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Volume 1

March 29, 1990

When a thought or even a resolution is made to pursue an activity, the hard thing is how to start it. It seems to be easier not to start at the beginning but to go on, and then come back to the beginning as an afterthought. People who write stories based on factual matter or fictional matter have it easy. They start with a date, the weather on that particular date, and use the opening as a propeller for further developments. But, when you want to put down on paper yourself, your own inner being or try to find a way to make it visible, problems arise. I don't even know at this moment, whether I want to expose myself, to bare my invisible self or maybe even attempt to come out with anything, other than what I see in the mirror. I am just thinking. Maybe that by itself is a start. Maybe? I shall let my hand wander and let's see what will come out of it.


March 31, 1990

So I took a rest for a day. It might have dampened my ardour. It might have given me a chance to reflect and ponder. I don't know what else it might have done. Here I am at the desk letting the pen scribble. The day is coming along and pretty fast too, when I'll have to stand up before a public gathering and address that gathering on the Holocaust. The idea of doing so is not an easy morsel to swallow. I had occasions before when diverse groups of people wanted me to address them on the same subject. At times it got me involved; at others it made me shy away from it. I am not even sure myself to any degree of certainty, why sometimes it was no and at others it was yes. It seems to be the inner conflict that rages within me. Such matters as the Second World War and the accompanying events and devastation, arouse conflicting emotions and reactions. At times I feel like shutting up and let all happenings be my very own. At other times I feel like shouting at the top of my voice, the anger and curses that have taken home in my being. There are times when I would let day to day events envelop me and shut the memories out. However, it seems to be such a deeply felt traumatic experience, that no matter what will transpire in times to come, it will always be either on top or not far from it. I suppose we as a people or individually so, are conditioned by history, recent or long past, to bear that history within to a very prominent extent. Maybe other peoples feel similarly. There should be people that belong in that category. The world is full of violence and catastrophes. How they actually feel might be interesting to know. I feel so many emotions that I can't even categorize them easily. I shall try however to put them down on paper. I have to make an effort on behalf of my commitment to address a gathering soon.


April 4, 1990

Yes, the thoughts and pertinent facts about the Holocaust have to be assembled and made into an address. I have always, up to now, managed, when occasions arose, to speak publicly without a prepared speech. It worked, and generally there was some satisfaction on my part of it. How others saw it is of course for others to say or maybe not to say. This time, however, I feel a need to have it on paper. So there is pressure of time on me. Here I may share with the pages of paper and whoever might read them, some thoughts about the very painful and yet so poignant matter. What is one to say to people who sit in front of you, eager to hear your voice? Is one to roll out facts and numbers and other data? Is it a matter of thoughts and ideas? Is it an analysis of personal experiences, plus history? How does one convey what is bottled up inside you? What does the audience expect? What do they want to hear? It is not a religious ceremony, where ceremonial is mixed with articles of belief and it repeats itself with frequency that the date or occasion demands. It is for me , as far as I can fathom it, an outpouring of reminiscences, anger and thoughts of the future plus analysis of the events. It is maybe a combination of all those things and more. I shall pretty soon try to collect my thoughts and put them on paper. A new attempt on my part to write it, instead of just saying it verbatim.


April 4, 1990

It really was a strange era. Around me, the world was getting ready for awful things. Signs of it permeated in all directions. Sometimes they would frighten, sometimes they would hold some secrets. It was ominous and yet on reflection, I remember being possessed by expectations, beyond comprehensible criteria. Something was brewing. Something was seething. Yet life was going on, as if tomorrow would follow today, without a break in continuity and purpose. When it came it looked so mild. Almost peaceful. In my mind I saw future events, unfolding themselves somehow on the pattern of stories, of previous cataclysms. Armies, aeroplanes, governments and all of us were getting into the dance of events. We were drawn into the abyss of catastrophe, the scope of which was beyond our imagination. Yes, I am talking and reminiscing of the beginning of the Holocaust. It looked at first so innocent. Such outpouring as above comes as an overflow of my attempt to concentrate on writing a speech. I shall go to it, by the road of thought and inner argument. I shall try to say what I feel and think.


