Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maurice Chandler - October 3, 1993

Visiting the Czyżew Ghetto

Do you think the farmer knew they were Jewish?

Yes, he knew that they were Jewish.

And he gave them work anyway?

Yeah, he hired them. What did he have to lose? The laws were still fluid. ??? it's hard to explain. It wasn't as tightly knit, you know, because there were still little ghettos around and so on. I'm sure that the Germans sent out a posse to find, he would say, "Well, I didn't know." The laws didn't say yet if you hide a Jew, you get killed. This was later. See, this was still early.

When, about 1942?

Yes, 42-ish--fall of '42. Anyway, one Sunday--no--yeah, one Sunday, on my day off--I don't know if I ever told you this story about going into to uh, Czyżew, no? You must have heard it.

You told it to me in a meeting.

Yeah, Czyżew. I decided to go. I heard that there's a ghetto in Czyżew and so on my day off, I told the farmer I'm going to go into town. And I come into town, and the first thing I find where the ghetto is, and it's one little street--like a long street with uh, barbed wire and a gate at each end. I came in there and I spent the whole Sunday, you know, talking to people over there I told them who I am. And um, I literally went from house to house, you know, and asked, "Have you heard what's happening in Warsaw? What do you know? What's going on? I've been away and I'm living as a goy and nobody knows me, and I'm all alone," and this and that, you know, and everybody poured their hearts out. They don't know what's gonna be, but in the meantime they're living here and it's quiet. And so, anyway, not realizing that uh, evening came in and curfew starts. So, I figured, well, I'll stay overnight, you know, someplace there and in the morning, I'll go back to work. I started asking for them from uh, you know, one house, I said, "Could you put me up for the night? I'll sleep on the floor." They said, "No, nothing doing. You cannot stay here because everybody is registered. We're living here by the grace of the Commandant, who knows us, and everybody's registered and we have designated work. And he lets us live and he lets us stay and we're, we're gonna be safe. And, if a stranger comes in, God only knows what could happen. They'll shoot you. They'll shoot us and this and that. You must go." I said, "But I can't go. If I go outside curfew, they'll kill me." So I went, literally, from house to house and begged and pleaded. Nobody would let me stay. I had to leave. I got out and made my way through the fields and got back to the farm and uh, went to sleep. About five o'clock in the morning, I got up and got the horses out and was uh, was plowing or whatever and a neighbor drove by with his horses and wagon and he stopped and said, "Hey," he said, "did you hear what happened in Czyżew last night?" I said, "No..."

[interruption in interview]

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