Marczak (Zloczow), Herman
Walchip (Poland), Lodz, Warsaw, Buchenwald, Dora
Mr. Marczak was born in Walchip, Poland and moved to a town 40 miles from Lodz, near the German border.
His town was lively and the 13,000 or so Jews who lived there were active mostly in the industrial industry where they manufactured textiles. His family lived in Poland for hundreds of years and this is the reason their name was Polish.
Herman’s father died when he was seven and his mother continued working in a factory. He was born in 1920, followed by his sister in 1923 and a brother in 1927.
His family had complete religious freedom and the Zionists were active there. His family was Orthodox although he was Conservative. Friday nights were very special and the family went to the synagogue and then celebrated Shabbos by having a big festive meal.
Herman went to school through the seventh grade. His school was divided and seperate: Jews and Poles.
They were not surprised when the war began, but thought it wasn’t serious because they had better relationships with their German neighbors than with their Polish ones. Once the Germans entered Poland, the Polish government fell. The Germans began to round up the Jews in the neighborhood courtyard.
People began racing to the Russian border as the textile factories were being bombed by the Germans. Those who made it to Russia survived the war.
When his family saw the Nazi newspapers, they knew they were in trouble and that there was no way out. The first change was the curfew. They were allowed out from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.
No one was allowed out afterward. Within three months, the town became a Ghetto, where gates surrounded the section where the poorest people lived.
Because Herman’s grandparents had a large apartment, they moved in with them together with four other families, all sleeping in one room. All the families were in the textile business. Their town also produced children’s shoes.
Everything was taken from the Jews and one German man became the “king,” rounding up all the tradesmen and registering them at the city hall. They had to pay for permits.
Christians sold them food from their farms . . . about 25 million people were farmers. Twice a week they brought food to the marketplace from the country. They bought their clothes and shoes from the Jews. The farmers were not anti-semetic, but the Polish city dwellers were. They hated the Jews because they were more educated and smarter than they were.
In September of 1941, the Jews began disappearing and the Germans were sending young Jews to the Polish territories. Herman’s brother, aged seventeen, was sent. In 1942, Herman read a newspaper that quoted Hitler as saying that the Jews were not going to make a Purim out of him. So he began to hang them.
Herman lived in the Lodz Ghetto for fifteen months. They kept hearing that the Polish cities were being cleared of Jews.
In 1942, the Germans rounded up about ten thousand of them, using Polish police. . .shooting many along the way. Those left, were marched into the Lodz Ghetto. About one thousand 15-25 year old young men were selected and the remainder were trucked away and burned. This was the last time Herman saw his family.
This group of young men was trucked around and around so that no one knew where they were going. Twenty-seven people were shot. They were eventually taken into a school. He looked for his mother and his cousins, but they were no where to be found.
In the Lodz Ghetto, he said no one acted “normal.” The Ghetto was huge and there was no food . . . he felt that he could not exist, but he did.
They were frightened of the Jewish policemen . . . who thought they were big “machers.”
In 1944, he was in a camp in Poland and had to report to the Jewish prison, where he became a tool and dye worker. They heard about the Warsaw Ghetto. He remained there six months. Very soon afterward, the Russians came over the border. They heard rumors that the Germans were 200 miles to the South.
In January of 1945, he was put on a train and traveled west for six days. They went to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. The Germans arrived 24 hours later. They were then sent to Dora where there was no food, it was cold and wet and they did hard labor, making rockets. Most were worked to their death.
He was sent from camp to camp, with a group of about two hundred. . . with only a few potatoes per week to eat. The Germans had now left and the Hungarians were the guards. Finally in April of 1945, they saw tanks, hundreds of them. . .all Russian and heard the announcement that the Germans had surrendered.
Herman was then 24 years old. A British rabbi told him that all the Jews in Europe were gone. He was then sent to Bergen Belsen because it was a Jewish camp from where he was sent to Sweden.
There, he found a “new” world. The Swedes did everything to help, trying to make the survivors forget. They became “newborn babies,” learning how to live again and being trained for new jobs. Herman went to work in a metal factory. He met his wife there and married in 1947.
In the early 1950’s the cold war made the Jews frightened. America finally realized that they should take in refugees. They arrived here in 1957 when their daughter was five. It took them years to assimilate and adjustment was next to impossible. He went to night school for 4 years to learn English. He worked for Gold Star Products until his retirement.
He never talked about the past with his children and said that the American movies only show about five per cent of what really happened.
Herman said he owes his survival to luck!!!