Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981

Executions in Płaszów

Again there was like a, we had to assemble at a certain place and, in the camp. Oh we had all kinds of assemblies, for executions, we had to witness executions. We had to stand at attention. We were forced to watch mass executions. In fact, one night, I mentioned before that man by the name of Spira who was the head of Jewish police in the ghetto. He was, at night, he was brought up to the top of the hill in the Krakow concentration camp with his whole family and they had trucks with their headlights shining right at them and they were executed right, right there. That was his reward for being a loyal supporter of the Germans. And everybody knew too, including himself I'm sure, that that was going to be his fate because a lot of these Jewish policeman that were working for the Nazis were executed. One by one, eventually executed. I mean, there was one execution. There were--one day I remember all of us had to assemble at a, at uh, our place uh, uh, where we used to assemble, a big square. And a gallows was put out. They were executing two men. One of them in particular I remember. His father and my father were friends. He was an engineer. He came from a very, very known, prominent family. His crime was that he--someone, a Nazi guard, it was a Ukrainian Nazi guard overheard him singing a--either Russian or I don't know, some kind of a song. Maybe it was a Communist song, I don't remember--overheard him singing that song and he was--there was no court, of course, or anything and they just told the, the uh, camp commander that, what he sung and he said that they go...he's going to be, he has to be, he has, he has to be hanged. So all of us had to witness the execution. Now his--I don't remember his first name, but his last name was Kraut or...It was a very prominent family in Podgórze. And I can't forget it, uh. He was strung up and he was hung. And for some reason the rope broke. He fell to the ground. He started begging the Nazis, "Please spare me, I didn't do anything wrong." But to no avail. They strung him up again and we had to just stand there and watch the execution. And after--I don't know how, whatever length of time it was, it seemed like an eternity, after the Nazis made sure they were dead, the camp commander himself came over in person and put a bullet through each one of his head, right, up on, on the uh, on the gallows. Another time--again we were all assembled. And my uncle, by the way, also worked with me because he was a furrier by trade. All of us were assembled at a place and later we found out that the Nazis needed a few hundred people, a few hundred prisoners to send them to a different concentration camp in Germany. And there was a selection process. And they marched us and, and I remember s...I remember something happened to me. I had--I don't know if I was bitten by a bug or had some kind of a scratch or a wound on my, on my head. And a friend of mine gave me a bandage to cover the wound on my head, whatever I had, I remember. I covered my head with a bandage and I had a bandaged head. And we were standing there for, for the uh, selection to a different camp. And I was standing next to my father and my brother Bernie and my brother Nat and my uncle, his name was uh, uh, Lillian Rosen. We were standing for the selection. And I was about to take off my bandage. So my uncle says to me, "Don't take your bandage off, leave it, maybe they won't select you." And I didn't know if it, if it was better to be selected or not to be selected to go to a different camp. So I left my bandage on. So the selection process came. My uncle was selected to go to a different camp. And none of the four of us were. We were left in the camp. Well my uncle left for a different camp. And later on we heard that it was not a selection for a different camp, it was selection for execution. He was never heard from again. That's how lucky I was again. I might have been selected if I didn't have the bandage on. Uh, then early in 1944, in the summer of 1944, there was another selection. And the four of us were selected together to go to a different camp. We were selected, we went to a different camp consisted of, it was called Wielicka. It was a salt mine, not very far away from Płaszów. We were there to work in a salt mine underground. We were working there and that was already in the summer of 1944. We were working like seven days a week, sixteen hours a day, in the underground salt mine camp.

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