Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Emanuel Tanay - March 16, 1987

Conditions in Ghetto

Were you still going to school?

No. There was no, no official school. I did go, I had a teacher, but that was illegal, and in fact it was punishable by death. Almost everything you did was punishable by death, o.k.? So, you know it's interesting how children, youngsters react. I remember that I and my friends would count how many death penalties we would incur for what we were doing. For example, we would go outside of the ghetto without an arm band, after you were 13 you had to have an arm band. So, it was death penalty for walking without an arm band, death penalty for leaving the ghetto, death penalty for being after 6:00. Or whatever the time was. At one time it was 8:00 then it became 6:00. Uh...

Was there rationing as well, do you remember the rations?

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. You know, rationing, it was in fact a food uh, was a tremendous problem because you see even the Polish population had starvation type of rationing and the Jews were given virtually no food. So you had to, through black market activities bring the food from the Polish side into the ghetto. And that was again, very, very difficult and once again, punishable by death. For example, bread that wasn't, that black type of, and I don't mean black bread like you might think of it here, but it was sort of a watery black ration bread. If you had any other bread, and it was found in your home, you would be shot for that. Meat, you would get shot for that, there was one well-known character, a Gestapo character, who would come into the ghetto and at random walk into a house and if he found certain things, he would shoot the person who was the head of the house for this infraction. And all that, you know this, but there again that increased. That wasn't right away like that. But then it would happen. There was a tremendous terror when one of those characters would walk into the ghetto which was you know, teaming with humanity in the streets, there was no traffic of any kind, uh, the street would be deserted. There would be nobody. And he would just walk through the street you know, uh, not, no sign of life.

Was there disease?

In our ghetto there wasn't that much disease. There was oh, episodes of typhus, and incidentally, my father was in charge of sanitation, uh, in fact on his arm band [he gestures] that he had I recall that written that he was somehow the sanitation commissar or something like that, I forget the name. I remember also the big confrontation my father closed the Mikveh you know even in the ghetto, the ritual bath, Mikveh was in existence, and when there was an epidemic, and it was sort of illegal was attached to the synagogue and the Jews would do it. You know, they continued to try to hold on and because the sanit... there was, it was a danger and I remember one time my father closed it and there was a tremendous anger against him for closing it because there was an epidemic at the time. But the epidemics in our ghetto were controlled, and there was no, I don't recall any major like in Warsaw ghetto I know there were major epidemics of typhus. That was not the case.

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