Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Water - 1982


...and where you're from?

From Poland--Łódź, Poland.

And during the war, can you tell me where you were uh, after 1939?

In 1939, when the war broke out, I was in Łódź, Poland. Took my family to Warsaw, and on account that there was a scarcity of food--actually famine in Warsaw I went back to Pol...to Łódź temporarily to buy some food. And that's the last time I see my family. I was separated from them. May 1, 1940, we get enclosed...

In Łódź?

In Łódź. And this--at that time it became Litzmannstadt. No more Łódź, Litzmannstadt. Litzmannstadt ghetto so um, it came to be. Then I was a shoe-maker. I worked in a Jewish--in a factory, making shoes--making the boots for the German soldiers--making all kind of snow shoes for them to be able to go to Siberia--that's what they said. I was in the ghetto, all alone, 'til August 8, 1944. Now this was a time when they took us out. But there was an incident before that, in 1942, when they took elderly people, people without cards who worked in factories, and little children--they took away to be exterminated. There was one incident that I'll never forget for as long as I live. They took us--there was this girl that I was kind of fond of, and she did not have a card, even though she worked in a factory. For some reason she never got it, so the Germans put her inside. And I felt that if I go with her, I'll be able to save her, and that's what I did. When my time came up in the line to the Germans, I didn't show my card. They took me also. They put us on big horseless wagons--actually, you know, these horses used to carry these--drag these big coal wagons. So, there was another girl that clutched a bag under her arm and she told the two policemen--which one happened to be a Polish-Jew, and the other happened to be a German-Jew--she said, "I'll give you what I have, but let me go." So one guy said, "I don't care," and the other Ger...the other I believe was a German-Jewish policeman said, "I don't want to give my head." Meanwhile that dialogue went on between them, and she kept begging and crying. So I said--I told this girl that I was fond of, I says, "Look, you listen to me what I tell you. If I tell you to turn around with your back towards me, do it." And I kept watching the dialogue that went on, that went on between those two policemen and this girl, which, by the way, her husband was in the hospital, and she didn't survive. All of a sudden, with their being engrossed in that conversation, I tell the girl, "Now turn around," and she did. I put my two hands on her hips, and I said, "Jump!" and she jumped, and I put her in the street, and she ran away. Then there was this little child sitting on the cobblestones. She came back, grabbed this little baby, and ran away. Then they grabbed me both sides--the poli...two policeman grabbed my two arms, and he said, "You're gonna be shot for that." I didn't pay no attention to them, and that wagon was drawn by the horses towards that place, that currently in Warsaw is called the Umschlagplatz, but they didn't have no name for it in my ghetto, I don't believe. So, um...

This is the place that they took people away?

Right. This was the place that they put them together to send away for the transports. So when the wagon turned around a corner and the gates opened--this was a hospital, by the way, before the war--and when the gates opened, I took away my one arm--my right arm from one pol...policeman, and I slapped him on his wrist, with--where he held my left arm. I says, "What are you holding me for? What am I, a criminal?" And momentarily he let go and I rolled right over the wagon, and I ran away. This was the incident in 1942--July, 1942 that has spared us. Then I kept working on...

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