The German Occupation
(related by Mrs Giedejko’s daughter) Dad used to say that there was a Lithuanian who went mushroom picking. He saw a bunker which the Jews had built for themselves – a shelter of sorts. And it seems that the Jews took fright, thinking that he might betray them, and they came to him during the night – he was with his son – lured him out into a field and simply shot him… to stop him betraying them. It was that sort of war.
Ludwika Giedejko
The Germans – they lived in this country manor. When the fancy took them, they would arrive at people’s homes and announce that they were eating dinner there that day – the officers, that is. Dad said that when the Germans arrived, there was a moment when the Russian partisans were still in the area. (…) These partisans came to our house and asked for something to eat. My parents took some food to them in the barn. Just then some Germans arrived: Oh, so you’ve got eggs? What about sausage? We like everything... Mama was running round trying to lay the table. ‘Ah – cold meats! That’s fantastic, we like cold meats!’ They had an interpreter and the interpreter says: ‘Eggs – good, we like eggs! We like that, too! Ah, cheese – that’s good – we like cheese!...’ Mama sets the table, the German officers make themselves comfortable, they seem very pleased with everything. My parents had a sort of home helper and they sent her off with some more food for the Russians and news that they should sit tight because there are Germans in our house. If only they would keep quiet and not start shooting, just till the Germans had gone. Should any one of them appear… The Germans would shoot everyone on the spot and set fire to our cottage. And so we had frequent visitors: sometimes Russkies, sometimes Germans... And all of them had to be pandered to, so they wouldn’t do us any harm. And then, thinking about it: here we have one lot, another lot’s over there, and over at the mother-in-law’s… Jews.
Ludwika Giedejko
I was concerned because I was known to many people in Białystok. After all, I had attended school here – initially primary school, then high school – I also attended the school of music and later played in orchestras, so almost everyone knew of me. I thought to myself that, should the Germans retreat and reach Białystok, and should someone whisper to the NKVD that I had been in the Soviet army – well, that would be the end of me – I’d be shot on the spot. I realised that I could not stay here. My parents gave me some money, although they did not have much, and I set off for the railway station and made for Berlin. There I purchased a ticket and headed towards France; I passed Berlin and reached the farthest town on the other side of Germany. I got off the train and thought: what now? To survive, I had to have a roof over my head and work in order to keep myself. So I registered for work as an electrician.
Aleksy Gutkiewicz
(Chemnitz, 1943). I was – how to say it? It was a town, not a village – I was in Chemnitz, not far away from Leipzig and Dresden. We, three girls, were taken by train to Dresden. In Dresden, they would come and take us where we were supposed to go. I was taken by a young German to a war factory. I became a milling machine operator there; I was standing behind a milling machine. These factories were: Astra Werke I, Astra Werke II, Astra Werke III and IV. Four Astra Werkes which made threaded barrels. They also made wooden bits and pieces... Where I was it was Astra Werke II. I made a cut on the lock – imagine a barrel – there is a cut in the barrel and I made such cuts.
Anna Hryciw
(Chemnitz, 1943). We were given half a kilo of bread. That much for all of us, ten girls. There were 217 women of us in the forced-labour camp – there were both young girls and women, and I was there, too. There were bunks. We went to the factory with a policeman and back from the factory to the camp with a policeman. We were given half a kilo of bread for ten people, so we cut that bread into pieces in the evening, one of us was standing and saying: Who? Ancia. Who? Maria. We were sharing that bread in this way. And what? You would take that piece, and you need to go to factory at six, for your shift. Before you get to your shift you have already eaten your bread. And they didn’t give us anything more in the morning, only some soup. I was hungry, I was awfully hungry!
Anna Hryciw
[Sambir, 1942] We were in Sambir, at such a waiting room. They led us to such a room, a German called me: Get up. Come. I say: Ludka, what’s going to happen? They took us to a shed, the Germans on both sides. The Germans in front of us and behind us, and the dogs. They took all of us to that shed, both men and women. They took them from a train in Sambir. And they told the dogs to lie down, and the Germans went away. Nobody said a word. There were many men about 30 years old, and girls 17 years old. They told us to give money and metal things and took us to prison in Sambir. I had such a pouch on a string sewn by my mum, with some money inside. I looked at that prison warden and thought to myself that I wouldn’t give my money to her. But she was on our side. She asked, if I had money, and I broke that string off by force, I had a winter coat on and stuffed that pouch under the lining. I said I had no money. They locked us up in a cell, and one Ukrainian woman started crying that she herself registered for Germany and they’d surely take us there. She shouted that she wanted to go there on her own and not with the transport. There were two sheaves of straw in the corner of the cell, and the bars up there. And when my father worked at the jail he sometimes told us how prisoners communicated. I went to the toilet and heard: Who are you, where did you come from, where are you? I knew I had to speak to the bowl and said that they caught us at the station, from the train, and they would surely take us to Germany. But, fortunately, they didn’t.
