Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Stefa (Sarah) Sprecher Kupfer - July 24, 1987

Outbreak of War

Do you remember where you were when the war started, when you first heard the war had begun?

Yes, it was a Saturday afternoon, and everybody was having shala shuis and we were sitting in our homes and we heard marching and tanks and trucks and everybody went into the street. And here are the Germans. They drove in.

What did you think?

I don't know what I thought, we saw these powerful men with their powerful machines, helmets...hardware, but they were throwing candy to the people on the street. And there was this whisper going around, look at them how victorious they are, how strong they are, we were defeated, "we" meaning the Polacks, at that time we were all one. We were not any different. And it started soon after.

What started?

What started? Hard labor, wearing arm bands...persecution.

How did your family feel the effects of the change in the day-to-day life...what changed?

Well, first of all, right before the Germans came in, my father left. And, he left because...he left because he was afraid for his life. There was a rumor going around that women and children the Germans are very civilized about, but the men they do take the hard labor or whatever they were doing. A lot of men who could afford to left Sanok. They rented a bus and they left to go East, to the other side of Poland, the side that the Russians were going to occupy. So, right away a few days after the Germans came in my mother had to go to the store. She was never the business lady, she was never in the store, my father carried it. And I sort of become, at the age of ten, the mother to a one-year-old until we could get somebody, Momma could get somebody to stay with us because our Polish maid had left us. Besides it was against the law to have a Polish maid at that time. So, Momma got the Jewish lady to stay with us. So, this is how it changed from day to day and we would go a lot to my grandparent's house, they were still in their home. There were a lot of young people coming to my grandmother's house at that time trying to escape to the other side, but they had to wait for the right time for the borders to be...either they bribed the border guard or however they did it, I don't know. But they stayed at my grandparents' house and waited for the time to be right to leave. The children didn't go to school, of course, Jewish children don't need any education. So, we were left more or less to ourselves, you know.

When your father left, did he talk to you about it?

Yes. He didn't talk to me about it. I asked him. He was packing his suitcase and I asked him, when is he coming back and he said, "never." So I said "What do you mean?" And I guess he caught himself and said "well, probably in two or three weeks when this is all over." Well, he never did come back. They killed him on the way. He wanted to come back, after it quieted down, and after the Germans came in and right away they weren't killing anybody and they weren't doing terrible things right away, so he tried to come back and on the way back I guess, the Ukrainer got a hold of him, and not only him other people too, and they tortured them to death.

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