Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maurice Chandler - October 3, 1993

Passing as Polish

...further east, and I saw how that worked, you know, by people--farmers working in the field. I would say--gave them my greetings, you know, in Polish, which means, you know, you heard the part we say, "Praise be the Lord Jesus Christ," and the people usually answered back, forever and ever, Amen. So, I threw that out. At first, I was afraid if I say it, it will be blasphemy. Imagine a Jew saying this--they'll come and kill you. But, I, I said it and they answered back and it gave me the encouragement that I'm passing, you know. Anyway, I went on to different villages and worked here, and worked there, made myself useful. And with that birth certificate in every village where I went--did you notice I had a little registration by the sheriff? Because I had to build up a dossier. I have to become a new person and all I had was just a torn birth certificate. I had nothing. And I knew I was--it was flimsy evidence. I mean, I was really on thin ice. So, I started building, you know, and I went--I wouldn't--I didn't work in any village long enough because I needed more certificates. So, wherever I went to the next village, I would say--go into the sheriff, "Do you have anybody that needs somebody? I'm a Polish boy from Warsaw, and uh, references--I last worked for so and so. You can check with them. See, and here's my uh, certificate from so and so." He would give me--he would sign me in that I came in, blah, blah. This way--that's how I built, uh...

Always on a farm?

Yes. The farms were a little safer because, I don't know, because in the city, you had all the Germans crawling all around with the Gestapo, the secret police, and so on. On the farm, it was, you know, there was more elbowroom and that was my plan. I felt a little safer in villages because I could melt in, sort of, with the population.

So, what village did you wind up in?

First village, I remember, by the name of Kostry Noski. You see that picture with the four boys? That's not far from that village. I worked there for a winter--must have been the winter of '42. And then in the spring, I needed--you see, the reason I took that job is to get that piece of paper. You see, I had a method. It was to build up a dossier.

This was conscious on your part?


And you were 16 years old?

Yes, still 16. And I was designing, you know, I knew that every piece of paper--every layer of paper means an extra year of life. It's just like you're building brick-by-brick. No paper, no life. If you're caught--you're stopped--if you don't have papers to prove who you are, you're dead. Only a Jew has no papers.

Did they ever stop you?

No, but later I was, later, I was. I had very, very close shaves. But uh, this was one--the job I got, oh yes.

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