Polak, Fruma (Freda Shackness)

Polak, Fruma (Freda Shackness)

Kovno (Lithuania), Schanzen, Stutthof

Mrs. Fruma Polak was born in Kovno, Lithuania in 1905 and married in 1922. Her husband was a builder and they had a happy life. She had one son, Elijah Polak who was born in 1931.

War broke out in June of 1941.  She heard what Hitler was doing to the Jews that he was shooting them. The Lithuanians began killing Jews as well, saying they were Communists and lining them up against a wall.  Within a few months, the Ghetto was formed.  Their caretaker saved them saying they were not Communists. The walls were covered with people’s names.

Mrs. Polak became ill in the Schanzen (Sanciani) Camp (located 7 kilometers from Kovno) and went into the hospital, was put in the basement, and because of that, was saved.  She hid in a shed with the old people and children.

In 1943 or 1944, the family was taken by train to Stutthof. When the train stopped, Mrs. Polak was separated from her husband and her son who continued on to Dachau.  In Stutthof, she saw the yard, covered with shoes, glasses, toys and couldn’t understand what was happening; except the men and boys were separated from the women.  She can still hear the screaming at night.

In Stutthof they were beaten like animals and often stood for the count for hours in the hot sun.  Many lost their minds and women took poison. Only half survived. Mrs. Polak was in Barrack #3.

Her husband and his brother were killed in Dachau where her son worked, taking the prisoners clothes off their bodies and burning them.  Her son was nine and eventually was taken to Auschwitz. She heard that he survived and was in Israel.  When she saw him, he said that he didn’t want to remember life before the war which broke her heart.  He is now a professor of electrical engineering at the Berkley University.

Mrs. Polak worked as a cook in the United States after the war.  She said “I am terrible cross” because the Americans did nothing to help their fellow Jews during the war.

Interview information:
Date: January 8, 1986
Interviewer: Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig
Length: 1 hour
Format: Video Recording