Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981


Do you know what it was called?

It was called Wielicka.

Was it still in Poland or you don't know where?

It was, it was only maybe uh, ten, fifteen miles away from uh, Płaszów. It was not very far away. It's a very well--in fact, I know about that salt mine before the war. It still exists right now in Poland. It's a very well-known salt mine. Uh, it was extremely hard work. What helped us is a little better food conditions because we were working together with Polish miners, Polish Gentile miners. But they were mostly in a supervising capacity and we were the hard workers. Occasionally they would give us a little food, a little bread, a little something uh, some of the Polish supervisor miners. We heard all kinds of stories, that was already in the summer of '44. We heard that the Russians were advancing--they were in Poland--they were advancing and any day now possibly they could liberate that village, that camp. At night in the distance we would hear heavy guns, heavy artillery. So we also knew that they had to be very close. We also knew that eventually the Germans were going to take us out of the, of the salt mines and take us into Germany, because they were not about to leave us. They were going to either execute us there or take us along with them to Germany for forced--more forced labor. A few of us--my brother and I--my brother Nat and I. Oh no, my brother Bernard was not with us, only my, only Bernard and I. My father and Bernard remained in Płaszów, that's right. Just the two of us, my brother Nat and I were in that salt mine of Wielicka. We made plans with a few of our other friends that when the word came from Germans that we had to go up and we're going to be deported back into Płaszów--which whatever our fate was going to be eventually, either ex...be to executed or, or go back to uh, to go to Germany--we were going to hide in that mine. We stored away some food and water in some of these underground caves. We found a hiding place, there was a--the Russians can't be that far away so we stay here a few days and we planned and eventually Russians are going to liberate us and we're going to be free. One day, suddenly the Nazis came out unexpectedly and took us up on the top of the mine, they said we have to go out of the mine. Now my brother and I were together, one uh, group command. My friends, with whom I was supposed to hide, were in a different group. For some reason they were able--or either they heard the Nazis or for whatever reason, they were able to run away, to go to our planned hiding place. My brother and I were not able to we had to go up to the top of the mine, to the surface and to--they took us back to the Płaszów concentration camp. But they didn't even take us up to the camp, they put us right there, they put us into cattle cars. For some reason, brother Bernie and my father were herded into our, our car, our cattle car. And they were, so the four of us were together again. We spent a few days in that car and then...

Can I ask you, what happened to your friends? Do you know? Did they survive?

At the time, I knew nothing about my friends. At that time I knew nothing about them. I know eventually, but I knew nothing about the friends. Uh, well, you know well, since you asked me the question, later on I found out that the Russians did not advance as fast as they did. The Nazis went down with the dogs, found them and hung 'em. It was my very two of them particular--one of them was my just absolute, be...my greatest friend. His name was Zenik Fuchs. One of his brothers and one of his sisters survived. They live in Montreal. I found this out eventually when I was reunited with some of my other friends from Płaszów. But to backtrack to the other, that was another way of--by sheer luck--other people--by sheer luck. Not by my good planning, because my good planning was to be ex...be executed with them. Again, by sheer luck uh, my brother and I were spared. So...

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