Ostrowiec (Poland), Starachowice, Lublin, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buna, Gleiwitz, Oranienburg
Cymerint was born in Ostrowiec, Poland in 1922. He, his four brothers, sister, mother and father moved to Starachowice when Cymerint was seven years old. Of an extended family comprised of more than 25 members, Cymerint and one of his brothers were the only ones to survive. Cymerint relates several instances of anti-Semitism. While they celebrated the high holidays, people threw stones at their windows. Cymerint also recalls complaining to his school teacher as a small child about anti-Semitism. The teacher made no effort to discourage this behavior. As a consequence, he made it a habit to walk to and from school in large groups to avoid being assaulted. Cymerint’s commute to and from school averaged five to six miles each way because he was forbidden (as a Jew) to attend school in Starachowice and therefore was forced to attend school in a neighboring city.
Cymerint vividly remembers at the age of fifteen the German invasion and how his family was rounded up and placed in a ghetto. Cymerint and his siblings were told that if they worked in a nearby factory, their parents would be protected. In 1941 Cymerint was deported to a forced labor camp in Lublin, from which he escaped through the help of one of the guards. The guard, recording the number of workers leaving the camp to work for the day, left Cymerint’s name off the list, knowing that the evening guard would not notice.
He returned to Starachowice and began to work in a factory but he and between eighty and one hundred of his fellow workers were abruptly rounded up one day and shipped to Auschwitz. This was the last time he saw his family, as his parents were deported to Treblinka. He describes the unimaginable conditions of the train ride which lasted two to three days. Cymerint was forced into a cattle car with ninety other people. By the time he arrived in Auschwitz, half of the prisoners had died.
In Auschwitz Cymerint was able to pass himself off as a tradesman. He remembers that other Jews were not so lucky and as a consequence of not passing the test they were shot by the Nazis. He was tattooed and states that if one did not receive a tattoo that meant one would not live. He also emphasizes that monthly selections took place. Those prisoners with ribs showing were sent to the gas chambers. Cymerint then began work in Buna, where he remained until 1944. He notes that conditions in Buna were better than in Auschwitz. As the Russians began to draw closer in 1944, the prisoners were marched from Buna to Gleiwitz. Those who survived were then transported by train to Oranienburg.
Cymerint remembers that even after liberation in April 1945 the SS were killing Jews. He states that many Jews were killed after liberation because people did not want to return the property they had confiscated from them. After liberation Cymerint worked for the American troops for nine months as a waiter and the German government gave him and his brother a room with a German family. He then married his wife in Munich before moving to Israel and eventually immigrating to the United States.
Cymerint was psychologically affected by his experiences in the camps. He suffers from depression, insomnia, and the fear of dogs. He also indicates that he is not as religious now as he was before the war.
Date: June 8, 1982
Interviewer: Sid Bolkosky
Format: Audio recording
Date: June 12, 1985
Interviewer: Robert Roth
Length: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Format: Video recording