Warsaw (Poland), Bobruysk, Lublin, Auschwitz, Vaihingen
Mr. Tugman was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1915. He lived with his parents (father Avraham), five brothers and two sisters.
His paternal grandparents were Josef and Pearl Tugman (Tugentman) and maternal grandmother, Feigl Morel.
He saw his “Bubbie” often during the summer months at her home just outside of Warsaw. He had dozens of cousins, aunts and uncles; it was a very large family, most living in Warsaw.
None of his family survived except one sister and one cousin who lives in Canada.
He was a painter and his father a carpenter. His mother owned a beauty salon and was a beautician. She passed away ten years before the beginning of the war.
Morris lived with his wife, Leah Fellbaum and their two children, a son, Yossel and a daughter, Chaya Sora. They lived with Leah’s parents.
When he was young, he attended cheder and also learned Yiddish in Folkschule. He became an apprentice to a printer and learned the trade at the early age of eleven.
His family was observant and they belonged to the Socialist Party. They experienced quite a bit of anti-Semitism as the Poles hated the Jews and cooperated with the Nazis. The Volksdeutsche (Pole/German) neighbors fought with them and called them names.
Morris’ sister Pearl left for Russia and survived the war. They all had a chance to leave but didn’t. When the war began, on a Friday morning, they heard bombing, but the press said it was only Polish Army maneuvers. His neighbor’s house was destroyed.
Morris and his wife stayed at home, but learned about the Ghetto through the Jewish press. First armbands were distributed, which were manufactured, distributed and sold for about ten cents each by the Jews.
Then, curfews and other laws were imposed, rationing and bread lines followed. He was sent away to work in camps, digging sewers.
His family had only a few days to prepare for the move to the Ghetto, having no help from the Polish neighbors who told them they were about to be killed.
Morris smuggled food, taking jars of pickles and sardines from destroyed factories. He bribed the guards for potatoes and carried bags of food sold to him by the Poles. If he had been caught, he would have been killed.
In the ghetto, about ten people slept in each room. There were no medical supplies and the winters were freezing. To keep warm, they broke apart furniture and burned it. Jews were no longer allowed to be printers and the Germans torched the printing machines, sending what they could to Germany.
His siblings were in other cities.
The Tugmans lived across from where the trains left the ghetto for the concentration camps and crematoriums. The rabbis said the stories about the killings were not true.
Morris was finally caught in 1942 and put in quarantine in Umschlagsplatz. The Germans took his wife, children and his in-laws in 1940, never to be seen again. He witnessed their capture.
In 1941, he was shipped out with other men to go to work, or so they were told.
The Germans asked who amongst them felt too weak and 170 raised their hands and they were immediately shot.
From the original 1400 in the Ghetto, there were only forty-one left. He was beaten very often, mostly by kicking until he collapsed.
When he arrived at the first camp, he became a tree cutter and smuggler. The dogs there were given meat and corn flakes to eat and he tried to eat their food. The dogs were eventually killed and put in cooked soup for the prisoners. He had the advantage of understanding and speaking German, although the Germans could not speak nor understand Yiddish.
This camp consisted of only men, two hundred to a barrack, where they slept on the floor and were given striped uniforms to wear. They had no eating utensils and they were covered with lice. There was no sanitation whatsoever.
In 1943, he spent fourteen months in Bobruysk. He was transferred by cattlecar where there was neither food nor water. When they saw Poles, they asked them where they were going and the Poles replied “to your death.”
No one could help their fellow prisoners and they were given twenty-five lashes if anything went wrong. He was beaten at least thirty times.
They were chased outside to wash themselves with snow. They were unclothed and were forced to do pushups in the snow.
Once, after the count, the Germans found one extra person, so they selected a young boy and hung him in the middle of the barracks.
In Lublin, they made airplane parts and stole potatoes which they cooked over a fire, ate the German’s garbage, whatever they could find, but never had any water. They were given bread that was partially eaten by rats.
He went to Radom by cattlecar where he made rifle parts, never thinking of sabotage. All the prisoners thought about, day and night, was how to get food to survive!
Next stop was Auschwitz for a few days. Morris thought this was the end.
He was very weak. Next to Vaihingen, from 1944-45. He now knew that the Germans were losing the war and on April 7, 1945, he was liberated by the French army. The living looked like skeletons. He was swollen and only weighed about one hundred pounds. He was taken to a hospital in Heidelberg.
The prisoners took over a town in Germany and slaughtered all the animals they could find as a means of revenge. The Americans were much more strict and took them to Stuttgart, where he worked in the kitchen and stayed until 1947
During that time, Morris went to all the camps in Germany, looking for his family, but found no one.
He was brought to the US by his uncle, stayed in New York for three days and then moved to Detroit. This was in 1947 and he was thirty-two years old. He lived with Max Sherman, his cousin, at 2693 Leslie. His uncle, Jack Tugman, was a drycleaner in Hamtramack on Caniff. He couldn’t become a printer because the union had closed shops.
Morris worked on Tireman at the Grand Bell Cleaners for twenty-six years until he was laid off.
He became a citizen in 1949 and loves this country.
He said there would never be another Holocaust because there aren’t enough Jews to murder.
Morris remarried a woman who was in Auschwitz at the age of seven. They have two sons and four daughters.
Interviewer: Donna Sklar
Length: 2 hours
Format: Video recording