Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Birnholtz - July 28, 1982

Nearing Liberation

Why was your camp uh, kept so long in Częstochowa?

In Częstochowa they needed--they were making ammunition for the, for the war. They were making bullets. That's why they kept us. They used to send--I think they used to be like in the--just before the war ended maybe, maybe fifteen thousand people or thirteen thousand--I remember the last day--the day before the train that I missed--which I'm lucky to be that I missed that train or I would never--the German that liked my brother says, "How come you missed that train? You're stupid," you know, he called me everything. And that's because I missed the train I'm living--I'm here to tell you the story because everybody that went on that train--the last ten thousand people that left the day before, they all started out on the way or they were walking, they didn't have--because the war was going on, the Russians were attacking them and they were in trouble themselves, the Germans, and other Jews mostly. I don't know there was maybe five hundred alive from the whole train. I don't think so.

The day before what?

The day before the war ended. So they took out ten thousand people, the last day before the war ended.

So what happened to them?

Well, as I said, I don't know there was five hundred people left alive from the ten thousand. They died out on the way--they were--see uh, anyway, the last day I hide out--I heard that my brother--we all hide out in a magazine, that's why we're alive.

Uh, were there any--do you recall any experiments that they would do with the Jews? Any medical experiments or, uh...

Well I heard of stories all kinds but uh, I uh, I don't remember.

Do you recall any bombings? Any, uh...

Well, the last, the last uh, couple weeks, the Russians were coming closer and they were bombing and uh, we heard the sirens because if they were coming uh, let's say uh, uh, fifty kilometers away the sirens would come on and then closer and uh, I mean, they were getting closer. And we were hoping--one time or another, they took us out from the machines--from working over there and uh, I remember we were standing in uh, where they're cutting wood in a lumber yard, like, and there was a tall glass uh, ceiling from--the roof was all from glass. And I remember some bombs from far away, they shattered the glass and the whole glass fell down near our heads or so.

Uh, were they uh, did uh, any Jews ever fight back in desperation? Did they...

Well, in the ghetto, one man--I said, how, how lucky, how lucky--how often the luck was going against us. One man tried to attack a German when they came--when they took us out and I wasn't there but my other brother told me the story, and he tried to shoot the German that uh, killed some of the Jews. And uh, he was a Volksdeutsch, I think, he comes from Polish parents and so--he even talked Jewish. He was a very bad SS Nazi. So, uh...

What was his name?

I don't, I don't remember. I can't remember. Anyway, so this Jewish man tried to shoot him and the gun locked and nothing came out, and they saw this. When they saw the gun coming out, they all moved back, the Germans. And then that gun locked, it didn't come out nothing, because he must have had the gun rusty or it must have been in the basement somewhere, you know. So uh, this-- they were shooting about eighteen or nineteen bullets in him and this man was laying on the floor pulling this Nazi's coat. "Nekome, nekome, nekome." He was pulling his coat.


Nekome means uh, you shouldn't forget. Nekome-- you should uh, how do you say--revenge, revenge, revenge.

Uh, the uh, were there uh, the, the guards--were they Nazis, were they SS?

They were Ukrainians, they were Ukrainians, Nazis, SS, everything they had there.

Was there any difference between the guards? Were they--some easier?

You see, there was always one German that maybe liked one person, see. There was uh, like when we were work...working the Luftwaffe, there was one Polish fellow--he was from Poland, from Poland--his parents must have been German or so. He was--he just hated me. For some reason he was looking always to, to get me to be, to be sent away to be killed, see. Also I was so lucky when they were looking for me, I happened not to be there. And when I came the following day, he says, "How lucky you are that you're here," you know. He had even some father, some kid that he, that he liked them and he sent them away. So I'm just lucky to be alive.

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