Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Birnholtz - July 28, 1982

Being Removed from the Ghetto

All right. When did you go to a concentration camp?

Well, they saw uh, from that time, they started making a little small ghetto. See, when they took us away to work, they started organizing--bringing people from different places and they made the small ghetto. That's the time when I found out that my sister is alive. Somebody said that they saw my sister in that small ghetto. And uh, so uh, one, one time I smuggled them into--we went to work with eh, went to work and I smuggled in--I changed with another man. And I went into the small ghetto, and that's where I found my sister. But I had, I had to return into the Luftwaffe over there and my sister remained there. But at that time it made me happy that my sister is alive--that I found my sister. And then they took us to they, the--one time--we lived in the ghetto for awhile there for a couple years, I think, or a year-and-a-half--I don't remember exactly. And then they came one day--they found out that the Jewish underground is preparing for an attack against the Germans--that we make grenades, we make German clothes. And I lived in the small ghetto, it's number ninety Nadrzeczna, they called the street, Nadrzeczna. And with me uh, was a man by the name ??? he was a partisan. And he started--he ??? back and--but since I was a child he wouldn't tell me what's going on and he was the head man of the partisans. So one day the Germans found out that we are preparing--that the Jews are preparing an attack on them, so they came and surrounded the whole ghetto and they brought the whole Luftwaffe, Gestapo with grenades with everything, and they took everybody--they gave us five or ten minutes, everybody to get out. They, they went on loudspeakers, "Everybody have to get outside. Who will be in the ghetto remaining will be burned--buried with the buildings." They're going to explode the whole buildings. So at that time I had a cut. I was just--I had a big blister here and I was just operated on the night before and I was all bandaged around. And I was debating to myself, "If I get outside--but they said everybody get out. If I get out I'll be killed because I don't look like I can work, like I'm injured or something." I was a very weak little boy. So, but I was debating, either I get killed here--anyway a guard told me to get out. So the last minute I went out and everybody had to have the hands up. So then finally they came. They said, "People that lived number eighty-six, eighty-eight, ninety has to step forward." So all the people that lived in those three buildings--because the Germans found out that those three buildings they were organized to have an attack against the Germans. So all the people that lived in those buildings, they took them on trucks into the cemetery and they shot them all up. And they were waiting for the next, next turn. So they came back--there was another Jewish policemen, I remember Kurland was his name. And he went around and he said in Polish, "I know every one of you," and he looked me straight in the eye, "you have to step forward so you're going to be shot. If you don't step forward--so whoever lived eighty-six, eighty-eight, ninety, please step forward so you're going to be shot." So that guard didn't let me and I just wouldn't go. And everybody had--and, and everything's hurting me and I had stood there and keep the hands up. You couldn't move around or anything. And I remember a man ??? was his name, a baker, he lived in the same building where I was, but he had a piece of paper in his pocket with him; he was afraid they were going to find it. He pulled out with his tongue and he buried it--he dropped it to the floor and he buried it with his feet, the ticket that said he lived in that building. Anyway, all of my friends and all the people I knew that lived in the same building, all of them were shot. I just didn't step forwards and that's why I'm here to tell you the story.

How did they know about the...

Well, somebody must have told them or somebody that uh, was just giving out that he figured he's going to live since he's going to tell them. So, they found out, the Germans, and uh, that's the time when they took us out and then, and segregated. Then they took out all the young kids, which I was one of the youngest and I'm--I was very surprised how lucky I am to get out alive but they took many kids out to be shot. They took them on the trucks. And there were still about uh, nineteen kids that ??? saved--was the head German--for some reason he said he needs those nineteen kids; he had a special job. So, as a matter of fact, I have here a friend--he's also a high school teacher and he's a type of rabbi, Harry Jubas. He's much younger than me; he was a real small child. And he stayed--from this truck they took him out. He was ready to be shot--waiting for the truck to come back from the cemetery and he's alive. And he had a job feeding the rabbits and picking up garbage in the, in the concentration camp. So at that time they took us, they segregated who to work and who shall die.

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