Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Berek Rothenberg - May 20, 1984

Making a Mistake on the Job

And I remember I worked in this Skarżysko, I worked by a press uh, sawing machine what was sawing big trees. In those trees they made, they made dyes for the, for the presses. And I had a sawing--I used, but my job was to just to set up and to watch the oil and the water be running. And it would cool off the saw so it don't get hot. And I figured that will take maybe two hours or an hour an a half. I supposed to tell the foreman that I'm going to the toilet. And I didn't tell the foreman, I figured I will be back. I went into the toilet and the toilet you got the all gossip, you know, how much uh, the bread--the value of the bread, you know, how much uh, where the war is, where the Americans stay, how the Russians stays. The whole politic and everything went on in, in this toilet. And I forgot to return so quick and this saw cut through this piece of steel and somebody had to reverse it. And nobody at--reverse it and the pressure was so--and this saw--this, this box busted. It was maybe over there about twenty, thirty barrels of oil. The, the whole plant was with oil. And they came, and the one--the fellow came--he's in Israel now--he says, "Berek, you're dead." I said, "What happened?" He said, "Your machine--" my machine was the name the ???--"??? busted." Oh my gosh, like my father and mother would die. So I run in and I saw the machine busted. So already the Germans with the, with the, with the red band with the swastikas--there were maybe a dozen--they were standing in the oil over the knuckles and the boots. And they say, "Where were you?" I say, "I was in the toilet." "How long?" I say, "About two minutes, five minutes." "They--we staying already about ten minutes and you were not here." I said "Uh, maybe it took--I didn't have no watch," I said. Or I couldn't answer either. I just uh, said what they asked me. "You, you saboteur, you bust the machine." I say, "I don't know what saboteur is, I'm not a saboteur." "Yeah, you're a saboteur, you bust, you bust the machine." So the man in the foreman was a Polack--his name was ??? I remember the name. So he couldn't stand it. They, he knew what's going to happen, he took a, a board and he hit me over the head and over the back so I shouldn't stay in front of them, because more I stayed, more they, they were ready to grab the gun and just give me the bullet. And they--and he just took a board and when he hit me I run away, so I didn't face those Germans. And then they give a order to two guards, "Take him and shoot him." Right away they took me out and they start marching me to shoot me. And then Jewish fellow--he was a welder--he said he can weld this together and can fix the machine--it will be like new. And I was already a few feet away and they hollered, "Bring this dog back. Bring ???." So they walked me back and I, and I came and, and in between then they put me to another job and they fixed this machine and they brought me back. I said, "I don't want to work on this machine." They said, "Why?" I said, "Because I don't want to be responsible. Uh, I'd rather work on a plain work, not this." "You gotta work." So I work and then they give me another piece of steel and it had a, a--some hard piece in it, and the teeth got caught in this piece and the, the saw busted again. "Oh my gosh," I said, "now what's going to happen?" So finally they came--the engineers came and they saw and I was there, and so they thought it was not my fault, it was the fault in this piece of steel and they finally they liquidate this, this machine and they put me to another job. So I'm telling you--so I had such a--I had faith in me and I, I, I, I had hope that uh, I was in so, so many times. Then I was sick on the typhus and they put me in the hospital.

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