Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Helena Manaster - December 9, 1983

Living Under Occupation

So you felt the presence of both armies?

Oh yes, but uh, from both the evils uh, the Germans were, of course, the worse one. Uh, we had to leave our place--it was the state ???--it was Orelec and we went uh, we parted, we went in different directions, but uh, it happens that me and some of my brothers and sisters and my father went to big city. It was Lwów...


...and it was under the Russian occupation...


...so we were living with the Russians uh, not admitting our past because uh, it was dangerous especial for my father but somebody denounced him anyway and he had to leave Lwów also and go into hiding place.


Which it turned out later maybe that would have saved him from the Germans because they would have sent him to Si...Siberia...


...but we didn't know then what will happen later. We lived there under the Russian occupation 'til June 22 um, '4...'41 and the war broke out between the Germans and the Russians.

The Russians.

Once they had an agreement but regardless of it, there was a war between them and the Russians--the Germans rather, as always was in their history, Drang nach Osten..


and week after the war broke out, they were in Lwów and after the whole tragedy started. All the persecutions.

Do you remember their entry into Lwów?

Oh yes, very vividly. We were hiding in a bunker or in a cellar--in a basement--for a week, because all those shellings and bombarding and bombing. And all of a sudden, after a week, everything stopped and it was silent. And one person went out and came in... into the basement and said, "No, we can't go out now; the Germans are here." So it was a, a horrible expression made on everybody, because we heard already about the atrocities and we knew what to expect, that was that. But uh, there was no way to escape. We couldn't--the, the Russians left us behind, otherwise we would have gone with them. So we s...stayed and worked for a few months. Uh, it was very hard in the beginning with the Germans. You couldn't walk the sidewalk, it was very--food was rationed, especially for Jews, almost to nothing. To survive you had to buy some things from the black market but we still lived in the same apartment and after a few months they started to make a ghetto in Lwów.


Once you moved in ghetto, it's an entirely different story since that to joined the Lwów--the Jews in Lwów to go to ghetto--even newcomers who didn't know anybody, didn't have any friends there. We decided to go back to those places, to the familiar places where I was born, where my father has his estate. It was German everything already so it didn't matter where you go you had the same discrimination. Uh, the meantime, during the Russian occupation, I married in Lwów. My husband was then--he was already uh, doctor--mathematics, but he studied medicine; he was a student of medical school. And as such, he got uh, all kinds of tasks and permission to live in a place uh, to fight the typhus, which was the Germans were very afraid of that. And I was just uh, his assistant there. I wasn't educated nurse, only I knew what he taught me...

What he taught you.

But it was excuse to stay with him and to survive, you know, so his mother lived with us. We lived um, the assignment was to go to the village where my father lived once. So you knew the people and thought that they would be nice as they used to be before the war, but, of course, it's changed too. But we lived there during the winter of '41 to '42.

What was your experience with the people that you knew before the war?

The people in the village?


Oh, they needed us because they needed the, the doctor and it was always--was almost free for anybody wish to give us a few potatoes or some flour or something in food, that was the fee. So they behaved, uh, not bad I would say. They didn't harm us. We lived in the village through the winter taking care of the, the villagers and from around, all around other villages because there was not a doctor for miles and miles. And in June of '42 they surrounded, uh, some of the surrounding villages and took all the Jews and they assembled them in one place, like in the city hall in one of the villages. They just locked us up and we were waiting several hours. Nobody knew what happened to us. And in the afternoon--this was before noon--in the afternoon the Gestapo came and they try--started to register--take away everything, what anybody had, any valuables.

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