Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001


You moved to Krakow?

We moved to Krakow.

What, what made him...

Because we were living on the border, on the German border. Chorzow is right next to a German border and Chorzow was many times a German city. As I stated before it was called Konigshutte eh, originally. And it was German city. And a lot of people in, in Chorzow were uh, half-Germans, so to speak, eh.


Volksdeutsch, that's the exact name, right. They were Volksdeutsch. Actually once Germany uh, came in into Poland, occupied Chorzow, and all of them are--became Volksdeutsch, all of them. Actually today even, anyone who was born in Chorzow eh, the Germans will give uh, if you go over a certain age, you still have some benefits. They're still considered, even today, that the people over there were Germans, because eh, as I said, you still can get some German benefits, even though Chorzows as, as Polish as can be. So eh, so we're kind of run away from there. The problem was that by the time we got to Krakow eh, eh, there was--war just started. There was some kind of bombing eh, of the, which there was not too many bombs fell on Krakow but on, on the particular eh, tra...train station, the, the point, the outcome was that we were temporary, we sent out eh, with us eh, we never seen any of our clothing or any of the things that we sent out, so. Which was eighty percent of probably our belongings. Uh, uh, so it was not a good start. Of course when we came to Krakow, we, we came to my grandfather's house, a home on Wolnice street and that's where we uh, stayed for awhile. Ev...everyone, and a lot of other members of our family came to grandfather's to, came to grandfa...to live with grandfather in Krakow. It was extremely crowded, extremely crowded. We were eh, eh, laid out on the floors eh, all over uh, next to each other, uh.

Did he live in Kazimierz?

On Kazimierz, the word is Kazimierz. Yes.

That was the Jewish area.

That was the Jewish area. Kazimierz was a Jewish area, and yes, my grandfather was in Krakow. They were a little more religious by virtue that he was eh, going to the, to the synagogues, Shabbat, Sh...on Saturdays regularly. Was more religious and eh, visibly religious. And the people in the synagogue were, prayed eh, more religiously, in more religious way than we have done this before in, in Chorzow.

Can you, can you show me where he lived on here?

Okay, let me uh, put my glasses on. That's Kazimierz here. Let me just take a quick look. If this is, uh. I'll tell you the streets. The streets are not marked here. They're not marked. So all I can tell you that he lives where the word Kazimierz is. Eh, I, I will tell you, this is the river, this is the river uh, coming through Krakow.

The Vistula.

Vistula. And right from that bridge, I would say the second block over here. I, I can spot it right over here. Probably the exact location, but it is not as eh, no, no streets mentioned over here. But it was Wolniceplatz, which was a square.

So it wasn't far from the synagogue? Nothing...

Nothing was too far from the synagogue at that time.

Okay. Alright, so you moved into his home.

We moved into his home a little bit later. We eh, eh, my eh, my father's sister Cyla Wiener. Now, there's another story. See at the beginning of the war, most men were afraid that when the Germans will come in they would kill all the men. We were not afraid that they would kill woman and children. So what happened, most of the men in Krakow and in many other places ran, walked--ran toward the eastern border to run away to Russia. And my father with all his brothers and uh, with thousands of other people were going towards Russia. And my father did escape to Russia with, with just about most of his brothers. So when we lived in Krakow, when the Germans first came in, we were alone. My mother, my brother, myself and my aunt Cyla who lived in Podgorze which is across the river Vistula. We moved into her house and that's where we lived. When the Germans first came to Krakow, we th...people thought that they will kill everyone at once, but it didn't, it didn't happen like that. Uh, if it would happen like that, there, there would be uh, uh, if the Germans would start killing people immediately, then many of us, many of the Jewish people would survive much, much--would survive the war because we would be aware of what's happening. When the Germans first came in, now let me tell you why people don't--when the Germans first came in I, I, I would like to explain you why so. People always say, "why didn't you fight?" Well, I mean, no eh, let me explain you how it was. When the Germans first came in, at first they created a curfew. Eight o'clock, no one is supposed to go out. Okay. Some people dared to go out. Some people got hurt, some got maybe beat up, some maybe got shot. So, after all uh, listen, it's war, it's war. Uh, we might as well follow the, the rule, so we all, people didn't go out after eight o'clock. The next thing, a few month later, not many month later, all the Jewish people were told that they must wear an armband. Well, that was, we were the same citizens as all other Polish people, so lots of people objected, "why should we wear an armband?" I mean--so some people didn't wear armbands and they were spotted, they were spotted by the Polish people right away and they called, "Jude, no armband!" So, few people got once again, some got killed, some got beat up. So we rationalized. After all, it is war. It's not going to last forever, it's not going to last forever. So, if they want us to wear armbands we wear armband. Nobody wanted to get shot right then and there. Then came a new rule. 1941 in March, all the Jews of Krakow were told that they must go to the ghetto that's created. So wherever you live, you must go into this particular part of town.