May 6, 1992

An awfully long time has elapsed, since I wrote down thoughts. Of course long is a relative thing. One has to measure length by the way one feels. This does not at all touch upon material consideration. To take a long time upon an assignment does not signify the length one takes to express a thought, for thinking is timeless. Lots has transpired. The world is moving very fast these days. Almost no stopping anywhere. There is no time to reflect.

Just to complete what took place since I wrote last. I spoke publicly to a large audience, gathered to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

As an event I would describe it in such a manner: A large crowd, tense atmosphere, emotions run high. I am satisfied I spoke to the point. I felt within me that it made an impression. Since then, i.e. 19/4/90 I spoke to many audiences. Both in Yiddish and English. On the Holocaust and on other topics. But the speech described above is very meaningful to me. It was an appearance that made me at one with my past and my present.


May 7, 1992

Having resolved to continue writing and actually having done it, makes me feel good.

The idea to write has been with me for a while. Through contacts with a number of friends, from far and wide and through prodding by my daughter, I got off to do it. The other day, after I spoke to a group of students from a Brockville school, visiting the Holocaust centre, someone asked me what impact the horrible tragedy had on my life.

After all I am nearing my 68th birthday. It's been a long time since it all took place. If one is to measure time, then 365 days make up a year. The war lasted from start to end 5 1/2 years and 6 weeks. As a near 68 year-old would count, it's less than an eleventh of my life. After all there were many elevenths so far. However none left an impact nearly close to those fateful years. The answer was, as it clearly reflects my honest feeling and thoughts: the motto of my life since then. Even when busy learning a trade and preoccupied with making a living, the impressions of the past were always close to the surface.

My task of family building took away a lot of my energies. It is no mean purpose. It's all encompassing. It never stops.

And whilst going from stage to stage, I was constantly aware and faced with reminiscences.

So, the answer to the question was: that nothing is as durable and memorable as those awful years of being a hunted being. Let me rush in here with an addendum. Besides those preoccupations, I was and am still very active in social and political causes. It would be very hard for me to do otherwise.


May 24, 1992

This time a severe cold and a slight fever kept me away from the pen. Something else has happened to me too, I got to be 68 years-old. It sounds not young. Yet I don't feel any difference between last year and now. Maybe it all comes at once or in a particular way.

Yesterday I visited with some old friends of the family. The man, now 88 years old, claims to have welcomed me home, when I was one week old. Not many people can say that. He has fond memories of my parents. It makes me feel warm and sentimental towards him and his ailing wife. Both are my friends for a long time. We met in England in the late forties. What makes those visits so meaningful are the recollections that both share with me. Unfortunately Mr. and Mrs. R. Ryba are very sick now. She is almost incapable of hearing me. She even has difficulty sometimes to identify me. How sad. I suppose that is life.

I also visited Mr. D. Zand in the Jewish General Hospital. He is very sick, but quite capable as far as memory is concerned. Again it's very nostalgic. Mr. Zand remembers my father and uncle Moishe Aron, from bygone days.

To talk to them is to transport yourself to times long ago.

Almost to an other era. It might even stimulate me to start remembering those days on paper. In this year 1992, when I look around me, I see very few people who could say, like Mr. Ryba and Mr. Zand do: I spoke and participated with your parents in causes of yonder years.


May 31, 1992

Well, it didn't take that long to be confronted with another loss in the chain of background and history.

Looking by chance into the obituaries, I saw the name of Mr. D. Zand.

His was the last name. It even carries a certain significance for me. It may not be the last link to the parents yet. But it's close enough. I saw him only 3 days before his death. A little bit further removed from those direct reminiscences. How often have I heard him relate, usually with a satisfactory gleam in his voice and eyes, as to the contacts that he had with my uncle Moishe Aron, the youngest of the brothers of my father and also of the pleasant memories of my own father.

