I was born the youngest of five children, in Kozinice, Poland in 1925. I was a student in the local Polish school. People in the town and school were anti-Semitic, and as a result, I fought every day. My father died when I was twelve, leaving the work of the family orchard to my mother and the children. The Germans invaded in September 1939, and I hid in the woods with my family until I was found and forced into labor. I was sixteen when I was sent to Jelna. There I worked 12-hour days on scant amounts of bread and water along with a little soup. If quotas were not filled, even these small quantities of food were withheld. The 52 boys from Kozinice all shared one barrack. Two of the boys tried to escape but were captured. We had to watch as they were forced to dig their own graves and executed.
I was sent to many camps and witnessed many murders. I was always on the verge of starvation and exhaustion. I dug a canal, cleared woods, constructed camps, built roads and laid railroads tracks. At the second camp, other Jewish laborers joined my group, including my sisters. They had volunteered for labor to escape the horrors of the ghetto.
My two sisters and I managed to be transported to Szidlowitz rather than be sent to Treblinka to be gassed. At one point, I attempted to join the partisans. They refused, but did not kill me. I understood that being sent to certain camps was a death sentence, and so I tried to avoid them. I once escaped from a camp where I had been "selected" for death, only to be arrested and put into a ghetto prison. A Polish girl I knew from another camp helped me to escape from the prison.
I then worked in an ammunition factory. I was sent to Auschwitz, Birkenau, and several other camps. As the war was coming to a close, the Germans loaded all the prisoners onto cattle cars to evacuate them so they wouldn't be freed. As the train traveled through Czechoslovakia, Czech citizens tossed food off bridges into the open cattle cars and, as we entered Germany, people on bridges would shoot at us. Many people on the train died.
Americans liberated us on April 29, 1945, from Dachau. I made my way to Rochester where I now live with my wife, who is also a survivor. I would like the world to know through my story that the Holocaust was real.
Biography from the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Project, Monroe Community College
Photograph by Louis Ouzer