1939; the German invasion; the street killings of Jews; her mother's murder in November 1939; her father sending her to another city; a mass killing; returning to Kraków; living with her father and brother in the ghetto; being transferred to Płaszów when the ghetto was liquidated; working in Oskar Schindler's factory; the benign conditions compared to Płaszów; being deported to Birkenau; being transferred to Auschwitz; a death march to Buchenwald; forced labor at Hasag-Leipzig; being transferred to Ravensbrück; abandonment by the guards in a forest; liberation by American troops; the abusive behavior by Soviet troops; returning to Kraków; a futile search for relatives; receiving assistance from nuns and her father's friends; attending school; getting married; having recurring nightmares; her husband's reluctance for her to share her experiences with him or their son; her son's exposure to antisemitic epithets; having no regrets concerning their decision to remain in Poland; attempting to organize a memorial at Płaszów; her assertion that no one can understand or imagine her life who has not had similar experiences; and her pain at not knowing her father's or brother's fate.
Oral history interview with Edwin Opoczynski
Edwin Opoczynski, born in 1918 in Kraków, Poland, recalls his father's career as a physician; living an assimilated lifestyle; attending medical school in 1936 under a Jewish quota; his affinity for leftist organizations; the street attacks on Jewish students; the German invasion; briefly fleeing east; returning home; working in the Jewish hospital; obtaining food from non-Jewish friends; ghettoization; round-ups and deportations; transfer with his family to Płaszów; volunteering for transfer after two weeks; working with medical staff in Szebnie; being deported to Birkenau in November 1943; a friend from Kraków arranging his assignment to be in the hospital; encountering his mother and sister (they were Schindler Jews) the night before he was transferred to Oranienburg in November 1944; being transferred to Buchenwald, then Crawinkel; receiving extra food from Serbian POWs and a friend; a death march to Litoměřice; liberation in May; traveling home; reuniting with his father, mother, and sister; resuming his studies; his military service; his two marriages; his parents' and sister's immigration to Israel in the late 1950s; sharing his experiences with his sons; attributing his survival to luck; exacting revenge on German prisoners in 1945; meeting frequently with fellow survivors; having recurring dreams; and his ongoing commitment to socialism.
Oral history interview with Albin Matysiak
Albin Matysiak, a Roman Catholic bishop born in 1917 in Kocoń, Poland, describes his family; his family purchasing a business from Jewish friends; attending seminary in Kraków; receiving respectful treatment from Jews because he was a priest; the Polish hostility toward Jews due to economic reasons; his chaplaincy at a nursing home staffed by the Sisters of Charity; the German invasion; hiding Jews in the nursing home; the Mother Superior providing false papers; the relocation of the nursing home to Szczawnica by the Germans; realizing many townspeople knew Jews were hidden and did not divulge it; the postwar control of Poland by the Soviet Union; his contacts with the families of the hidden Jews; receiving the "Righteous Among Nations" medal at the instigation of the daughter of a Jew he hid; Polish-Jewish relations; antisemitism; the role of Jews in the history and culture of Poland; theological developments in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism; the success of Pope John Paul II, with whom he worked for twenty years, in attaining increased unity and sensitivity among ethnic and religious groups; and the influence of the Holocaust on Judeo-Christian relations.
Oral history interview with Krystyna Gil
Krystyna Gil, a Romani born in 1938 in Szczurowa, Poland, recalls the her family’s cordial relations with Poles; the mass killings on July 3, 1943 of the men, women, and children, including her parents and siblings; escaping with her grandmother while the Germans were taking a break; returning home; seeing her grandfather's corpse where he had been shot; traveling to Rzemienowice; posing as Poles; moving to Pawłowice; living a year and a half with a Pole who knew their identity; hiding two Jewish men who were shot after leaving; liberation by Soviet troops; moving to another city, then returning to Szczurowa several years later; attending elementary and vocational school; moving to Nowa Huta; marrying a Romani; her gratitude to her grandmother; maintaining Romani cultural life; her presidency of the Kraków Romani association; the lack of unity among the Romanies; a monument to the murdered Romanies in Szczurowa; commemorative activities there and in Auschwitz/Birkenau; the lack of compensation to Romani victims; and sharing her experiences with her grandchildren.
Oral history interview with Franciszek Nowak
Franciczek Nowak, a non-Jew born in 1923 in Kraków, Poland, discusses his parents hiding a Jewish couple immediately after an attack on a cafe frequented by the Germans; his family's active participation in the Armia Krajowa, Polish Underground; the family’s decision to keep the couple in hiding; the woman attending church with his mother; his father obtaining false papers and employment for the couple; smuggling Jews and others to the Czech border; receiving letters threatening to expose them; staging a mock arrest and trial of the blackmailers with other AK members; ceasing their underground activities due to the danger and sending the couple elsewhere; observing ghetto conditions from a streetcar; a postwar reunion with the Jewish couple his family hid; receiving the "Righteous Among the Nations" medal in Israel from Yad Vashem at the initiative of the couple; his regrets that others they helped did not contact them after the war; other Poles who helped Jews; and photographs and letters from the couple in Israel.