Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

The Krakow Ghetto

'Til March 1943, when it was liquidated, what was life, just daily life like? You were starving, you were working presumably in the ghetto. But what was it like? Do you remember? I mean, you were ten years old, eleven years old.

I was, by that time I was uh, eleven, twelve years old, pretty near, yes.

From, from a twelve year old's perspective, what was it like?

Okay. In ghetto, every day or every week, there were new rules and regulations. Even though, even though we just came into ghetto, the Jewish people immediately formed different organizations, organization for, for the--the burial organization, organization to help with food. Eh, there was even organization uh, art and theater, art eh, to begin with. However, as life progressed, there were new rules constantly. The Jewish people were caught at will, many times a truck came by and caught number of Jewish people and they were taken out, especially the young ones and the old ones. And they were uh, taken somewhere, we did not know where. Many times, with the knowledge of Spira, and the Ordnungsdienst, once again the Jewish police, they created a list of people to be deported. Everybody was always afraid of that particular day, because on the day of deporta...of, of, when the, when they were picking up the people to be deported eh, no one was allowed to move on the streets. So went from home to home, they picked up these particular people. Mostly, once again, older people, sick people, children. And there were the...these deportations eh, it was, it was a horror because we ourselves, speaking for myself, I, I, I will present you one day of that, eh. [pause] We usually went downstairs to the cellar. By we, meaning my brother and myself. We were taught, we were taken by my father or my mother down to the cellar deep down under the, under the building. Eh, we went behind the coal and yes, there were rats, or, or, or, or, or uh, or uh, mice and whatever else there, there was. We stood over there, we sat behind this coal uh, just about all day. Every now and then my mother came in and said, okay, you can stay there or you can come out for five minutes eh, because we were on the list more than once. And we were advised by my uncle who was part of the police that we were on the list and he couldn't take us off the list, that we should hide. So we were fortunate. But no matter how fortunate we were, it, it was uh, uh, extremely, extremely terrible days. Were eh, we were afraid every minute of the day because you see those--you hear the, the steps of the German, people coming into the building eh, and sometime two, three of them. Sometime hear shots on the street. Eh, being young or being old eh, was extremely scary. After a day like that we came up from the cellar and uh, resumed the life again. But once the deportation was taken care of eh, you, you could breathe freely again for eh, for a few days or weeks. So everyday was a problem to be alive. At night it was eh, we all went, used to go outside at night looking for friends or family or, and there were millions of whistles, everyone had its own whistle, because that's how we found who we were looking for because there were no eh, lights on the streets or wherever we met. And streets were extremely crowded. I mean, there, there was, there was all this uh, 25,000 or more people, 50,000, whatever it was. I don't know the exact amount, were all squeezed into this small little part of town. So, things were awfully crowded, uh.

The estimate is 60,000.

The estimate is 60,000. Thank you.

In this, in this area, which was the ghetto. Do you remember where you lived in the ghetto?

I, I remember exactly where I lived, but I, I have to think about the street for one moment.

Here's Josefinska Street. This is the main street.

Just a minute. I live right here on Wita Stwosza. I live right next to the uh, to the wall. Our house was right over here. Actually we'd been in Poland lately a number of times, of--quite a number, and that house is still standing but no one lives in it because it's, it's kind of totally broken down. Now, I tell you, right next to us was the wall and on the other side of the wall was a factory. All I can tell you that there were times that my brother and I went outside the wall. Now, before, I want to back up. My father brought from somewhere uh, some curtains. They were yellow curtains. From these curtains, my uh, my mother made us short pants, short pants and we were--so we had let me remember we had bla...we had yellow pants, I believe, from, from that particular material, and black shirts. And when we went outside, when we were fortunate to go over the wall and go into Krakow, for whatever reason we had some money and we were supposed to bring something back. And my mother allowed it. When we walked the streets with my brother, everyone stepped aside, because people thought we are Hitlerjugend, which is the Hitler Youth, okay. And we walked, everybody all the Polish people moved away, moved out. And when we went to a store, I remember particular there was one store that...number of people. When my brother and I walked in, everybody stepped aside, let us go in and buy whatever we want. We ourselves were plenty scared as it was eh, believe me eh, because we, we didn't realize--we didn't, we, we didn't expect that kind of eh, eh, eh, effect. In any case, we came back to ghetto. Once we were close to the wall there was always a problem because there was some soldiers were nearby. So it was a problem of uh, of running faster than they are and going over the wall. And once we were over the wall, they didn't know whether we lived the first house or houses away from there, so we, we could, so we made it number of times like that.

So this is not in the center of the gh...the center of the ghetto is Plac Zgody, is it?

Plac, Plac Zgody was the, was, was the, was, Plac Zgody means, it's a square, it's a square, it's a square spot where it was an assembly point. I see you have it right over here.

That's where people were deported from?

That's where they picked up the people from all over and pulled them to Plac Zgody, as.. assembled the people from there and from there deporting, deported them further.

Put them on a train.

Right, right. I, I want to tell you this eh, so, so, so life in ghetto was going from bad to worse. Sicknesses eh, shortage of food, people on the streets, eh. My, my cousin, Rose Fer...Rose...Rosenberg now, she was Rose Ferber at that time eh, one of the books that was written eh, expresses how she in ghetto was shot, eh. At one point they were looking for some older people, she happened to be there and by accident she was shot in the leg also. And she was put over into one of the homes over there, one of the door, door eh, some of the doors, and eh, so she recovered. But it was scary to walk the streets because you never knew if some, if some trap won't come up, pull up, and, especially when you're a child, and, and gr...and take you or shoot at you. Especially near the hospitals, they were, it was a danger--it was dangerous to be in the hospital. Anyone in the do... hospital uh, eh, the Germans every now and then cleaned up the hospital, did not necessarily shot everybody to begin with. They just took the people out of the hospital and supposedly eh, supposedly eh, send them uh, to better places, to other places to get healed, to, to, to get well. I'd like to talk to you about the day, once again, when we were going to Płaszów. I mentioned that before, I'd like to go over it.

The liquidation of the ghetto.

The liquidation of the ghetto.

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