Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Leon Salomon - June 18, 1990

Thinking About Experiences

Do you think about it a lot?

Yeah, I try not to, but there's always occasions that you start thinking about fate, how fate would have been had my brother brought us to him three days later. Had he found out about us a little bit later, we would have been maybe alive, because we would have actually all been forced evacuation deep into Russia. My brother would have been probably for his highest status. And then you keep on asking questions after that the surrounding of this town, my sisters could have been alive if this guy the Judenrat would have not counted those people and tell them go get in this market.

Unlike the one later who said, go?

Yes. So, you start thinking about those things and alls on the other hand is I know a guy who's a professor of history in Toronto and his name is Goldberg, I believe. He found out of me he thought that's my brother. They both went to gymnasium in Warsaw together. And they were good friends. He went to Leningrad, the school, continued his education. He came to visit my brother in 1941, two weeks before the war broke out. Seeing as we lived in a small town, it was like a ??? place, so he was staying with us for two weeks. When the war broke out, my brother and him ran away. My brother went as far as 20 miles, then he felt obligated, he's leaving us alone. He came back. This guy continued and eventually went to Gomel, which is a city in Russia, and then deep into Russia and he survived. My brother could have been alive. So, many of those things you kept thinking if, and if, and if, by slight chance of a if, this thing could have been alive.

Do you feel responsible for that?

No. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Some people I've heard feel some kind of guilt, but I don't have any guilt.

Are there times when you'll remember something by association, or see something that reminds you of some episode either before or during the war?

I do have many dreams, many times, and its always dreams that I'm fighting. I, a few times I fell out of bed fighting. I almost knocked my head open. Always taking cover, fighting, I'm fighting always. Surprising, I do watch documentaries, fighting things, I don't know why I'm doing that, but I do watch them. I always think had of this been this, had it been this, it's a question of timing, very little timing. I'm talking right now, not about my whole family, because my whole family who remained in Maków, which is my father, my mother, and my younger sister, of them I don't think because the fate of them I don't know what would have happened if and when. But I know that my brother and my sisters perhaps could have been alive. My sisters maybe if they would have run away from this particular execution in Kobylnik, then later on would have joined me in the woods, with me and so on and so on, because we had nothing left and they were not little kids. And my brother, perhaps, two times of a fate, one he could have gone to school there, he would have been deep in Russia, or the second time when he was a runaway, he could have gone with the same guy, with the same professor, and not come back. So those things, yeah, do enter.

Are there reasons you think that you were able to survive, join the resistance and survive, that sets your experience apart from some of the others?

Well, a lot of people perhaps will give me credit because I went to the underground. I went to, I took my own initiative and so on, and I didn't follow the trend of the rest. Maybe some, but I would say, most of it really if you want to look at it, it's just simple luck. Luck for one reason, as you see, we ran away about three people or so, one was when the other one was killed, I was alive. Two, I joined the partisans because I felt I don't want to go to Vilna, I knew what's going to happen in Vilna eventually, like the rest of them. Thirdly, I had no parents left, or anybody else, to take care of; it was just me and myself. And I felt my best bet is to go to the woods and see what's going to happen.

And the woods were there?

Yeah, and the woods were not that far from there, yes. Because I know of other incidences, like in this particular town, Costantinova, that's where I was telling you. The last town I was before I went to the woods. And there were some families where some of the fellows were a few years older than me. That means an awful lot, cause I was still call it a kid, not in those days a grown-up, but still, those guys were in their 20s, beginning of 20s. And I begged them I says, let's go to the woods. And he says, "How can I go to the woods, my mother, sick mother, a sick father, how can I leave them alone?" Of course, had they known the fate they probably would have done it anyway, but it was told to them they going to Vilna Ghetto, not to Ponary. So, with this deception, they wound up like the rest of them. I had nothing to lose anymore. I decided to take the other route and go to the woods. So I'm not going to play it out hero, not always this option was available to everybody like to me.

In retrospect of all this, is there anything that you draw from this, any, not exactly lessons, but any implications that you take away from your experience of all this?

This is my own, my own way, the way I look at it, in Poland, the Jews, the Jewish people, of course, we were, anti-Semitism was always great, the Jewish people never wanted to go to the army. For a reason being, it's obvious. But, I'm looking at it retrospect, if they would have gone, perhaps it would have helped them an awful lot maybe during this period. We were never, we always called people by the book. Gun was the most ridiculous thing to think about it. Fighting was not heard of something like that. And so, we were caught, totally unprepared. Our leaders, our rabbis, did not encourage it either. They all somewhere were waiting for a miracle, min ha-shamayim - that means from the heavens. And I believe miracles maybe do happen. The fact that I'm alive; that is a miracle. But, you've got to help yourself. I feel we are in a country right now, secure, we have freedom, total freedom, and I think we all should appreciate it because we really have our freedom here for the past few hundred year. We never had an era like this. Even if you go back to the Golden Ages we call Spain. So really appreciate it, but I still say, I still say the Jewish people should be like anybody else. There's nothing wrong if you know how to operate a rifle. There's nothing wrong to go to military. And, I think, I hope to God this never comes, but they should know. Because I know the day even the war ended and my rifle was taken away from me, I felt so insecure. I was afraid of my own shadow. This is just statement from me. I don't know how anybody else cares about it. Maybe I'm a different element, than those people who went to concentration camps. I think if there is a state of Israel survived because of that. It still survived because of that.

Okay, I think we'll end on that note. Thank you very much.

You're welcome.

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