Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Helena Manaster - December 9, 1983

Zamosc Ghetto

And you were aware the G...the Gestapo was looking for...

Yeah, we know the Gestapo is looking for us. My cous...husband had a cousin in another town in Zamosc which was a bigger town and he was a famous doctor, a surgeon.

What was his name?

Therkin, Matchek Therkin. So we decided to go there, but it was--you couldn't travel, it wasn't permitted for the Jews to travel. We got there a note from a doctor--a Ukrainian doctor in Lesko. Uh, kind of a certificate stating that I am sick and I have to be hospitalized. So, they let us go. And we went uh, by car or truck or somebody took us. It was three hours to drive. It took us to get to Zamosc. We came to Zamosc, it was almost the end of June--the middle of June. We stayed with the cousin, the cousin took us in and we stayed there for about one week. And they started making a ghetto Zamosc. So we moved together with them to the ghetto. But it's hard to describe the events, after forty years, what it means moving from ghetto, when you see those streets. People, people left behind, we lost everything. Just with the necessities, with their lives. We moved to that small area, which was so tremendously overcrowded. So, naturally, as soon as they make the ghetto--it was so many thousands and thousands of people--so they made right away an Aktion...

I see...

...and it was the first Aktion of Zamosc, which took 30,000 people. They--what do you call it, in German, Umschlagplatz?


And they--but uh, they tried to deceive and they believed them that it was re-settlement. It was not uh, camp, a concentration camp. It is just re-settlement, to some places to the Ukraine, where we will work. We didn't go because my cousin got the permission from my husband, so he needed--he was also a student--medical student, that he needed him. So this time, we remained there legally. I can still see that horrible thing what happened. It happened 7,000 to all because they, they--they around 30,000 people.

You remember them being rounded up?

They--rounded up, yes. Seeing them on the Umschlagplatz. But nobody could help anybody. And some people went there willingly. And so, it was so bad in that ghetto. Maybe there will be better. But later we knew, they went str...straight to the gas chambers.

Did anybody have a sense of what was going to happen?

I don't know. I don't think so. We didn't expect that it will be just, such a Holocaust that they would kill all of us, absolutely everybody. And there was always a hope oh, that maybe the war will be over and the war will end. People were listening here to the news from abroad, even having a radio was punishable by death but some people still risked. So we lived in that ghetto, which was shrinking each time after several Aktions, for a few months. And that time was uh, at least four or five actions. Each time for another category of people, sometimes children, sometimes uh, from the hospitals, sometimes elderly, mostly was mothers with children. At the very end, it was left only young men were left. They make a workshop. Uh, the able men could still work there. They had such a place, a workshop, outside of Zamosc, It was a small town, ???. They took out the several hundreds of men. They were suppose to work to--I think they had a pipeline--building. And they needed a doctor, so my husband volunteered to go there, and I, of course, went with him. So, we left that ghetto and we went to camp, which wasn't better. It was a, it was a hard life in camp, but even before that--before we left the ghetto, my cousin got in contact with somebody who make uh, false papers. People tried to escape, went in hiding places or pose for Polish uh, people if uh, their appearance and uh, language wasn't suspicious. Because this is very important how you behave. It's not only the features. That uh, there are some characteristics for the Jews--I don't know what, but I was told that nobody ever suspected me that I was a Jew. Um, I think I spoke Polish without an accent. Of course, this was almost my native language and uh, I'm, by nature, very quiet and calm person. So I didn't behave like they, they say the Jews are so aggressive and ???

According to the stereotype?

Yes, and the gesticulation.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn