Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981


This was 1943.

Yes, that was already in 19...yes. And we marched to that new labor camp. My brother Bernie, you know, my youngest brother Bernie was not with us. He--I think he ran away from the ghetto--he was a little boy--he ran away from the ghetto after our mother and sister were depart...deported to the extermination camp. Eventually, he made his way into our camp to rejoin us. But he did run away a few days, a, a little a, a--he was either taken away or ran away, I do not remember. He knows better about that. Eventually he rejoined us in the, in the Płaszów labor camp, which eventually--after everyone was herded into that uh, labor camp became a concentration camp and again, mass executions started right then and there. The Jewish cemetery was desecrated. We ourselves had to do the work--not the German guards. We had to knock down all the monuments and we had to build barracks right on top of the cemetery. I remember, as soon as we went--were herded into the concentration camp, I went to look for my grandfather's grave, the one I'm named after--Schlomo Zalman Schiffer, was his name. Schlomo Zalman Schiffer Zwern. He--the name for the Zwern is that in Poland before 1918, before Poland was created, all marriages--all Jewish marriages uh, performed by rabbis were not recognized as valid. Now Jews were not about to get married in a Polish city hall. They had their rabbi, their rabbi married them, so in the eyes of the government prior to 1918, they were not legally married. So, consequently my mother was born, when my mother was married, no, my mother was born, actually in, in the eyes of that government would have been an, she was an illegal child because my grandfather and grandmother were married by a rabbi. It was not recognized by the state. So my grandfather's name was Zwern and my grandmother's name was Schiffer. So my grandmother's maiden name was Rochnagidle Schiffer, instead of uh, being named after her father's Zwern. So that the, that's the reason. But anyway, I, I'm backtracking. Uh, so, I remember seeing my grandfather's grave and it was still there standing. But eventually we had to knock all the monuments down, desecrate all the graves. There were a lot of--I remember seeing, it was a horrifying experience for me--I've never seen a skeleton in my life before. I've seen a lot of skeletons. We just tossed around just like, like, like, like, it was like stones. They, they were just treated like, like they were stones.

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