Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

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


BO: My father was in Płaszów. I was separated from him in Płaszów. After the ghetto was closed we went to Płaszów. It was from Płaszów that I was being transported to--I believe to this day that I was being transported to the Jewish cemetery, where they were shooting a lot of people--they were executing people en masse. But I jumped and uh, because of these rumors I heard, so I saved myself. Another day that I had the help of people. So uh, uh, then I went to uh, work and uh, contracted the uh, typhoid fever. And I dont know how I survived that, but I did. And then when the uh, Im not quite sure of the date that was, because uh, seasons I remember, plus uh, events, but not necessarily dates. Then this, this camp in uh, I was in was called Judenlag, or Judenlager, or "camp of the Jews". And I remember this commandant Müller, he was vicious, vicious bastard. He was just shooting--walking in with his dog in the camp. He was just blowing people away anytime he wanted to. Just like that, just like a wild man. Uh, and I started uh, this job, I was tending the pigs. They gave me a job that was a little easier--somehow I was being helped by unknown people--unknown hands. And that was part of why I survived, because I was given these easier jobs. Someone had pity on me or...

Of the prisoners, you mean?

BO: Of the prisoners, yes, yes. And uh, uh so some of the food that was going to go to the pigs, I ate, you know, and I brought some of that to the camp, you know.

SO: Can have it...

BO: They gave better food to pigs sometimes than they did to us Jews.

Did the two of you think that he was still alive?

SO: Well, we knew that he was. We knew that he went to the camp because somebody would occasionally would get word that he was there. For the simple reason because when we were together in Płaszów, that was the beginning. All the Jews had to leave the ghetto under the penalty of death and march into Płaszów. Now Płaszów wasnt totally organized yet. What happened is--the reason there was mass execution in, in Płaszów on the--right by the cemetery was number one, they were bringing in a lot uh, of J...Jews who did not leave the ghetto--who hid someplace in the ghetto. Theyll bring them out the next few days and executing them for not going to Płaszów. Also, Płaszów wasnt that big at that time, there wasnt even enough room for everybody. So first they were executing like the young prisoners Bernies age, and some women and whoever they choose to, they execute. So this is why Bernie was lucky to ever--through the method that he just told you, escape to the other camp. Now eventually, after a few weeks or something when things settled down in Płaszów a little bit--not that the beatings and executions and stuff--but there was already more room--more barracks were built, then Bernie had to smuggle himself in to be with us.

BO: Well, yeah, that, thats kind of like how it happened, but, the way I understand--yeah, thats how I remember is that the camp, Judenlag, was being uh, uh, closed down...

SO: For whatever reason, but I mean, you came back to Płaszów...

[all talking at once]

BO: ...and I was returned to Płaszów and I was reunited with my father again. And so that was kind of a freaky thing. And then I worked with my father in a shoe factory.

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