Moncznik (Lewkowicz), Esther
Chmielnik (Poland), Skarzysko, Czestochowa
Moncznik was born in Chmielnik, a small, predominately Jewish town in eastern Poland. Her father was a lumber dealer and she had two younger sisters. Following basic schooling, she attended the ORT trade school in Warsaw and learned to become a seamstress. An illness caused her to return to her hometown and while she was there the German army occupied it. A ghetto was created out of Chmielnik, and Moncznik spent the next two years living under increasingly greater restrictions and hardships in her home with other people. The ghetto was mostly controlled by Polish authorities with some German army and SS involvement. In 1942 she was selected and transported by truck to a labor camp at Skarzysko, a nearby town with a munitions factory. Her parents and one sister remained behind and she never saw them again. The other sister, having left their hometown, later joined her at the Skarzysko labor camp.
Moncznik's initial job was to clean the barracks, but after a factory was created in the camp to repair uniforms, she was forced to work in that facility for twelve hours per day. Because of her skills, a German guard selected her to work an additional four hours a day at his residence making clothing for him and his family. For that work she occasionally received some extra soup or bread. Her sister worked in the munitions factory. Moncznik believes the extra food helped her and her sister to survive.
When the Russian army was approaching Skarzysko, the inmates were transported, primarily by truck, to a labor camp at Czestochowa. To avoid separation from her sister at that camp, Moncznik switched identities with another woman and worked in the munitions factory near the camp. She admitted what she did to a Jewish kapo (guard), who was sympathetic and enabled the deception to work. She continued under the other woman's name and number even though detection would have meant certain death. The other woman also survived.
Upon liberation she returned to her hometown to find all the Jewish homes and property stolen and/or occupied by Poles. There was considerable anti-Semitism toward the returning Jews and even some killings. Considering life impossible there, she moved to a city in southern Poland, where she and her new husband participated in a soap factory. They immigrated to Israel and them to the United States to join family members.
Moncznik feels considerable hatred toward the Germans and Poles and believes that the treatment the Jews received from Polish civilians and authorities was even more harsh and inhuman than that received from the Germans.
Date: December 7, 1988
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Format: Video recording