Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Rotbaum Ribo - July 5, 2005

Life in Pionki

And that's eh, then from that day on I started working. I was sent to work, in the, in the factory. And we, a group of youngsters, worked in the packaging eh, department. After the powder was produced, it was brought to our station. It was eh, sheaved, and from the sheath it went into boxes, at least, I know if I am not mistaken, fifteen kilos each or something like that. And we would put the empty boxes underneath the--where it came out, and eh, close the boxes with um, eh, what's the word--with eh, eh, not eh, screws. Screw them, screw them in and move them to a place from where they would be taken, shipped away. Eh, we had to carry the, the--powder came in, in eh, sacks of--Heaven knows, I don't remember now. I think every bag was fifteen kilos. We would have to take it on our back, walk up about fourteen steps, and from there put eh, eh, empty it into the sheath, and come down again. That's how we--some of them--some of us would sometimes walk up with the sack, and others would be underneath, and change around. And go back, we would get a meal, one meal a day, and, eh...

At the factory?

At the factory. And eh, at the end of the day, go back.

In retrospect, do you think it was a mistake to walk into Pionki?

I don't think so. In retrospect, I don't think I would have survived if I wouldn't have ???

Because of the ???

I can't be sure. But that's my opinion.

And what--and conditions in general in Pionki were...

Were reasonable, were reasonable although the winter was very difficult. In 1942, 1943 winter was very difficult. And eh, some of the people ran out--ran away, from eh, the camp, and some were caught, and I remember them being eh, eh, brought in with a, with a--on a horse--with a horse eh, pulling them, on the, on the, on the slope. And a few others were caught eh, also and were hanged. And all of us had to stand and look. Some of them that were hanged--the production of eh, gun powder was done with spit, and eh, many of the Jews were eh, stealing some of the eh, spit back into the camp. And some of them were caught, and they were also hanged.

These were all public hangings?

Public hangings, of course, to show others to not...

Were people routinely beaten there? Or...

Eh, at work, very little, that I know. Course, eh, you worked, and everyone more or less knew. The ???, those that worked on the rolls, to make the--from the powder eh, eh, planks from which they cut them and made them into small pieces. And many times, it would eh, it was a fire. And many of our people were burned, in the face, or on the hands, and so on. And one day--although I don't remember having written it in the, eh, my account, I--there were many--there was--so difficult--very hard conditions there. Cold and many people ran away, and I decided that I'm also going to run back to the village to uh, my villages. And eh, I did it. I ran away. I came to the Ursynów village, and I felt that I'm not wanted, and I went to the other village, and I also--nobody wanted me there. So, after a week, I went back to the--I again smuggled myself into the camp.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn