Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irving Altus - June 2, 1982

Conditions Under Germans (Continued)

No place to stay.

No place to go, no--and they refused to go.

And nothing but the shirt on your back.

I couldn't believe it. Like you said, if this would be the beginning you figure maybe it's not as bad as you think, you know. Like the German Jews, they let 'em go and this and this, so. But we saw what they are doing with us. Not with the German Jews. And they refused to go.

So you...

I can't believe it.

So then you were, right away, right after they came, you were taken from your...

Yes. Very--the very first few months. Two, three months or so, I mean.

And then...

And I never saw anybody anymore. When they used to take the Jews in '42 or uh, to Auschwitz, I think I didn't know nothing anymore. Right, right the beginning when they, this was in 1940, probably in the Spring when they took me away.


They came--I was probably five or six months after the war I was home. That's all.

And then you were not really at home. You were in your city, but they--you were staying at other places.

No, they took us to work, to jail, to, to, to...

Wife: Camps.

...camps. All kind of...

While you were still at--in your hometown.

Not only in the hometown, no. They took us away to other cities, yeah.

To work?


And then, but then brought you back?

No, not me and my two friends. They took us away because uh, we did some business. We were going out to buy some leather or some materials and to sell to make a few dollars, I mean a few zlotys. And they uh, somebody you know, told them about this, you know, because--and they got a hold of us and they put us in jail and they put us to labor camps or whatever.

Were you still um, at that time living with your family?

Yes, yeah, sure.

And they went--were they, what were they doing? Were you all together still?

All together. We used to live--we moved in with my uncle uh, the cousin which is in Israel.

Wife: ??? ghetto.

There was not ghetto yet in Czekanów 'til, when I was there. And I think it was no ghetto in Czekanów, even in '42.

Wife: But they put the Jews in like two, three streets, no?

Not really, but--we moved into each other, I mean, the whole little town. It may be like you said is right. Two, three street, because the Jewish section and that's where it is, you know. And so, you're right too. Two, three street.

So life was completely changed from the moment they got there, even...

Completely like you turned over something. I mean, completely.

And it, so while they would--when you first started right after the war and they took and moved everyone out and said no more, you can't do anything, then they would take you everyday to, um...

Every day to work. Hard work.

Wife: You weren't your own person anymore. You were under the discipline of them.

How were you able to try and do some business?

You don't--nobody. No business.

But when you got caught you said you were doing something. Was that, did you get away for a couple days?

Well, we tried, yes, yes. We tried everything. Like the--supposed to go to work so I was hiding that day or so, so when they, when they start in the morning lining up Jews, running in you know, in, in the few streets, which they knew this is the Jewish section. So who got caught got caught. If you hided and then uh, two or three hours later they took the people, you were good for the day. That's all. Like I say, I could move out because it was no ghetto. In the cities which was a ghetto, then you were stuck, I mean. Their own Jews used to police the thing. You couldn't go out, you couldn't go no place.

Did many of the Jews leave your city, uh.

Not many. A very few on their own left, which they went to Russia. Like I say, on their own. They smuggled over you know, and during the nights or whatever. Because my cousin, which is now in Israel. This is the only cousin which he's alive. He escaped with his father to Russia. When the Germans moved in. His father came back because you know, he left his wife and another two boys. But he never wanted to come back. And when his father came back they killed him.

When was that?

And he--this was when the war broke out, in '39--'40. But he didn't want to come back home.

But when did the father come back?

I think in--he said--I didn't see him--he's--in '41 or something like this. He came back.

He came back in '41.

Yeah, from Russia. Home.

Before Ju...before the war broke out in June with Russia.

No, no.

After the war broke out

Oh, now you mean when it broke out between Hitler and, uh...


...with Stalin. I really don't know. Because it was so, not too far. People you know, they went from us, like I say, to, to the Russian side. It wasn't Poland anyhow. You know, the Russians moved in and thing.


So it was, it did--they could move. You know, it wasn't such a strict border. They could, they knew where to go, they could go. When he came back, but my cousin didn't, in two, three months later, I think, he was shot or whatever. F...for the reason, I don't. And my cousin lived through in, the whole war through '45. After the war, he came to Germany, I saw him and he went to, he got married and went to Israel and I came to America. If he would come back with his father, he would be killed too.

Well, you don't know why his father came back though.

Well, he came back because of the family. His wife and other two kids. That's why he came back, he didn't want to leave them there.

Was there any sort of communication at all between Poland and Russia?

I don't think so. Only from out. Maybe if an, if somebody else came there, you say, "Did you see uh, Irving, did you see Moishe?" Maybe yes, maybe no, "How are they doing?" No mail. No, no--nothing.

You were with your family um, until...

'Til six months after. I would say 'til March--April of 1940.

...and that was when you were...

That's it.

...um, caught.

Arrested and caught and...

And that was the...

That was it.

...last time you saw them.

That's it. And they were home still when they took our little city, when they took the Jews to Au...this was in '42. They were still there but, more than two years. They didn't know from me, I didn't know from them.

You didn't have any...

Anything. I think uh, now my wife says or my friends which they here. They knew uh, the first year or something where I am and then they thought that I'm finished. I'm not alive anymore. So they still were alive, but they thought that I'm dead. So...

Who was it who told on you? You said that you were caught some...

Some uh, some people. We really cannot say, Jews or thing. But uh, used to be people which they, you know, for something and the--they were ???.

And you never found out...


...who or why.

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