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Prayer book

Object | Accession Number: 2017.223.1

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    Brief Narrative
    Prayer book given to David Bajer, 25, on a 1947 trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands. He went inside a synagogue and the rabbi gave him a set of tefillin to use and to keep and David picked up this prayer book as well. David was the only survivor from a very devout family from Kozienice, Poland. Although he lost faith in Judaism during the Holocaust, he kept this siddur with him as a talisman for seventy years. He decided to donate the book to the Museum, but brought the book to the Museum for three weeks in a row before he finally had the courage to donate it on May 31, 2017. Kozienice was occupied by Nazi Germany on September 9, 1939. David, his parents Manes and Sarah, siblings Rosa, Joshua, and Rachel, and his grandparents were confined to the ghetto. On September 27, 1942, ghetto inhabitants were sent to Treblinka killing center. David was on a work detail and the day the Germans came to take the workers, he was away looking for food. He got on the ghetto cleanup crew and in December was sent to Pionki slave labor camp. In 1944, he was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, tattooed B74, and sent to Jaworzno subcamp. Around January 1944, it was evacuated by death march to Blechhammer. He escaped shortly after arrival and the region was soon liberated by the Soviet Army.
    received:  1947
    received: Amsterdam (Netherlands)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of David Bayer
    Subject: David Bayer
    David Bajer (later Bayer) was born on September 27, 1922, in Kozienice, Poland, to Manes and Sarah Bajer. David was the second of four children: Rosa, born 1920, Joshua, born 1927, and Rachel, born 1930. The town, about fifty miles southeast of Warsaw, had a large Hasidic Jewish community of around 6000, nearly half the population. The family was religiously observant. His father operated a small shoe factory from their home where Sarah and the children sometimes worked.

    On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. David and his family hid in the forest during the bombardment that accompanied the invasion, but returned after a few days to find their home looted. The city was captured on September 9. The Germans put in place antisemitic policies that stripped Jews of their rights and restricted all aspects of their daily life. Manes’ factory was confiscated. They were ordered to mark their door with a Star of David. David was arrested while in a bakery line for violating curfew and sent to a labor camp in Radom. His sister Rosa bribed a camp guard and got him released. In fall 1940, the Germans closed off three streets to create a ghetto for the Jewish population. David’s family was forced to relocate there. Everyone was required to perform forced labor. David volunteered to work on a farm in Brzeznica in exchange for food. He herded sheep but was fired after some sheep were killed on a train track. David then was a house servant and translator for a sympathetic Gestapo officer. During this time, his grandparents died. David was later assigned to a work crew digging an irrigation canal.

    On September 27, 1942, Kozienice ghetto was liquidated, and all residents, including David's parents, and siblings Joshua and Rachel, were transported to Treblinka killing center. David’s work crew was exempted. His sister Rosa fled to the Aryan side of town, but was caught and jailed. One day, David slipped away from work to look for food. When he returned, he discovered that his crew had been taken away. David hid for a few days with a farmer who told him that a group of Jews had been selected to stay and clean up the ghetto. David snuck back into the ghetto and joined the work crew. In December 1942, David and the other 35 members of the work crew were taken to Pionki slave labor camp. David was assigned to work in the WASAG Chemie munitions factory which made gunpowder. It was extremely hazardous work, but sympathetic Polish co-workers gave him extra rations. The factory conveyor belt caught fire during one shift and the Ukrainian guards arrested David and the other Jewish workers and sentenced them to death. The execution was stopped by the German factory director because he needed the trained workers. David tried twice to escape, and on his second attempt was shot in the leg. In early June 1944, David was badly burned while driving a locomotive that exploded. That summer, the Germans began evacuating Pionki in response to the Soviet Army advance. In July, David was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. When he arrived, a member of the Sonderkommando advised him to say he was a chemist which would make him more useful and account for his burns. After passing the selection, David was tattooed with the number B74 and taken to the Roma camp where he received treatment for his burns from a Jewish physician. He was also used for medical experiments. His uvula, the tissue that hangs down in the back of the throat, was removed without anesthesia. David was put to work mining coal in nearby subcamp Jaworzno, with a daily quota of 18 loads per day. Auschwitz was evacuated in January 1945 and David was put on a death march to Blechhammer slave labor camp. He escaped with two Soviet prisoners one day when the camp's electricity was cut by nearby Soviet forces. The Red Army liberated them a few days later. David weighed seventy pounds, easily picked up by a Russian soldier, and then hospitalized for a few weeks.

    He returned to Kozienice. He had no surviving family and moved in with a group of Jewish survivors. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. The group later moved to Łódź and then fled west via Czechoslovakia. When he reached Germany, David went to live at Foehrenwald displaced persons camp in the American run zone. He travelled to Amsterdam and a rabbi at a synagogue he visited gave him a set of tefilln and he got a prayer book as well. Unable to get an emigration certificate to Palestine, and unwilling to go to America, where he knew no one, David accepted an invitation from a friend from Kozienice who had immigrated to Panama in 1938. David arrived in Panama in 1947 and went to live in the country near Concepcion, rather than in the city with his friend. Shortly after arriving, David learned that the Vasilyades, a ship bound for Palestine, was scheduled to pass through the Panama Canal. When it arrived, David got a job as a crew member. After reaching Palestine, David joined the Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He fought in the War of Independence during which the state of Israel was created on May 15, 1948. In 1950, David returned to Panama. In 1955, he immigrated to the United States and settled in Washington DC. He married Adele Abramowitz in 1958 and they have two children. David has volunteered for many years at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Even though he does not enjoy talking about the horrors he experienced, David shares his story with school groups because it is important that they learn these things happened.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    Restrictions on use. Owner of copyright, if any, is undetermined.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The prayer book was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2017 by David Bayer.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:16:15
    This page:

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