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Oral history interview with Josephine Gruca

Oral History | Accession Number: 2020.46.1 | RG Number: RG-90.122.0001

Josephine Gruca (née Sumara) discusses the period of 1938 to 1945 when she was a young girl in Poland and Germany, including her memories of her childhood in Tarnów, Poland; her family’s background; her education at a convent school; preparations for war in 1938; the German invasion of Poland; Nazi propaganda and murder of civilians; what Polish citizens did to survive; life and education under the German occupation; the Polish underground; the treatment of so-called "marked women" (Polish women who fraternized with Nazis); the treatment of Polish Jews; her abduction from school by the Nazis at 14 years of age; her forced journey by train to the German province of Württemberg; life and working conditions as a forced laborer on a sugar beet farm; the German family for whom she was forced to work; news of the war's progress on the Russian front by 1942-1943; being hospitalized after an injury; witnessing an example of Nazi euthanasia; her treatment by the grandfather of the family; being threatened with death, shipment to a concentration camp, and an attack with a pitchfork by the German farmer; Allied air raid attacks in 1943; her secret meetings with fellow forced slave laborers; the farmer’s attempts at humiliating her; the treatment of displaced Germans to rural areas; her friendship with a displaced German woman whose children she helped feed; small acts of rebellion such as refusing to say “Heil Hitler;” news from home and family; the loss of relatives; her father's failed attempt to bring her home with replacement labor; her family sheltering two Jewish girls; meeting the two girls in Germany; receiving clothing from Jewish victims; her forced labor of shoveling snow; deteriorating living conditions in Germany such as the shortage of soap; the Allied fire bombing of Heilbronn in December 1944 and having to clear the streets of wreckage and bodies; an encounter with French prisoners of war; the final months of the war in 1945; the arrival of Allied soldiers in Germany; villagers' poor treatment of German soldiers prior to the end of the war; life after liberation; her time as a Displaced Person; life in a displaced persons camp; becoming a teacher; the death of her youngest sister, aged 16, just six days before the liberation of Poland; her reflections on the long term effects of her experiences as a slave laborer in inhuman conditions with constant physical and mental abuse, threats, and humiliations.

Josephine Gruca
interview:  1980
7 CDs.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Gruca family
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 21:57:36
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