Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

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


NO: ...two of them used to go down with, with a revolver, and who was moving on the heap they just shot him, shot him, shot him in the head. And I survived that night after everything calmed down. At night I crawled out from under the bodies and managed to wash myself out and get to one of the barracks. Somebody helped me--gave me new clothing. I even dont know the persons name. I dont remember. It was an older gentleman and he helped me washing and then I register for work and I went...

[interruption in interview]

NO: ...the following day I registered for work. I went to work to Bonarka. This was a brick factory. Then I met a friend of mine. I was working, I was working loading bricks. Now, loading bricks by hand, there was lime. You load it with a shovel--you picked up a shovel. A shovel of lime must weigh maybe, I dont know, 60 or 70 pounds. A block like this, you cut it in with a spade and you lift it up on the, on the truck--not on a truck, actually on the, on the rails. A little, what you call...

BO: Railcar.

NO: Railcar, yes, railcar. We were loading. Then I met a friend of mine who helped me getting out from there and he put me in a workshop. He got me a job working in a workshop down there. It was a little easier because I worked with a blacksmith. The blacksmith was a master craftsman. He--we were making, we were making for the machinery for the brick factory. The machinery we were making it from steel--from raw. They were making the parts, whatever was missing, because they were mostly American or British parts. Whatever they couldnt get them, so we were making. They were needing those bricks for the Russian fronts I heard, for the reinforcement. Anyhow, I work with that blacksmith. They taught me the trade how to, how to hit with a hammer. There were three guys hitting with the hammer. And the master blacksmith with a little, with a little hammer, was pointing out exactly where to hit with that sle...with that big sledgehammer. It was like, like a, like an or...orchestra. The timing had to be like an orchestra, we were hitting with those hammers. Because, if you didnt hit it right and he was holding it with a big pair of pliers, he would throw that, that iron--that hot red iron right, right at your face. And anyhow was better because I could get already--I was in touch with some Poles down there and I could bake a potato in the, in the furnace down there. And I had something to eat. And I could bring, I could bring to my father and to my brother some food that I could trade for some clothing that I bring in with the Poles who worked in the factory. So it was a little easier then was a little easy for us because we could get some food when I worked on the outside.

Do you remember the cattle car trip they were talking about?

NO: No this wasnt that, that time. Then, then they picked my brother, and Sam and I, they picked us to go to work to Wieliczka. Wieliczka was a, a uh, salt mine factory outside. It was--we worked down there, I dont know, six months or eight months, I dont remember; the time is immaterial to me. And we worked there--we worked in the salt mines.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn