Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Stefa (Sarah) Sprecher Kupfer - July 24, 1987

Hiding in Basement

She took you to the basement?

Yes, she took us to the basement. Well it was a three part basement. Uh, the entrance there was an entrance from the hall where there was a main entrance from the hall...steps going down where the neighbor and she shared the steps, except to the left, there was one chamber that belonged to the tenant and it had a separate door. And then there was Mrs. Orlewska's basement with a separate door and the next room next to it. And we were in the center room. And that, he erected a little platform there for us so we could sleep, out of boards, and this is where we were, there was also an entrance from the garden. Again the same thing, at night he would come and empty our pail and bring us the pot with the soup and the bread, but only after dark.

Did you ever go outside?

No, we never did. We never went outside, not from the basement. Except once I had to because my neck was getting very large, it was after a while sitting in the basement. I don't know how many months it was, maybe through the winter, I don't remember. One day Momma looked at me and she called Mrs. Orlewska down and she said, "Take a look at Stefa, she has no neck." My neck was totally swollen. So Mrs. Orlewska said, "My God if you ever live through this war, you'll have a sick child." And she said we have to do something about it. So she went out and she bought some black salve that I could put on my neck, and then on a sunny day, when it was quiet in the streets, nobody was around, she would come and get me out and in her shadow I would walk to a safe distant place there were fields not far from the house and sit in the sun. After a while, my neck got better. It went away.

And your mother and your sister didn't see the sunlight?

They never saw the sun. When we finally came out of hiding, it was very difficult to walk, that's besides the point, we would be talking in whispers, I just remembered this recently, we couldn't speak, we only spoke in whispers. We thought that we were talking loud, but we only spoke in whispers, but when our voices came back, we were shouting and many times now I have to control my voice not to shout I still have this tendency...to...because we shouted and still the voice didn't come out. There was no voice from all of this whispering all this time.

So you think your vocal chords atrophied?

I don't know. Something happened. It all came back.

Under what circumstances did you leave the basement?

Well, we left the basement because my sister developed whooping cough. She used to always cough into the pillow, but sometimes the cough escaped or she didn't catch the pillow right away. Don't forget at that point she was about three or four years old maximum. So somebody heard and they said something to Mrs. Orlewska, I heard coughing in the basement, who is in that basement? She said, there is nobody there. And she came and said, you know, you have to leave. Somebody heard you. So not far from Mrs. Orlewska there was a house, there was a field, one house and there was a house after, there lived a single woman in that house, so Mrs. Orlewska suggested that mom should go there and tell her that we are from out of town and the child has whooping cough and she needs a change of climate, would she rent us the place? And the woman did. You know at that time, I don't know if it's still true today, but they believed that change of climate helps whooping cough.

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