Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Mark Webber - December 13, 2004

Deportation to Russia

What was it like in the car?

It was not as crowded as I--as we found out, of course, the uh, Nazis, they used uh, packed them in uh, full. Um, we were able to lie down. There was uh, no way of uh, having a bed or a seat, a chair or anything like this here. People were sitting on their belongings. We could look out from the little uh, windows, that were up on the uh, upper part of the sides of the, of the car and all we saw is just--and we were going day and night. We were going like this--you'd see a stopping, and every day they would do the same kind of a thing. After a while--I don't know if we were like this for a week or more--they dropped us off, and they took us over to the banks of a river--one of the major Russian rivers, and they um, after a while they put us on a barge that was on the river. And uh, there was no rooms or any protection against uh, the weather or rain, whatever but it was all on the top like a freight barge. And um, uh, people were completely disoriented; they didn't know what to do. Some people had hardly have any clothing on. They didn't have any--they were coming from all kinds of different directions, I guess--not only Białystok, they might have been taking them in from the neighboring towns, too, that had refugees in them. Again, only the refugees were taken out, not the native Jewish population. And um, after um, a week or, or so, they started to let off, at every stop that we made, they would take off a group of maybe fifty people. And that was it. They took families--there were a lot of families there um, most of the people there were all families. And the next day they would take another group and drop them off. And so it went out. We were taken off on the last group. By then the barge was already empty, and then they put us on a truck, and um, and took us away uh, through uh, woods. It was mostly woods. We were all--we knew that we were way up uh, in the northern regions uh, of Russia. Uh, uh, and we passed a, a big city there called Vologda uh, must be on the Volga River and, um...

Were you in Siberia already?

It was not Siberia. I, I consider Siberia, I guess, east of the Ural Mountains and all that, Asia. But uh, it was actually the tundra, they call it, and um, it was like northeast of um, of Leningrad or St. Petersburg uh, near--not far from the city of Arkhangelsk. It's in the northern regions, because there um, was hardly any night at all--it was hardly dark at night. We were quite north up. And they took us into this place that had only about five or six uh, barracks, made out of logs, wooden logs, and um, they assigned to each family a room, depending on the size of the family. And um, one of the buildings was uh, like the administrative business uh, building, where they had some guards. But we were not under any guard. There was no um, fence in there. There was a little creek--a small little river in there, in the woods. And the whole industry consisted--and they had several tractors that would run on wood--on the chunks of wood uh, they call it gas generator uh, and uh, there was no gasoline there available. Maybe we should have this new technology nowadays. But, uh...

Were they speaking Russian to you, by the way?

They were speaking Russian to us...

And you...

...and uh, when we were, we were in Białystok we picked up some Russian, because we were making a living uh, on the market. We were speculating with some materials that we were able to obtain by standing in lines uh, uh, at the government uh, subsidized price, which were low, and there were such a shortage of these things, by taking them out and selling it on the bazaar, we could make four--get four times as much, or five times as much for it. So we used to stay nights--used to stay in lines so that we'd be early enough to be able to get some of the items that that particular store--so this is a common practice in uh, Russia. There's always lines for everything. Um, but anyhow, I could talk for hours about it.

And a, and a black market, right?

It's a black market. It's all black marketeering. So we learned the Russians, again, were crazy about buying watches, for instance, and um, uh, because they had those big thick uh, watches and they, and they came in--which was considered west uh, they, they sell some more modern watches, and all this here, so they would buy them. So we learned some basic things in, in the Russian language.

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