Yes, it seems that such encounters between my father and people around him were not so rare.

I heard it before. Will I hear it anymore?

I realize that my thoughts on this topic bring forth questions: What kind of causes are they? What were the ideals at play? Who were the players? Of course, such and related questions stimulate me to write and expound. How else can I tell something of my own world, from which I spring?

With all that is said and done, very little remains visible of those far off days.

There were personalities inter-playing their game of life and struggle.

There were many families that formed the circle of my life.

I would like to have it on paper, for all who care to see it, as well as to contemplate it myself.


June 26, 1992

Time has gone by again. What with the visits here by my friends of olden days. They are from far away Australia. I just saw them when I paid a visit to Melbourne this last winter. It was all a sweet trip into the past and many friends to share it with. Now two of those came back to see me here. It was tiring to be in attendance. It was good and full of memories. Now they are gone back on their way to Australia. Will I see them soon again? But my imagination sees them now. Maybe I can recapture what I see with my eyes and put it on paper. I am going to try.


June 21, 1992

Putting all those thoughts that crowd into my mind into some sort of order is not easy.

Should it be my life as I remember it up til now? Maybe isolated events? Maybe just let the pen write and the hand that directs it will do a job? I know it has to be done. I will use this entry as a start.

It happens to coincide with a planned trip to England tomorrow. It also coincides with Fathers Day.

So let me just state that I have started to replicate my life's experiences, on paper. Maybe there is going to be some kind of semblance. To celebrate Fathers Day, my daughter invited me to have lunch with her. I look forward to be in her company. I wish that I could also have the company of my son and grandchildren. It would be nice and comforting. But let me not indulge in too much wishful thinking. I have a job to do.

I am for all intents and purposes a child of my parents: FROIM FISZEL ZYLBERBERG and SURA RYWKA GOTLIB. Born in Poland on May 13, 1924, I consider myself to be a Polish-Jewish person.

It somehow has lots of meaning for me, to say the above in a clear way.

Those days of the middle twenties, were days of heavy expectations all around us.

I know of them now, since I heard so much about it. I also knew and still know some people who shared those experiences with my parents and my family. Those were the days when the pain and suffering of the first world war were just beginning to fade away gently. Maybe not so gently as crisis after crisis shook the fragile structure of the newly independent Poland. For good measure, came a recession. For even worse circumstance, deeply held prejudices against Jews and other minorities, showed its ugliness.

It was also a period of great expectations.

The war that was supposed to be the last one, had awakened the hope of that part of Europe and of course the whole world, that tyranny and oppression, as was practiced before the war, will be a thing of the past. The talk was of better and brighter days. In my parents' home it was the fervent desire for a fair and just society, with all being equal, that permeated the atmosphere. I know it, because I heard of it. I read a lot about it. I also recall the people that I saw from earliest childhood. I also remember references to celebrations and meetings. I must have heard them when I was still crawling around the flat. But I do know that I grew up amidst family and friends that shared a strong belief in social justice for all. Especially for the doubly oppressed Jewish people.

It was a time of great expectations. I know that as Jews, my parents and their parents were subjected to discrimination and often persecution. All the more reason to be eager to start off on the long awaited road to equality and human dignity.


Dec 6, 1992

A half-year’s gap is a big affair.

Excuses there must be galore. But, really, who needs them. It just happened, that life rolled along fairly fast.

Now, it's time to carry on. Winter is here. Grey clouds cover the sky. It looks like the greyness penetrates to one's inner self. It also calls forth reflections and reminiscences. After all, with all the things that marked my life so far, greyness has been a frequent companion.

Not that there were not bright days. They were there for sure. But scattered and I think that I ought to look at them. So, all this calls for an effort to sit down and recall my story.

It would be hard to recall all that took place. But I can try to see the grey and bright colours from the perspective of time.

For a Sunday morning this is a good resolve. Let's see if I can live up to it.


