Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Berek Rothenberg - May 20, 1984

Nearly Getting Caught Smuggling

Right away he made a business. If I want to send it to my brother a letter, I have to give him two dollars. If my brother sent me, let's say a hundred dollars--zlotys, in Polish zlotys--so he already took five percent off, right away five percent. I give him the--just to help each other. Right away he made a business. That's all. One time my brother was feeling that he's going to be transferred out. So he give him five hundred zlotys to this Polack to give it to me. So he knew it that he makes a business. So he didn't want to give him the five hundred zlotys to him. So he said to him, "You know, if something happened to Berek's brother. I have to see him in person, I have to tell him what happened." He said, "What happened?" So I tried to arrange it to, to meet this Polack. I said, "What happened to my brother?" He said, "Nothing happened," he said, "he has five hundred zlotys because uh, I know this, Teitelbaum will take a percentage of it." So I said, "Thank you, thank God nothing happened to my brother." And he made already a business. So honest to God, like we have a, a God from--that one day he received letters and he supposed to come to the camp to give the letters. So was--they searched by the gate, they took off the clothes to search everybody to the--to naked. So he came with a bunch of letters to me in the department where I used to work. He said, "Berek, I got a letter from your brother." "Oh," I said. He said, "No, take the bunch of letters with you and when we come home to the camp, you, you will get the letter." And I didn't know, you know, I'm just a plain fellow and I took the bunch of letters and I kept it in my pocket, or someplace under the shirt. And then we're finished working and we come out and my gosh, my eyes. People standing in the thousands and the Ukrainian they're searching to naked. If they will found the letters on me, that will be, be wonderful. Or who brought me the letters--I may have to give this Polack--and we're standing in the thousand, they taking off the clothes and they search you all over. The shoes and the--oh my gosh. And here we're staying tired twelve hours with black like, like the guy what's cleans the chimney--we were black. So our policeman was Yosel. So we said to Yosel, "Why don't you go over to the, to the guard and tell him that we from the Granaten--the heavy, hard working people--we can't stay--we have to stay 'til midnight or maybe later than that and let us search us first." And, and we go through. So this policeman was a nice fellow. I hope he's alive. So he went over to this guard, he says, "Look, I'm from the Granaten, you know me." And he said, "I got a group from eighty, ninety people that they're dropping dead. Why don't you search 'em and I'll bring 'em over and search 'em over first." He said, "Go ahead, bring 'em." And we came over and they opened the gate, they even didn't touch us because so dirt--we were filthy. And we went through--we went to the camp. Then he comes running over. He said, "They found on you the letters?" I said, "No." They took me--they, they took off my clothes from me. I said, "Yes." He said, "You want to save your neck and you, you try to. Why you did it? Why didn't they burn it? Put a match, burn it up, dispose it." "So you want to put me in--and what would happen if they would caught the letters on me?" He said, that what I tried to bring up was selfishness. He want to save his back. And he didn't care if I would get caught.

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