Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981

Forced Labor

These were labor gangs that they took.

These were--yes.

How were they organized? Who, who gave you the orders? How did you know where, where to go?

At first, a German would come in front of our apartment and say, "I need twenty people." So I don't know, a few people would--because also, in those days, they still people, we had no money, we had no food. At that time they would pay for it. So they say, "I need twenty people," they pay, I don't know, a dollar, a złoty or two a day, whatever they figure. So some people would even volunteer, well, I'll go put in a day's work and maybe I'll be able to bring home a loaf of bread or something.

And they would pay the workers right there?

And they would pay uh, right--very beginning, right then and there. Or they usually--no--usually it was a Polish contractor that would pay us. Because the work was done on the Polish contractor. They would tell the Polish contractor, "I need--we have to do this." So he'd go, he had the right to do, go and say, "I need twenty Jews, or ten Jews," whatever. ??? or, or remove the snow or whatever we had to do. And he would pay us. Or occasionally he would just give us each a loaf of bread for a day's work. He--his--somehow our Polish contractor had access to, he had German supplies or the Polish supplies, somehow--at the very beginning he was able to do it. That's how we started with the work. You volunteered. Later on, of course, the remnants of the Jewish Kahal, but the original people were not there already. The original people that were running the Kahal were real nice, good people, The Germans, I guess the Germans picked some volunteers, some very unsavory characters, who lived among us. Only those people volunteered to become like a go-between, between the Germans and us.

The Judenrat.

Uh, the Jewish, e...eventually what became known as the Judenrat. And uh, the Germans who directed them and tell 'em, "I need a hundred workers," or whatever, you know, the workers they need and they would supply it. They would come in to apartment house say, hey, I need this, I need that many workers. And, of course, again, if they knew of some people, people, their relatives or something, they would not take 'em, of course. At first. It was like, what they called it, protected. I mean, if eh, one, someone from your family--and usually it wasn't a very nice family, they'd had somebody working for the Judenrat, they would exempt their own friends or relatives.

How did they--the members of the Judenrat didn't come or did they come to get workers? Would the members of the Jewish Council themselves come and say we need a hundred, a hundred workers from this building or from this neighborhood?

Yes, eventually they, they were forced to do it. Now some of them, they were actually forced, at first the Germans used to come. Then the German used to come with a member of the Judenrat, to tell 'em, you know, like--and then eventually Judenrat themselves the Germans didn't have to bother to come and get us. They just...

The Jewish Police too?

The Jewish Police.


Eventually they just go to--they, they call up the Judenrat or, or come over and tell 'em that, "We need some of the workers, a detail for this, a detail for this." And the Judenrat would never even supply enough. The Judenrat did not have it easy. They didn't--I mean, after all they did not carry arms or anything, they couldn't. But they had eventually started making lists. Putting down everybody that, that's, that's physically able to work. Wrote this name down and they would like rotate. They always used to come in and used to go, you going to go this thing, you going go, you going to go, they'd just tell you who would go, they had lists. And if they--if you didn't show up, there were consequences to be paid for this too, because eventually they had to supply the list or a copy of the list, to the Germans, who was supposed to show up. So you were afraid not to show up eventually, so you had to show up.

Nobody refused.

Once they pointed you, once they pointed you out that you have to go, very few people refused. It was, it was, I think it was under the punishment of death or whatever the penalty was, that you had to show up to work eventually--not at first, but eventually.

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