I was born in Rejowiec, Poland in a small rural community with about 500 Jewish families. We lived a simple life. Electricity did not come until 1938. After finishing public school at 16, I left my small hometown and went to Chelm, Poland. I attended trade school in Chelm for a year.
I then went to Warsaw where I wanted to become a bookkeeper. I stayed with my cousin in Warsaw. I worked for the Polish government as a bookkeeper until Germany invaded Poland. Because I was a Jew, I lost my job. I was liked by my gentile supervisor and he gave me special papers that protected me.
These papers, as it turned out, saved my sister Feigela and me from an early deportation to Auschwitz. When the officials asked for my papers, I would show them these papers. When the officials asked Feigela for her papers, she showed them the same papers that I had. We helped each other out. While in Warsaw I was a member of the Hachshara, a Zionist youth organization that was preparing its members to go to Israel. I was very sorry I didn’t get to go.
My sister Bracha and her husband Shika went to Russia before the war. They wound up in Siberia and settled in Israel after the war.
In 1939, when the war broke out, I tried to make my way home to Rejowiec. The Germans had bombed Warsaw. There were no trains available as all the trains were commandeered for soldiers only. It took me three weeks traveling at night and walking much of the way. I tried to survive, food was scarce.
My mother Leah tried to place the kids in different locations for our protection so that someone might survive. My sister Esther who had blond hair and blue eyes looked like a Christian and went to work on a farm.
Later in 1939 I went to Russia. In 1940 I was on my way back to Rejowiec to see how my family was doing, and I was caught by the Germans and sent to a labor camp. My father was able to buy my way out through bribery.
In 1942, they called our family to the town marketplace. My father and brother Menashe were taken away with others. I, along with the rest of my family, was sent to a labor camp in the area. I worked in sugar and cement factories and also built roads. During a “reduction” I became illegal and hid for three weeks. I was taken to Lublin/Majdanek. Conditions were overcrowded, but better than the labor camps we came from near Rejowiec.
I was in a men’s camp, Feigela was in a women’s camp. We tried to help each other as best we could. I tried to help Feigela out of bad jobs. When she worked in the fields and when she was able to get some, she would hand me some strawberries and vegetables through the fence. We helped each other survive. During this time my sister Esther was shot near the work camp near Rejowiec.
My father and brother Menashe died at the Sobibor death camp. My mother and my youngest sister Chanala, who was 3 or 4 years old, were taken to a concentration camp together and that’s where they died.
My sister Feigela and I were later deported to Auschwitz together. I received my number (tattoo) in Auschwitz. I went through the selection. The Germans asked who was an electrician. I was not an electrician, but I volunteered. I figured that job had to be better than the one I had digging ditches, and so I became an electrician.
I worked as an electrical linesman in a factory in Buna owned by DuPont. Buna was highly organized and conditions were more favorable than the labor camps I had previously been in. Because Buna was highly organized, it was stable; you only died if you went to the hospital. I was in Buna for two years.
By the end of 1944, the Russians were advancing and the death marches began. After three days we arrived at Buchenwald in an open cattle car. Conditions there were overcrowded so I was shipped to Dora where I worked in the Kaminsky factory.
Later we were on a death march. I was with my cousins Srulka and Yitzchak Speizman and other friends. We were freezing and starving. I had no strength to walk. I fell off to the side of the road and was unconscious. It started to snow and I was left for dead. A farm lady took me in and that’s how I survived. She brought me back to life. My sister Feigela was marching as well – her feet were frozen because of the wooden shoes. She stepped aside and found a barn. She took a piece of soap from the camp. She traded the soap so she could spend a night in the barn. That night was liberation. She walked home the next day.
In 1945, I was among the last transports to arrive in Bergen-Belsen. When I arrived there were tens of thousands of people, hundreds of dead bodies everywhere. The Germans were burning documents. I was liberated in April of 1945 by the British.
After the war Bergen-Belsen became a Displaced Persons Camp as most people, especially the Poles, had nowhere to go. Josef Rosensaft formed the Bergen-Belsen Association to help organize the Displaced Persons Camp. I joined the Central Committee of the Bergen-Belsen survivors. I worked to reconnect survivors with relatives.
I became Secretary; my duties included making lists of people to reunite and sending letters. During this time I made two trips back to Poland in my capacity as Secretary of the Association for the British zone. It was while working for the Association that I met Belle who was to become my future wife.
I, along with my sister Feigela, arrived in Detroit in 1948. Belle and I were married in August 1948.