Jan 21, 1993

Miami. It's warm, humid and sometimes very windy. It's better though than wintry Montreal. As a matter of fact, it's more pleasant than negotiating one's way through slippery pavements. So, I am trying to enjoy the balmy Florida and develop visible signs of it. Of course, I mean tan colours and a holiday bearing. I don't know how much I acquired so far. I have been here three weeks. I am sorry though for my close ones, who cannot share it with me. An exception to this set up, was my sister's visit. She managed to persuade her husband to let her have a glimpse of Florida. It was most pleasant to see her at her relaxed self. She certainly deserves such a treat. Unfortunately it was only for a fortnight that she came. We both managed to see a lot of old friends and acquaintances. Some of those encounters very highly emotional. She saw here friends and distant relatives that she hadn't seen since the war's end. Some even since before the war. For each case it was close to half a century. What an encounter. She must surely have felt very elevated and excited. I felt good for her. I also got emotional and sentimental. All in all, it was some happening. A recurrent theme in all those highly charged conversations was of course the war, the ghetto, camps and the war's end. It can't be helped. It crops up almost imperceptibly, whenever people meet. We, the generation of survivors of this most cruel war, can't shake off its impact. Sometime I try to stay clear of conversations, where details of horrible events are brought out. Consciously, I want to think of the beauty of reunions. But it seems to be almost at skin level. One has to rub hands or touch one's forehead. It springs forth. It envelops you. It is probably stronger than we know. I think times are coming, when I would want to pour out all that I walk around with. It seems like the paths are leading that way.


Jan 23, 1993

Evening. It's a bit lonely. Lots of people around, but somehow lonely. Maybe it's my own state of mind. I had a chat with a friend of mine. I see him in London, England. He leaves tomorrow. He spent here almost two weeks. I just thought of sending a book as a present to my sister. She stayed on in London, while I looked for new things in Montreal, Canada. My eyes fell upon a book called "The Holocaust Lady". We almost at the same time uttered the same words. It is not the right thing to give my sister another book about the Holocaust. She, my sister, seems to live too much of her life around recollections of the past, with her vivid memory she remembers so many details, that frightens me. Maybe she can't help it. Maybe she feels the painful sensation of remembering as a link with events gone by. Maybe she feels a sense of guilt. Lots of maybes. But she seems to be transfixed with the past. When confronted with recollections of others, I usually try to stay clear of emotional participation. I don't want to be too involved in recalling the past. My sister seems almost eager to talk. But, I think, that maybe in a different way I also am doing what she is doing.

I think that for my children's and grandchildren's personality developments, I ought to share my past. Up until now, I only mentioned casually certain things. I think it's time to call back events as I see them, with my eyes turned backwards.


Jan 24, 1993

Again an unexpected involvement in Holocaust related happenings. My sister who just returned to London called me up. She was offered to travel to Germany. There is going to be an anti-Nazi rally, and she was asked to address that rally as a survivor. Her question was pointedly straight forward: should she go there or not. After all it's Germany. There are according to her estimates many Nazis in Germany now. There are also quite a lot of older Nazis, who participated in the war. They are there. The thought of it makes her shudder. My answer was clear. I would go if asked by trustworthy people. I would accompany her, if she chose to go. What she will do I don't know.

When I was 15 years old, the war broke out. Somehow it seems odd to say it in such a nonchalant way. But even then it was really an uneventful event. I remember the tingling sensation that the war evoked in me. I had heard so much about the First World War, that I thought to experience a war at close quarters was a real happening. One was somehow more grown up, more a person of experience, having been in a conflagration. A 15 year old wants always to be older and grown up. Little did I realize then, that war means death at close quarters in one's own vicinity. Very soon and the impact of the war was felt everywhere around. Bombed cities, retreating army units, prisoners of war, confusion and the building next door to our residence was hit by a powerful bomb. Somehow war was a bloody spectacle. And yet it took much more than that, to unveil the real horrors. It even didn't take too long at that.


