Lodz (Poland), Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sachsenhausen, Lieberose, Mauthausen, Gunskirchen
Mr. Jack Pludwinski, born in 1925, is the youngest offspring of Henry and Frieda Pludwinski of Lodz, Poland, conservative Jews who were in the retail fish and produce business. He had three brothers and two sisters and attended a Polish public school as well as a Hebrew school. He experienced considerable anti-Semitism both in the public school and in general.
Following the German occupation of Poland an enclosed ghetto was created in Lodz into which all Jews from the city and from the surrounding areas were placed. Since the Pludwinski family already lived in the area selected for the ghetto they did not have to move. Mr. Pludwinski’s schooling ended at that time. He explained that the ghetto was governed by a Jewish leader, called “judenrat”, and laws/rules/policies were enforced by Jewish police carrying batons. Both were doing the bidding of the German administration of Lodz. Periodically the ghetto was required to provide manpower for “labor” outside of the ghetto. The selections were made by the Jewish administration and none of the people selected ever returned to the ghetto. In fact the people were sent to a site where a selection was made to either send them to labor camps or to an extermination camp. It was in this manner that Mr. Pludwinski’s father and siblings were taken from Lodz. He never saw them again and does not know how they died but assumes they were either taken to extermination camps or shot.
In 1944, Mr. Pludwinski and his mother were shipped to Birkenau (Auschwitz II). They were separated during the selection process when he was picked for labor but his mother, due to her age, was sent to the gas chamber and crematorium. After a short stay he was transferred to Auschwitz where he received training to become a bricklayer. From Auschwitz he was shipped on a truck to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, north of Berlin, and then to a Sachsenhausen sub-camp called Lieberose (also known as Liro), staying at each about a month to a month and one-half.
Mr. Pludwinski describes conditions at all of the camps as essentially the same, extremely bad: very little food, very poor sanitation, and with sleeping arrangements either on bare wooden bunk beds or on the ground. Physical abuse was rampant.
Following his stay at Lieberose, he and the others were taken to some tent camps whose names he can not recall. From there they marched for about two weeks without food in a death march to the Mauthausen camp near Linz, Austria. He recalls that on one of the stops during the march the group was bombed by allied aircraft. The next morning he saw some of the prisoners roasting meat over a fire. He suspects that they were engaged in cannibalism, eating the flesh of some of those killed during the bombing.
For three to four months at Mauthausen, he was involved in repairing railroad tracks damaged during bombings. He considers himself fortunate that he did not have to work in the stone quarry carrying heavy stones up many steps which killed many inmates.
From Mauthausen, Mr. Pludwinski, was marched to the Gunskirchen camp. There he hid in the rafters of his barrack for three days while others were taken out and shot. He was ultimately liberated by the U. S. Army.
Mr. Pludwinski attributes his survival to being young, his good health, and to luck. As an example he cited an incident during a house search by German soldiers in Lodz. He was hiding behind a stove in a locked room when the soldier broke down the door and saw him. They were face to face. Nevertheless, the soldier said to his companion, “There is nobody here. Let’s go!” Mr. Pludwinski is sure that this saved his life at the time.
Mr. Pludwinski is the only one of his entire family including his parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins to survive the Holocaust. All others, he assumes, were either shot or gassed.
Following his liberation he was hospitalized, then went to displacement camps (DP Camps) for about 1-1/2 years. Having heard that Poles were killing Jews who returned to their former homes, he did not go back to Lodz. He came to the United States in 1947 and became a citizen in 1953. He is married, has one daughter and four grandchildren.
Date: June 26, 2001
Interview & Synopsis by: Hans Weinmann
Length: 1 hour 13 minutes
Format: Video recording