Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Ruth Kent - May 4, 1982

First Years of the War

Let me, let me um, ask you now about when the war began you were in the country?

Yeah, we were just coming--trying to come back.


September first, yes.

Do you remember how you heard about it?

As we were trying to leave, we didn't have transportation.

And that's the first time...

That's how we found, was the first thought about it that war, I didn't know what war meant. The only thing we had problems uh, difficulties of coming home to the city. That was our first encounter of the thought war what it did to us it was more difficult. But with--I'm sure my mother was quite uh, anxious for us. But we did manage and I don't recall by what means of transportations we did come back to the city. And uh, shortly after that a day or so maybe uh, the Germans, uh, they did not attack Łódź, Łódź was never really bombed to my knowledge. I don't even think there was one bomb uh, dropped on Łódź. Germany just came--the Nazis just came in and the large armies uh, occupied our city and...

Did you remember them marching in?

Yes, they were marching in I remember the um, cars or uh, sort of um, army uh, trucks were coming they were, it was the first sort of time I did see so many uh, busses and, and sort of cars. On our street I don't think I ever saw a car. The street was geared for more than uh, than horses but uh, I don't remember ever seeing a car being in a car or a gas station. Perhaps on the main street, on Piotrakowska we had streetcars uh, as means of transportation and actually horses and but I don't remember cars maybe they were busses.

How did your family and you feel when you saw the, the German military?

Well, it was very frightening but prior to this a lot of German refugees came to our city. So this was our first inkling of something going wrong in the world. A lot of German...

German, German Jews?

German Jews were sent to Łódź. Uh, and they were refugees. They were people who were deprived of their homes um, and they spoke German naturally and um, this is, was first inkling that things were going wrong in this world but again as a child I was not too much exposed to this but I remember that people were coming from different uh, cities um, but it was mainly Germany.

What were the first kinds of changes you remember as the result of the war?

Well immediately, the changes took place immediately. The Germans uh, imposed uh, immediately they imposed the different laws. And the first thing was that the Jews had a curfew that they could only be seen 8 to 5 I believe. Uh, we had to wear a Jewish star in the front and one in the back and then we had to wear an arm--a Jew... a red--a yellow arm band. Uh, soon after, I don't--you--would, I did go to school because I, I remember. I don't know if I returned to school or started a new semester because I remember learning a little bit of German Gothic scripture I remember that. Uh, but I was uh, deprived of an education at a very early age. I, I think I only had maybe two grades in Europe. Um, they...

How did you feel about wearing the star? Does, does it bother you?

Uh, I wore it during um, the day at night uh, I was a little devil. I would uh, put different clothes on as I said, we, my family never really looked what you'd called a typical Jewish family. We're not--our hair was not very dark we didn't have dark features we always really blended into with more the Polish or German people. And I would go outside it was wintertime I hated to sit home I would go out and we would build a little slide. Couldn't go ice skating because my mother was always afraid I'm gonna break a leg. So we had uh, secretly we had installed a couple little, like little um, uh, instruments that would uh, go into your heel because our ice skates were not equipped with shoes our ice skates were attached to the shoe. Sort of hard to, so we had little um, irons put in the heel and just so you could show other children that perhaps you were an owner of ice skates but I never owned ice skates because my mother was afraid of that. So uh, we would go and make our own slides besides it was wintertime and uh, I would like, I liked to play with children and, and my friends didn't always live around our neighborhood so sometimes had to meet um, so I would not always obey the cur... the uh, uh, curfew.

Were you frightened?

We were always frightened. Um, because with the Germans when they passed by a soldier I mean if you said hello to him he would question who are you to say hello to me? And if you didn't say hello you disrespect him. So you sort of never knew what's the right thing to do. So you sort of looked in his face and if he had sort of a kinder face you would sort of bow otherwise you would pretend you'd try and avoid them. Basically, we would avoid the German soldiers. My parents still owned the bakery. Uh, it got--it was very difficult uh, our uh, we did get ration cards. And uh, so we were--still owned the bakery, we still had a little more bread than other people had, we lived in a home. And that didn't take very long um, that was in 1939 in 19, the beginning of 1940 the Germans decided to concentrate all the Jews in one area so uh, we were deprived of our home where they give us like twenty-four hours, oh, I don't remember exactly the time, and uh, they imposed these laws. We had to vacate our property, our home uh, we didn't, couldn't take any furniture, we had a nice home and uh, whatever we could carry and we were uh, asked to go to this old uh, to this slum area, to the worst--oldest part of our city.

Was this Balut?

There was Balut. And they called it the ghetto and that's how the--but prior, when I remember when the Germans first um, occupied our city. Uh, they had uh, gotten um, all the lawyers they took away immediately we never heard from them, the doctors, all our intelligentsia went. They took the doctors, the lawyers, our rabbis, our teachers, that's why I didn't have a uh, very good education uh, we had no schools. And so they took all these intelligent people away this was before even they asked us to evacuate into the ghetto. So we were sort of left, like a dark, dark masses, I don't think we could organize.

Did the, the people who worked in your house for your family, were they still working for you?

Władek still worked because he didn't know any other life. The housekeeper, no she was already from the city. Our janitor took her, I remember and she was the worst, she proved to be the worst anti-Semite. She once told on my brother Jack and I don't remember the incident I only remember the end results if the German--luckily for us, the Poles could not communicate with the Germans, the Jewish people could. In, in some sort of shape or form, the Jewish language resembles a lot of German. So in a broken Yiddish we could cover a lot of things up that the Polish people could not, they were sort of very limited in their language. And this Polish uh, housemate of ours or housekeeper had told on my brother Jack and I don't remember the incident, whether we didn't have enough bread, or we uh, I, I don't know but had--the, the Germans came and looked for my brother Jack and if my mother could not explain in her German whatever that there's no one here by that name that we don't even have anyone like this resembling this boy who did so and so and I don't remember what the incident was uh, had this Polish woman been able, capable of explaining in German my brother Jack would have been taken away and once they took you away forget it, we never heard from these people again.

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