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Oral history interview with Mark Stern

Oral History | Accession Number: 1990.8.30 | RG Number: RG-50.063.0030

Mark Stern, born on June 5, 1923 in Gorlice, Poland, describes his family; moving to Kraków, Poland; being raised Orthodox, though they were partially assimilated and lived in the non-Jewish section of the city; his good Jewish education; first experiencing antisemitism in 1937; how his father sent his brother to Palestine for his university education; hosting two of his aunts after Germany began its expulsion of Jews; the family’s unsuccessful plan to leave in 1941; conditions in Kraków after September 1939; his father’s escape and never seeing him again; taking responsibility for his family; how their bank accounts were closed and all of their valuables were taken by the German Army; the Germans taking over their business; moving with his family to live with his grandmother in the Gorlice ghetto; forced labor in Gorlice; the death of his grandmother; being selected with his sister and mother to leave in 1942, but trading his stamp collection to spare their deportation; his mother’s deportation despite his efforts; the deportation of his girlfriend and sister on the next transport and never seeing them again; remaining and working in the Hobag (Holzbau A.G.) labor camp making pre-fabricated housing for the German Army; the brutal conditions in the camp and the violence from German shepherds; being sent to Mielec camp, making parts for German airplanes; getting sick but not being killed; being an inspector of parts and assisting the underground with sabotage; being caught once but saved by his supervisor; prisoners’ talk of escape and the hanging of the leaders when the plan was discovered; hearing the shooting from the front lines of the war; being sent to Płaszów; going through a selection after several weeks; the terrible conditions during the journey to Germany and how half the passengers died; arriving in Flossenbürg and being completely dehumanized; thinking of his grandmother in order to remain strong; witnessing inmates commit suicide on the electric fences; working in an airplane factory; the relations between the prisoners and how everyone took advantage of the Jews, who were in the minority; being approached by a homosexual Kapo; being evacuated via train in April 1945 and the bombing of the train by American forces; going on a death march to Schwandorf, Germany, which lasted 10 days; being liberated by Americans right before the prisoners were going to be executed; how the Americans kept going and threw them food; being confused about his origins when he went to an American Red Cross station; going to Hamburg, Germany and drinking all day; deciding to go to Palestine to see his brother; meeting his wife in a displaced persons camp; staying in Italy from 1945 to 1947; learning labor skills at a kibbutz; immigrating to the United States in 1947; experiencing survivor’s guilt; and being the President of the Survivors Organization of Pittsburgh, PA.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Mark Stern
interview:  1989 August 02
1 videocassette (VHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:32:32
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