Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Leon Salomon - June 18, 1990

War Begins

Do you remember where you were when the war began?

Yes, when the war began I was in Maków, in the city where I was born.

I mean particularly, exactly where you were?

Where I was? Yeah, I was in the house...relatives of ours went to Warsaw, when the war broke out many of people from our town went to the big city. Somehow they felt the big city safer than the small city. Because this use to take place in the first World War. But this was a different war. And so we stayed in their house, they had a bigger house; we stayed there, on the second floor. I remember clearly like the German planes were going through and three days later the Germans came into our town.

So, you heard the planes, that was the first...

Yeah, we heard the planes.

Was that when you first realized you were at war?

No, no. It was announced, it was on a Friday and every Friday once a week we use to have a market where all the farmers use to come selling their products and so the market use to be full and right, it was around eleven o' clock I believe, all of a sudden, in order to make an announcement, we didn't have radios, so a guy with a big bank, get the whole city and announcing we are at war, that was that, that's how we found out.

So he beat a drum, is that right?

Yeah, beating drums and everybody comes there.

Do you remember when the Germans came into your town?

Yeah, this was a Tuesday, they came in on a Tuesday, like early...noon, something like that.

What did you think?

At that time I was a kid, we weren't thinking much, we heard about nonfavorable things, the reason being because in 1938, many Jews who were born in Germany, they were sent back from Germany back to Poland. This was 1938, so we heard about the Kristallnacht. We heard about that. We knew it's not going to be a picnic, but there's nothing you can do about it. As a kid I went even to look at how they marched in you know, they came in.

What did they look like?

In fact, we had a bridge in our city on the River Orzyc. Orzyc went through our city, that's the river. And the Poles before they retreated, they blew it up to hold off the onslaught. But, of course, the Germans put up pontoon and bridges in no time...

What did they look like to you?

It was kind of exciting, I was only a kid, what 13 or 14 years old looking at soldiers, they threw candies, nothing, just Wehrmacht was regular soldiers, like any other soldiers and this took place day and night, it was going heavy artillery with horses and machinery I have never seen so many in my life. All in direction towards Pultusk, which is 25 kilometers from my town, and of course, this was all in the direction toward Warsaw.

What kinds of memories do you have about your household while all this was taking place, were people frightened, were you ...?

We were frightened, because we know, we were uncertain what was going to happen.

Did you discuss it with your parents?

Well, not really, being a 13, 14 years old, there was, parents never discussed things with kids of this ages, serious things. Although, at 12 years old I remember as a kid we use to discuss a lot of politics, unlike here, we always use to discuss the Spanish Civil War, we use to discuss politics all around, that's all we use to discuss, but no, no particular discussion.

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