Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Rotbaum Ribo - July 5, 2005

Missing the Transportation to Treblinka

Had you heard anything about what life was like in the work camps?

Eh, eh, well, some of them worked in eh, in digging the, the--what's name?


Trenches, for the Germans. And eh, they came back--they worked very hard, they're tired. They got food there. Some--not--I don't know how much, but they did get something to eat there. And eh, was somebody who didn't work was beaten by the Germans.

And had you heard of Treblinka?

Eh, not until then, no. No. I personally--maybe--I don't remember this name. I only encountered after the--I was left alone.

So someone told you that they were taken to Treblinka?

Yeah. Yes.

Tell me that story about...

About Treblinka?

How you...


Missed the deportation.

Yeah. Well, that was one of those times that I went with my father to the village eh, and was supposed to come back. It was a cold night, and when we were staying on the--waiting to--for the hour when my father decided about starting to go back to the ghetto. It was cold, and eh, I told father that I am cold, so father says "You know what? You stay in here. You come tomorrow morning, and I will go alone." And that's what happened. I, I was so cold I stayed in, in the, in the barn. Next morning I got up and went into the eh, farmer's house and got breakfast and had cup of eh, tea, and then I went to the ghetto, the direction of the ghetto. And when I eh, neared uh, Kozienice, the town, some people were already coming back from the villages that knew me. And one of them called me over and says, "Don't go. The whole ghetto's surrounded by Ukrainian and SS eh, soldiers and they don't let anybody in. It's dangerous." And eh, I didn't know what to do. I sat down under some brushes, and uh, to decide what to do, and then I decided to go and see what's happening, happening. I left a package of uh, of uh, foods that I--father left with me, under one of the brushes. And went eh, without anything, just walking with what I was wearing. And when I came into town, I saw the eh, the ghetto surrounded all around, and I walked by plenty of Poles already looking on what's happening, and I was with them looking on. At one eh, stage I could eh, look through the eh, plank they have that closed up the ghetto up to the streets of Kozienice--wooden planks. There were open--between each plank there was a bit of a--could look through. And inside I saw there were still eh, the Jewish policemen there. They were collecting things and eh, and putting them on carts, which the Germans wanted to take from them. And eh, I heard the Poles talking that eh, all the Jews are going to the train--are being put on the train. So, I followed them, when they went into the direction of the train, and I went with them. And when I neared the, the--when I came down, I still saw the Germans um, closing the doors of the--pushing the last people into the wagon, and closing the doors. And at a certain stage I wanted to run to the village and look for my family but there were so many eh, Ukrainian and SS people, and with many of them holding very fierce-looking dogs, that I was afraid I wouldn't reach the, the village. So I was standing with all the Pol...Polish people looking on what's happening. At one stage a Polish eh, youngster, was standing next to me, shouted at me, "He's a Jew! He's a Jew!" And I straight away, I run to him and say, "You are a Jew! You are a Jew" and pushed him and, he pushed me. Luckily we were separated by the other Polish people in there, and soon I left the eh, the region, back into the town. And I roamed around the town and didn't know what to do. And here, I was very hungry. I was certain that eh, somebody was selling bagels, bagels, and I eh, bought one of them and ate something.

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