Ciechanow (Poland), Nowe Miasto, Plonsk, Auschwitz, Dachau
George was born in 1927 in Ciechanow, Poland, a town near the Prussian border. He lived with his parents until 1939 when the Germans first attacked. He attended public school and played sports. His father was a translator who spoke five languages. He also had a brother, many aunts, uncles and cousins.
Only he and two cousins survived.
Friday nights were very beautiful as his parents were very religious. His mother dressed up and lit the candles while he and his father went to the synagogue. When they arrived home, a lavish meal awaited them. His mother was a gracious hostess who was beloved by all. They lived in a Jewish neighborhood and he went to school with mostly Jews.
There was great fear when the war broke out. His Father had attended school in Germany and felt that the Germans were kind, intelligent and treated the Jews fairly during World War I. The Poles in his town were very poor and there was no way to escape. In 1939, the army entered.
The Germans set up a local government and school stopped. It took about two weeks for the Germans to fully occupy during which time, the people stayed home. Afterwards, everything went back to normal with the following exceptions: Jewish children could no longer attend school,
civil servants who were Jewish, were fired; businesses owned by Jews were closed. As time passed, they realized that they were being selected and fear set in. They had to leave their house and move in with neighbors, but could take all their belongings.
In 1940, one thousand families were told to go to the city square. His father was selected as the leader. They had to resettle in another city. Everyone was hit over the head by Germans with clubs. They were trucked to Nowe Miasto, a townlet in the same district which was a ghetto.
They lived with five families in one house. Disease, especially typhoid, broke out and half the people died. Couriers were sent back to their hometown where there were five thousand Jews left, to collect money to help. A kitchen was set up with the money that was raised.
George became ill and was taken to the hospital with typhoid. When he recovered, his father made sure he received more food than anyone else.
His father kept trying to raise money for additional food and supplies. His father’s hair turned grey but he remained optimistic. They were then told that they were being transferred to Plonsk, another town. They were given food along the way.
The Judenrat needed two hundred Jews to send to Labor camps, but they were concerned about leaving once again and not taking anything. The walk to the railroad station was stressful as they heard crying and shooting. His older brother was lost, having escaped into the Russian part of Poland and then killed by the Germans. He walked with his parents to nice passenger trains. They traveled three days and two nights without food or water. People were dying and there were no sanitary facilities. On the third day, his father told him “Son, I was wrong, we are going to be killed. You’re fifteen and you must survive.” His father whispered so his mother wouldn’t hear. The train stopped in the middle of the night.
There were loud noises and everyone was shoved out and hit over the head. Mengele pushed him. They had arrived in Auschwitz!
He was separated from his parents. That was the last time he saw them. Three hundred men and women were chosen to work at a labor camp on the grounds of Auschwitz. He was told to line up in groups of five to be counted. Then they undressed in the barracks and made to stand naked outside in the cold, waiting to be showered and tattooed. Number 77522 was his number. George was taken to a barrack with fifteen year olds.
Three weeks later, he was selected for construction which was the worst job. He was given a suit of linen, a cap and shoes, a bowl and spoon. On the first day of work, he had to transfer stones, large boulders with no gloves. The guards beat them. He survived two months in Auschwitz but on Christmas eve, 1942, he decided he would give up as he was beaten over and over again. Another inmate tried to help, but was beaten to death. George decided it would be better to die, but his father’s words came back to him.
Some people from his hometown were tradesmen and had good jobs. They got him a job on the inside in 1943. He worked for DKV, a company industry and remained there until January of 1945. The most important thing in Auschwitz was longevity. He operated a furnace and said he survived because of that job.
Mengele made selections about who would be gassed. They were looking for weak prisoners. Because he worked at night, he didn’t stand in the selection line.
One month later, his number was called. He thought he’d be gassed but he was given twenty-five lashes for smuggling shoes for food.
1942-1945 seems like a dream to him, as if he wasn’t there. Rosa Robata belonged to the Auschwitz underground and worked in the factory with gun powder.
They planned to blow up the gas chamber in 1944. She was caught, tortured and beaten. Rosa would not give any names. Eventually they did blow up the crematorium in Birkeneau and Rosa was hung in front of the inmates.
On January 18, 1945, when the Russians were approaching, they were given a loaf of bread and put on a death march. Runners were shot on the spot. He was on the march for a week and then put in a cattle car. They heard that the Germans were loosing the war. They rode around and around for a long time.
January through May of 1945 was more difficult, being moved around. He arrived in Dachau at the end of April and lined up for the count.
Someone saved him. .. he then weighed about eighty pounds. The US soldiers liberated him a few days later. He was in Dachau for three weeks, not saying he was a Jew.
He thought he was the last one alive. In the middle of the night, he left the camp and settled with a German family, asking for a room. He spoke German.
He was told that a refugee camp was set up by the UN near Munich. He found three landsmen who also survived.
George’s friend, Benjamin Appel, had two brothers in the Bronx and told him that he’d find George’s cousin in New York. That cousin saw his name in the NY Times and brought him to the US. The year was 1947 and he was nineteen. He became Americanized quickly because he wanted to disassociate himself from the past.
He came to Detroit, met Barbara, his wife and during their marriage, never discussed his past. Six years ago, he read in the newspaper, that some people said the Holocaust was a hoax! It was then that he began speaking at school and telling his story. He said he has nightmares every single night. He is grateful that America gave him another chance to live.