Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Nathan, Bernard, and Samuel Offen - September 3, 1987


BO: And uh, we built uh, boots for the German army. It was an interesting thing that uh, uh, I discovered a few years ago, I remembered that uh, how we were sabotaging boots. Would you show me your, your, your shoe? Take off your shoe for a minute. Id like to show you something that we did. I didnt recall that, but, you know, in the, in the boot where uh, uh, you know, you have this part of the boot going up. What we did is, is that we cut a uh, there was a cut from about here to about here, not all the way to the very end, you know--not going out so you cant see it on the outside. And it was kind of inside so you couldnt see it here, either. And the boot appeared to be okay. But after any rough usage you know, the heel came right off. So, people dont understand about uh, uh, you know uh, "Well, why didnt you sabotage? Why didnt you fight? Why didnt you pick up a gun?" They have no conception of what, what was done to people if anyone was caught sabotaging anything. They were just shot on the spot. But nevertheless, we did this kind of sabotage that uh, we got away with, you know. And uh, that was one way of fighting back, one way of fighting back.

SO: Unfortunately, there wasnt too much of sabotage, of fighting, going back, or, you know, because for the simple reason we just, most of the time, we just starved. All we were looking for was to get the next piece of bread. Was how do you go and look to sabotage something, you were just--you want to live for the next--for your next meal if youre gonna get one. So of course, obviously, there was no organization or something. Although there was some individual cases there were uh, some of my schoolmates were in the partisans on the outside of the Kraków ghetto. Most of them were eventually found by the Germans and killed, or shot, or hanged. But there was some of it but not organized to the extent like we would say in Warsaw, or something like this. There was some individual acts of courage, if, if, if thats what its called. But nothing on an organized scale because we just, as I said, we just worked to live to the next meal--starved, we just--something most time we couldnt even think straight, all the tortures that we went through.

When you were in the labor camps, how many people were in, in a, in a uh, particular gang with you? You once told me about marching through the streets of Kraków with ten people or so. Thinking about...

SO: We were marching--see what we did is, what we did is--we were marching from the ghetto to go to work outside of the ghetto. All, all the beginning from, from Płaszów, we used to go outside of the ghetto to work on certain German installation they like to do. The Germans were very clever, very smart. They had us police ourselves, because we were like marching groups of ten or eight or whatever, in, in lines. And there were very few guards because I guess they didnt want to--they couldnt spend the manpower so we had to guard ourselves. Because they told us if one of the people from your line of the eight or ten people, is going to disappear--on occasion, in the beginning, it happened that people did run away from the line and just went someplace. They would escape. So if one of you, from your line, would escape, the rest of you is going to be shot. So, of course, we had to police ourselves.

BO: And they did that.

SO: Oh, many times the rest of the line was shot.

BO: Whole groups of people.

SO: We just had to, had to police ourselves.

[talking at once]

BO: And thats where this uh, community responsibility of if one person run away, you know, its like they put in danger everyone else. So its like they had us locked, locked up. You know, being responsible for one another, you know. We didnt want someone else to be shot so you thought twice about running away.

SO: Yeah.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn