Lukow (Poland), Lublin, Auschwitz, Flossenburg
Debski was born in Lukow, Poland in 1921, where he lived together with his parents and his elder brother. He was brought up in a Catholic home. The Jewish community in Lukow numbered about 6000, or about 50% of the population. Already during the years before World War II, Debski was aware of prejudice against the Jews. Nevertheless, the Jewish community was able to practice its religion and prusue its way of life.
In 1933 Debski and his family moved to a town called Torun in the western part of Poland, where anti-Semitism was strong enough to affect the Jews' everyday life. The propaganda put out by the regional government supported the theory that there existed a Jewish conspiracy to achieve world domination and to destroy Polish Christendom.
In September 1939 the German army invaded and occupied Poland. At this time rumors were widespread that bad things would happen to the Jewish population of Poland. Debski and his brother became members of the underground army and were arrested by German soldiers in September 1940. They were sent to a prison in Lublin, taken to court and sentenced to death.
In January 1941 Debski was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. After three weeks he was shipped to the Flossenburg concentration camp, which had been designated for dangerous criminals. Since he had been sentenced to death by work, Debski was forced to work in a granite quarry and later on in the production of aircraft. In May 1941 the SS began the systematic extermination of prisoners, but excluded those who worked in the aircraft industry, since they were considered important for the German war effort.
In 1944 the first Jewish prisoners arrived in Flossenburg in a transport of about 1000. They were divided into groups of eighty and allocated to different, already overcrowded, barracks. Debski states that by order of the Kapos all non-Jewish prisoners had to keep away from the Jews. (Kapos were inmates who assisted in the administration of the camp in return for extra food rations and better living conditions.) The barracks seniors ordered that eight Jews were supposed to die every day to create more space for non-Jewish inmates. The treatment of the Jews was worse than that of other prisoners. They received only half rations of food and had to perform the hardest work. Debski notes that it was obvious that the purpose was to kill all Jews.
In the fall of 1944, Debski suffered from typhus and was taken to the camp hospital, where he stayed until January 1945. Realizing that the American army was approaching, the SS effected death marches for the healthy inmates. All other prisoners were supposed to be shot, but the SS did not have enough time to implement this plan. Debski survived and was liberated. After the war he emigrated to the United States.
Debski states that right after the war the persecution of Jews in Poland continued to a certain degree, since they had been accused of being Communists.
Date: June 20, 1988
Interviewer: Rabbi C. Rosenzveig
Length: 50 minutes
Format: Video recording