Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Mark Webber - December 13, 2004

News of the War

And what was the word coming from the west? Anything?

From the west was only what the uh, Russian newspapers or radio was telling--what, what the government wanted people to know. Uh, there was a lot of inaccuracies there. There was no word at all throughout the war, not until uh, just before the end of the war uh, anything at all about the--what was going on to the European Jewry. We did not know--we had no idea about the mass executions and the killing factories that we found out when we came back to Poland. Um, the Russians did not--first of all, of course, they were uh, too busy. They were uh, for two years they were retreating and losing uh, most all of their western part of the country. The Germans came very close to uh, Moscow. Moscow government had evacuated--all the ministries and everything had evacuated. They were afraid that Moscow was gonna fall, of course, and then came Stalingrad and uh, turned the war around. After the war um, we could almost sense the anti-Semitism by, by the, by the way things were going on the front. I uh, this was just my own observation that anti-Semitism was on the rise all while the Russians were losing. Once the Soviet armies turned around, and started uh, having some victories on the Germans, anti-Semitism subsided. Because I guess, while there was a lot of anti-Semitism in the authority--in, in the government and all this here, still the general public was more restrained, knowing that the government is still going to be after the war is over. So they didn't--they decided to ease up on this here.

What was the talk of Stalin? Anything?

Well, Stalin was uh, glorified uh, on the outside, but I think uh, internally among uh, well nobody trusted--one doesn't--didn't trust the other to express their own opinions of what they felt, felt inside. Uh, everybody in Russia had learned uh, to keep to himself your thoughts and ideas. They had this joke that was going around that the Russian dentists pulled teeth only through the nose, and they ask him why, so they says, "Because everybody is afraid to open up the mouth." So...

So you were not really involved in any of the--those politics? But did, did that affect you at all, or your family?

We were not involved in politics; we were not affected by this here. We only hoped that the war is gonna be won by the United Sta...by, by, by the Allies because don't forget, the Allies came into the war late in the picture. The Russians--the newspapers were full of criticism of the Allies for not uh, opening up the second front. Uh, they couldn't wait. Uh, they were taking heavy casualties. There were millions of Russian soldiers killed in um, and um, and of course, the uh, turn around in Stalingrad probably would not have been a uh, uh, it wouldn't have taken place were it not for the great help and aid that they got from, from the United States. Military uh, equipment and, and, and technicians, and um, I don't know, they must've had a lot of advisors also, and that turned the war around. But um, we saw on the--when they started winning the war, there were all these maps in the front pages of the newspapers, and uh, showing exactly what was liberated and how all these battles are going, and the Germans are retreating. And of course uh, bad-mouthing, the Germans. But there was no word about the atrocities that they were doing to--the Einsatzgruppen that were killing the Russian Jews, and all this here, from, from the onset of the war there uh, nobody knew about that. It wasn't until uh, maybe in '44 when most of Russia was already reclaimed that uh, my brother wrote away a card to Vitebsk, to that city where my unc...aunt and uncle and child lived, to find out what happened to them, and we received an answer from the uh, from the uh, government there--from the City Hall--that they died on such-and-such a date in uh, in, in 1942. So I guess all the Jews were killed off; they didn't manage to evacuate and that's how they perished.

So they were shot, you think?

We had no idea, they just said they died. In a postcard uh, just a uh, standard one. They must have had many inquiries, and uh, this is what I remember came in to us. While we were--we received--while we were in Uzbekistan, we received parcels from the United States. I had two uncles here in Detroit um, and they sent us parcels--not that we have ever asked for any--as a matter of fact, we kept on telling them not to, and um, but they kept on sending us. We also received aid from uh, an aunt in uh, in Palestine. My mother's sister had left Poland before the war broke out, and uh, she was struggling herself and didn't have what to eat, but she saved up enough to send us some things.

And how did they find out where you were?

We had written to them because we knew the addresses of my uh, uncles in the States, and we knew also the address of my aunt in Palestine from before the war. So uh, we--all throughout we, we communicated uh, when we were, in the, in the camp--in the lager in the woods, we communicated with the United States also at that time, but I don't believe getting any packages from the U.S. there, but we did get packages from my aunt and uncle when they still lived in Belarus.

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