June 21, 1993

Again a long delay in my accounting narrative. As usual it's due to some travels and other related adventures. No sooner did I step on Canadian soil again, than I went to Poland. The immediate reason was the affixing of two commemorative plaques, on the inner cemetery wall in Warsaw. The people thus commemorated were my parents and the parents of my brother-in-law Stasiek. The other reason was the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Both events were very poignant. Our personal commemoration was fraught with difficulties. Several engraving errors and delays made things very tense and emotional. When finally it took shape, there was and remains up until now, a missing name of my father’s two first names. Somehow it means a lot. My father was well known in the city of Lodz. He was best known by the name that is not there.

The commemorative events for the uprising were very strong and loud. The Polish government with the close co-operation of the Israeli government, arranged for a great spectacle.

What with military parades, drum beating, light effects and extensive media coverage, made us all feel part of a show. I don't know how it was meant to be. In my opinion it was crushingly strong. My own inner feelings of being there to witness this event, were a mixture of importance and devastation. I can't see the millions dead, amongst them my own closest family, relatives and friends as having been really honoured. And yet it was a historical event. It even produced a clash of Israeli survivors and Polish and other survivors as to the mantle of leadership and recognition of their role in the uprising. Another very poignant event was the dedication of a monument to the memory of the national Jewish hero of the Holocaust, Shmuel Mordechai Zygelboim. As a man of outstanding valour and dedication to the Jewish people, he committed suicide in London in 1943 as a protest over the passivity of the allied powers and, in no small measure, over the lukewarm involvement of the Jewish leaders the world over in the efforts to alleviate and rescue those Jewish people who had the misfortune of being under German occupation in the Second World War. His deed then, in London, reverberated across the world. It wasn't given that the supreme sacrifice under such dire circumstances should evoke more responsive reaction. Zygelboim happened to have been known to me through my Bundist affiliation. He was one of the leaders of the pre-war Bundist movement in Poland. He resided in Lodz before the war. I knew his youngest child, Artek, a schoolmate of my sister. I also knew his daughter, Rivkah, a co-camper with me in the summer of 1937. I got to know his older son, Joseph, alive and residing in California. All those contacts with the Zygelboim family, plus my own feelings of awe towards the towering personality of S. M. Zygelboim, made me feel both proud and honoured to stand there in Warsaw and participate in the unveiling ceremony. It was meaningful. All told, the visit to Poland and the bitter feeling of disappointment with the attitudes of large groups of Polish people towards the remnants of the Jewish people of Polish background, made my stay there a hard pill to swallow. The only alleviating event was for my sister and me, the visit to our home town, Lodz. We both savoured the bittersweet memories of our early youth. My sister who lives in London, was my companion in Poland.

Maybe it was a relief, a well-deserved one, to embark a few weeks after the return to London, on a trip to York, England. My cousins in London were persuaded to do it with me. Their car and attitude made it a very interesting trip. The city of York with its ancient walls, cathedral and little twisted street, is a gem of history. It's located in central England. It was always an administrative and commercial centre. Its history dates back to pre-Roman times. The museums depicting Roman and Viking cultures, are very instructive. Being a bit of a nut for history, that was a real treat.


June 23, 1993

And so, back to Montreal. Back to family, friends and activities. The trip to York left another impression on me. Located in the middle of York City are the hill and ruins of the castle where an infamous pogrom took place. The Jewish community of York took shelter in Clifford's Tower. They were pursued there by a mob which was incited by the local gentry. They were in debt to Jewish merchants. To get rid of their obligations, they found excuses for the mob's hostility. They were known to have been the quiet voices that made the siege so ominous for the Jews hidden in the castle. Not trusting the mob, nor the gentry, they committed an act of collective suicide in order to save themselves the tortures and hideous death at the hands of their pursuers. It all happened in 1190 C.E. It left an everlasting shame on the people of York and England. Some people are trying to expiate for it now. It's a bit late in the day. However, for those of us who remember such events from history, it has much meaning. A note of poignancy. The driver of the tower bus around the city did not fail to call those far off events the most shameful chapter in the history of York.


