Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Helena Manaster - December 9, 1983

Encountering the Gestapo

Was this your first encounter with the Gestapo?

This was the second one, I think I missed one, the real--the Gestapo was the first one, but I lived through and being in Lwów uh, that time it was a day for a, a holiday--let's say, a commemorative day, good day for a Ukrainian hero.


Petlura. Of course, they commemorated killing Jews.


So they--whoever they found in the street, they took away and we had to wait all were killed. They broke into also our apartment. I was sick then and they just--sick with dysentery or something, with, with high fever. That's when they broke in and they wanted to take my husband and I said, "I'm sick and this is contagious and you can get sick and just to leave us alone." Oh, they thought it was just ??? but they took some of the ??? as a gift and left us. This was the real first experience before that with the Germans. And the second, uh, meeting with the Gestapo was then in '42. They came to us--they sent people to the right of the and to the left. Uh, when they came to us, everybody was one side, let's say the left. They came to us, they send my husband to the right because they saw who, who he was, and me, but his mother they said, "You can go to the left and you go to the right." Set us free, they set us free because they didn't want to let her.

Yeah, go...

Um, my husband didn't want to leave his mother, but I, I con... to convince him. I say "You go to the Judenrat uh, maybe somebody can help us." We didn't think that they would execute her. So we came to that closest town, it was Lesko; it was night already. Of course, Judenrat didn't do anything. They couldn't do anything.

Did you try to contact the Judenrat?

It was night already but we tried to contact them at home--some people. Jews still lived there in their places. Um, but if nobody did anything at night. It was around 120, 150 people there. Men, women, old people, children, everything. We went back to that place after the war to exhume the bodies.


Yes, we bring them to a Jewish cemetery in Kraków. But there was nothing to exhume, small pieces, some bones because we heard then from people in the villages that the Germans, before they left for good and they buried--when they were defeated by the Russians--with the Russian. They came back to such places where they executed--where there was mass executions...


...and they poured into the ground some chemicals, to dissolve the remains.


You heard of that, no?

Well, they did that in the camps as well.

Yeah. So there was nothing. But whatever was left, we brought into the Jewish cemetery in Kraków and still it's there, ???. They are going back to us, so, they let us go. We didn't know what to do now. We wanted to go back uh, to this place where we lived. We were in our way, on our way there and all of a sudden we saw a car. It was the Gestapo. They went back for us. They decided it's better not to leave witnesses but they didn't know how to find us. So we didn't go there. And so we were in that Lesko. We couldn't stay there either. We didn't know where to go, what to do, without any means, without--with nothing.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn