Zloczew (Poland), Suchowola, Lodz, Auschwitz, Stutthof
Fordonski was born in Zloczew, Poland, where she lived with her parents and nine brothers and sisters. She attended a Polish public school and in the afternoon a Hebrew school. The relation between the Jewish and the Gentile pupils was not good in her school. Fordonski grew up in an Orthodox home. Her father was a leather merchant and a leading member of the Jewish community in Zloczew. Fordonski recalls a pogrom in her hometown after Jews had been falsely accused of damaging a Catholic crucifix. Some Poles smashed windows of Jewish homes and shops, but the local police resolved the situation immediately.
In September 1939, German troops occupied Poland and began to persecute the Jewish population. Fordonski and her family were afraid that the Gestapo would arrest Fordonski’s father, since he was a well-known and respected Jew. Therefore they moved to a town called Sieradz, assuming that Fordonski’s father would not be recognized there. After three days, Fordonski and one of her sisters returned to Zloczew to pick up some of the belongings they left behind, but found that the entire town, including the family’s property, had been burned down.
A few days later, Fordonski’s family moved to another town [Suchowola]. The German troops occupied this town as well and established a ghetto there. Fordonski’s family was forced to move into the ghetto like the rest of the Jewish population. The living conditions were tolerable. Fordonski had to work in a factory producing clothes for the German army. In August 1942 the German supervisors of the ghetto announced that all Jewish children would be sent to a camp, Fordonski’s youngest sister was forced to leave. All adult Jews had to gather at the Jewish cemetery, where the Nazis devided the group. All Jews considered to be as able-bodied were sent to one side of the cemetery, the remaining individuals to the other side. Apart from Fordonski’s sister and herself, all the members of her family were among those deemed unable for slave labor. All of those Jews were were loaded on trucks. Later the same day, Fordonski heard that the Nazis killed everyone by channeling exhaust gas into the trucks.
Fordonski and her sister, as well as the other able-bodied Jews, were sent by train to the ghetto in Lodz. The journey took three days and they received no food or water and were not allowed to leave the train. Fordonski was forced to work in Lodz in the kitchen of a German factory. She notes that deportations of the ghetto’s inmates took place all the time, and that she knew they were sent to concentration camps.
In 1944 the Nazis started to liquidate the ghetto, and Fordonski and her sister were taken to Auschwitz. There the camp’s physician, Dr. Mengele, made the selection of inmates, and Fordonski and her sister were again considered able-bodied. After their heads were shaved they had to line up and stand naked all night on a field. Fordonski says, that she saw smoke coming out of the camp’s chimneys and she knew that the Nazis were burning the corps of the Jews they killed.
The next day, Fordonski and her sister were sent to the Stutthof concentration camp. There both were forced to work in the camp’s kitchen. They received very little food but managed to stay alive by eating the wastes and leftovers from the kitchen. Fordonski recalls that a lot of the inmates committed suicide by running into the camp’s electrical fence. The living conditions in Stutthof were inhuman. There was not even enough space for all inmates to lie down to sleep in of the barracks in which they lived.
In January 1945, Fordonski and her sister were selected to work in an ammunition factory in Dresden. This happened to be the last transport leaving Stutthof before the camp was liquidated and most of the inmates were killed. At this time, British and Russian troops bombed Dresden and the ammunition factory in which Fordonski and her sister worked got destroyed.
Those Jews who survived the bombing were taken on a death march to Czechoslovakia. They did not get anything to eat, and the weak and the sick were shot on the spot. Fordonski and her sister managed to escape to the woods and later met some Polish forced workers in a field. One of the Poles provided them with food and a German farmer hid them in his stable until the American troops liberated that area.
After the war, Fordonski and her sister moved back to Lodz. But the Jews in Poland still had to face anti-Semitism in the postwar Poland. In 1951, Fordonski, her sister, and her brother, who served as a Polish soldier and survived the war, immigrated to the United States.
Date: May 15, 1990
Interviewer: not definded
Length: 2 hours 35 minutes
Format: Video recording