Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Krystal - September 19, 1996

News of Labor Camps and Round-Ups

Now you, you'd heard about the labor camps?

We, we had heard some things and some, actually people went there and some came back and other rumors were going around about uh, being sent "East." That was kind of a mysterious word. If you were sent "East," you don't come back.

What did you think or what did people talk about in terms of this entire experience? Did anyone try to figure out what, what it meant, where it was headed?

Yes, we were talking about it all the time, we were trying to find out what was going on in other cities, what was happening in ghetto Łódź, what was happening in ghetto Warsaw. Uh, what uh, we were, we were constantly talking and worrying about it. And uh, in, in 1942, we became aware that the ghettos were being liquidated and that they were being sent away, "East."

And you were still...so you spent that period in, in the village.

In, in the shtetl and I was uh, I had a hiding place that I made and many times when they were catching people I was hiding there. On some occasions I managed to run away so I was doing some work under these local premises, forced labor, but I was, did, did not get sent to a camp.

Um, when they did these roundups, what, what were those like?

Well, they were just uh, they would bring more German troops and use the Polish police and eventually also the Jewish police, go from house to house and take all the men and, and, and send them away.

Put them on trucks?

Put them on trucks, beat them, you know beat along the way living daylights out of some. If they found somebody hiding they might just shoot them. They just, they were shooting people and killing people all along, sometimes just for recreation.

And did you see any of that?


People being shot. Do you remember the first or the first few times you saw that?

Well, I remember one time, we were upstairs then and I was looking out and I saw these uh, gendarmes going around and shooting people. I got so scared I was shaking. And uh, other times I would just, becoming so horrified that uh, I, I think that hiding in the, I had a dark place where I was hiding, was just as well, as much for my safety as for my being isolated, you know, so that I wouldn't be part of what is going on.

Had you heard of Treblinka?

Not at that time.

Or Auschwitz?

No, not at that time, not in that place.

We're still in 1942. Um, what, what was the next thing that strikes you as being the most significant aspect of your experience now?

Well, then it became clear that they were liquidating the ghettos and then that they were coming closer and closer to us. And uh, uh, it, it, we, we started to, to, to try to imagine what was happening to those people. And the idea that they were killing them was, was talked about a lot. And uh, then uh, when the cities close by were part of that uh, evacuation, liquidation program, then uh, we were sure it was coming this way, you know. It was just a matter of when they were coming. Now we were close to a number of labor camps like Skarżysko was one close by. There were a number of labor camps around in that vicinity because that was the central Polish industrial area which the Germans converted m...many uh, to ammunition factories. And so uh, they started coming uh, with trucks. They just did it on two different days, taking people to, to somewhere, to, to Starachowice. And uh, the first day I didn't go, I didn't want to go uh, because I didn't want to leave my mother. But I had a very good friend there, whose name was Chaim and uh, uh, he encouraged me to go. And my mother, the first day when I didn't go, she became completely frantic. She became practically berserk that I should go to the camp. So the second day I did go and Chaim went with me and uh, some cousins were on the same truck. And uh, as, as we were leaving I was looking down and my mother was standing there [pause] just dissolving in tears, knowing that this is a goodbye, you know, forever. Uh, and so they took us to the city of Starachowice, Wierzbnik was another name there and they, and they took us to work. We, to and they gave us work cards. But then they took us back to the Jewish area for a few days, just three or four days and then on Yom Kippur 1942, they surrounded that city, the Jewish, the whole city as far as I know. And they liquidate...

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