Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Dorfman - August 11 & 25, 1989

Trip to Poland, 1948

The following is a continuation of the interview with Mr. Henry Dorfman conducted on the morning of August 25, 1989 at his office in Southfield. Um, let me--you took a trip with your family...


...to Poland...


...this summer.


Um, w...why did you go there?

I went there that uh, to show the kids. Because through the years I really uh, they knew who we are, that we went, that I went through uh, the Holocaust--the war. Lost uh, all my family and told them about the two brothers uh, the little ones and my little sister and my mother. We lost the whole family, which it was--like I say, it was quite a few hundred, hundreds of people. And, and told them about, mostly they were lost in Treblinka. They read, they, they understood Auschwitz and a lot of camps, but I want 'em to see it with their own eyes. That they can relate to their friends, relate to their friends that uh, what they saw with their, with their own eyes, eh. How a elimination of, of people was done by those barbarians.

Was there a reason besides the children that you felt you had to go back there?

Yes, uh. I went back the same thing to see the, the people, the righteous people, which it was very few! Because being with them in the time of the Holocaust uh, you know, just a very close minority. And I went back to see those people because I left them, I left those people in 19...I escaped in 1944. And I did not see them. I was back there in 1948 because my father was still living in Poland. I was in Germany, from Germany I went to see him. And my father was more close with them through the years. Then when my father passed away I felt that I have to take over that obligation to go back and do whatever I can for those people, because they really sacrificed their lives to help a few of us.

Now this picture of this man with, with you and your wife and your--is that--and your son.

Yeah, this is, this is a son of the people, one of the people which, he is uh, we were there. We, we told them to come to uh, some of them they don't live all together. Some of them live in, in, in, in eh, Gdansk and here and there, so. He is the only son which that particular people had. They had another son and he was uh, he--they took him to Auschwitz because he was in the Polish underground. And this one lived in Gdansk, so he came to see us in Warsaw. So we traveled around with him in Warsaw...

What's his name?

...he went with us. His name is Yaniczweski. Stanislaw Yaniczweski.

Uh, w...had you been to Auschwitz before?

Yes I was.

You had been there before.

Yes, I was there in uh, in 19...1948.

Forty-eight? How did that happen that you went?

Well, listen, I was, usually--let me tell you, when you, whenever you had a chance to go and see those camps in, you just went to go there and, and cry, get your heart. To see really what did happen. Because your--yourself could not believe that in that modern world, those, those kind of, of things could happen. I mean, so you just went and said, "My God, who engineered this? How? Why?" It was usually in the world through, through the years before somebody was in politics or army or whatever. But here elimination of a whole, of a, of a whole race. Kids! Didn't know from nothing. Put 'em in the gas chambers? Alive? Burn 'em because they're Jews? Eighty percent of the kids didn't even know who they are, if they Jewish or non-Jews. So that's why you went. You always went there, whenever chance you had. Used to go back, the way you go, the way if you believe in God you go to a synagogue or to a church or anything. You want to go back and look at it and see it and remind yourself, because otherwise you forget. That's why I went back. I went back to, to, to Treblinka. I was in Treblinka in '48. I was in Auschwitz uh, in '48. I was in Majdanek in '48, I was in Babi Yar in '48. I traveled around as much as I could to see those camps. Because the German camps I saw in Germany when I was there in Belsen and in Dachau, you know, and all the others. Polish camps.

When you went to Babi Yar--why did you go to Babi Yar? Did you have family in Kiev?

No I had family in uh, in Belzec.

Which is close to it.

Yes. Belzec uh, was a mess. I mean, when the Russians with uh, when, when, when, when the Germans came in--because the Russians were there before and when they, when they got in there in 19...I don't know, '42 I think and they attacked, this was the biggest massacre. I mean, Belzec was buried hundreds of thousands of Jews alive. They, they, they just shot 'em like, like, like, it, it, it, it was hard to believe to see those mass graves. There's nothing there except mass graves. Bones sticking out from the mass graves. That's all you see.

In '48 when you went.

Yes. And even there, like I say yes, when I was going. Like right now in Treblinka you see mass graves, the same thing. Bones coming out because everything's s...sinking and the bones are coming out.

This looks like you were at Auschwitz at a time when nobody was around. No tourists or anything.

No there were tour...this, this really just took pictures from the air. The--you know, there's a lot of tourists. But this we took from the bag, from, you know. This is my home town.

Is that your...

That's my house where I lived. This is the, the Umschlagplatz you know, Warsaw where, where they got all the Jews together from, from where they were shipped to Treblinka. This is the...

Janus Korczak.

Yeah, monument. And, uh...

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