Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

Life Under Germans

L...l...let me just s...stop you for second. Hadn't people already disappeared starting already in 1940 in May, weren't they sending people away?

They started to send some people away s...s...sometime in 1940. It was not a massive departure. Not from Krakow. It was not a massive--there were people missing, sometimes they took a--there was a truck passing by, or Germans caught a hundred Jews, whether they were bearded or whatever. And, and the truck went someplace, we didn't know where they went. Supposedly to work some other place. But these were, even though they were horrible acts eh, they were not, they were not and eh, on the scale that started to happen when we went into the ghetto.

I see. And before you went into the ghetto, were you working? Were you, were you slave laborers?

Before we went to the ghetto, everybody had to work. The point was that there was a, a terrible hunger now. My father was eh, still in Russia. He came in sometime eh, in late 1940. Late 1940, he came back. Eh, we, we had a--wa...was extremely, we were extremely poor and eh, food was very hard to find. Money, whatever money we had originally eh, we left, my father left it in a bank in Poland and there was 100,000 złoty, which was a lot of money at that time, but there was no way to get a hold of it. Uh, the, the money was confiscated. All Jewish money was confiscated.

D...do you remember where you worked?

I, I, I didn't work on a regular basis. Eh, I was very young at that time, yes, yeah. However, what I did go out, I did go out eh, I, I was fortunate if I could do it. People were eh, forced to uh, move snow, to, to shovel snow, okay. And they had an assignment of different days different people shovel snow. And for five złoty eh, they usually pay five złoty--if somebody could take their place and shovel snow, okay. So that, so many times I was eh, fortunate to get the posito...get, to get in on it. It wasn't easy because I was very young. And some of these Germans wouldn't allow to switch. It was a problem. Some of, it was not only Germans, some of these Kapos, these Polish people, would not allow to switch because they understood more than the Germans that someone is paying for a switch. So I was very--so any time I, I could get in and make fives złoty it was a, a terri...a, a beautiful help to the family because eh, food was spare. It was not easy to get, and money we didn't have. And for, for money of course you always get some, you get food here at that time. Eh, even though we had extremely hard time, there was no starvation as yet, there was no starvation as yet.


Because people were able to bring, to go out to the fields to the, to the farmers and, and uh, and, and bring some things with them or.

So this was before--you went weren't into the ghetto yet?

That was before the ghetto.

Okay, okay, Um, you were thinking--do you remember the name Madritsch?


Or Optima?

Optima. That started a little later. Once we got into the ghetto there were walls all the way around. Some places there walls, they build walls, and some places there was eh, wire. But mostly walls all the way around. And the streetcar coming through our terr... through the ghetto territory. Eh, no one was allowed to go in or out of the streetcar and the owners had uh, some soldiers riding the streetcars so Jews wouldn't get on it, would run away. There was still a way to get out. My brother was very entrepreneurial. My brother was younger than I. My father was back already. And, and my father was with us in ghetto. Let me tell you what we did. At home we all worked making brushes. My mother, my brother, my father, we all made brushes for a, for a cooperative that paid us a little bit for the brushes. So we had eh, ourselves and maybe ten, twelve other people in our, in, in a small space that we had--that extremely small space that we had making brushes all day long. Eh, that's how we, we helped ourselves eh, to, to, able to make eh, money to, to earn a living. Now people were going out--I remember one time, I remember one time where such a terrible shape. My father--my brother was complaining that he's hungry and I was hungry. And my mother took us to the, to the kitchen, to the soup kitchen it was a free kitchen. And uh, I, I...

This was in the ghetto?

It was in the ghetto.

So it was a Jewish soup kitchen?

It was a Jewish soup kitchen. And I remember that there were a number of people as we came in. And they gave us each some soup. Eh, I remembered it so well. My brother didn't want to eat it. My mother began to cry because the taste was so terrible. Eh, I ate it, my mother ate it. He would not eat it. My mother began to cry, and, you know, he cried, we all cried, you know, uh. Things were tough. All I can tell you about my brother I, I would like to mention that he was extremely entrepreneurial. To the point that every now and then he got pretty near hit at home for, for doing certain things. He arranged to go outside of the ghetto with combination of one of these old, older man, older man was a Jewish policeman who was stating--stan...standing at the gate. And my brother went out of the ghetto and he purchased--he loaned money from this particular man and he purchased sardines. It's a, a five-gallon bucket of sardines. He used to bring in five, he, the five gallons was pretty bigger than he was, okay. But you know at, at that time we all were street kids, some more than others. By street kids I mean there, there was eh, uh, every...everyone was--had a sixth sense, afraid, always running away from the Germans, afraid to be caught. Eh, in any case, he used to bring those sardines into the ghetto, in cooperation with one of the Jewish O.D. Mann, which is the Jewish policeman, and they split the profits.

This was a black market.

It was a black market. There was no other market. Uh, and uh, for that you could get killed, you know, for crossing the... But a number of people did this. Or crossing the eh, the, the wall. Uh, all, all I can tell you that he did. Every now and then he got pretty near spanking at home, because my mother and my father didn't want him to go out. On the other hand, what he brought home was highly valued because we could have bought food, we could have purchased food for that again. So, I'm just show--just talking about it to express that times were extremely harsh, you know, uh.

How many people lived in the same apartment--room?

In that room. We were very fortunate. We had one room. It was one room which com... com...was one of those small places where we made half of it a kitchen and half of it a bedroom. Eh, the total place was probably uh, uh, fifteen by uh, by twelve probably, okay. We were very fortunate. Uh, the reason we were fortunate because we still have an, had an uncle who, who was uh, a little bit of a Macher, was a little bit--was, was part of the police.

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