Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Birnholtz - July 28, 1982

Liberation II

So we were lucky and uh, so we were going to the Wachter and no German, no, no, no Ukrainian was standing there. So my brother got into the po...police station where there used to have all ammunition where I was hit once. So we, my brother knew how to work with machine, with uh, with guns, you know. So he picked up a rifle--there were all the rifles standing, he said, "Now let them come. Whatever happens with us..." I never had the rifle, but anyway, they all took rifles, I remember, and we went--then the first thing my brother did we went upstairs to the casino where they used to have their dining room, the Germans. They used to be a big Hitler picture, about a floor high--I would say fifteen, twenty feet. Big Hitler--he tore it down, broke it and threw down all the German dishes from the table with the Hakenkreuz, everything. Then we realized that the war is still going on and we might be killed. So we went hiding out in the Kolonia where the Germans lived. We went in the basement, in their rooms and that's the first time I laid on the cover, on a regular pillow in a German, in German bed, which I didn't have this for five years to sleep like this. So anyway, we laid over there. Then at night every time would light up the whole city. They were dropping bombs. The war was going on. So like six or seven in the morning we ran out by the door to the concentration camp, we wanted to get out in our city. So as I run over there came a Russian. He says uh, "Listen, you better go." He knew that's a concentration camp. He said, "You better don't come out yet because we're looking for Germans. Go back." So we went back hiding. Meantime...

How--what--how did he speak to you, in what language?

I don't remember, but he, he--I was, I'm so excited about it while I'm telling you the story that I don't remember, but I understood that he said, "Go back," you know. So then eight in the morning, we got out--had nothing to lose and we wanted to get out. So five years locked up, you want to get out and be free. So we got out I remember how lucky I was that, that they were shooting machine guns up in the air and fight. And as I was walking in the street, it was January 16 when we were liberated. It was snow--it was a cold day, snow and everything. And there were machine guns up in the air--the, the planes. And I was walking a beautiful street over there and a porch, that they dropped a grenade, fell right in front of me. If I would have been there one second before I wouldn't, I wouldn't be here to tell you.

Who dropped the grenade?

Well, they were fighting on top, you know. The Germans with the Russians and the grenade came down from the, from the plane. And a porch fell down--a cement porch right in front of me. So I remember I ran across the street. Anyway, when I came to the Aleja. It's called Aleja, beautiful street in Częstochowa. I knew every street because I lived there. And there were all stores open, you could have anything, but who had money, anything. You didn't have no clothes, you wouldn't have money to go in the store. And I was going with wooden shoes, with everything. There were tanks and horses burning in the streets. The war was going on, and all those stores were broken. Russians soldiers laying on the ground, and Germans. And there come a Russian--small little soldier running with the head down and with the machine gun running forwards, and he sees me, and he hollers to me, "Yevryeĭ?" Yevryeĭ means Jew. I said, "Da, yes." I knew that word. I don't know how I learned. I said, "Da," and he grabbed a hold of me--I remember he had--he didn't even have a leather belt, he just a string around his coat--a small, little man--and when I said, "Da," he grabbed--he jumped on top of me, he kissed me and we both fell--him with the machine gun, I remember, he fell on the corner of the Aleja, of Aleja over there and he fell to the ground and I couldn't even get up, I was so weak. And I remember he picked me up and he run further because there were Nazis hiding out between the buildings and every time they saw a Russian tank or somebody Russian run by, they would throw out a grenade or shoot. So I don't know what happened to him and I wish I would ever find the man like this.

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