Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

George Vine - July 5, 1983

German Invasion of Poland

And he left after the war in the beginning?

Before the war, no, after the war started. As the war started he--and the Germans were approaching our town and he kept on heading east. And that was the last time that I seen him. Till I found out a few years back, what happened to him.

At the time uh, what was said when he was going? Why was--why did he leave?

Well, at that time uh, uh, the young people in the city felt that if the Germans come in that uh, they might get killed or, or, or, or uh, hurt or whatever the case is. And they felt that they wanted to fight the Germans. And the only way they knew how to fight the Germans was to go uh, places where they could join armies and uh, fight the Germans. And I think that was uh, characteristic of a lot of uh, Jewish people in those days here who were older, like if I was twelve and he was ten years older, that's twenty-two years, or twenty-two, twenty-five years old. So he was a uh, uh, adult and uh, and he felt that uh, they'll, they'll go up there and, and, and see what's happening. It was happening so fast and these people who had the foresight to leave uh, uh, if more had left I think more could have survived. Not that they had a picnic in Russia, but at least there was not a systematic destruction of our people uh, in Russia. It was just hard times and everybody had a rough time. But on the overall, most of them survived. Uh, there's another incident that, that's important to mention at this time. Very, very important I think, of the mentality of the Polish Jew in a small town. And I was only twelve years old and yet it left such a imprint on me. The Germans came into our town. And I think the first German that came in were the Wehrmacht or the army, not the Gestapo, the army. And the officer asked all the Jews to congregate in the square. Or I believe if I remember correctly, it could have been near the shul. It wasn't a, a compulsory sort of thing. It wasn't a anything uh, uh, what it had to do with violence, it was just simply I think a, a, a announcement that most of the Jews should meet in that, in that place. That was the first few days, maybe the second day or third day that the Germans had conquered--had taken over our city. He stood up and he said, "Jews, I would like to let you know that once the Gestapo comes in here, you will have rough times. I suggest to you that you take whatever you can and you run east. And you might save yourself your lives." Our leaders, and I can recall it as it would be yesterday, start chanting in Yiddish, du geboren du verloren. English translation, "We were born here and we will die here." The irony and the tragedy of it is that here was a German who was trying to tell us the truth, trying to tell us we should save ourselves, we should run. Because the Gestapo's gonna come and they gonna kill us. And yet our leadership was so narrow minded and, and were telling us we should not go because, because, just because we were born here we should--we have to stay here and die here. In other words, what it means here is don't run, don't worry, God will help, you know, don't worry about it. And look what happened--a city of 5,000 Jews, 5,000 families.

5,000 Jewish families?

Uh, 5... 5,000 Jewish people.


About 20,000, was about twenty-five percent of population, about 2,000 Jewish families, maybe, or something like that maybe 300 survived--terrible tragedy. A train load of, of, of 3,000 Jewish people that we arrived in Auschwitz, we were picked up 300, and the rest that very same day went to the gas chambers. Now, I believe that what I'm telling you here today uh, people should think about it and realize that a great tragedy happened to our people in my generation. But we must learn; we must learn that the only people that can protect the Jewish people are our people. We must stand together, we must protect ourselves and by doing that I think we at least will be able to say that we have learned from this.

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