Research

Offen, Bernard

Survivor/Camps

Podgorze (Poland), Plaszow, Auschwitz, Birkenau

This is a video presentation which was done by Mr. Offen about his personal story:

Bernard Offen was born in 1931 and was eight years old when the war began.  His parents were Jacob and Gittel.  Only he and two brothers survived the war, Nathan and Solomon, who were older than he.

After the end of the war, he lived in Italy for one year and in England for four and a half years.  He is married and has two sons.

In 1981, Bernard attended a survivor meeting in Poland.  

In this video, he reminisces about his life as a small boy in Podgorze, Poland, a suburb of Krakow.  He remembers shopping with his mother in the marketplace but especially recalls not looking at or going near any church for fear of hearing anti-Semitic comments.

His parents owned a tobacco concession where they sold cigarettes and also newspapers.  He loved playing hide and seek with friends and remembers carrying water from the courtyard to his home.
His uncle, Yosef Markovich lived just around the corner.

He attended synagogue for services and also went to Cheder.  On the way, the Poles threw sticks and stones at the Jewish boys.

His neighborhood became the ghetto.  He smuggled food to starving families.  His mother was once bitten by a German guard’s dog.  Bernard and his father repaired shoes in the Ghetto with nails.

He witnessed guards shooting people, as if they were shooting animals.

Both he and his father were in Plaszow Concentration Camp where he saw corpses burning and witnessed many of the mass killings. He was loaded onto a cart to be killed but escaped.  His uncle Meyer hid him where he was later reunited with his father. While traveling through Poland, he saw his old neighborhood and also Auschwitz and Birkenau.  He remembered the hunger, the thirst and his father’s helplessness.

During the war, he traveled to Auschwitz for three days and nights and saw SS men making the selections.  His father was sent in the opposite direction.  He was tattooed and used for many sexual assaults.

He remembered the towers which were manned by guards with machine guns to shoot any attempted escapes.  The stench of the corpses was almost unbearable and many died during the long nights.

He remembered that when a new gas chamber was inaugurated, prominent Germans were invited to watch as eight thousand Krakow Jews died.

Commandant Hess headed the exterminations for the Nazi war machine.  He and his wife and four children lived less than one block away.

Bernard was in five camps and was force marched as the Americans came closer.  When liberated, he was the mascot for a health unit.

Interview information:
Length: 37 minutes
Format: Video recording