Wiktoria Kisiel
The Germans were selfish people, they didn’t like anyone but themselves. I once went out from the school, I wanted to catch a pigeon at the Jews’, not to come home empty-handed... I went to the market. There was a young German standing, a tall bloke. Some older Jew came up to him to light a cigarette, because he had no matches, and he kicked him so that he was running far away...
Włodzimierz Maniowski
They were collecting weapons for those in the woods, the guerrillas — but I do not know whether for Ukrainian or Polish guerrillas. They took three machine guns and seven sacks of grenades. They gathered a lot of it, them kids. And they were not afraid? I even did not know. I realized that my brother was collecting weapons, when his friend Jurek, one year his senior, came and said: — Stefan, come to us! — Wait, let me cut all that wood, I will go then. — But I am ordering you to go now! So, he left everything and was gone. He was a disciplined boy. And he was killed on that day.
Barbara Medyńska-Michajłow
Michaś went to Germany for me to work, they took him away. They were taking me, but he said: — My little sister, what will I do with those kids? You will at least wash some shirt for a child, will do something, help our mother. Our mother was ill, she suffered from a very serious migraine, she had very strong headaches and she often lost consciousness. Then, my second brother, Stefan, was torn apart by an anti-tank mine. Such a heap of meat and sand was left. Just then I was ill, I had such a nasty disease called erysipelas. My face was all swollen, I had my whole head bandaged at the hospital, only one eye left, my left eye, and the mouth, to make it possible for me to puff. I was very ill. There was some material at home. The girls had made me a very nice cover, such nice net curtains, they covered him with them. They dressed him in the best clothes, he was lying on a catafalque, his mouth burnt, his face burnt, butt his hair was intact. There were great many people in the cemetery, at the funeral. Because people were very much interested how it all happened. I just came to my husband’s grandmother, the clock struck twelve, I sprang out of the house. My Aunt Dora says: — It’s good you woke up, we will go to old Zaleszczyki [Ukrainian: Zalischyki], to your place, because something happened there. I say: — I know what happened. I had a feeling that something happened to Stefan, something wrong. He was 17, he was a very nice boy. It turned out that the boys were helping some organization, the army, they were collecting arms, ammunition.
Barbara Medyńska-Michajłow
German soldiers were very clean, even elegant. It was Easter and all around were hungry, there was nothing to eat. — Hens are going around, maybe you could shoot a hen, and I will make you some broth. And they say: — No, we will not do that, because we have already wronged the people. They could feel it that they did wrong things. The Germans could not understand what people were saying, not all the people could speak their tongue. And they were beating at once, if they could not understand something. They were unfriendly. The Russians were a bit friendlier, but as soon as they learnt that you had a cow or a horse, you were an enemy right away. I used to work at the fire inspection, insurance inspection, under the Germans. I was a cashier. When there was an inspection coming to me, there was nothing missing. They sent a lady from Lvov who was organizing that fire insurance company. I was supposed to give money when a house was burnt or property, and it was insured, then we paid. It was not run by the Germans, but controlled by them. There was an inspection coming from Lvov. At Dudlej’s house. And there was an order that those who worked at the office under the Germans had no right to work in finance under Russia. And I was fired. I worked as a cashier, and Ms Natalia Andrejczyn, a lady born in Lvov, was the chief bookkeeper. I worked there until the Germans were there. There was no poverty, because when the Germans were there, we were getting some money, some dollars from Edmonton, it was much better. Aunt Katarzyna’s daughter, two years my senior, a teacher, lived there. And she was sending money to us all the time. There was an organization called “Most” [the Bridge], and she was sending a sack of sugar or a sack of flour through that organization. And we changed dollars at the bank.
Barbara Medyńska-Michajłow
The Germans took over our building. Here we had our courtyard, further on was the fence and then the military. The Germans occupied the barracks although their armoured cars surrounded our building. The kids used to play on these armoured cars... Nobody said anything to the children but if any of the senior officers was expected, then we’d be shooed off: Weg! Weg! they yelled at us, and we would run off. My sister was older than I, she was born in 1929. She already had her band of friends and they would wander around all over the place – to the airfield etc. I always trailed after them. There was this time when we were in the vicinity (?) where the playing fields are now and the Gestapo arrived in large lorries full of Jews – who were to be executed. First they dug these pits some 10 metres by 10 metres and then they shot them there. We hid behind the bushes and the bullets flew straight over our heads... At home, I was given a thrashing for hanging around with the others. We stole whatever we could from the Germans. We pinched their revolvers, their grenades and various shells… In the evening – always about 10 p.m. – the Russians would fly over and bomb the Germans. We would take those shells apart – each one contained a different sort of ammunition: some had round shot, some had small squares, others still had stars… We would lay a trail of that ammunition from our house to the high street – our street was only small, with some twelve houses – we’d scatter the powder and set light to it… We had a lot of ammunition. Although I was only eight, I had a whole gang of older boys under my command. We had parachutes, too – all from the Germans. We would pinch these things from under their noses, as they were only covered with tarpaulin and the Germans were never around because they would be slinking off somewhere or drinking. The Germans only destroyed people from the intelligentsia and those who were embroiled in politics. They left us children alone, and the simple common folk… … Sometimes, during the winter, when I took my sledge and a German stood on guard duty, he would call me over and then pull me on my sledge a few metres in one direction and ten the other… But if anyone of more senior rank arrived then they would always yell and tell us to leave them alone… We had ration cards. During the German occupation food was allocated so that children were given – in addition to the adult ration – a half-kilo packet of honey substitute and butter. I suppose the Germans were not interested in us, the children.
