G., Rabbi Baruch
Mlawa (Poland), Auschwitz, Theresienstadt
Rabbi G. was born in a town called Mlawa in Poland. He lived there together with his parents, his sister, and his brother. Rabbi G. grew up in an Orthodox middle-class family. His father was a merchant. Rabbi G. says, that Jews in Mlawa lived traditional lives isolated from the Gentile population.
In September 1939, the German army occupied Poland. Rabbi G. recalls no bad incidents with German soldiers of the occupying troops, but a few days later the Gestapo entered his home town. First, the Gestapo arrested the Jewish intellectuals, then they announced that every Jew who offends against the law will be executed on the spot. The Nazis then enacted their anti-Jewish laws. All Jews had to register and were not allowed to use the sidewalks. The German population of Mlawa was allowed to call Jews for work whenever the wanted to. Jews were not allowed to have any private property or to run a business. The Gestapo established a ghetto and set up a Jewish Council to organize all facets of Jewish ghetto life. The Jewish Council was told to choose 200 Jews every day, who served the German occupying troops as forced labor. Rabbi G.’s father hid some of his merchandise to run part of his business secretly. He was caught by the Nazis and sent to a labor camp for one month.
In the summer of 1942, the Germans started to liquidate the ghetto. They surrounded Mlawa and rounded up all 7,000 Jews up on a sports field. The Jews were shipped on cattle wagons to another ghetto. Rabbi G. remembers that both his two grandmothers died within the first three days in that ghetto. Many people did not survive the horrible sanitary conditions and the shortage of food. In September 1942, Rabbi G. and his brother were taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where the camp’s physician selected those prisoners, he considered as able-bodied for work. Rabbi G. survived the selection, but his younger brother was sent to the gas chambers. Rabbi G. worked as a bricklayer in the camp.
In January 1945, as the Russian Red Army approached, the Nazis started to liquidate the camp. On January 18, Rabbi G. was transported to the Buchenwald concentration camp and a few days later to a subcamp of Buchenwald, Crawinkel. Rabbi G. states, that the living conditions and the chance to survive in Crawinkel were even worse than in Auschwitz. The inmates received less food and had to do the hardest physical work. Rabbi G. got sick and due to his illness he does not recall any details of the days before his liberation.
In April 1945 he was taken on a cattle train to the ghetto of Theresienstadt, where he was liberated by the Russian Red Army. After the war he immigrated to the United States.
Date: April 1985
Interviewer: Robert Menefee
Length: 35 minutes
Format: Video recording