Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Lily Fenster - November 8 & 10, 1994


Do you remember the first time the bombs came?

Yes. I remember that like yesterday. We were staying--you know, it was in the morning and we didn't live far from the Goyisheh Cemetery, from the gentile cemetery. In the morning it was some noise and it was zoooch! Just in no way the bombs start flying and just a lot--and they wanted to put in where we use to live before the ghetto, it was a factory, for bricks or something. They wanted to put the bombs through that factory but they missed it and they went to the cemetery and all the dead people from the coffins flew open. We went to see it, it was a mess. It looked like Frankenstein's movie or maybe I don't know, there was not Frankenstein's many years ago but I went to see it when it quiet down. And I just--you didn't know what to see, just all things out. It wasn't a Jewish cemetery, it was Gentile and they dress them in the dresses and flowers and everything was around them and a lot of mud, I remember because it was fall. A lot of mud, it was mess. Took them for the longest time to clean up. They continued bombing the nights were worst. The nights would just light up like day and the screaming from the animals. Dear God, I still hear it every night, especially the horses. They squeak so, that was and pigs. That hear it from I don't know how far you hear it because that was--we had a place not far from the main Warsaw, you know just like outskirts, you know. And there were farms around and I also remember they bombed a, a streetcar and people were just smashed away and you didn't know what to do with all the running and hiding. And that went on for three weeks. We couldn't get out from the bunkers, there wasn't food...

You were...


...you were in a bunker?

In a bunker, yeah, hidden, die gantzeh mispocheh the whole family was in, you know. And no water, smell, dirty little kids screaming, it was just a disaster.

Were other people in the bunker?

Oh yeah, a lot of people. Everybody was running away from the city because the main attraction was for him to come to, smash up the cities. And he smashed up really good. After that we went out as the smell still burning, people, horses, things and, and wherever you went there was little fires going so when you looked at that you were scared, you just didn't know what to do. Like it's no existence anymore. It's like the end of the world. But I remember when I was a little girl they use to predict its--in '39 is going to be no world, the world is going disappear. There's not gonna be people anymore because somebody sees something in the sky like um, a stick and a cross. They say that's what they every night they went out looking for that. And see that the stick was jumping on that cross 'til the cross disappeared. Then they say die gantzeh velt--the whole world is gonna disappear in 1939. And I was very scared about it, being a child you know. And I asked my grandma and she says, "Oh s'iza bobeh meiseh, it's not true, it's just a fairy tale. The world will be here long, long, long time." That was--what else could I tell you before the war.

Did bombs destroy your house?

We didn't have a house. The place, yeah--destroyed completely, whatever we had. You know, what did a Jew have? A little ??? nisht eintz gezogt. We never owned nothing and we like the gentile use to say, the houses are yours, but the streets are ours. "Nasza ulica, vasza Kamienica." So if I want to tell you to go, you cannot take the streets and the houses belong on it, such bastards. I'm sorry.

It's honest.

We, we, you know that's the way they use to say, you know. I went through a lot of anti-Semitism, if you know what I mean. They didn't know so much about me cause for my fairness but the Poles recognize a Jew. If not the Poles, half of the Jews would live. When they went into hiding in 19 uh you know, the forties, so that once I was little, I was still in the ghetto. They say for one Jew you get a pound of sugar. Sugar was very scarce in Poland you know, right away sugars and those things. And you should have seen the way they went like wild. They dragged out every Jew he was hidden, every child, every anybody and taken to the Gestapo. You know that was, that was a scene that just sticks my house when I run away already from the ghetto, in a small town Łuków Podlaski. It's about hundred kilometers north, it's more like to Russia. But I don't know exactly did the direction there, which Poland. Here we have--like you know, you live north or south. I wasn't educated enough to know like left and right and you know, we knew south, west, north and east you know, but I didn't know where each place was actually you know, just--you didn't care, you were a little girl, you lived in your community, we didn't travel like people travel now. We just, they just--I had a friend, she lived in a house from great-great-grandma from gener...you know how it was when we--generation to generation. We didn't have a house. We lived in a wooden place and on the outside I remember, a nice Jewish man came home, I was probably seven years old at that time and he worked in a gasoline station and he came, in Europe you didn't have much stuff. He had the Primus you know that little machine that you put gas on it and you cook on it, Farshtayst? You know what I mean? He came home, I just see his face, a young man, he lived under us and he opened the Primus machine and he put things and it got into flame and he burned our house where we lived. We had to all run for our lives. I lived on the top and everything was wooden and he went outside and he was rolling, the heat was rolling, because he was burning so much. He burned to death. That I remember too in the little shtetl, you know. Instead the police or the firemen should come, I don't even remember seeing firemen, I just see flames, but flames! And he rolling all over the street and his wife, I don't know if she didn't know to cover him or what, he died. That was before the war--shortly. The Jewish people, the majority that I knew weren't rich. But we didn't know what actually rich means. I didn't--I just--there was a lot of love. And once you marry, you marry life. Respect your elders. Go to the synagogue, to the shtiebl to, to pray. And somebody didn't have so much, the neighbors used to share stuff. When it came Friday, you know.

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