Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Lily Fenster - November 8 & 10, 1994

German Occupation in 1939

This is the second part of an interview with Lillian Fenster at her home in Bloomfield Hills on the morning of November 10th, 1994. The interviewer is still Sidney Bolkosky.

Going back to 1939. When the Germans came, I was in a hospital called Czysty. That means like clean in Polish, but it was for Jews and I remember when I was laying there and I couldn't walk and I had pus coming out from my--because they didn't have medications. You know, 1939, even if they had, they wouldn't give to Jews. When the German came, I remember they changed me from one bed to the other, so they right away went into the hospital and checked for Jews and took them to different areas and they didn't even t...took care of us the way they took care of the other people. And I was laying and laying there, that's why they didn't, didn't take care of me as they supposed to, because, look, after so many years, I still have the piece of steel in my body and if I didn't come to America--if I would be in Germany, I probably would be dead, but I would get gangrene and that would probably kill me. So when I came back then--when I left to that hospital, I never knew that, that house of ours were burned, because it was right before, maybe three days more they still kept on bombing, so I also remembered when I was in the hospital they took the sick one to a bunker, but before they know I was Jewish. Then they separated certain people to let them stay in one wing. I think the windows were broken and it was, I don't remember what it was, was that the time plastic or something or paper. They covered it and it was a terrible dark room and I was in excruciating pain. I used to scream and scream and scream. And my parents lived far away, so had-- they had to take the street cars. But I don't remember to the street cars were going yet, because everything was bombed. They had to clean up an everything, you know? Those--recently I did recollect the time recall--whatever--the time the hospital business. When I came back, we lived in another little place, but it wasn't bad that place. Also, one room and my all siblings were there, my mother, my dad and my grandma. My grandma died when she found out, when I came, I say, "Where's the Bobe? Where is grandma?" They say, "I'm sorry. She died." And I remember, that was the blackest day of my life. Not my mother didn't tell me, but I think it was my cousin. You understand that you don't remember a lot of thing. You blank it out, because it's a every day things. Like when I worked on the farm a little later on and they didn't need me. They say, "Go, ve solich gain." "Where shall I go?" So I couldn't go no place, it was dark, so I sneak myself in the barn. Maybe I told you and then wait a day 'til daylight and then away to another farm. In the meantime, I was so hungry, so I took out the potatoes where the cooks for the pigs. It was a luxury, mind you, that was really not any potato. That was--I still remember the taste in them, you know what I mean. I used to peel the top, because it looked dirty, the shells and then I went to another farm and said the same things, walked from place to place. "Could you use somebody just for food?" They say, "Yeah, I could use you for a couple of days, let's get that." Summers and fall was nothing. Winters were the worst. 'Til I found that guy that cut my hand, he holded me already, because he felt sort of guilty you know, and I did by him the work, by then it was 1943, by, by then, I think. And you hear bits and pieces. Well, the farmers were talking. "I think the German are losing. Russia is beating them up." We just prayed to God, should it be true, not it would be better, by the Russian, I didn't know the Russian, but people said, at least they don't kill the Jews like that. They have hunger and political things you know, but they don't kill any masses or burn them like the Nazis did. So we prayed and prayed, by him I was 'til the hand healed up. Then I went to the city to look for the Kennkarte. And met up with two beautiful people. They were beautiful, but they didn't know I was Jewish. Mrs. Schwartz, a tall brunette. She looked like a witch. She had long nose ???, but she had a heart as gold. She was sick and she needed somebody to be with her, so she started talking to me. I said, "I will do anything. Just take me in and I will take care of you," and when she got better, she uh, she know people, because she was sort of a society lady in that place. So she send me to somebody else and one, they helped me with the Kennkarte, I felt a little bit secure. I holded it, that I would never forget and I looked, the picture looked ugly. Didn't look like me and I just said, "Dear God, maybe now." And that was a legit Kennkarte, because they signed it for me. I just didn't have a birth certificate. Why would I have a birth a certificate Halina ??? but the name I got from a lady. She went to Third Reich to work you know, because who knew ??? Who knew the state and all the things. I was from Warsaw. I was from the outskirts of Warsaw. Where did I knew from the Third Reich. We didn't travel. Who could travel? I mean you know, when you went someplace, you went with a bus and that was a luxury. But very, very seldom. I remember, I think with the train, I went to my uncle that rich uncle that I had, but she was a dress designer, I told you about that. They didn't have kids, so he--I was named after, after his mother, my grandma, that was my daddy's brother--also Skurka and he spoiled me. That was--when I had to go there, I was looking forward to it, it, because it was luxury and enough food. She brought me something new... Sometimes she made me a little skirt and you know how desperate it was, a piece of clothing. It was such a, because you wore it constantly. Even now, I have the habit, I give it away, but I have things for fifteen--twenty years and it looks like new.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn