Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981

Formation of Ghetto

Uh, do you remember when the ghetto was first formed?

Yes. The ghetto was for...I believe it was 1941.

How--what was the circumstances of that?

No, the ghetto was formed in 1940, I think, '40. We were told, I guess a few days ahead of time that all of us are going to be confined to a certain area. All the Jews. And they gave us so much time that you can take your belongings, whatever you can carry and go and live within a certain area. Now, by coincidence, it so happens that the area of the ghetto was exactly where we lived, so we did not have to move. Because the ghetto was formed in Podgórze...

In Podgórze.

...in our neighborhood. And it was--the wall was on within a certain area and things became very crowded, ver...over-crowded. Krakow, if I remember, was a city of approximately 300,000 people, approximately twenty-five percent of about seventy-five percent--75,000 were Jews. Now, all the rest of the Jews who did not flee uh, Krakow during the early days of the war were herded into a, a small area of this so-called ghetto, which was uh, I don't know, maybe roughly one square mile. Uh, condition became totally overcrowded. Food was almost unobtainable. And, as I said, we were walled in and there were like, two or three gates through which everything had to pass. Now in the beginning, since we knew the area very well because it was in our neighborhood, we were able to either climb the wall or get out of the ghetto somehow. We knew our way to get out through some gates or some ways and be able to go out into the Aryan area and smuggle in some food for our immediate family. Sometimes we were even able to get a little extra food for some other families. To be able to sort of sell it and make a little money on it and be able to go out again and be able to perpetuate it. But eventually things became tighter. At first, the Polish police was guarding us. Now the Polish police, or some of them, some of these Polish officers could be bribed in order to be, to, to be able to smuggle some food in. Eventually I think the Germans found it out and eventually it was posted, the German guards. Then it became increasingly difficult to smuggle in the food. Now we did have a food ration. But it was a very minimal subsistence that we received. Just general where it, maybe a loaf of bread for a family and there maybe a piece of margarine and uh, maybe a little bit of sugar, whatever, it was very, very meager.

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