Zofia Stecka
Our buildings stood here; there were a couple of Ukrainian families and here almost all the houses were Jewish. My elder sister only had Jewish friends, with whom she would play and all that. When they set up the ghetto, father and mother would often go to the village to exchange foodstuffs so that we might have something to eat. Sometimes we would be left alone – without our parents. And when mother and father brought anything home, then my sister would immediately stuff her pockets and rush off to the ghetto to her friends. Once they caught her at it. They stopped her and took her to the police station. Luckily a friend of father’s was there at the time and he asked her: “Stefa, what are you doing here?” “I don’t know, they brought me here...” And she was let off thanks to him. My mother kept a Jewish family hidden away under the stairs in our house for a week, or so. Then, when she heard that we could be executed for harbouring Jews, she asked them politely to leave… And they did leave, during the night. I have no idea where they went. The next day, however, [the Germans] herded some Jews along our street. I don’t know, there must have been some 500 of them. They were probably going to be executed because they were headed in the direction of the lake. Behind the playing field over there, there was a spot which was marshy. As the Russkis advanced and the Germans withdrew from Stanisławów, they would throw their gas into those marshlands, right into the centre. There was a bluish sort of gas there until recently, it never disappeared. Behind that lake is the Jewish cemetery. My sister would often play there, she used to take potatoes to the Jews who hid there.
Zofia Stecka
dotyczy także: Żydzi i Zagłada,
[Dokshytsy, 1940s] Clearly there were some good things in the ghetto. We had a village leader, he met me by accident when I was going with a girlfriend and said: Wanda, take those things home for me. He wanted to carry those Jewish rags. I said: I will come right away. I will be coming back and I will take them. But I didn’t obey; I didn’t go to the ghetto to take those things for him. Before I came there the ghetto had been already closed. So, the village leader had come to my mother, before I came home, and said: I will send Wanda away to Germany. When I got back home my mum asked: What did you do to Wojciechowicz? Why did he say he would take you away to Germany? It was only God’s will. I packed my things into such a wooden jashchichek, because there were no suitcases, and my father saw me off, off I went. I will go to Germany because everybody else was going. We came to such a Folk House. There were two open cars full of people standing in front of it. An officer shouted at me: Why are you late? Tomorrow, there will be new cars, come tomorrow. He could have thrown me into that car but he didn’t do it.
Wanda Swarcewicz
[Dokshytsy, 1940s] The Germans left Dokshytsy, and the guerrillas came. They were taking everything from the flat, packed it to a tablecloth, put on the back and on the cart. A few officers were left here. Each of them had a local wife. So, they killed four of those officers, and the fifth one ran away. He asked one women: Hide me. She said: Run to the attic. And guerrillas soon came running and said: There is a German somewhere at your place, because people said he was running in this direction. And she said: Is my house the only one here? Have a look, he is not at my place, and if he ran away, go and catch him. They believed her and didn’t go to look for him. And that German was left. And when the Germans came back they chased the guerrillas out. And they saw that those Germans were killed, even though they didn’t kill any local. And they drove all the people to a place near such a small Orthodox church where there was a landslip, as if a hole, a ditch. They told the people to stand over that ditch, and the Germans will be shooting, so that the people could be falling to that ditch. We went out, too; my little sister died before, so, my brother and I and my mum were left. We are going, crying. Everyone knows that we are going to our death, because they told us they would be killing. There was no way to run away, because the Germans surrounded the entire town, so that nobody could run away. We came to the corner of our street. And there were people coming to the meeting. Crying, rejoicing, jumping. The Germans eased up. There was one German who said: These people are innocent. They hid me. No need to kill. And by this miracle we survived.
Wanda Swarcewicz
When the Germans came I was living in the Hlybokaye Raion. Nobody was touching us. Father Grabowski in Udzial was saying holy masses for those Germans. The priest could speak German and preached to them. There were many of them gathering, maybe some 50 men. They sang in German so nicely that the church was shaking. The Germans didn’t touch us, not at all. The whole parish, nobody touched anything. Only guerrillas were going where there were forests. They were taking away everything, they were taking clothes, cattle, horses, and they were taking everything that was valuable. But they were not where we were. And the Germans didn’t do anything wrong at our place, nothing at all. They just got across and everything was left in whole, only the school in Udzial was burnt. But here, everywhere nearby, where the guerrillas were, they burnt entire villages, drove the people and burnt. In Rosica, They rounded up many people to some sarai [palace], and two priests, and burnt them. They told the priests: Go away, we’ll be burning people. And the priests said: We won’t go anywhere from the people. They were hearing confessions; they were giving Communion and went into the fire with the people. They burnt those two priests; one of them was Antoni, the other one Jerzy.
Teresa Szymko