This is in Podgorze?

That's correct. The ghetto was in Podgorze, a suburb of, of Krakow. And there was, I believe the date was the 20th of March. And I remember the day extremely well and people with uh, eh, some people with wagons, some pulling uh, eh, little small wagons and some by hand carrying their, their, their baggages. Everyone was moving into, into Podgorze over there to, to ghetto, you see. Now, a lot of people said, "this is the craziest thing ever." My grandfather lived here for a hundred years. My--two hundred years, fifty years in similar location I'm not moving, you know. Some people defied the move. But, you know, when you defy the move, once again uh, you can only defy the move up the 20th of, of March. After that some people got killed. They, they found a lot of people and they took them to the Montelupich, which was a jail in, in, in Krakow, eh. Very shortly people realized that there's no place to hide, because if they hide, tho...those, actually it, it was very hard to, to, to, to hide. Because the Polish people, even though they were not affected by the Jewish people hiding, they, they will eh, they will go to the Germans and instruct them that there's a Jude, Jude eh, someplace eh, hidden and they would bring him out. So a lot of people got, once again, hurt eh, eh, a few got shot. So most people one way or the other ended up in ghetto. Once again, there was no reason to fight the Germans. They had the machinery. And we, we, after, after all we worked for the Germans. We worked for the Germans before we went to ghetto. We worked for them in ghetto in, in, in different, so we--so people figure, why should they kill us. I mean, after all, the war will not be around forever. Then we were sent to concentration camp one day. It was March 13th, 1943. It was horrible day. I'm skipping it, a lot. That was a horrible day because once again, the young ones and the old ones and the sick ones and I can go more into detail were not allowed to go out. And they were eh, eh, they were eh, tearing babies out of eh, out of eh, the mothers' eh, hands eh, when they were going, people were going to Płaszów to the concentration camp, and they were all going in, in fives eh, in the regular regiment and they were putting the babies and the children out of the mothers' eh, hands. Sometimes throwing them against the, against the uh, against the wall. Sometime killing the woman together with the child. And after all the people in the hospital eh, were supposedly shot we hear things. The doctors who protected their, the, some of these uh, sick people, they were shot. So it was eh, eh, a day of eh, that's very, very hard to, to, to forget. Not, not hard to forget, I was very young at that time. And my father was trying to figure out how to take my brother and my...and myself to uh, to P...Płaszów concentration camp. Uh, it was uh, it, it was, uh. We waited 'til the evening, we waited 'til this evening, 'til it was a little bit darker. Uh, my father was rushing outside trying to see if there's anything, what can be done. Uh, outside means outside our home. We were uh, still hiding at home because the Germans--anyone who was outside that didn't go uh, properly to Płaszów, didn't go to a... was too young or too old was, was torn out of the uh, out of the procession call it. Uh, so finally, we were very fortunate at night. Uh, my father uh, gave me a heavy things to, to carry, and uh, eh, put us eh, put us in a position as we were walking through...we, we made it. We made it through, through the, through the gate. Once we made it through the gate eh, we were fortunate. We were alive to go into the Płaszów concentration camp. What I'm trying to say, once in Płaszów concentration camp, there was totally no place to way...to, to hide. No place to escape. There was, there was barbed wire. Eh, there were the towers all the way around with machine guns pointing at us, and,, uh...

Why did your father take you into Płaszów?

Pardon me?

Why did he take you into Płaszów?

Because if I wouldn't be taken in Płaszów, I would not survive the day.

You would have been shot.

That's correct.

I see.

Uh, I, I can get more into detail of that. But I just want to finish.

That's fine.

That once people went to--the question is why, why didn't we fight. See, we didn't know--we didn't think that the Germans--we heard that they are killing people and, and eh, once we were Płaszów later on we heard that they are killing people in Treblinka. But nobody believed it. Nobody believed it was inconceivable. Why should they call people, why should they kill people, able people, it was inconceivable. The mind would not accept it. So even though we heard those stories, nobody believed it.

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