Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Birnholtz - July 28, 1982

Joining a Kibbutz

How did you get out of town then?

Well, we--my brother put me in a kibbutz. He went...

How did you get out of Poland?

That's what I'm trying to tell you. My brother--my oldest brother knew that my best years of life, which I didn't go to school, he wanted me to have a good education so he put me in, in a kibbutz where he knew over there they teach you math, they teach you religion, history, everything. So come back to me what I was learning, because we all became like animals. I wasn't used to walk on the sidewalk, I always--I thought because all the Jews had to walk in the street, you know, like a cow. So uh, I wasn't used to even--I didn't know how-- my brother was teaching me to use a spoon in the hand. He took me right after the war someplace to a restaurant to teach me how to eat because we became like animals. We just gobbled down on this stuff. So anyway my brother took me--put me in a kibbutz and he told them that man--I think his name was Chaim Applebaum--to take care of me because he's going to Aliyah Bet--he went illegal Aliyah to Israel to fight for Israel.

Uh, did you leave...

And I--and, and then I was sent to Krakow.

Oh, it was a kibbutz in Poland.

It was a kibbutz in Poland, in Częstochowa...


...and from there they sent us to Krakow and, uh...

It was a religious kibbutz?

The kibbutz where I was wasn't really religious.

Who, who organized the kibbutz? The survivors?

The surviv...eh, eh, it must have been some people from the Haganah from Israel that came, that came in right after the war to get some people out to go to Israel, see. They organized it. So they always came uh, a leader from Israel somewhere to organize a kibbutz and that's how it went Aliyah, Aliyah Bet. That's how it started.

So you went from Częstochowa to...

From Częstochowa to Krakow.

...Krakow and then from Kra...

Well, we smuggled out. I had to throw away any Polish papers that I had so they wouldn't know--the Russians didn't let out any, any Jewish people from there. Anybody they didn't let out. So we threw away and we uh, I don't know if this is important to you or not--well, we went as Greeks. The Russians for some reason let out, you know, there were a lot of Greeks from concentration camp in Poland, so the--so we went as Greeks back to, to Greece. So that's how we got out. So as a matter of fact, I had a picture from my brother that was hiding out all the five years, he was shot in the woods. And uh, so uh, I had a picture and it said "Revenge, revenge, revenge," in Polish and in Hebrew. And I had to throw away that picture, as dear as it was to me, I had to throw it away because I didn't want them to find out that I'm Jewish or anything and so they would know that I'm Greek. And that's how we got out from Poland. We smuggled out to Czechoslovakia, and from Czechoslovakia the American army sent us to Munich. That's the first time I saw the American army. And from uh, Munich uh, they sent us to different camps and I lived in Backnang near Stuttgart. And I was there from 1945 to 1947. In Backnang, Stuttgart. And from there...

Was your family there with you?

That was my, my twin sister.


Dorscha? Yeah.

And what about Chaim?

Chaim, he lived in Germany. No, no, he lived in the beginning in Germany--see my brother Menach, Menachem, he went with his wife Aliyah Bet right away from Poland to Israel. And my oldest brother he lived in--near Munich--Ravensburg he lived there, I don't know, a half-year or so. And then he, he went on Aliyah Bet, illegally to Israel. And he lived until he died just a couple years ago. He was a very unhappy man.

Did you, uh...

They all had, had very high education--of course, they were old than me. They all went to the gymnasium and university.

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