Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Helena Manaster - December 9, 1983

Fate of Family



When the liberation comes uh, do you meet...

When the liberation comes...

Do you hear about your father again?

Uh, no, my father and all my cousins and uh, whoever--relatives, uncles and aunt, they were all taken first to a camp, in a camp called ??? and then they all took them to Z... Belzec. And there were--one of my brothers escaped from the train. He uh, when they took them from here, they took some tools with them and they said they were trying to escape. But uh, problem when he escaped and they shoot after him, his whole clothes was full of holes and he finally fell on the snow. They are--I mean, we take it just the date of their extermination the 14th or 15th of January. It was in '43.

But your brother, they took for dead at that point and he escaped?

Oh, yes, he escaped, he ra...he uh, um, escaped from the train. They took off some, you know, those cattle trains. I don't know there were bars also. But I think they took off with some boards and he escaped. They promised each other they will all try to escape because my sister, my brother-in-law they are all young people. Even my father was only sixty-years-old. But we don't know whether they tried or they were just gassed in Belzec. But that brother escaped and then he went into hiding. There was a man in a small town in Lesko, who also got now a medal from the Yad Vashem. Then my sister and two of my brothers they were hiding there and he had six children--five or six children--and they didn't know. They were, oh you read that book, they survived just underground. He risked the life of the whole family. Uh, he was stealing the food from the children to feed them--vouches for his life, for his children's life because you don't hear of that many people like this. And he's still alive, lives in Poland.

What's his name?

It's Jósef Zwonarz. Now, he's now eighty-five-years-old. He used to say, my brother said, "I'm a Jew like you. If they catch me, they will kill me the same as you." But, after liberation, I think it's the nature of the Polish--majority of the Polish people, we discovered it's always been anti-Semitic. I read recently a book written by uh, Singer--it's a brother of that Bashevis Singer. He described--The Brother Ashkenazi. You read that?


He described there when Poland was free after the World War I, because there was no Poland, it was divided for 150 years, it was enslaved. They occupied with the three...

Powers in Europe?

Yes uh, German, Russian, Austrian. As soon it was a free Poland, the first thing they started was killing Jews. I didn't know those stories. He read me--described some stories how they locked up the Jews in a synagogue and set them on fire. Horrible things. One of my cousins--my uncle, was killed in 1990 uh, there in Poland. It was just the middle of the night. My father was thrown out of a train--robbed and thrown out, in the snow. He was a strong man, so he survived. So it means that every time you got a free Poland, the first thing you start was to be beaten that they have a saying, "Bi? ?yde." After the Six Day War when the Jews were--won the war in Israel, they had a another saying. They said--once they used to say, "Bi? ?yd," it means, "Beat the Jew." And then they said "Bi? jak ?yd," "Beat like a Jew." [laughs] You see, so they...

Interesting change.

Yes, Jack Eis...Eisner brought it out. He says, "It is a different Jew now." He came out after the Holocaust. He said, "It's a different Jew now." Yes, it's a different Jew now.

When did you see your brother again?

Uh, after, now after so many years?

No, after the war.

After the war? Yes, he came after I met my cousin. And he sent a message and my brother came the next day, so I saw him.

So after all that?


Do you remember that day?

I remember it very well. [laughs] I was just crying. Just wouldn't believe it, he survived, yes. It's amazing after so many years, it still brings back tears. Yeah...

He meant a lot to you?

Yeah, of course. I remember seeing my uh, sister after--the first time after twenty-six-years. After the war we, we, we were in contact, we knew that we survived. We hadn't seen each other and we met in Czechoslovakia in '66. And that was a very, very moving meeting too. I remember the place, where she stayed in Marienberg and all the people around crying.

Can you describe that day, when you saw her?

Yes, I came to Czechoslovakia, it was Marienberg and she stayed in a pension, it was Kulkas, I think the name. The receptionist didn't want to let me--I wanted to go up to their room, because I knew it will be moving, how else could it be? Oh, but, there was reservation, she wouldn't let me go but she called that, down. I was looking in the stairs and see a little lady was coming down the stairs. I just couldn't believe it that, that was my sister. When we parted--we were young, I mean, she was young, just not her, it was gray lady walking down the stairs. [pause] Yeah...

And then she saw you, did she notice you?

Oh, she recognized me right away because um, I was always a little gray. I turned gray very early in my life and I didn't change too much. But uh, she changed tremendously. And she's the one who survived and wrote the book.

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