Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Nathan Nothman - November 30, 1982

Germans Invade Kraków

Can you tell me something about your experiences during the war? Where were you when the war started when the Germans first invaded?

In 1939, in September, I--I'm not going to remember what day was that--I went to the bridge, what separate Kraków and Kraków-Płaszów --that's like I would say Southfield and uh, Oak Park. But there's a river--Vistula--a river right through the city. And then I saw soldiers watching the bridge, quiet, no movement, no streetcar, no streetcar was going that time. Everything was stopped. The plane overhead roaring. Kraków was not bombed. Kraków was not bombed, so we didn't, we didn't exactly know what is this. So I went to my father, my father said, "They are German. Somebody said they're French, English." The people were--they didn't even know what's going on because the Pole didn't, didn't explain like we have here. Anything, what, what, what is in 10-thousand miles away, we, we know exactly what's going on. The paper, and the TV, and the media will tell us right away. But that time we're talking, oh forty-something years ago. So, so when they came in, the soldier they were good. They were Wehrmacht. They were good. I mean, they were--they didn't bother Jews. But after the occupation the soldier left and the Gestapo and SS came in. Ah, what I want to say--1939 they, they, they put right away law that Jews cannot go on uh, cannot ride the street car. They must put an armband. I, I ignore it. I went on the streetcar. Jews cannot go to the shore. I went to the shore. Jews cannot go there, there, there, but I went because I got a lot of Christian, you know, friends even then. And many times a day, they caught me. I don't know how they caught me through--came a German car and they caught maybe about uh, ten, fifteen person to work. And they took us--like German--like something, in Kraków to unload some clothing for the German SS commando. So we worked maybe four, four or five hours there, and they let us go. So I took a streetcar, you know, home. People who couldn't take a streetcar, took them to walk five hours. But I managed to take a streetcar. Not inside--outside, and outside, you know, took, it was long time--long way. And I came home. So I promised myself, that's it. Because I--that's the first time and right away when that truck came in to grab the Jews, they couldn't grab me again. Because in, in Europe the difference that when you walk, when you walk into one building, you can wind up in ten build...you can wind up on ten, ten miles away because the buildings are junked together and you can just jump the fence and you can go from one, from one building to another building.

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