Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Water - 1982

Standing Up to the Authorities

A chief? Is that what you mean?

He was the chief. He was a chef or chief. He was a lieutenant probably. So a Sonderkommando--he was the Sonderkommando.

Was this a German?

He was Jewish. He's still alive, by the way, still alive. Lives--he's a neighbor of my brother in the Bronx, New York. So I go. I was called to his office, I go down to his office. Now there's another story. Whoever went to his office was afraid to go to his dis...to his desk. He behaved like a king. The office was beau...beautiful furnished. He had on his desk a green felt--beautiful, clean. It was very--like a ??? clean, this man, too. When I came in his office, I went straight to his desk. He didn't lift his head up. He said to me--by the way, he spoke in Polish to me, he wouldn't speak in Jewish. So he says to me in Polish, "I heard that you are doing some shenanigans. You don't want to work. You want an extra soup." I said, "I didn't lay down the law; the soup was given to me, for my extra work, for my expertise. And now you take it away from me." He says, "We haven't got any soups to give you." I says, "Don't give me that. I see what's happening. Those people--the truckers, where they come to unload the trucks, they get big pots of soup-- thick soup. Why shouldn't you give me a little extra soup for my wo...for my labor?" He says to me, "I'll give you po...po...potato peels." I said, "I'm a human being, I'm not a goat. I don't want to eat potato peels." On his left, on the desk, he had a telephone. He said, "If I pick up that phone, and call Czarnieckiego," which means it was a prison, in the ghetto--a prison. Why were people afraid of Czarnieckiego? Because every so often, the Rollkommando--the ??? was a general--he used to pounce in on the ghetto, and empty the ghetto, and take away the people to be cremated. That's why people were afraid. It was actually very, very sinister.

Excuse me, when was this?

This was in 1943.

Did, did people talk about cremating at this time?

Well we didn't know it then, but the people never showed up, they never came back. The people never came back. The Rollkommando was called. Whenever you- whoever was in the ghetto knows about the Rollkommando. "So if I pick up that phone," he said, "and I call them up, you go there." And four shoemakers were in the, in the fac...in the, in the prison already during the war, because they refused to do it in the factory. They were arrested, put in prison, and they had to make the norm that was required of them in the prison. So I said, "Well, you're the boss. Go ahead and do it." His wife showed up from nowhere. She was a very handsome, tall woman. Esther is her name. She's still alive. She said to him in Polish, "???: which means--her husband's name is ???, or Benny--she said to him, "Benny, he is right." He said to her--I'm gonna say it in Polish again and then translate it--he said, "Esther," or ??? he called her, "???", which means "Don't put your nose in," like it's none of your, none of your business. I got mad. I don't know why, but I got mad because maybe--because he insulted a wife in my presence. I banged my fist on the desk. The inkwell jumped out, spilled the ink on the felt. I got pale. He got pale. First time he lifted he head, he says, "Get out of here." He said it a, a little differently, which I, I'm not gonna use while I am on, on the, the, you know, in sound. I went out. Fifteen minutes later, I got my coupon for my soup. I prevailed.

Was this man a, a, a member of the Judenrat?

No, he was a member of the Sonderkommando, which was a special unit of the police.

So he was with the Ordnungspolizei is that, is that right?

It was uh, I believe an ordinance police.

The Jewish...

The Jewish ghetto--the Jewish police, yeah.

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