June 24, 1993

Whether it's the season or my own conjunctions, I only know that some such associations frequently present themselves. I am thinking of the annual meeting of the Montreal Jewish Library. As guest speaker at that meeting was a very charming young French Canadian academic author. Her thesis and the developments following her dissertation are of great concern to me. She, herself a pure-laine French Canadian, if ever there was one, found it in her heart of hearts to tackle an ugly and ominous aspect of public manifestation in Quebec.

She realized in her own words the lunacy and ridiculousness of Jew-baiting. Her studies and meticulous searches brought to light the pernicious work of many anti-Semitic and anti-democratic forces in Quebec prior to the outbreak of World War Two. It was very meaningful, her assertion that those groups who openly preached anti-everything that is liberal, enlightened and progressive is treachery to the concept of a pure French Canadian nation, also preached and implied that the Jews are the personification of evil. Given the heavy anti-Semitic climate at that time in Europe and many places around the world, this nest of evil in our own country was and could have been an instrument of vicious anti-Jewish action. Again, her theme of anti-Semitism and its ugliness props up. A shameful chapter in human development. Maybe it's time to start recalling events of more than 50 years ago. They seem to be crowding into my memory.

The times of a young person, age 15, is full of wonders, discovery and expectations. The events that were then unfolding were a culmination of at least a good number of years of my life. As a schoolboy, I experienced many instances of overt and covert animosity from Polish boys and adults. Sometimes more from children than grown ups. Sometimes the reverse. The consciousness of its existence was a constant companion. My school years that lasted until 1938 were a period that knew about harassment. We, that is the immediate family and relatives, were scattered in many Polish and foreign lands. Thoughts of leaving Poland for pleasanter places, were often brought up at the dinner table. There was a noisy and pointed attempt by the then Polish government to tighten the chances of a useful life for the Jews of Poland. It took various forms. Economic boycott, anti-Jewish legislation, restrictions in admitting Jews to schools of higher learning, besides a covert action to make Jews feel insecure. Our talks were full of recounting ongoing events. Besides the real life contact with neighbours and other people of the same street and places around us, we also had the news from abroad, crowd in on us. The general atmosphere was loaded with apprehension. And yet we were looking forward to better days. We were the proverbial optimists.


June 25, 1993

I don't know why I am sitting here and recounting events of a very dark age. It almost seems an anachronism. Outside is a bright day. The sun does its best to shine and cheer up. Am I going against life's vital forces by trying to dig up from the memory bank, half-forgotten reminiscences? Not an easy task to answer such a question. The answer might be summed up in an injunction issued to all of us survivors of the holocaust: Don't forget and don't forgive.

Just as we were placed so many years ago on a plank from which to fight back an overwhelming flood of hate and zoological anti-Semitic cravings, so we are today still on that plank. Now we are duty and conscience bound to fight back the natural desires to forget. In spite of all the beauty nature can provide and its great lure, we are trying to bring out our epic-saga of the flood that almost wiped us all out. So let the sun shine. Let life continue on its eternal sojourn. Maybe with our input of reminiscences, those forces that brought about our woes will not be capable of doing it again. Maybe.

So the eventful year of 1939 rolled along. My brother, who was a very capable and intelligent young man, didn't manage to pursue any career. He was denied entry into high school. Mainly because of anti-Semitic policies. But also because of poverty. There were not too many avenues for a young Jewish boy of 17-18 those days. My own road to young adulthood was directed by the heavy atmosphere of his fate. I asked for and followed a path that in those days was almost natural and certainly obvious to my understanding of the situation. I went to work as an apprentice to a textile mill. I thought that maybe I could help my brother. He was a real intellectually inclined fellow. With schooling he probably would have gone places. In the meantime, he worked as an assistant to a newspaper administrator. Hardly a promising position. On top of it all it was part-time and for a secular minded youth, to work for an ultra Orthodox newspaper was a very unsatisfactory situation. For lack of anything more meaningful, this was the situation and his poor lot.


