Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Rotbaum Ribo - July 5, 2005

Getting Released

And as we work together and trying to see how to continue, we heard eh, the Germans, German guards shouting, "All the German prisoners to come and get released." All the German prisoners should go to that--one of those houses that we saw only the eh, roofs--the red roofs--should go and they're being released. He in the beginning was skeptical, he thought it's a trick, and he wouldn't eh, move. Only when he saw that other prisoners were already coming back and waving, and released--happy, released, like that, then he got up, and he started going to that direction. And I got up, and went after him, the same direction, and reached one of the houses there, where there was eh, German SS officers sitting around table, and um, taking particulars of each eh, prisoner, and granting and giving out release paper and I was standing on the side, looking on. And one German officer asked me, "Und was machst du hier? You understand some German?"And, "What do you do here?" So I said, "Ich möchte auch befreit warden." And he says, "Und wer bist du?" I answered, "Ich bin ein Volksdeutscher." "Volksdeutscher? Was macht ein Volksdeutscher ???" So I told him that I was with my father in the camp--my father passed away, and I was left alone. "And where was he? And where do you want to go?" He said ???. And then that German prisoner, that stand next to me, he said, "I'll take him with me." And on the spot, I got a release, eh...

What name did you use?

I gave Rotbaum. It sounds also German.

German, sure.

I said "Josef Rotbaum." And eh, didn't, didn't start to waver there ??? And within minutes we were released. So I went back into the forest where the rest, the rest of the people were standing. Of course, I told my friend, and um, also the, the one who was a police commander in Pionki. He was already--couldn't even get up. But he for some reason had some gold coins with him--small but gold coins, and he thought he won't need them anymore, and he gave me two of those gold coins. Two, four--it doesn't matter. I wrote it down.

Yeah, I can't remember.

And I took them with me, and eh, picked up my small bundle of things that I had, and went with the German, and another friend of his that joined him. And we um, hijacked eh, in the vicinity of his town where he lived.

And they both knew you were Jewish?

Pardon? He knew.

Him and his friend...

He knew. They knew I was all Jewish. That's correct, yeah. And we also were hijacked on eh, German army trucks, and even one was a German army kitchen truck, with a eh, a mobile kitchen, one of those. And what eh, some time...

You mean hijacked it? You didn't steal it...

No, no, no. With the Germans--they were Germans...

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