Piotrkow (Poland), Lodz, Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen, Salzwedel
Felicia was born in Piotrkow and moved to Lodz at about the age of 13 or 14. Felicia lived with her parents, two brothers and one sister (one died as a young child). Her mother’s family lived in Paris. Her father printed Jewish books and newspapers.
On Friday nights they had a traditional dinner and many Jewish soldiers were guests at their table. Many of Felicia’s non-Jewish friends were also invited.
Her dream was to go to Israel.
There were about 25,000 Jews in Piotrkow as opposed to Lodz where there were 200,000 Jews.
The total population there was 600,000. Lodz had a huge textile industry.
Lodz was a very cultural city with great libraries, operas and fashionable women. Felicia’s parents attended the theatre and she saw many American movies, including MAYTIME with Jeanette MacDonald and MODERN TIMES with Charlie Chaplin. Her mother bragged that Pola Negri was an old friend. (Pola was a Polish actress who became popular in Hollywood during the silent film days, her career ending with the advent of talkies).
Felicia remembers the Germans arriving in tanks and within a short period of time, they were taking all the equipment from factories owned by Jews. Curfews were enforced. Jews went into hiding, mostly in the potato fields. They weren’t allowed to stand in bread lines and were beaten by the Polish police.
Felicia’s family packed after they heard the news about the formation of a ghetto. The Germans killed her wealthy aunt and took her large diamond necklace.
After moving into the ghetto, they had neither food nor heat and had to barter for food. Her younger brother died of starvation and her other siblings cried when they were no longer allowed to walk outside. There were approximately two hundred deaths every day due to extreme hunger and cold.
One summer Felicia was assigned to work, making storm coats for German soldiers and then became part of the kitchen help. She tried to steal food to bring home for her siblings. Her sister worked twelve hours every day making tablecloths for export.
Chaim Rumkowski and Arthur Greiser were in charge.
The children and sick were taken out of the ghetto, leaving room for people from other towns. Only the strong were left.
In August of 1944, she left the ghetto for a prison, stayed a few days and then left for the train station.
Their ride in a cattle car lasted thirteen hours. They were only given one piece of bread. She remembers that her possessions were still with them: clothes, pictures, handbags, some make-up.
They had to wear badges on their clothes.
When arriving at Auschwitz, she was put in Block #26 where there were fifteen girls to one bunk. The count was at 4 a.m. She was there for fifteen days before another train ride, this time to Bergen Belsen. She and her sister didn’t urinate for four days and nights.
They were in Bergen Belsen for five weeks, doing nothing, sleeping in tents or on the hard floor. Her sister became sick with a sore throat and temperature. They made her gargle with urine.
Felicia was taken to Salzwedel to work in a munitions factory. The people there gave her food. The Germans gave them numbers, saying they were no longer people, but dogs. They were there seven months until the liberation.
Her sister was so weak that she fainted and was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Felicia began cleaning rooms, sleeping atop a box. They were liberated by the Americans, who took them to a party and gave them food which they couldn’t eat. They were examined by doctors and were given milk, rice and raisins in the hospital.
Later she married, had two daughters and came to the United States in 1949, becoming a citizen in 1954. Both Felicia and her husband, Roman, (also a survivor) do not talk about their experiences during the war. They named their first daughter Mary so that no one would know she was a Jew. Her daughter later changed her name to Marla. Both daughters are professionals.
Interviewer: Sidney Bolkovsky
Date: February 9, 1983
Format: Video recording