Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Manya Auster Feldman - August 11, 1998

Religion in Ghetto

What happened to um, to Shabbos?

Oh, the Shabbos, believe it or not, it was Shabbos. Whatever we had it was Shabbos. We did all the prayers, we sang and we pretended it's like before. We didn't have any challa, no.

All thirteen people?

Uh, no. They were--we were only our family. They--sometimes they joined us. It, it wasn't, it wasn't easy to live in that--you know, the, the atmosphere was very tense. So it was, it was hard to be with other people.

Were there...

We slept on the floor. We didn't have any--we couldn't bring our beds.

Were there they discussions about what was going on?

Naturally. But you know, it, it's, it's so hard to explain. Whatever I'm saying now, it's--I'm barely scratching the surface, because there are so much feelings involved in it. I mean, how do you--how do you live from day-to-day and know that someday it'll end, your life will end? Can you imagine? See, it's--even for me now, I can--I'm looking at my own video and I can't believe that that's me talking. It was, it was--the circumstances were so bad, you had to discuss death in the open, the--when we are going to be killed or when the end will be. We are standing by the gate and observing people walking down the street. You know what a feeling it is to know that you cannot have your freedom? Why? For what? What did we do wrong? What did my two little sisters do wrong? What did my grandmother of eighty-three--she was also killed--what did we do wrong? I mean, it's, it was, it was incomprehensible. It's, it's hard to explain. It's so hard, I can't put it in words. There are no words to describe it. To know--you know, there was a rumor, all of a sudden there is a rumor--by the way, our ghe...ghetto was liquidated two, two weeks before the uh, uh, uh, our Rosh Hashanah uh, New Years. So the, the Shabbat prior to Rosh Hashanah is called Shabbastsuva the Shabbat of repentance. And everybody said, "This is when, this is when we'll be redeemed. This is when something will happen." And you know, it's a false prophesy. And people--you know, you start believing, oh, maybe on that Shabbat something will happen. What could happen? What could happen? And you couldn't--let's say okay, so I esca...I ran out of the ghetto, where to? Into other murderer's hands? They assisted them so much that it's um, it's hard to describe how they assisted the Germans.

The Poles?

Yeah. It wasn't, it wasn't--actually, it was a mixture of Poles, Ukrainians, White Russians. It's, it's--I can, I can see it and talk--you know who I talk to and we understand each other, is someday that went through the same thing. You remember little episodes that are so cruel uh, so horrible, that--the guy that was in charge of our group who were working at the scaffolds of the bridge, he had an eye on a, on a, on a Jewish girl and he sort of like uh, befriended her. He always kept her--she was a beautiful girl. He always kept her near him. She was--if he was in the--he had a little car, she was sitting next to him. Do you know that he was the first one to shoot her that night when we had to report? He shot her. She was his first victim, this little and so pretty Jewish girl. Or, another guy that was a guy from Czechoslovakia, a Jewish guy who was the interpreter, he knew German very well. He befriended the--the--the man that was in charge. That night when we were supposed to uh, report to the, to the center of the city, he ran to him for shelter. He shot him, the first one. How do you explain this kind of behavior?

This is a German?


Do you remember his name?

No, I don't know his name. I'll tell you what, when we had the, the break, there was also a group of Germans that assisted, that were called Todt Organization, T-O-D. They were the older, senior citizens that they mobilized to do the road work and all this kind of things. So we sat down--I'll never forget it--and we sat down to rest like was our break. And he was sitting and he was talking in German. He says, "Furchtbar, furchtbar, horrible, horrible. Why are people so mean to one another?" He, he, he understood the situation.

This is a German civilian?

German. He was a, a civilian, yes. There was a--in the, in the--a civilian in the army, that helped them, helped them do the war. I, I don't remember, I don't remember seeing--well, I didn't--I wasn't--I didn't encounter Germans, so this was my practically uh, uh single encounter with a German, that he was talking and he was criticizing his own Germans. This a not--it's, it's--I don't know how to express the feelings. How do you express feelings of being with your family one night and the next night you're, you're not? Or, or, or listening to your mother crying and saying, "See, now that I can live it and, and have a little bit of an easier life so we have to be killed?" Why? Who do we ask this questions? God had forsaken us, I'm sorry to say. But that's the way I feel. That's--we are the chosen people, for what? To suffer. Out of the six million that were killed, we would have been a nation of probably eighteen million. I sit and I look at the pictures of my, my sisters, my--I don't even have a--I have a picture of my mother, I don't have a picture of my father. I, I look at my uncle and I picture him. I don't--and the picture that I got, I found it in America. I had an uncle that lived here, who mailed--the family mailed the pictures to him. I was looking through an album yesterday and I thought to myself that--what happened to all the pictures that we left at home? It all went to the garbage. Not one single thing was saved. [pause] And when you tell a story, this sort of story, how do you, how do you tell people when they ask you, how would you answer, Why didn't you escape? You know, you become speechless. You have nothing to say. I mean, how could I explain it to them? [pause]

Your um, questions about being forsaken by God, things like that, had you talked ever-- when you were living in the ghetto, when your family was still there?


Did you ever talk about that?

We were discussing it. Nevertheless, my father prayed--still prayed three times a day. How can--how do you do this association?

Why do you suppose he did that?

Well, because that--you know, he was brought up with that.


It was embedded in him.

So were you.

I was--I--but I was still--I was only sixteen and I saw the injustices that was being done. Where is God? Why?

And you came up with no answer?

I didn't come up with an answer.

And have you since?

No. I still don't have an answer. Although some of survivors that I know turned real religious. I don't know. I don't know how to explain it either. Well, what they will say is, Well, don't you think it was a miracle that you survived? Yes. It's a miracle. I didn't work for it to survive, it just so happened that I survived. And do you know what? I think I told you the first time when we talked, I live a life of guilt. I feel terribly guilty. Why did I have to run and, and, and leave my mother and my two sisters? I mean, why, why me? Why I was I saved? Okay. So I brought--fine, I'm, I'm happy. I brought children into this world and there's another generation. Okay, I'm happy about it. But I do--I still feel guilty. And, and I--my, my literature is uh, the things that I read is, is mostly it's about, it's about this life, it's about the survivors, it's about, it's about this, this kind of literature. And then in and I have an answer for it. This is--you know why I'm doing it? This is my monument. This is the monument that I put up for my family.


Uh, reading and speaking and living it and speaking for sure. I urge every survivor should tell this story. The world has to know. Although, there are a lot of people that say it's a hoax, that it never happened. I mean and we are the witnesses. We are the ones that could give the, the testimony, that there was something like this.

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