Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Biegun - August 10, 1983

Life in Łódź

All right, let's, let's go back to uh, um, your experiences in Łódź and in uh, in Germany. You went to Łódź. Um, what was it like there? Was there a camp set up in Łódź? Was it...

No. There was a big building that's all the, you know, people came by trains, and the Jews have to stick together because they were still killing us. The war was over, but it was still under anti--????. They were very big.

You mean in Poland.

In Poland. Yeah. So there was a special place that's--all the Jews stayed there, big house, you know, it's, it was like a school or something. I really don't know. And then there was one street and a lots of houses, and couple families together, stayed together, you know, upstairs, downstairs. In two rooms, three, four families, you know, just--they had to stay together because they were still, you know, young people, I don't think they knew what they are doing. I mean, 16-- and 17--year olds, they don't know, you know, I should use the bad language, but I better not.

Go ahead. We're all friends. [laughing]

You know, it's like, how you call it in America, punks, or something, I mean, young people. What did they know about war. But I suppose there was older people, too, I don't know. And we had to stay together. We stayed there in the house, it was, what, the basement. First level, first level, second level, third level. So how many is it? Two levels? You know. Three levels.

Do you remember where this--what street?

It was Zachodnia, Zachodnia was the street, 26, I am sure a lots of Polish people from Łódź, they know this street.

Was it--do you know if it was in the Bałuty district? Do you remember the Bałuty district at all? Because that was where the ghetto had been?

I don't know, this I can't tell you because...

But you remember the street...

I remember the street very well because I went to school a couple times. I have a report.


I mean, in every city, I went to kindergarten or first grade, I'm telling you. It took me a long time 'til I finished school. [laughing] You know, so I have papers, you know, and I have little papers to prove it, so I was there in Łódź. And we all had to stick together because--I wasn't so afraid because I spoke Polish. I learned the language. I spoke Polish. I don't look too much like Jewish, you know. Most people take me for Italian, not like Jewish. When I was younger, I don't know how a Jew's supposed to look. They used to say, "Don't go." You know, but I didn't speak Yiddish, so they didn't know I am Jewish. They told me not to speak Russian because they knew that the Jews speak Russian because they came from Russia. So I spoke Polish. I used to go to the grocery store to buy a loaf a bread or something.

And the others used to send you out to--

Yeah, I mean, children, they didn't know. If you speak Polish, they didn't know. And there was a next door neighbor, and there was Jewish, but she hide out herself, a Gentile. And they told me that she is Jewish, but she said, "Don't say that you a Jew," you know. Zyda you know, so I knew this, I don't have to say I'm not a Jew. So, I'm not a Jew. You know, I was struggling and so what, but still I couldn't figure out why can't I say I'm not a Jew. I mean, I couldn't figure out, what did I do wrong? I mean, I was already seven, eight years old. I couldn't figure out, what did I do wrong that I don't have to say I'm Jewish? And I tell you true, I didn't know the difference from Jewish to Polish. I know I speak a different language, but I didn't know why I'm speaking a different language.

Had you ever wondered about that before? Why, why they were shooting Jews, killing Jews?

I wondered. So once I asked mine uncle, and he says, "Someday, you find out. That people, they don't like us." That's the answer she gave me. So, I didn't ask.

Have you found out?

Right now, I find it out the hard way, yes, and I still don't know why. We don't, you know...

When you were in Łódź, was anybody in your house ever attacked, beaten up, caught by these hoodlums?

Ah, let's see. I wasn't attacked because I was too young and I was--I got smarter. I knew how to run away and how to sneak. I mean, you know, after so many, in the forest, you know, you used to run around. Sneak around in the forest, hide. So I knew it. So when I saw a bunch of hoodlums come, I went the other side or I used to see all the Jewish people that I knew from school, so I never went on the electric train, you know, there was electric trains, not buses like here. I never went by myself on it because I was scared. If I had to go, then I didn't speak. I had my money ready, already, and you go, you pay the money, stay in a corner. No one would know me if I'm Jewish or not. You know, that's what I used to do. But there was one floor in our house, it was on the low level, was a Jewish guy, Orthodox, he was praying. You know the Jewish shawl? They call is tallit, and it tefillin, I don't know how you call it tefillin in English.

It's all right. Tefillin is good.

Okay. And he was praying, and they attacked him, and they killed him, his head in half.

And you remember seeing that?

And we were on the second floor, and all of a sudden, we heard noise, but in the night time, nobody went out of the house. And in the morning, we saw lots of police. And they couldn't find, so they all, you know, when you're young, you know how to sneak around. And the upstairs people were scared to go down not knowing what happened, so usually she would send the children. The police wouldn't bother a small child. So I went snooping around, and I find out, and I, I saw them tallit with blood. And after that's happened, most of the Jews were trying to leave Poland, but it was, you know, it was like the, you know, underground, the Jews, underground. You know, they know how to arrange, so you pay off you know, pay off the police, you pay off the watchman by the border. You know, to smuggle us over.

So you slipped across the border.

Yeah, we slipped across, you know, smuggled.

And that was the reason, do you think that, that was the last straw?

Because we couldn't take there. It was, I mean, here we can't survive and we come to--I mean, Poland's supposed to be a educated country. And, they suffered from the Germans. You would think they would be nicer to you, special--you just survived the Holo...you know, they all massacred and ??? Łódź was ???. There was nothing to see there. If you finding two, three houses to live there, you are lucky. Or from all the bombing and shelling. So you would think people would be nicer to you but they were very rude to us.

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