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Zalman H. was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1929, the youngest of six brothers. He recounts being the sole Jew in his public school class; antisemitic harassment; his oldest brother’s draft in 1937; German invasion; anti-Jewish restrictions; ghettoization; his father’s death; two brothers escaping and working as non-Jews; smuggling food into the ghetto with Peretz, his next oldest brother; arrest by Polish police; escape; his father’s non-Jewish friend once providing food; his mother’s death; escaping with Peretz; moving from place to place; entering the ghetto often to obtain goods to sell outside the ghetto; a ghetto resistance fighter showing him a secret arms cache; fighting with him during the uprising; capture; escaping from a boxcar; finding Peretz; selling cigarettes and newspapers; attending church to reinforce his non-Jewish identity to the other street children; obtaining false papers from the underground, resulting in registering and living with a Polish woman as non-Jews; occasional contact with a person from the Jewish underground; joining the Polish resistance; fighting in the Polish uprising; and their unit surrendering.
Mr. H. recalls transport to Ożarów; transfer to Stalag VIII B (Lamsdorf), then IV B (Mühlberg); receiving Red Cross parcels; forced labor in an airplane factory; antisemitic harassment by non-Jewish Polish prisoners; assistance from their German supervisor; liberation by Soviet troops from an evacuation march; jumping on a train to Warsaw, leaving Peretz behind; reunion with another brother who had survived posing as a non-Jew; Peretz’s return; joining a kibbutz; being smuggled to Bratislava, Prague, Germany, then Marseille; illegal emigration to Palestine in August 1946; interdiction by the British; incarceration on Cyprus; release; reunion with his brothers (they had arrived while he was in Cyprus); draft into the Palmaḥ; fighting in the Israel-Arab War; marriage; and the births of three sons. Mr. H. discusses his nightmares and sharing his experiences with his sons and in schools.
Kalman A. (HVT-3869) was born in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1928, an only child. He recounts attending a Yavneh school; antisemitic harassment; Soviet invasion; attending a Soviet school; German invasion; Lithuanians openly stealing their possessions; his father’s round-up (they never saw him again); ghettoization; slave labor at the airport; smuggling food into the ghetto; a selection prior to a mass shooting at the 9th Fort; hiding during the children’s selection; a public hanging; transfer to Aleksotas with his mother, aunt, and her children; deportation to Stutthof; separation from his family; transfer to Landsberg; placement in a children’s group led by Ze’ev G.; their transfer to Dachau, then Auschwitz/Birkenau one month later; assignment as a camp cleaner, which resulted in receiving extra food; train transfer to Mauthausen in January 1945; a death march to Gunskirchen; hearing about cannibalism; a German soldier giving him food; liberation by United States troops; hospitalization in Wels; transfer by the Jewish Brigade to a hospital in Udine, then Milan; his adoption by a survivor in 1945; their emigration to Israel in 1955; reunion with his aunt (his mother did not survive); marriage; and adopting a child. Mr. A. discusses songs in the ghetto and camps (he sings several); not losing his belief in God; nightmares resulting from his experiences; sharing his experiences with his daughter; and attending reunions of the children’s group.
Chłopek-Roztropek—Bam geto-toyer(A Village Hustler—At the Ghetto Gate)
1. Jestem se chłopek-roztropek, mieszkam se w chałupie,
Życie nie jest takie jak w Warszawie głupie.
Bo nam, chłopom, dzisiaj na wsi dobrze się powodzi,
A was w Warszawie drożyzna niedługo zagłodzi.
Wywieźliśta z tej Warszawy meble i ubrania,
Tak że nie mata nam nic już do sprzedania.
A my wasze fortepiany w stodołach trzymamy,
Bo na tyle różnych gratów już miejsca nie mamy.
2. Mówiły na nas: frajery albo głupie chamy.
A ja mówię, że my swoje kiełbie we łbie mamy.
Bo jak przyjedzieta na wieś rąbankę kupować,
To musita pół dnia za to forsę nam rachować.
My, frajery, se na miejscu nigdzie nie jeździewa,
Ale za słoninę skórę dziesiątą ściągniewa.
A wam jeszcze w tych pociągach wszystko zabierali,
A chłopi sobie sienniki forsą napychali.
3. Myślę sobie: to ci czasy, niech to piorun liźnie,
Jak ja zobaczyłem Kasie w jedwabnej bieliźnie!
—Nie wyśmiewaj, mój Wojtusiu, boś nie lepszy przecie,
Boś sobie niedawno futro kupił w getcie.
Bam geto-toyer shteyt a poyer,
Zayn gezikht iz shtreng un zoyer.
Hit di geto vi a bank,
Mit a biksele in hant.
Ober plutsling vert er freylekh
Un er fil zikh vi a meylekh.
A brigade kumt aher,
Ongelodn rikhtik shver.
1. I am a village hustler, I live in a shack,
Life here is not silly, like it is in Warsaw,
We peasants have a good life in the village,
And soon you’ll be starving from those high prices in Warsaw.
You took the furniture and clothes out of Warsaw,
So, we don’t have anything to sell.
We are keeping your pianos in the stables,
Because we don’t have room for all that stuff.
2. Those ladies used to call us “Ne’er-do-well” or “foolish rednecks,”
And I’m telling you, we don’t have fish for brains, we can think for ourselves.
When you come to the village to buy pork chops,
You’ll be counting out the cash to give us for hours.
We fancy folks stay in place, not going anywhere,
But we’ll rip you off for some lard.
They used to take everything from you on those trains,
While the peasants stuffed their mattresses with cash.
3. I’m thinking to myself, these are great times, damn it,
When I saw Kasia wearing silk underwear.
—Don’t laugh at me, my dear Wojtek, you’re not any better,
‘Cuz you recently got yourself a fur coat in the ghetto.
At the ghetto gate stands a peasant,
His face is strict and sour.
He guards the ghetto like a bank,
With a rifle in his hand.
But suddenly he’s happy,
He feels like a king.
A brigade of smugglers is coming,