They took my family to the ghetto in Srodula-Kamionki near Bendzin. I smuggled out of the ghetto to get food, I cut the wires and went back to where we used to live. A black kind of jeep pulled up with German soldiers and two German Shepherds. They said come out and asked are you Jews? I was with my two Christian girlfriends.
I broke down crying, when I did this, they knew they had their answer. They said get in or the dogs will chew you up. They took me their headquarters. I gave them a different name because I was afraid they would go after my family in the ghetto. I had no food, nothing. Next they sent me to Sosnowiec, a transit camp, a few kilometers away, to a women’s camp. Some Germans came to pick girls like they used to pick slaves in the American South, to work in factories. I was 13½ years old. They took me to Parshnic labor camp to work in a large weaving factory, a Spinnerei. My job was working on a machine to unweave wet threads, from there they would let them dry and they would be woven to make German uniforms.
While I was in the lager, the camp, the German woman in charge of our barrack was nice. As a reward, I was allowed to write home to my family while they were still in the Srodula-Kamionki ghetto. My sister, Miriam, was later able to join me at Parshnic which ultimately saved her life.
We were liberated on May 8, 1945 by the Russians. A woman came on a horse and told us we were free, and then a man came playing an accordion.
Across from me in my barrack was a Czech lady, she told me where she lived. I was together with my sister and two other girls from my city. She said to us, I will raise all of you as my daughters. I told her I have to go back home to try to find my family.
I was the leader of a few girls who went with me. We hitchhiked; we were on German soil in lower Silesia, we were afraid to say that we were Jews. We came to a German house and asked for lodging for the night. The woman told us to sleep up in the attic as there have been Russian soldiers raping. We could not sleep that night. The next morning, Russian soldiers came upstairs to the attic, we hid and they did not find us. The German woman gave us few sandwiches to take with us.
We came to Reichenbach in Lower Silesia, Poland on a Friday night. We were looking to find candlelight (lit Shabbos or Sabbath candles), hoping to find other Jewish people. A man came up to us and said Amchu? (Are you Jewish?) We said yes and we started to cry. The man was my cousin Salek! He told us that my first cousin, Sesha was here too.
We told him that we have to go back to our hometown of Bendzin. He said, “You’re going nowhere.” Eric, Yakov, and he had already gone there after liberation; he said they came back two days ago, that no one was alive. Salek left our family names with Jewish center there. Salek later introduced me to a man, Abram Zarnowiecki, who knew my whole family. We became engaged. Abram learned that he had a cousin living in Pietrekov and went to find him. He found his cousin and learned that they had other family members living in Berlin. They decided to go to Berlin to find them.
I went back to Bendzin. I met my neighbor who said to me, “You Jew, you’re still alive?” This changed me. I was very angry. This is the home where I was raised; I called her an old witch. I will never put my feet on Polish soil again.
My sister Miriam met someone and they married. She went with him to find his relatives in Landsberg which was in the American zone. I was in the Russian zone waiting for Abraham. I didn’t hear from him for a long time. I wrote to Miriam and she said you have to come out of the Russian side and come to us in the American zone. Abraham showed up in Landsberg four months later. I was very angry with him.
He explained what had happened to him. I decided to marry him. We were married on a kibbutz in Regensburg, Germany; we were married for 57 years. Abram passed away in 2003.
We wanted to go to Israel because Jews have no other place that will always take us in; Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people. My mother always talked about Israel, she was a big Zionist; she always wanted to go Israel.
I gave birth to our first little girl in 1947 who we named Chayala after my mother. We came to Israel illegally in 1948. An organization from Israel helped to arrange it, we first came to Gibraltar and then to Haifa. I didn’t know the language (Hebrew) but my husband did, he knew Loshen Kodesh (Hebrew, the holy language) as he had studied in Yeshiva (rabbinical school) for 14 years.
My husband worked for a kibbutz (a collective agricultural settlement in modern Israel) near Lod, we lived near Rishon LeZion. My sister and brother-in-law left Israel in 1953 for Canada because he could not find work. In 1957, he came back to Israel to visit us. The conditions we lived in, in Israel were very, very hard. We got papers to go to Canada. My husband did not want to go; I said to him that perhaps we should. We arrived in Windsor, Ontario on August 8, 1959. We had two daughters born in Israel, Tovah and Ella. Helen was born on a kibbutz (a collective agricultural settlement in modern Israel) in Germany.