Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Berek Rothenberg - May 20, 1984

German Invasion of Poland

Let's go back to 1939. Uh, can you describe the events that uh, led up to the war in your town?

Fine. They came in--it was 1939 when they came into--to our hometown--that was about the 15th of September. The war was already about two weeks. And when they marched in, it was very--I remember I saw them where they standing on those Jeeps with those machine guns pointing up and down--our city was up the hill. And the first one was ???--he was shot the first one while he was interested--he was the--he was so--to see those Germans marching in and he was hiding behind a big door looking out--looking in--looking out and they shot through the door and they killed him. It was a big--the first--he was--got killed. His name was ???.

How old was he?

Oh he was, he was in his thirties.

Why did they shoot him?

Uh, because they were--maybe, they, they themselves were afraid--the Germans--because he was uh, looking down, looking out the side door, looking in and looking out how they driving by and they saw somebody, so they shot him. Then it was very, very--we lived by a river, so the Polish army went over the bridges, they set on the other side town, and this side town and there were big fights through this river Vistula. And finally the, the Germans chased the Pole, Pole over, then the Pole chased the Germans over, and then the Germans finally captured them and they blowed out those bridges. We had a one bridge where the train went by and one bridge where the horse and buggies and civilian what we could walk to this bridge and it was blowed up. So when they came in--so right away they, they present, so right away they organize a Judenrat.

What's that?

A Judenrat is like a Jewish council and it took ten best uh, people--like a doctor or a lawyer or a businessman or it--they made them responsible if something would happen, or a German would get killed or something--those ten people are responsible for, for those people. And then the, the, this Judenrat elected a president and uh, and we were right away, when the--when they established themselves, there was some shooting going on and a few got killed accidentally. And then they dragged--took us on the street--they grabbed us on the street, took us to work.

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