Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Mark Webber - December 13, 2004

Start of War

Did you anticipate the war? Did people in your family think it's coming? Did they...

We anticipated the war, but there was no preparations made of any kind, that I can remember. But I know that when the war broke out, on the first of September '39, the second day or the third day, my father had already um, so he must've made some plans--had uh, rented from um, from some Polish man uh, a horse and buggy, so we would evacuate. Not all of us--my father and my oldest brother could not go because they were of military age, so they were prohibited from leaving the community, in case they're needed in the, in the battles. But um, uh, myself and my three sisters, and my mother as well as my aunt and her little girl uh, we had one wagon or two wagons, I'm not sure, and they put on a few things on there--some necessary things, and we took off. Um, I guess the idea was that if you run away from maybe--in this particular case we run away only seventy-five kilometers and we figured uh, they figured that maybe the Germans will not get in there, or maybe will be a peace arranged before and all that. But um, no other things were made uh, uh, prepared themselves uh, except that they used to bake um, uh, mix like a mix uh, um, bread, to dry it so it would last longer or something like this--toasted, if you will. But um, my parents believed deeply that they survived the First World War that this couldn't be much worse, and it couldn't last much longer than that period was. They never--nobody could visualize what was lying ahead for us.

Which did they think was worse, the Russians or the Germans?

It's hard to tell. I think the, the Germans were not long--from what I imagine, they were not very long uh, in our town. Uh, I'm talking about the First World War. Um, the Russians uh, they mobilized Jewish people both, and we--and uh, the Germans, I don't think mobilized any people, they were not long enough in our particular region of Poland, so I don't remember that particular part of the history, but I know that uh, at one point, Pułtusk, our region and all this here was part of Russia. And uh, some of the Jewish people were taken away into the army as uh, as most people know, they were there for about twenty-five years or longer. Most of them, they never came back. But uh, it was not--I cannot really differentiate uh, who was better. They were--none of them were loved!

Uh, do you remember, your first experience with like, the awareness that the war had, had come?

Oh yes, definitely. The first experience was when we started off with these wagons, which I didn't know, as a child--we didn't discuss it where we're going to--the destination, but obvi...obviously my mother knew, and the uh, driver of the horse and buggy knew, who was gentile. And um, it took several days to reach the destination, but on the first day already, I remember we were going on the road, and suddenly we saw some of the Messerschmitt airplanes coming, and they were flying very low, and we could, we could see the pilots from the ground up. And um, we were all trained before the war broke out yet, by the authorities, that the Germans might be using gas or something like this. So they, they had such masks that consist of nothing uh, more like just a plain um, uh, piece of rag, and uh, they, they would pour some chlorine on it. And so we all uh, sort of started uh, wearing these uh, masks, and we got off the wagons because they started to strafe--there were several wagons going on the road. Many--some people--I guess other families were doing the same thing we, we were doing. And they started to strafe us, so we ran off and we quickly ran into some uh, forest on the side and we were hiding there. And so this was the first uh, first encounter actually with the actual war. Of course, it continued on uh, on and off, especially when we were coming close to some railroad lines on the road. So they were frequently there. They would come and uh, shoot. They did not drop any bombs that I remember but just using like, machine guns from the airplanes. Um, some people were--I was told--I didn't see any uh, casualties but I was told that some people were uh, died as a result of this here. And we came in--the name of the town was Vegrow and um, V-E-G-R-O-W. And um, we got a home there--we rented a home. I don't know if they had done it before or not. This was not discussed either; they just had our--they must've had a um, an address--who to go to, although we did not have any relatives there, or friends. And that was seventy-five kilometers away from our town. And that is um--we settled down in there, and uh, maybe five, six days later, the Germans came in to that town. And this I remember vividly, their coming in--not that we were standing on the streets and greeting them. Obviously everybody was fearful and scared. We were staying behind shutter. The windows were sort of uh, the shutters--some shutters on and we were peeking through, and seeing as they were coming in. At first you didn't see a foot soldier at all. It was just like all mechanized and uh, motorcycles uh, there were several tanks coming in, and only after about fifteen minutes of this you would see some um, regular foot soldiers coming in.

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