Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Manya Auster Feldman - August 11, 1998

Work in Ghetto

Did you also--you worked?

Yeah, we worked. My sister, my brother and I worked. My father wasn't because he was uh, handicapped.

Where did you work?

Um, in different places. We had a river uh, flowing down the, the city, so they, they were uh, building barges, they were building barges to transport uh, all kind of merchandise. Then when the Russians left, they destroyed all the bridges so they started building bridges and they took the Jew...the Jewish uh, people provided the work for them so we went--we used--they, they took out in a group. We all had yellow Stars of David in front, a yellow Star of David in back. And they took us out from the ghetto. And we could not walk--by the way, we didn't have any cars in our little shtetl, you know. So in the middle of the street there were the horse and buggies going, the horses, the animals. We couldn't walk on the sidewalks. This is for people and we were not people. So they chased us to work outside of town, what, about nine kilometers, sometimes four kilometers. In the summer they had--we had to work the fields.

So you walked with the horses?

Walked with the horses, yes. And, and when we came to work--it was an eight-hour work, eight hours, they gave us some waterey soup and a tiny piece of bread. That was the diet, that was all.

That was it?


Did people who worked, worked um, get different rations than people who didn't work?

No. I--when we came to work, they gave us--at home in the ghetto, they gave us--to each, each inhabitant of the ghetto got 200 grams of bread. 200 grams is like a half a pound.


Now, you see a half a pound of--is a loaf, but the piece--a half of pound is this big, because it was...

A half a pound for what?


For how long?

For a day.

For a day?


So you--people were starving?

Starving, literally. In the streets you saw...

Was there disease too?


Was there disease too?

Oh, yes, dy...dysentery and typhoid, because the sanitary conditions were horrible.

What happened to the sanitation at that point? You said they formed a ghetto?



They, they roped off they um, uh, two streets. They put--at the entrance of the street they put a gate so you couldn't--you couldn't go out or go in there the gate was--they, they were guarded. Now, the, the homes of the street that--whose windows came out on the other street which was no ghetto, they had to board them up with uh, boards so they couldn't look out in the street where the real people lived, not the animals.

So the, the ghetto was cordoned off?

Cordoned off, yeah, sort of.

There was no wall...

No wall, no. Just at the entrance of the street was a gate.

How did the, how did the Jews in the ghetto feel about that? Did they feel that the ghetto was a good thing, a bad thing? Did anybody say, "At least they'll leave us alone," something like that?

It was a day, day-to-day living. I mean, we just prayed to live one more day. It was very--I mean, the--that was the problem. They--it dem...it was demoralizing. We were not considered as humans. However, in the ghetto, there were schools. There were--the synagogues were funct...functioning. The--we celebrated the holidays. Jewish life went on no matter what circumstances.

Did you--Jews feel more...

Hungry, hungry.

Hungry, just hungry.

Hungry and afraid of death.

And did you see anybody shot?

No. Not in our ghetto. You know, a lot of times I um, I spoke in, in front of groups of people. And even uh, our own uh, friends, those who did not go through it, they said, "Why didn't you escape?" That's a very good question, which is very hard to answer. You know why? Because we were surrounded. It wasn't only the German occupation. We were surrounded by enemies. All the gentile popula...oh, I wouldn't say a hundred percent. But I would say about seventy, eighty percent of them were, were in tune with the Germans and just kill the Jews. We don't want no part of them anymore. And they helped them. And they helped Germany. They sure did. The, the Poles, the Ukrainians and the Poles. The White Russians too.

Last time we talked you told me that there were people who were--who identified Jews, who turned them over...

Oh, yes. I'll tell you. The dress code uh, dress code of the Jews was entirely different than the gentiles. They had a different dress code, especially the farmers. So no matter where you went, they recognized a Jew right away. And this is one thing: During the liquidation of the ghetto, they were promised uh, uh, for each Jew they'll get a kilogram of soap or a kilogram of sugar. So they caught them left and right. They helped the Germans, absolutely.

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