Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

George Vine - July 5, 1983

Trying to Break away from Old Traditions

Do you think your brother left as a result of that uh, warning by the Wehrmacht?

Yes, I think there were a lot of young people in our city, as I've mentioned with you before, that if we had the time only, that were slowly breaking away from the old ways, who believed in self-defense. Who believed in building a, a, a, a better tomorrow, not necessarily by sacrificing our heritage or our way of life--but we could do both. We could--if we choose to be extremely religious, we can be extremely religious and at the same time we can be uh, uh, building uh, uh, uh, a, a, a proud uh, organiz... proud organizations where we can be proud uh, where we can be uh, defending our people where we don't have to be uh, uh, waiting to be slaughtered as we have done in the past few thousand years. Uh, and I think that uh, many people like my brother had foresight. And they realized that du geboren du verlieren that just because we were born here uh, uh, that doesn't mean that we don't have to look for tomorrow and protect ourselves. And I think they did leave and this was a very wise move. And I think history has proven that these people been able to survive and fight for our causes and the heroism that they have uh, uh, have shown to the world is, is beyond uh, comprehension. Uh, cases that, that, that uh, we hear that uh, a lot of uh, uh, the, the whole world seems to play it down is the Warsaw ghetto. I think uh, under the circumstances that they were under--the starvation, the, the, the being uh, locked up for almost uh, 1939 'til 1942 or '43 almost three, four years. Starved uh, without food, without heat, without uh, any, any human uh, conditions and yet they can fought off an army of Germans longer than the whole Polish army it's, it's, it's absolutely mind boggling. I think it's the most uh, uh, heroic uh, action of any people in the world not just among Jews. So when you--when we hear uh, uh, um, that the Jewish people went to the slaughterhouse willingly, I resent it and I think that it is important that we, the people who have survived, I think have a duty to explain to the world that we did not go to the slaughterhouse, as some people uh, seem to believe or, or, or, or uh, or make statements in this regard. Because we have to realize one thing, that here was a systematic destruction of a people by a complete army. Not a few hijackers that go ahead and hijack a plane or the local population and everybody around it is against them. Here was not a group of, of, of people who take the law in their hands and while the police is away they execute uh, certain terroristic terrorism. No, we are talking about a complete army taking a minority group in a country and planning meticulously to destroy 'em. And the, the tragedy of it all is that the close citizens of the countries that the Jews lived in were happy and willing to help the authorities and the army to destroy their people. So how can anyone in a, in a, in a, in, in, with any common sense tell that the Jewish people just went ahead to the slaughterhouses and didn't do anything about it? What could they do? What could they--a people like in our town when truck fulls of--when the army comes into the city, with machine guns, and dogs, and guns, and ammunition. And they surround your house and they tell you get on the truck, what do you do? What do people do in this country, a free country, well fed, and two hijackers take a plane full of people and they terrorize them, all it takes is three, four people to rush those two guys and they can kill them and, and, and, and one or two get killed and yet the rest will be free yet no one does it, in a free country where, where, where the police will protect us as soon as they get out of it. How can a people do anything about it when they stand ???. So it is important, I think. Right...

We...Well what happened now when your uh, when they had this meeting uh, with the Wehrmacht, did your parents--did you recall them talking about it after words? Did they consider leaving?

No, because once the elders, the leaders of the community, said we are staying here where our parents were born. There was no question of whether you gonna go. You just didn't go because this was a way of life.

Was it the rabbis who were saying that?

Rabbi said that, yes, yes. So we went back to our apartments and, of course, it was exactly as that officer said. Within a few days later, the Gestapo came into the city and there was a systematic uh, dehumanizing process taking place in our city. It started out first with no Jewish children can go to school. Slowly, no Jewish people can own a business. All government employees were fired. Rations out to the Jewish people uh, a, a, a um, a, um...

Magen David?

Right that a Magen David uh, uh, to wear, to identify you as you are a Jew. You walked down the street, a German passed by you had to take your hat off and go down in the gutter you could not face him; you could not look at him. It was just a slow, systematic uh, dehumanizing process uh, taking away the rights, the businesses. Uh, and the thing was planned, we are finding out this now, that there was a Final Solution. But who would have ever imagined, in those days there, that this was all planned to, to, to do away with the Jewish people. We hoped as it happened in the past that the war will end very soon. Uh, I have to, to recall an incident here, about the philosophy of our people in, in town. My father lived on the border between Poland and Germany. He was educated in German schools; spoke half a dozen languages, very respected man in our community. And he used to tell me stories when I was a little boy he used to tell me that the Germans are the nicest people in the world. Because when a man would walk in Germany all the kids they were coming from school would say, "Good morning sir, good morning sir, how are you sir?" The politeness and the kindnesses--and I think that when he saw what was happening, I think uh, the mind, his mind I think could not comprehend that the people, intelligent people, like the Germans--I don't think that he could quite grasp that the German people with their culture would, would, would kill other people. He just could not accept that. And the only, I think, time when I think he must have realized that a great tragedy is taking place was on our train to Auschwitz.

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