Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981


So they smuggled us across the ??? Pass in Austria, across the Italian Alps over to Italy to a port city. But first, we went to uh, we lived for few weeks in like different Italian cities like Modena uh, Bologna, to a, a little fishing--called Ancona, right on the Adriatic Sea. We lived there for a few weeks, in a camp and waiting for a ship to take us to Palestine. And somehow the ship does not survive--did not arrive. Now, here we're living in very poor conditions and we were liberated already, we're free. We could do anything we wanted to, if we had mean to doing it, we're living in these poor conditions. And one day we were talking, my brother and I were walking around in that Italian town of Ancona, walking in downtown section and we saw two soldiers looking into a shop window and we look at them in British uniforms but on their, on their lapel--on their shoulder lapel it says Poland. And we just didn't know what to make of it. They're talking Polish to each other. So we listened the conversation. And they were kind of surprised to see two young, young men speaking Polish in Italy. And we started talking and we found out that they were Polish soldiers under the British command who were fighting the Nazis in Italy. And they said--and this happens to be, happened to--it turned out to be that this was a hospital unit of the Polish Army, a field hospital unit of the Polish Army. He said, "Why don't you guys come and see our uh, come with us to our commanding officer and see what happens." Now this was a few weeks after the war ended, after our liberation. So we said, "Okay, we'll go." We went with them to their commanding officer and went into his tent. We started talking and it turns out that he's a Polish Major--Jewish. He's a commander of the hospital unit now mind you, in the Polish Army. There was a lot of Polish--Jewish doctors. He just didn't know what to do for us. We were the first survivors that he knew. He starts asking us, "What happened to all the Jews in Poland?" It turns out that this was the remnant of the Polish Army that Russia, Russia annexed eastern Poland. When Germany--when Germany, you know, invaded Poland. When the Polish Army was withdrawing from the German front, withdrawing, eastward toward the Russian front, they crossed into Russia. They became Russian prisoners of war. A big part of the Polish Army. And with them a lot of Jews. Of course, there were a lot of Jews in the Polish Army. After the Nazis--the Nazi armies invaded Russia in 1942, I believe? The Russians started to lose, to lose the war. The Allies told Russia, here are the whole Polish Army in prison as prisoners of war in Russia. Why don't you activate them, we'll, we'll supply and let 'em help with the war effort and fight the Nazis. So, I guess reluctantly the Russians agreed. They started training the Polish Army in Russia. And the--and America and basically it was the United States and England supplied the army and they went from Russia in convoys through Persia, Syria, Palestine, into Egypt. And they became the--part of the British Army--Polish Army under British command--under British High Command. And they were fighting the Nazis, they're fighting General Rommel in, in, in, in North Africa. And with the Allied Armies, they went and invaded Italy--through Sicily and came up the boot, all the way up to Northern Italy and this is where I met these two soldiers, they were under the command of General Anders. And here was the two of us are sitting and talking to that Jewish doctor and he says, "I had the whole family--I do not--we heard all kinds of rumors, we don't--we had no facts. We heard rumors that the Nazis discriminated and, and, and decimated whole Jewish population in Poland and I have no information and we told him--we were sitting the whole night and telling all the stories that we went through and he just--then he brought in some other doctors who turned out to be Jewish too and tell 'em the whole stories. So he told us that, "Look, the war is over, why don't you guys join the Polish Army. The war's over. You goin' to have a good life in the army. You don't have to fight. I'll assign you to my unit and you can stay here as long as you want to. And uh, s...stay here as patients, I can send you to a sanitarium, you gonna have a good life here because the war is over." So my brother and I talked about it, finally decided gonna join the Polish Army. Because there's nothing else we have--we're waiting and waiting so we just don't know what to do, so we joined the Polish Army. Well, we spent almost two year in the Polish Army, but without the war. We had very good life in the Polish Army. Other Jews who came out of Russia also wanted to know what happened to their family. You see anybody knew anything that was going on. So we were like the first ones to tell 'em what happened. And we stayed with the army. Oh and eventually, after a few weeks and then we moved like from--my youngest brother Bernie found us.

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