Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Ruth Muschkies Webber - February 2, 1987

German Invasion

Tell me what you remember about the beginning of the war?

Well, um, our home was a very happy one. I had an older sister, mother, father, my father's grandmother lived in our house with us and my mother's parents and family lived just a few doors down. My father was a professional photographer, and I remember very happy things um, Friday, Saturday we would always go over to my grandparents and have dinner and uh...

Was the family very religious?

My father was traditional, but not religious, there was no conservatism, it was either Reformed or Orthodox and my father did not wear a beard or anything of that kind...he did not work on Saturdays. I don't remember him working on Saturdays, but um, I guess you would not consider him Orthodox under American standards. My grandparents were. My grandparents were very Orthodox. My grandfather on my father's side was a cantor in town. He died quite a few years before the Holocaust. That's when my grandmother lived with us. In 1939 when the Germans came into town one afternoon on motorcycles...and soldiers marching in, things changed drastically. I was not allowed to go out. I had to stay in the house or around my father's studio because it wasn't safe. There was shooting going on. Parents were always upset, always crying. They just didn't give me the attention that they did before. I was supposed to stay out of their way I guess but it was--I had to do a lot of things that was part of life before, the happiness, the pleasantness that was at home, the looking forward to a weekend or a Friday night wasn't there anymore, everybody was tense. My father's, for instance, studio was taken over. A uh, either Polish or German was put into the office where, had control of the business end. I didn't understand it at the time. I knew that my father was upset. My father was quite, well um, accepted in the Gentile community and he had a lot of Gentile friends and somehow after the Germans came in things changed. He wasn't involved as much. He was home more. He was upset more. Things just weren't the same.

Did you still go to school? Were you in school?

No. No I was not in school. And my sister was not at home. My sister was a pianist and she was studying in Warsaw. So...I don't remember the span of time, but I know that when things started getting very upsetting for my parents when incidents in the town became more intense where we had to give up everything that we possessed that was worth anything. People were being shot for no apparent reason. In fact at one time I walked into my grandparents home and everybody was crying. I looked at my grandfather he didn't have a beard. I didn't see the incident but apparently they, he was one of the people that was caught in the street and his beard was shaved off. I had an aunt, my mother's sister, that always used to pay a lot of attention to me and play with me, and all at once she just was completely changed. She would sit in a corner and be irritated every time I spoke to her. I didn't understand the reason why she was this way until actually just a few years ago when my mother mentioned to us that, to my sister and I now, that my aunt was raped and she I think was in her twenties at the time. I don't know what it means now to somebody, but I think it is much more accepted then it was at those days for a Jewish girl to be raped. Since then she was just not the same person. So, things were gradually changing, not for the better, and I think it was around 1942 when the Germans decided to make a ghetto. And they got all the people from the town into one section of the city and we happened to have lived in that section so we didn't have to move, but we had to make accommodations for these people. Again, my father wasn't allowed to go out of the ghetto, so he couldn't do any of the professional appointments that he used to have. He, for instance, used to be the photographer for the iron works. It was an industrial town and all the workers used to have tags with their pictures on it and my father used to be the photographer, the official photographer, and all that was taken away from him. So I used to overhear these little things and it was always hush, hush, hush, and I just wasn't allowed to say anything because everybody was very upset always. And an uncle and an aunt came in from Warsaw when the ghetto was formed because we thought it was a safe haven so they came to us for protection. There were a lot of people from Posnan and other places that were brought into our town when they were cleaning out Jews from other areas so the ghetto became very, very congested.

Where did you go in your house?

Well, we had two rooms, I remember a bedroom and a main room that I remember, and uh, we had this aunt and uncle and I think they had a son that was with them, and my grandmother, my mother, father, my sister and myself. That was a big place.

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