Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Mark Webber - December 13, 2004

Forced March into Russia

And they forced us then on to the bridge across the river, and on each side of the bridge were standing German soldiers and some Polish uh, people with some Polish uniforms with the special hats that the Polish army has. And they were having sticks, and just beating us, and all that, and yelling, "Go! Go! Go!" and there was a meadow right there off the bridge--that's where we had to go--and um, uh, we heard some gunshots. Apparently they were shooting at some people. We were told also later on that some people were thrown over the bridge into the river, with their belongings that they were carrying. Some of them drowned, some of them managed to swim to the shore. And we--it was dark already by then, and we continued marching on the road aimlessly, without knowing where we're going to go, and what we're going to do, and why we're doing all this here. So we came to a little uh, larger kind of village, that my father had some former customers and some Jewish people lived there. So we went into some Jewish people there--they took us in, our family, and they offered us some uh, food and um, uh, lodging to stay overnight. The next morning, the Germans came and rounded up all the refugees--they let the people that lived there stay, but only the ones from Pułtusk out, and chased us again on the road, to go. We didn't know in what direction we're going, actually, but we were going eastward because the town was on the west side of the bank, and we were on the, on the east side of it. And so this was going on for probably a couple of weeks uh, walking uh, people dying, and the first time I've seen somebody die. Suddenly we didn't have any uh, uh, any means of burying them. Somehow they managed to find some little hole in the ground there, and they buried the--that person. But anyhow, we, we went like this here, and then finally we realized that we're going to go into the Russian-occupied part of Poland. Then we came into the Russian side. The Russian, the Russian soldiers uh, came up to us and uh, greeted us, telling us in Russian, "Come on in! Come to us! We're not the Germans." This is the words that they were using. And they didn't offer us anything and all that--maybe they didn't have it themselves--but uh, um, we lost the fear that was staying with us all this time. Uh, we still never knew why it happened. We tried to find out uh, if other towns had something like this happening to them. We couldn't. Uh, it was not until later, of course, that I found out in the Yizkor book uh, here that the officer in charge of our town decided to um, uh, to get rid of the Jews because he thought that the Russians are going to occupy the territory all the way to the east side of the river. So made a transfer of uh, people, and, and wanted to get rid of the Jews, and then as we were walking uh, out the subsequent days--the first few days, we saw some Volksdeutsche, some German um, nationals. They were taken out from their homes, and they were marching towards Pułtusk. So it's almost like a cleansing uh, what do they call it now? Um, uh...

Ethnic cleansing?

Ethnic cleansing.

An exchange, in other words.

Uh, there never was such a term before but, um...

Do you remember what, what date this was?

Probably it's got to be uh, the beginning of October, because we were taken away on the 26th of September. So I would imagine that around the first of October we started to see um, we, we came into once--to, to uh, one of these uh, villages, that were void of any people, and they still had some warm bread lying there. And this must have been some of these homes that these Germans vacated. And we thought that we will settle down there and live through the war there, but the Germans came again the next morning, and chased us--continued chasing us. So um, we wound up eventually in the city of Białystok. And um, and there we decided we're going to stay and we rented a place for us and we stayed there uh, for several months.

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