Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Dorfman - August 11 & 25, 1989

Drafted into Russian Army

Now you were with the Russian Army, and how long did you stay with the Russian Army?

About seven months, six months.

You moved with them?

I, when I was drafted--you see, when I went into Lublin, it was starting to get organized. We got out, we got a job. A room, you know, and they gave us Dom Peretzi. You know, Pere...they called it the Peretz's house. Peretz was uh, was a, you know, a big professor--Jew.

Yiddish writer, yeah.

Yiddish, yeah. Peretz. And we, so we went in there and they gave us a room. Whoever came. Listen, we were taken care. It was like uh, that time was the UNRRA, you know. That cause, you know, whatever, you know. We didn't care, the only thing we, we cared was to have someplace to put our heads down, you know. And we slept on fifteen, twenty, you know, on the floors, whatever. Until we organized--we got beds, I mean, we got, the Russian Army gave us some--and then they took, I was, like I say, maybe I wasn't smart enough, but a lot of them from our boys right away went, went, went away to, I mean, to Germany. They didn't want to be in Poland. Because why, all the concentration camp people were all liberated and this one had a cousin, this one, you know, you looked everyday, you went to the, to the Jewish Center. It was a center, so you went to look who's alive. Who, who's alive from your family or from your friends from your hometown. Who's alive that you can grab around and, and say oh God we're alive. Uh, or discuss the things uh, what happened to you and how did you live through whatever. Like today, you take the survivors. It doesn't matter what function we get together. What do you think we talk about? We don't talk about the life in America. We don't talk ab...what we have here or bad or what. We talk from the past. I have, ea...each one talks how, how he lived through and--or, or, "Do you remember that episode? Do you remember what happened in the ghetto we were together, you remember what we did there, you know?" This goes on and on and on and on. There's not one that we ever came, believe me, it's, it's really uh, it's really something we, we done ourselves. Here we're on our wedding and we're sitting around a table and then you meet somebody, which you didn't see him for thirty years. Oh my God, I mean, from, from all over the world, from Australia. Of course, you know there's a--"Where were you? How did you get to Australia? How. Do you remember we were in the ghetto together? Do you remember we slept here? You remember we did this, we did that?" I, you know--I mean, this, this is the conversations, you know. So it's uh, so then right after the war it was the same thing. You were looking all over, like there. Hanging--they was hanging papers that had course who was alive and what it is, because everybody was looking for somebody. So this was the nineteen uh, because in '40--then, this was '44, then '45 was another...

Who were you looking for?


Did you think your mother was alive?

This I knew, no. My mother and, and the kids were...

You had heard that they...

No, no, I knew because the, the, the two sets of brothers, I told you.

They had taken the body out of the train.

But they came, they, they, they, they saw it, they were at Treblinka. They know exactly. So I knew. But I--but my uncles, aunts, cousins. This what I wanted to know. Because I didn't know about them, from the whole time during in war, I didn't know. One was in this city, one was in this, in this village. One was working here, one was working there. You didn't know. Everybody was caring about themself, you didn't even care about anything else. just the, the little clan which you got around you. If you lost that you haven't got nothing. Or friends that you went to school with, I mean. Like I say, you lived--let's say you live here and you know uh, Wayne State. I mean, if something like this would happen, I mean, who would you look for? You would look to people, I mean, from, from anyplace or family. Wayne State people, school people. Look for somebody. But what happened is that I took right away, then I, I was there about a month, maybe two months in Lublin and then they hanged out and then they, the paper thinks that they're taking to the army from 1921 to 1926 or '7 or '8, you know. But they, they want volunteers. Who the heck--I, I don't know, so uh. Father says, "Don't, don't go for a volunteer," so. A lot of friends which I met there, and couple of boyfriends they went and I went too and they took us. They took us and they put us into a training camp not far from Lublin, about eighty kilometers away from Lublin. To Zamosc and there we trained, how long. Because weap...how to use weapons we knew, you understand, I mean, what was the big deal. Machine gun, we knew how to use them, that's all they gave you, you know. So we, we went, we were--then they send us to uh, Sandomierz, which is right on the, on, on the uh, Sandomier they call it. Near ???. This is right on the uh, Demblin, this is all right on the, on, on the Vistula. Because the Germans were on the other side of the Vistula and we were on this side. See I was liberated--see here was the Vistula. The Russians were coming from here and here were the Germans. This was west and this was east. The Russians happened to cross the Vistula in a matter of ten kilometers here and twenty here. And I happened to be lucky to be in this. Otherwise, I don't think if I would be alive or I would have been liberated a year later, you understand. This year was the most, the biggest disaster of Jews being killed, murdered, was, was this particular year. From 1944, where the Russians stopped for six months, hundreds of thou...millions of Jews were murdered in that particular time. Because the Germans, they had, they had like, they had to do it. They wanted to get rid of everything that--no trace, because they knew the Russians are going to come sooner or later. So this was--so I was happy that I was in this little--they crossed over the Vistula up to here and I was here and then I went back, you understand. So I was in the army. My father right away went to the governor here and there. He says, "I got one son left," this and that. So I was taken out from the front line. A lot of my, a lot of I see not my boyfriends but Jews were there from Czechoslovakia, from Hungary. They were coming with the Russian army, you know. The same thing, when they were liberated they were going. Everybody wanted to take revenge. Those that they never had a gun in their hand wanted to have one, you know, as a Jew to, to take revenge of the Germans. They're going to Germany we're going to murder them all, okay. This was what, this, this was in our mind. And I'll tell you--in all the Russian tanks, all the vehicles, all things was all marked ??? that means "blood for blood." The Russians themselves. They said they're going to go in and they're going, they're not going to leave a house in Germany alive. Later on it was a different philosophy you know, but in the beginning they didn't. There was no mercy. There was no mercy. I mean, if you, if you caught twenty, thirty Germans eh, s...something that they, they were murd...they were gunned down like the, like pigs. ??? wanted to look at them.

Did you see them?

Oh sure. [pause] But uh, so the thing is then my, then, I was with it and my father took me out. They, they let me out. I was working for a Russian officer, you know. He took me out from the front line and he put me into his house to help him, you know, clean the, clean the, the guns, his--you know, his pistols and clean his house and help him around. You know, like, like, you know, like they call it, adjutant, you know, like here, I don't know, like any general had a driver whatever, I was driving him and this and that. And then uh, we got into Łódź.

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