You are on page 1of 3


World History
Holocaust Testimony Prose: Labor is a Benefit

He was born into a complicated world on the 23rd of August, 1923 in Warsaw, Poland.
His name was Joseph Aleksander. Growing up poor was difficult , especially for him and his
family. His neighborhood despised his type of people and never respected them. It started at the
early age of six, people called him names, harassed, and even beat him. This was motivated by
nothing more than how he looked and his race. At one point Aleksander and his friends
innocently walked into a church which taught catechism. The priest who was leading the
session pointed out Aleksander and his friends, insulting them and kicking them out.
Life in the ghetto wasn’t too bad. It was calm and easy before it became crowded.
Aleksander was able to hangout and play games with his friends. He grew older as the years
passed and eventually finished grade school. After so much abuse as a kid in grade school he
was glad to be out. Right after he finished he went to another school to become a machinist. He
also graduated from there and now had a certificate which stated that he was a certified
At the age of 17, the ghetto raids had already begun. It was inevitable, but nobody
expected it. They sent trucks to the ghettos and gathered as many people that they could fit in
each truck. Then they locked them in the back and made long trips to labor camps. Aleksander
was told by a neighbor that his father was picked up at the very beginning of the raids. This was
between the years 1940 and 1941. Aleksander never saw him again and his life moved on.
Aleksander sometimes went outside of the ghetto to work for polish farmers. One day,
as he was working in a farm he overheard some german guards talking about recruitments for
labor at a camp nearby. As he went back home Aleksander told his family. However, he fell ill
and was unable to walk the next day so he had a family friend take him on a bicycle to the
recruitment site. He registered and a few days later he was sent to a labor camp outside of
Warsaw. Looking back on it he said that going to the labor camp was what helped him survive
the early executions. While he was off working, his neighbors and family were being executed.
He even went as far as to say that the food and beds were an upgrade to those in the ghetto. It
sounds wrong but you would say the same thing if you were in his shoes.
As the war raged on more fiercely every day the Nazis needed more artillery and combat
gear. They closed the labor camp at which Aleksander worked and sent him to Majdanek, a
concentration camp with crematoriums. People smuggled in things and others smuggled
themselves out. One was even caught and executed in front of all the workers as a way to
demoralize them. One man was able to sneak out and stay in hiding for a few weeks until they
picked him up again and forcibly sent him to treblinka. While in the heart of hell the man worked
until one day he snuck out and followed the train tracks away from the camp. He was crazy
enough to return to Majdanek and tell of his experience. Nobody believed him, not one single
soul because they were ignorant. They used excuses to block the belief of the stories, however,
many of them found out that they should have taken as much information as they could. War
isn’t pretty, and one tends to know that. However, no one tends to expect war to be such an
unholy and devilish event.
World History

Aleksander worked as a machinist with men of more experience. He helped in any way
he could in order to stay there. Unfortunately, he was carrying a heavy part of a machine with
one dishonorable man. The man’s hands slipped and the part fell, almost taking Aleksander with
it. When the guard came to investigate the older man accused Aleksander, a helper, as the one
of fault. The guard asked no more questions and took Aleksander to work a different, more
grueling and gruesome role. He took him to a section of the camp dedicated to making the
prisoners shovel dirt into a wheel barrel and throw it into holes and piles. As young and healthy
as Aleksander was, he knew that he would not last more than two days in this role. It was
backbreaking labor. However, this labor gave him an idea. The idea was courage, courage to go
talk with the head director of the camp. He would go on to do so and tell him “I need another job
and would be much more useful in a machinist job.” It was the best idea Aleksander had by far.
The director, a criminal which was identifiable by the logo on his shirt, sent him to a different
His luck following his courage didn’t last long. Aleksander went with the flow, what more
could he do. If he pushed his luck too far who knew what would happen. It was war afterall. On
second thought, this was something far worse than just war. War is bad as is, war with genocide
and slavery isn’t war. Aleksander was shipped to the place of which all prisoners heard of and
dreaded. He was put on a cattle car hooked to a train and sent to Auschwitz. The ride to the
camp was hell, and when he arrived Aleksander finally understood that hell was not tied down
by a definition. We can only describe hell but not define it because every time Aleksander
thought he had seen and been through hell he saw and was put through another, greater, type
of hell. It was tragic and undeserved to say the least. However, Aleksander knew what he had to
do in order to survive, just like he had in the previous camps. He had to work and keep working
until he either somehow left, or at last, dropped dead of exhaustion. It would be painful to do so
but he was young and able bodied compared to others. He would do whatever he could to
survive, as most would.
Aleksander’s strategy worked marvelously. He was able to cheat death through labor.
Even though it was painful, grueling, and immensely terrible, he worked his skin and muscles.
He was sent to a different camp soon after of which I don’t know the name for it isn’t mentioned
in the testimony. In this camp Aleksander kept working just like he had for the rest of the camps.
However, this camp was different. The war was raging on and on each day. Every morning and
night, gunfire grew furiously louder and quicker. The prisoners were glad to hear such a
wonderful noise. However, as it grew closer the Nazi soldiers grew desperate. Their plan was to
kill as many Jewish and others who weren’t german as they could. They started telling people to
line up so that they could escort them to different camps. Everyone grew suspicious when the
first group never returned. In a matter of days everyone knew that they were marching the
prisoners into the woods in order to kill them mercilessly and bury them. Aleksander took some
days off from work in order to hide under the floorboards of a cabin when he catched on. One
day, Aleksander and a few people awoke under the floorboards and peeked out. Nobody was
out. No guards, no soldiers. They mustered up the courage to go outside. When they did they
confirmed that what they saw was real, their eyes weren’t giving into illusions.
World History

They were liberated a few days later and many fled after that. They left for different
countries while others searched for their families. They built their new lives and Aleksander
came to California. He lived there until his passing in the early 2000’s.


An incredible man who benefitted from labor. In many ways just like me. The pandemic
hit me hard and I didn’t know what to do or what to think. It was as if a conspiracy theory was
coming true and our government was trying their best to hide it. Labor, or work, helped me to
clear my head of those thoughts. I helped more and more around the house and it gave me a
sense of usefulness. I grew to like it very much. I helped my dad in little parts of work. Some
were with him and cars, others were with him and fixing up the house. It also gave me a way of
being able to map out my time, especially now that everything is opening back up now. Working
is what kept me sane and kept me mentally healthy. You can benefit from working just as I did.
On a side note, I worked willingly. I wasn’t forced or scolded if I didn’t want to because it was
already something I wanted to do. I wanted to learn and become better in different ways, not
only school.

You might also like