Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Selma Rich - July 17, 1984

Post-Liberation II

A man came in to the place where I was and he start to ask who can speak Russian or Polish. And I told him, I speak Polish, and I speak better Russian than Polish. He spoke and he said to me, I see nobody's here alive from my family. I took in a number of young kids who survived to my place to work. And I say where are you working. He say, ???. Means this was a Russian military place where they had shoemakers who were making shoes for the people uh, clothes, uh, barbershops. All kind of uh, things they had. And he was the bookkeeper from all of this. Here they call this the accountant, there they called this ???. And I was afraid because he was a Polish man. I mean, a Jew, but a Polish Jew. Lithuanian Jews were afraid for Polish Jews, they were always thinking they are dishonest. This kind of impression always the Lithuanian Jews used to have on the Polish Jews. It wasn't 'til I learned later on, but you know in my mind, still as a child when you are brought up and you hear always things like that still in your mind, and I didn't promise him nothing. The only thing I told him, look, I'm in the clothes from my concentration camp, I have nothing to wear, I cannot go in a office to work. Uh, everybody will, I feel myself ugly the way I look. How can I sit in an office to work? He say, never mind, you will have everything. And this scared me even more. And he went away. Next day a lady comes over, she was around forty. To me she was already old lady because I was about twenty-two. And she said, you know, thanks to Henry Natanovitch, I have food for my two children and I have work. I work in his office. And she start to count how many girls which survived from the war working for him. And he wants you should come as a cashier to work for him. So he gave me five hundred złotys. I will go with you, we'll buy wooden clomps on the feet and a dress. And take off the babushka what you are wearing. I say, I can't take off the babushka because I have my, my hair is long and I have eggs on the lice, the white, my hair is white from the eggs from the lice, I feel ashamed. She say, go in, in a drug store, they will give you something. And I went in, in a drug store and I showed him and I say look, I'll scrub your floor, I have no money, nothing. I'll work, I'll work, now give me something to clean up the head, my hair. And he looked at me and he gave me. He gave me a black ??? he called this and he told me I should wash my hair with hot boiling water as much as I, my scalp can take. And then put on this and tie up the hair. And next day, he say, you'll be clean. With the comb you will comb out, and he gave me a little comb too. Say, what can I do for it? He say, never mind, somebody you will pay me for it. Go. I think he was a Jew. But he didn't, he probably survived as a Polack and he didn't want to admit that he is a Jew because then was dangerous to admit even in Poland. So my hair was clean. I made braid, I braided my hair and I bought the dress with the ??? wooden shoes and I went to work.

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