Muschkies (Angenicki) Molly and Webber (Muschkies), Ruth
Ostrowiec (Poland), Sandomierz, Auschwitz, Gebharstdorf, Starachowice, Warendorf, Bodzechow
This is a joint interview with Molly and her daughter Ruth.
They were both born in Ostrowiec, Poland. Molly and her two children were the only members of her immediate family to survive the Holocaust. Her parents and four siblings died in Treblinka. Molly’s husband died on a death march from Auschwitz three weeks before liberation. In addition, nineteen other members of her extended family perished in the Holocaust.
The Muschkies were very wealthy. Molly’s husband, Samuel, was a commercial photographer respected by both Jews and Gentiles. His studio served as a meeting place for the Polish underground, and his contacts with non-Jews enabled him to place their eldest daughter in hiding for the duration of the war. She was a gifted pianist. When the Jews of Ostrowiec were placed in the ghetto in 1939, the Muschkies’ piano was the last to be confiscated by the Germans because she would sometimes play for them.
The ghetto of Ostrowiec was open. People were free to come and go until the 6:00 p.m. curfew. Jewish businesses were taken over and run by non-Jewish Poles. Muschkies remembers two SS men who ran the ghetto in Ostrowiec constantly demanding more money and possessions from the Judenrat.
In 1942 the Germans began to liquidate the ghetto. Molly’s husband, because of his wealth and connections, was able to buy hiding places for his in-laws and his children. Molly’s older brother refused to go into hiding because he had a cough and was afraid he would jeopardize the safety of everyone else. The children refused to leave without their parents, so all were shipped to Treblinka.
Molly’s eldest daughter was taken to the home of a Polish prince who was married to a German woman. She remained there throughout the war, posing as a Christian orphan after having been instructed in all the prayers. r also had the chance to hide but her doughter Ruth, refused, preferring to stay with her mother. In 1942 Molly, her husband, and her daughter went to Bodzechow, a labor camp. Her husband bought places in this camp when he learned that the Germans planned to liquidate the ghetto. There was no place for their daughter, as children were not allowed in the labor camps. As a consequence, their daughter hid in an attic when the Germans returned to round up more workers. Their daughter once hid in a hole dug for storing potatoes with the two other children while selections were being made for Treblinka. A German soldier discovered them but pretended he hadn’t seen them. Molly and Ruth don’t understand why he did this.
Molly and her daughter often fled to the forest for days at a time to escape selections. They spent several months in Sandomierz, Poland, and then went back to Bodzechow.
In 1943 they were marched from Bodzechow to Starachowice. Muschkies relates that many people were shot for not keeping up. The group from Bodzechow contracted typhus and became separated from the rest of the prisoners. With nothing to eat, Molly and her daughter are convinced they survived because of the fresh water stream nearby filled with tadpoles. After three months in Starachowice, they returned to Ostrowiec, where they remained until June 1944. As the Russians approached, the Germans shut down the camp at Ostrowiec and Molly, her daughter and her husband were loaded on the trains to Auschwitz. They spent a day and a half on the platform, waiting for Mengele, who was said to be ill, to make selections. Finally they were all admitted and tattooed, with no selections made, which was quite an unusual occurrence.
Ruth spent much of her time in Auschwitz looking for hiding places. As a child, her existence was forbidden. She remembers a block next to hers full of dead bodies. The Germans were killing people faster than they could dispose of the bodies and this block was a storage area. She remembers manipulating bodies to make a hiding place for herself. She also recalls not being hungry in Auschwitz for two reasons. The crematoria cast a sick sweet smell over everything that made them lose their appetite and Molly shared whatever food she could find with her.
Near the end of her time in Auschwitz, Ruth was sent to a children’s block. This block was created as a showplace for the International Red Cross. She remained in Auschwitz while her mother was sent to Gebharstdorf. Molly remembers the confusion when she was liberated. After so many horrors, she couldn’t believe the war was over and that they were free. She recalls Russian soldiers being very kind. After her liberation in Auschwitz Ruth was sent to Krakow. Molly returned to Ostrowiec to retrieve her other daughter and after settling affairs there, including selling the family’s home for next to nothing, they were reunited with her doughter and traveled together to Munich.
Ruth’s name was given to an American girl by an American journalist at Auschwitz during the time of liberation. This girl wrote to Webber and sent her parcels of food and clothing. These parcels helped the three of them to survive as they sold most of it on the black market. From Munich they had hoped to go to Israel, but Ruth had suffered lung damage during the war and Israel would not accept her. Molly refused to separate from her family. In the meantime a distant relative had learned of their whereabouts and enabled them to immigrate to Canada.
Ruth feels that as a child survivor, she carries a special burden. She has no real independent memory of places and dates, only impressions and feelings. She laments that if survivors survived in order to tell their story so that people would not forget, and she can’t even remember the story, why was she chosen to survive?
This interview is the first time Molly and Ruth sat down together and told of their experiences during the Holocaust from beginning to end.
Date: April 25, 1985
Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Interviewer: Lynn Evidenka
Format: Audio recording