Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Josef Slaim - February 7, 1982

Start of War

Where were you when the war began?

When the war break out? I was in the army.

Okay, so you were drafted prior to, prior to the war. How did, how did you hear about the war?

How we heard about the war? Well the funny things was so--when I was in the army--I was drafted in '35, like I mention it. I was supposed to be released in '37; they don't want to release me, because they need me. Uh, mein job in the army was an important job and they didn't want to release me. Of course, to this time, if they kept you, they had to pay you a little bit. We eat in the, in uh, in the same place, but we had to get like pocket money, you know. And uh, just happened a week before the war breaked out. I got vacation for a week and I went home. I served the army in Czenstochow, which was thirty kilometers--thirty-two kilometers from our little town Czepiec. Thirty kilometers would be like sixteen miles from our town. I served in the uh, artillery. It just happened, I have--had taken off for eight days--vacation. I went home. When I went--came home. I stayed, stay...stayed overnight in mein father's house, and I went to visit in another village, ???. In the morning--next day in the morning, my younger brother arrived mit a bicycle in--he, he knew it, where I am. He just said, "Joe." I said, "What's up? Why, why you was coming?" He said, "They arrested our father." I said, "What?" He said, "Yes, they called right away after you left," and said I had to return to the army. If--in the mean time they arrested the father until I'm gonna attend. So I was coming home and I called on the police and my sister went there to release as uh, collateral, [laugh] you know. They released my father and they kept my sister. Then I--when I went back they released mein uh, sister. When I was coming, they start screaming on me, because one uh, platoon went already out on the front. And I supposed to be on the first uh, things and I missed it. Maybe this was my luck; I missed it because maybe if would be on the first things, I probably would be--get killed, or whatever this--anyway when the war break out uh, it just was not too long, three or four days, we just happen to be in a place. Met mit the German soldiers and we began in a fight, and mit the bayonets. And a lots of people from our side--from both sides fell. And after a while start to get quiet out and I just happened to run away. I deserted. I know it is--and I wasn't too happy about the whole things because, going back, the day when I came back to the uh, company in the army, they assembled there, and assembled--everybody had to assemble according to uh, religion. Like the Polish people has to separate, and the Jewish people had to stay separate. All majorities uh, minorities had to be, I mean uh, religion had to be assembly lines. Of course, the Polish was the biggest majority and the Jews was the second majority from the other mi...minorities. We was the second line and when the captain come out and he sta...starts swearing mit us for loy...loyalty for the country and he no wanted take us, because he said he cannot look on the Jews. So I figured, in a moment when we stayed to go to war--fight for you and we suppose to swear loyalty to this country, you coming out and staying over there in the front for us, and saying, "I hate the Jews." What kind of feeling could you have in a moment like this? So I figured, "If I gonna get the chance, I will not fight for you." And that's what I did. As soon as I had the chance I deserted.

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