Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Jack Gun - August 27, 1993

War Begins

Do, do you remember when the war started?

I remem... well, you know in 1939...

When the Russians came in.

The Russians came and then they took over, I guess thats when Hitler and Stalin had the pact made. And he took over in one part of Poland and, and uh, the Russians came into our town and uh, I recall faintly of my father, you know, he was talking about--you see what happened was in Russia you know you couldnt be--own any private business.

So they took the business?

Yes, so some of his employees came into the house, knocked on the door and said Mr. Gun, uh were here to get the keys to your--this store or to that store and, and uh, but what was happening in the, in those years, as the Russians came and they talked to the working people and asked them about the bourgeois. They asked them about how, how did these people that you worked for treated you. And our misfortune was that my father was very well liked. And whoever they asked about, what do--how--what kind of man was Sam Gun, they said, there couldnt have been a better man to work for, he was really, really nice to his help and didnt uh, abuse us, and uh, treated us well. And that was our misfortune, because quite a few people from our town were shipped to Siberia, and most of 'em survived. And being that my father was such a nice man, uh, they, they didnt ship him, gave him a job in a hospital because he had some kind of uh, he had some kind of experience with uh, drugs--with uh, with pharmacy. I dont believe he was a finished pharmacist, but he had some kind of experience in it and he got a job in the hospital, and he was treated well. And he accepted it with a s... with a grin and after awhile he got used to it, and figured thats the way of life and thats it, I mean, they didnt mistreat us. Except for taking away uh, the business and all that, they were--could very well live with it.

But you, you lived in a house?

Yes, we had a nice large house, a single story.

And they kept the house?

Uh, yes we stayed in our own home they didnt bother us to get out of the house. I believe that one--we had like a petitioned-off and on one side, I believe, they moved in some kind of Russian officers or whatever. But our quarters we stayed in. And they did not bother us whatsoever.

Do you remember Russian soldiers?

Yes, I do remember Russian soldiers.

What were they like?


To you, I mean, to a...

Very nice.

Five-year old.

Very nice, very nice, uh, no mistreatment whatsoever with the Russian soldiers.

So the issue of being a Jew was not...

It was no issue. It was only an issue of if you were, uh...


Capitalist. If you abused your employees or if you were mean to the people or took advantage of people. But otherwise there was no problem.

S... so what, what was--what do you remember about life in those two years, until 1941?

Uh, well 1939 I was 5. I was just an ordinary boy just playing around, not to be, I might have not seen any bananas anymore or uh, oranges, but I wasnt hungry. And uh, I have no bad feelings or ill feelings about it.

Your, your family was a warm, close family?

Yes, very close-knit family. And uh, I remember aunts comin over and uh, uncles comin over to the house. And uh, celebrating holidays, we used to go to each others house for holidays.

What was Passover like?

I imagine like in most European Jewish towns of the time. I really dont recall uh, Id be lyin if I would give you any kind of details. But I do remember where uh, we always uh, had our, our grandma from my fathers side the one from my mothers side couldnt travel because of her son that was an invalid. And um, Im sure they did everything according to the law because you know my grandmother was quite religious and my father had respect for her, so he did everything according to--he knew what to do but he, I mean, like I said before, he wasnt a real practicing Jew at the time.

What, what kinds of changes do you remember? Coming either when the Russians were there, in June '41 that lead up to that, this the invasion...

Well, from the Russians I really dont remember any--dont have any kind of bad memories. But I do, but I do remember as--when the Germans approached, uh, it was, uh, first of all, I can remember like a scare, everybody being scared, you know, being a little boy and uh, I dont know, I think they came in June of '41 I--was just before I turned 7--turned 7 in July. And it was like a, a fear, everybody was afraid and being a little boy, you know, uh, I didnt realize why, why it should be that way. Uh, Im sure I asked questions.

No, nobody had told you what...

What to expect.

Any stories about, any stories about the Germans or--any German-Jews come or Polish-Jews come from the west to your town looking for help? Do you know?

No, I, I do recall where Russian-Jews came to our town while Russia was still there. And uh, my father talkin to him askin him hows life in Russia. But I dont remember about any...

No refugees from the Germans?


You, you still didnt go to school?


Even, even under the Russians...


You were too young.

Too young, because I turned 7 when the Germans arrived.

So whe... when the war began what introduced it? Was there bombardment? Was there a...

You mean when, when the Russians came in?

No, when the Germans came in.

Oh, when the Germans came in. There was bombardment. And uh, the sight of the, of the, of the German soldiers I can, I can recall that. With the uniforms...

How, how did you--they marched into the city?

They marched into the city.

How did you feel about that? What did they look like to you?

They looked like uh, like somebody that was lookin to kill. Thats the kind of appearance they had. And naturally uh, no smiles or no uh, uh, with a mean look on their faces. And always screaming, hollering.

Did you watch them as they marched in? I mean were you on the street when they...

Uh, I dont know if I was on the street, but I remember lookin out through the window. Im afrai... Im sure that uh, my parents didnt let me go out on the street.

Your parents were frightened?

Everybody was frightened, naturally. And uh, we kept out of sight as much as possible. And I guess a few months after they got in and they took all the Jews and told them to take whatever they can carry with them, and put them in one side of the poorer side of town. And put in the four or five families in one little house, which wasnt too big to begin with.

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