June 27, 1993

My sister and I were still doing things partly as though the world around us carried on in a normal way. I went to a summer camp in 1939. So did my sister. It wasn't the same camp. I was a member of the "SKIF". That was the children's organization of the Socialist Bund. Esther went to a summer colony run by the T.O.Z. (an agency devoted to the health of the young). Oblivious to all around us, we each had a good summer in this last year of peaceful bliss. Events around were proceeding with accelerated speed. Czechoslovakia was being dismembered, Western Europe was getting the jitters. We were informed as to what went on. And yet we didn't believe it was for real. We didn't think it was the foreplay for our own lot.

So, when I came back from summer camp, just about a few days before the end of August 1939, the air in Lodz was charged with electrical currents. It was the same as I left it, and yet it applied only to its physical shape. It was what one would call ominous. I went back to the factory that I was apprenticed to, that also happened to be the place where my father worked. We actually did go to work on Friday Sep 1, 1939. Everybody went through the motions of working. Lots of men were digging trenches for shelters. These were supposed to have served as protection when an air attack would come. It was for me the last day of work in the factory owned by Herszenberg and Halberstat. It was a very large establishment. It was manned by a mixture of Jews, Germans and Poles. My career as an apprentice to the designer of textiles came to an abrupt end. So also came an end to my childhood and early youth. Never again did I feel or act in a similar manner. As soon as the sirens went off, so did my happy, blissful years come to an end.

The next couple of days of constant wailing of sirens and nervousness produced the first act of the war. It was both an exciting time and a time loaded with foreboding. New regulations went into action. We had to take cover when an air alarm sounded. Horses, which were still then the very popular means of transportation, although not the only one, were to be unhitched and tied up to their vehicles. All kinds of rumours started circulating, about the progress of the war started on the 1st September, 1939. There were optimistic reports, given through the Polish radio. There were people who could understand German. They spoke of boastings of a general offensive on all fronts. Already on the third day of the war, bombs started coming down on Lodz. Not too many but those that came down on our city were scattered in different locations.


June 28, 1993

Our residence which was next house to a not long erected factory of sausages was not very lucky. The bombs that fell from the skies were comparatively few. Probably, the reason being that Lodz, the largest industrial city of Poland, was too valuable to be destroyed. The textile industry had its biggest concerns in Lodz. These are afterthoughts. The fact remains that not too many buildings came down. Our next door factory, however, wasn't spared. Since we were all very much taken with the spirit of defending ourselves, we participated actively in building trenches which were supposed to have been covered up to form a shelter. During a bombing attack on the third day of the war, we were ushered into the open trench in the garden plot, adjoining the wall of the factory building.

And it happened. The whole world seemed to explode around.

It got dark, although it was only the afternoon. I just remember being thrown around. Without thinking as I recall now, I darted out into the garden. From there I made my way to the street and continued to run in the direction towards open spaces, which abounded in my neighbourhood. Some people who took shelter in a house pulled me inside. They yelled at me not to go in the direction that I did just a minute ago. That was the location of anti-aircraft guns. There the bombs kept on coming down constantly. Totally shaken with wounds on my head, I somehow calmed down a bit. My father, who just wasn't in the trench with us, because he was locking up the flat, ran down towards the garden. Finding pandemonium all around, he couldn't spot me anywhere. Some people said that they saw me split seconds before the impact. Others were actually saying that they think, that I am under the ruins of the brick wall which crumbled upon us. Others still thought that they saw me darting away in the direction of the fields. Not being able to find me under the rubble, he started running in the direction where I was. Of course he found me. What a traumatic experience. That event, and subsequent events that followed closely the one I described here, gave my psyche an irreversible jolt. No more did the war seem to be exciting. It put the fear of the oncoming apocalypse into sharp relief. So much for the beginning of a long, tragedy-laden period. It abruptly put an end to childhood, laughter and play.

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