Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Josef Slaim - February 7, 1982

Deserting the Army

You went back home?

I wasn't coming--I couldn't go back home, but I was in the forest for a couple days and finally I reached the city, Czenstochow. As a matter of fact, on the way...

[interruption in interview]

...when I uh, wanted--I was hiding in the forest and I come out from the forest. Every time I looked out and I saw the Germans walking back and forth. So I back--went back to the forest and hide myself, until I got the chance. That was in summer time that was Sept...September it wasn't cold. And uh, I had a chance. I start coming out the forest, and between the corn was still high, so I hide myself in--I reached a city uh, um, no. I come into a uh, the farmer, I reached the house. And I come into the farmer's house, mit my gun in hand. And I told him--then he got scared, I said, "Listen I wasn't coming nobody to kill here," in Polish, of course. I told him that I just want change my clothes and I want clothes. So they give me a pants, a shirt and that's all what I asked for it. We had no need for a jacket, because it was warm enough. And I asked for a piece of bread and I run away. The shoes, I used mein own shoes. Mit this everything took me couple days, and I reached the city of Czenstochow. In Czenstochow I had to cross uh, a river. Of course I was already in the civilian uh, clothes, and I did it. And I had a uncle lived not far away from this place, I knew it, and I reached his place. When I came over there to mein uncle and they don't even want to let me in. They was afraid. The old uh, windows was boarded up good. They was afraid, in case the Germans gonna find out, or whatever, you know to, to hide--to hold somebody--a stranger or deserter. But, it just happened and I come this day, a day before--they used to have over there when the Germans captured Czenstochow, they have a day there, which they called Bloody Monday. They called all the Jews to assemble in marktplace and if somebody will not--who will not attend, they're gonna get killed. So everybody was afraid and attend to this marktplace and assembled. And all of sudden they open fire, and start shooting. Hundreds of people gotten killed. And I was coming a day after, that's why everybody got so scared. Not far from this place mein brother used to live--my-- mein oldest brother used to live in same city and I reached his place, and he was scared. Two days later was posters on the walls, all over the city that all Polish deserters should uh, register on this and this place come into register. My brother told me not to do it, not to go, just forget it. "We're gonna hide you here." But I was afraid. I told my brother, "Sooner or later they're gonna get me anyway." But used to hiding, I waited a day. Next day I decided I gonna go. I used to speak really good German 'cause like I mentioned it before I went in a German conservatorium, for uh, music lessons. And beside in our little town was living a lot of Germans, we used to speak a lot of German with them, you know, so. When I came to this place from the uh, German uh, head police, we assembled over there, probably about fifty or sixty people--deserters. One German come out and he said, in German, "Who speaks German?" Of course, he speaked it--he asked it in, in German voice. Everybody was quiet. And I raised my hand, he asked me, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?" which means, "You speak Deutsch--speak German?" I said, "Yes." He asked me if I'm a German. I said, "I'm a Volksdeutsche."

[interruption in interview]

Okay, a Volksdeutsche is a what?

A Volksdeutsche is a German, like he doesn't live in Germany, just live in a foreign country. So uh, he doesn't--he asked me my name and I was afraid to tell him my family name. I just told him my first name, Josef, which is my name. Of course, Josef sounds a little German. And he called me in and he told me that I should be a translator between them und the Polish Schwein, which he meant--Schwein is a pig. He meant the Polish people. I said, "Fine." So they asked the question to me and I asked them the questions. And the reason for it was that they wanted handed out um, they want handed out the um, papers that say they've already registered and they can go home to their homes. And I had to ask him the name, and they printed this on the machine, they give him a uh, a Schein, you know, a paper that he can uh, that he was registered, because on the roads in every place, was standing German guards. Somebody would like to go home, to his village or whatever it is, they would ask him, "Ausweis," passport. So this was the passport. You know what a passport is. So, of course, the first day he made the passport and I was just only ???, I mean, translating. The second day. I got afraid. I got scared in case they find out I'm not a German. Maybe ??? the talking, they might find out about questioning or whatever it is, I got scared, so I figured and they asked me to take out myself the--all this pass for this people. So thinking about--so I make myself out a couple of them mit all kinds of different names. I kept this in my pocket. Of course, the third day, I don't showed up anymore. I ran away 'cause I got already so many passes by me, so I just went home to Czepiec, mein home town.

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