Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Manya Auster Feldman - August 11, 1998

Recalling Escape from Ghetto

You said earlier um, that your family before you ran from the ghetto um, w...were discussing your own death and how awful it was. And then a, a, a long time ago when we first talked, you said this about your parents: You said your parents apathetic and helpless, they couldn't stand up to death and that they were even telling jokes about their own death. What was it like in the house the night of August 26th, the night before the ghetto was liquidated?

Very little conversation, just numb, just looking at each other, because we were completely helpless. And my parents felt that terrible guilt, they couldn't uh, save their, their own children. So they just said, you go to bed. Go to bed," without any hope what--whatsoever. Tomorrow you have to report to the, to the center of the city, which meant we knew--they knew already what it meant. They--that they were going to march to their death.

And when you came home from work that night, what did your mother do?

Well, my mother was already--when, when I was at work--I think I am repeating myself uh, they told us then that we don't have to report tomorrow to work. They--you know, this work around the bridge was going on, on three shifts, so the, the, the second shift didn't come in already. So we knew that this it. And as we were walking, it was about a nine kilometer walk going back to the city, I was looking all over and I was saying to my friend, you know, this is a nice little um, um, forest, you know, a, a few woods. This would be a good place to hide. You know, you knew that, that we're going to face death and maybe we'll be able to escape. But where--when we came to the city, my mother was standing at the gate. And she said uh, "What did they tell you at work?" I said, "They told us not to report tomorrow." She says, "Well, this is it. Tomorrow we have to report to the center of the city. And uh, they're going to transport us to another city, to Sarny."

She knew.

She knew. We knew that this is where we're going to go.

And did they say anything about being killed?

She--yes. She knew that they were, they were going to die, they're going to be--what kind of death, they didn't know. But uh, she cried. And she said that she worked all her life, she had small children. Now that the children are growing up and they're a tremendous help and she sees some satisfaction in her job uh, well-done of the children, so she has to die. And I had, I had nothing--we came back and we were sitting next to each other on the porch, nothing. No reaction whatsoever, just numb. No crying, no screaming, nothing. It's, it's, it's incredible. It can't--it cannot be explained. How would you feel, tomorrow--that tomorrow somebody will tell you that you have to report to the city and that's, that's the end of you, they're going to dispose of you? What kind of reaction can you have? Some...somebody's getting um, uh, cancer and he knows he's going to die, but at least nowadays there are certain things that can be helped, so he's living with hope. There was no hope. They absolutely took away our hope. There was absolutely no hope. And that's what his objective--you know, to make us apathetic and not and not to want to live.

But you escaped.

Well, that night we went to bed without any plan whatsoever. And about midnight, uh, a neighbor of ours knocked on the window. And he said, "You know, the ghetto is already surrounded and there are already casualties." He said to my father, "Maybe you know a different way back--way--a different way out, not in the direction where the forests are." So we started uh, we, we, we didn't get undressed when we went to bed, we were all dressed. But he said, he said to my sister he, he mentioned to put on--to take the winter coat. I, I didn't have any inkling that I'm going, no whatsoever. But I, I--my old--my sister was older than I, so I looked up to her. She said she's going. And I said, "And you're leaving mother?" She says, "I'm going," with no explanation. So I went too. It's like running out of the house.

All right. Did uh, well, earlier you told--then you picked up the story and you told--explained how you escaped. Uh, once earlier you, you mentioned um, that there were Seventh Day-Adventists...

Oh, no. This, this comes later. This comes when we're running to the forest, a little bit later. That happened in, in November. I'm talking now about August.

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