Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Manya Auster Feldman - August 11, 1998

Escape from Ghetto

Why don't you tell me about that.

I'll tell you how we escaped from the ghetto. When, when the day came and they said that we have to report to the cent...tomorrow, we have to report to the center of the city. And when--where I was at work at that bridge, they said to us that you don't have to come to work tomorrow. And that work was being conducted in three shifts. So the shift--we finished at four o'clock in the afternoon. And the shift after us didn't come in anymore. So we knew it's the end. Now, how do explai...how can you live through something like this, knowing that tomorrow you're going to be killed?

You had no doubt this was going to happen?

Well, I'll tell you, there's always--you know, if you, if you face something bad, you're in denial, you try to deny it. What--when, when, when the Germans came in, after they uh, they dismissed the twenty-two hostages that I talked about, they took out the whole population of the, the ghetto wasn't established yet, they took them out to the center of the town and they counted the whole population. You know why they did it? They also did it to show that they know co...that they have a count, that you cannot escape, that you cannot run away, because if you will do that, they will--they will do harm to the rest. So it's like everybody was, was uh, um...


Right. Everybody was registered. But I was responsible, that I was looking for, the responsibility laid on, they laid the responsibility--I'm responsible for you. If I'll see to it that you shouldn't escape so nothing will happen to us. That was their philosophy. So the next day when they told us, it's also, it's denying. They told us that we have to--we don't, we don't come to work, we have to report to the center of the city. So we thought--I don't know, maybe our city will su...be saved. But of course, at one point, that's--it's--talking about not just scratching the surface, at one point they laid um, a--it was--they called it contributzia contribution, that the city of Dombrovitsa should supply the Germans with twenty-seven pounds of gold--the ghetto. Now, how do you get twenty-seven pounds of gold? If you're not going to get it, you're going to be killed. So every Jew was--started quarreling with another, You give up whatever you have and you give up whatever you--and they could--my mother gave up her wedding band. What gold did she have? Some people took out their teeth, their gold teeth. So what gold, how much gold could they collect? You know, they, they--do you know what a chairem is? If somebody--it's a, it's in the Jewish law, if you do something bad, you'll be thrown into--it's ex-communication, you know, you'll be ex-communicated. They, they told our--the, the, the population of the ghetto that if we will not--if you will not come up with the amount of gold that the Germans want, we're going to throw a chairem on the whole city. In other words, if we will not fulfill it, we will perish. That's our superstition.

Who said that?

The rabbis.

The rabbis.

The rabbis, the leaders, the leaders of the ghetto.

The Judenrat?

And they--Yeah--not the Judenrat. That was from the rabbis.

The rabbinical.

And they took us--I went to the--and they took us into the synagogue. They wouldn't let me in. I was too young to um, witness this. It's a, it's a very horrible ceremony. They light black candles. And it's, it's, it's a whole um, um, ritual that they do. So they didn't raise twenty-seven kilograms of gold. They raised some gold and the rest of it they substituted with uh, with money. So when they told us--I'm connecting these two episodes together, when they told us to report to the, to the center of the city, we thought it's maybe for counting, because actually, our city will probably be saved. We delivered what the Germans wanted. Isn't it horrible? It's, it's beyond, beyond comprehension. It's unbelievable. So that's why the night--uh, yes--so we came home and we didn't live in our house. I was, I was telling my father, Maybe in uh, uh, maybe he should have built a shelter, maybe, maybe somewhere, somewhere to, to hide. But it wasn't our house, so we went to sleep. My father told us not to get undressed, to put on a couple of dresses and just lay in the clothes. And at about midnight, there was a knock on our window. A neighbor came over. And he said to my father, "You know the ghetto is surrounded? And Jews are trying"--our city was uh, situated on one side was close to the forest and the other side, as I told you before, was the river. So he said that everybody who wanted to escape was running into the forest and there were already casualties, they are shooting. So he said to father, because my m...father had the knowledge of the villages that surround, "Maybe you have another plan. Maybe we could run someplace else." So my and so my father said, first let my father and my and my brother go, the males should go. Maybe, maybe they'll, they, they'll want to harm the males. So I decided I'm not going. I'm going to--how can I leave my mother with the two little girls? And--but we knew that it's, it's, it's a bad road ahead. But I, I was standing and watching and I see my sister is getting ready to go. I said, "You mean to tell me you're going?" She says, "Yes, I'm going." "You mean to tell me you're going to leave mother?" She didn't answer. So I thought, if she's going--she was like a--I looked up to her. She was my older sister--I'm going too. And we left my mother and the two little girls. And we were going in the different direction to the, to the other side of the city where--not far from us where was the, the, the um, the gate and by the gate lived a man who was--he was the real liaison between the Germans and the Judenrat, because he was--he came from deep Poland and he knew the German language very well. So my father knocked on his window. His name was Obolski, Obolski. My father knocked on his window and he said to him, "Mr. Obolski, are you aware of it that uh, the ghetto is surrounded?" He said, "Oh, go back home. Don't worry. I'll, I'll, I'll negotiate tomorrow. I'll--tomorrow, I'll do something. I'll negotiate." So my father said, "Okay." We didn't--we went back to the gate. We came to the gate, there were no guards. Why? Because that was in the direction of the river, they knew that nobody will, will dare to go in this direction. How can you cross the river? And the and the river had a bridge and the bridge was guarded by Germans. So we were going. There were seven of us. Four of us, my sister, my brother and my, my sister, my brother, my father and I, four and the neighbor with two boys. So there was seven of us. So we were walking where the street paralleled to the river, all the way going out of town. And we got out of the, the town and we came down to the, down to the river and we and we spotted a little canoe. And we took the canoe and in two shifts, we, we crossed the river. And we ran into a village where my--the, the head of the village was a um, a um, customer of my father's and a good man. A good man, he was really. So my father--we came and my father told him that the ghetto is surrounded and what's going on. So he said, "Why don't you, why don't I put you up somewhere, not at my house"--because he was the head of the village and Germans were coming there all the time.

He was a non-Jew?

A non-Jew, yes. This was a village of uh, strictly uh, gentiles. So he said, "Let me send my son to the city"--it was about ten kilometers or twelve kilometers--"and let's take a look what's going on. And if there is nothing, so you'll go back and if there is something, okay." So he put us up in bushes not far from, from another river. And we were sitting. Towards the afternoon, we heard--that was--that village was--was between Dombrovitsa and Sarny. In Sarny they had prepared already graves. And they brought in the Jews from five cities, from five neighboring cities and that's where they killed them. So the trains were running. They took all the--they took the um, inhabitants of the ghetto and marched them to the railroad and put them on trains. And the trains were running toward Sarny. So we heard trains going and a lot of shooting was going on because some people were jumping from the trains and they were shooting at them. So we knew that this is the end.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn