The Will To Live

Memoirs of a Survivor 1939-1945

by Jack Pavony (Yaacov Hersh Piwonia)

"We must be together. Together. Do you hear? Stand with me, wherever I go, wherever you go. We must be together. " Avraham Piwonia Aushwitz, November 1942

The Will To Live Memoirs of a Survivor 1939-1945

Presented with love in celebration of our father's 60th birthday 10 June 1986 Second expanded edition October 1994 Third electronic edition 2012

Copyright© 1986 Jack Pavony All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except by a newspaper or magazine reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review. Manufactured in the United States of America

A Note from Annette & Howard
We, the children of survivors, are extremely proud and thankful to our father for the precious gift which he has bestowed upon us. We have translated and published this story of our father, our family and our people that he painfully dictated to us in Yiddish. We know how traumatic and heartwrenching this effort was for our father, but the baring of his soul and the reliving of his personal nightmare have given us new and deeper insights into the meaning of his life and into the human and inhuman experience of the Holocaust. We recognize the significance his story will have for our children, his grandchildren, and their children for generations to come. We are determined never to forget his experience and the experience of the Jews of Europe. His words and the power of his story will survive as a written legacy for us all. This book and the labor of love which produced it is dedicated to our beloved mother, Bronia Borer, who gave us life and died too young, and to our grandparents whom we never had the privilege of knowing and to the six million Jews, whose will to live, was as strong as our father's, but who did not survive to tell their own stories. Our hope is that in publishing this work will commemorate and honor their memories, their pain, their screams and the sanctity and importance not only of their lives but of their deaths as well. Annette & Howard

Let me begin my story, my story which I lived through from 1939 till the liberation of 1945. That which
occurred to me and my fellow Jews, and my Jewish family, is pitiful almost impossible to recount. Personally, I have found it extremely difficult to express many of the things that I experienced and suffered in my life, in the years till 1945. It is Shabbos, the 9th of February, 1986. The time is 10:30. I have now undertaken the task of recording and saying these few works, for you. I hope you will find this meaningful, my dear children. I have prepared this tape for you to hear. I was born as Yaacov Hersh Piwonia, PIWONIA. My mother's maiden name was Chana Foigel Alter. I was born in Wloclawek, in the 10th month, 6th day of 1926. The first years of my life were spent in Wloclawek. When I was a seven year old boy, my parents moved to Rypin, this is about 60-70 kilometers from Wloclawek. I lived in Rypin on Targova Street, number 14. My school was a Hebrew school, Beit Sefer Tarbut. Here I spent the last years of my youth, the last years, that is, in a free atmosphere. Here I studied Ivrit, Polish, history, all of the subjects. My father was a tailor. His name was Avraham Piwonia and I was the only child in my home. And so life went along. The years flew by. In my youth, I belonged to Hashomer Hatzair. We were very active, played football, that is, soccer, did many things. We were very happy. We had a very good community in our small town, too. About 2200 Jews lived there, this meant that about 60% of the people were Jews. Everything around us was Jewish. We spoke Yiddish. We were brought up in a Jewish atmosphere—a Yiddish-Hebrew, or more correctly, a Hebrew-Yiddish atmosphere. In Wloclawek, things were a little different. The atmosphere was more Polish, more assimilated. It was a Jewish town, with all of the organizations, from left to right, from religious to nonreligious. And so life went along. As a one and only son, I was very pampered. Whatever I wanted I got. The years flew by. The years flew by. In my 13th year, I was to have had my Bar Mitzvah, but the war broke out on the first of September. We were all prepared for the first day of school. What can I tell you? *** Now, begins a new chapter of my life, from 1939 to 1945. This will be a very painful thing for me to recount in great detail, something which I will never be able to describe in my whole life. I will never ever be able to bring it all out. It's very hard to bring it all out. It will take all of my concentration to know what to say, because the hurt is very great, to remember all these things. It is impossible to believe that a person could have gone through and endured this. I am speaking in Yiddish now to my children, especially, and I hope that Annette and Howard, too, will be able to understand this well and will give it to my grandchildren, in Ivrit or English. This is a thing which I have tried to do for years and years and years. Now that I am at home and have some time, I decided to pass this on to you, my beloved children and grandchildren. In 1939, on the first of September, at around 6 or 7 o'clock in the morning, I was all prepared to go to school, when we heard an enormous noise. People were in panic—the streets were filled with people—and it was said that a war had broken out, a war had broken out. Before we saw a thing, we already heard the German planes flying. There was already bombing, and there were already victims in the town. People had already fallen. This was on the first of September, no perhaps it was the second of September. A war in our town, people were falling. They were trying from all over the town to get out of Rypin. My mother and I and my father, b'shulom, ran along with everyone else. We ran to Lipno, to my aunt, my Aunt Ita. There I had two aunts, Ita and Risya. We traveled in the middle of the terrible battle, to Lipno. We traveled, we went, while the planes were flying overhead. Everywhere, we saw the dead, the wounded. People were running with their belongings, their bundles and whatever they could carry. When we arrived in Lipno, another new horrible battle had begun. People were also running. Where? Wherever their hands and feet took them, not knowing where they were going, what they were doing. They ran. My father decided to travel alone to Wloclawek, to see what was happening there. Maybe there it would

be quiet, somewhere. We stayed with my Aunt Ita, and my father left. We knew nothing about whether they had gotten there or not reached it yet, because Wloclawek was on the front. There by the Vistula, was a large bridge, and stationed there was a large military force. There they set up an entire camp in Wloclawek because it was a very important strategic point. This is what we heard, and it was, in fact, true. *** We waited two weeks and saw the Germans entering Lipno. Here they had already begun to hunt down Jews, to beat Jews, to kill Jews, here in Lipno. My mother thought of only one thing, that we must make our way to Wloclawek to see where Father was, because he was supposed to be at my Aunt Dvora's, at the Czarnolewski's. The journey which should have taken an hour or two, took us 4 or 5 days. My mother and I set out, leaving all of our belongings at my aunts, whatever it was we had, just a few bundles, and we arrived in Wloclawek. Wloclawek had witnessed an even more horrible battle. There they were dragging Jews, killing Jews, it was a nightmare. People fled to Warsaw. The bridge in Wloclawek was destroyed. The Polish Army, while they were retreating from the town, blew up the bridge, as they fled the Germans. At long last, we arrived in Wloclawek by way of a small boat. It was a miracle that we had made it in one piece. There, we were reunited, we rejoiced, but, of course, it was no longer the same. The Czarnolewski's, my aunt, had owned a big business, a grocery business at Tumska Street 3, in Wloclawek. The Germans had already come with large platform trucks and begun hauling things from the cellar. They had had a very big grocery business with large warehouses. We stayed there for about a week and during this time, the Germans issued an order that all those who were not residents of Wloclawek had to vacate the town within 48 hours, otherwise they would have to explain what they were doing there. And so, we had to return to Rypin, leaving everyone. My mother and my father, b'shulom, bid farewell to everyone, the last farewell to my Aunt Dvora and Uncle Moshe Yiddeh, and their children, Gutcheh, Yaacov and Fela. We said our good-byes, only not to Simon who was somewhere with the Polish Army but we didn't know where he was. We set out on our return. We headed back by way of the bridge, with great hardships, along with all of the Jews. It was so hard. Finally, after 10 or 12 days, we stopped in Lipno. We hugged and said good-bye to Aunt Ita and Aunt Risya. Things were already not what they had once been. Jews were being beaten, killed and shot. It was by now a terrible war, especially for the Jews. At last we reached Rypin. The situation in Rypin was even worse. Before the war had broken out, we were almost unaware that about 30-40% of the people there were actually Germans, "folk Deutschen" they were called. We had played together. Suddenly, Poland was no longer their country. On the porches of 60% of the homes hung Swastikas. Jews were being dragged, Jews were being killed. It was a horrible scene, even worse than in Wloclawek. *** A very short while later, maybe 3 or 4 weeks, at about 10 o'clock at night, we were awakened. We lived right near the Shul, in a German house. We were told to rouse ourselves. The Shul was burning. The Germans had come in there about 8 or 10 o'clock, bringing cans and cans of naphtoline, gasoline, and other things. We left our house immediately, left all our belongings behind, and went to my Uncle Piwonia who lived about 6 or 7 houses from the Shul. We stayed there the whole night, while the Shul burned through and through. We returned in the morning, about 10 o'clock in the morning, we returned to our house. Every night they hunted Jews. Every night Jews were dragged from their homes. They took the intelligentsia, the Goyim, too. They took the Polish intelligentsia. From among the Jews, they took doctors, professors, all taken at night and no one knew where they were. And they began to force Jews to work at all kinds of work. We began to wear small patches attached to our lapels to show we were Jews. We were forbidden to walk on the sidewalks. We had to take off our hats to the bastard Germans—may they burn in hell. Forgive me for saying this—to you—not to the Germans. And so it went. Another 2 or 3 weeks passed and there came a time when we began to hear the word "Judenrein". My father worked for the Germans, those he had known before the war. They let him make all of the German uniforms. How they laughed at the Jews, they mocked us, they humiliated and degraded us. Meanwhile, things got worse and worse for us, day by day—worse and worse. And finally, the time came, when an order was issued, this was at the end of November, that we were all to leave Rypin. Everyone was to leave, leave with none of our belongings. We were permitted to take a few parcels, everything else was to remain. My father went to the German living downstairs, told him, "Here, you have everything that we own, except for these few things." He shook our hands, and we set out, leaving all our worldly possessions—everything we had ever owned.

And so we began to make our way, in a new world, an unknown world. In November, 1939, we became partners in the purchase of a horse and wagon from a man, Besser, who was a merchant. He had two good horses and he told my father that if he wanted to be partners, to put in so much and so much. My father gave him whatever he had and we became partners. He had a wife and four children, and together with us, we packed up our things and set out. He knew how to ride and care for horses, something my father knew nothing about—and about which I knew even less. We were supposed to go to the Russian border, but we stopped at Mlawa, to see what was happening. In Mlawa, the war wasn't so bad. They were also persecuting the Jews there, but they let them live, let them go out. There was no ghetto. This was already December. Our plan was to reach the Russian border which was where everyone was headed. My uncle, b'shulom, Shimon Piwonia, and his whole family had fled Rypin, from Rypin to Mlawa, and by the time we got to Mlawa, they were already gone. *** In the meantime, we found a small apartment, with a group of people. We were 4, 6, 9, people in one apartment. I don't remember if we were able to cook there, maybe downstairs in the other part of the house. These things I don't remember very well. In the meantime, winter came, the Polish winter. That year was the worst winter, with tremendous snows and bitter cold. People were frozen by the time they reached the border. The border was tightly closed, then opened, then closed. At first it was easier to travel, the Germans didn't stop people, neither did the Russians. Then the Germans began stopping entry into Russia and the Russians also stopped the flow. They already had too many people. So, that left only one choice, to remain and wait and see what would happen to our lives. I am relating all of this to you in a very shortened format. A longer version, with all the details would have been very, very long, and I, myself, would have a lot of difficulty in relating all these things. I will just tell you about my life, my family's life, how we lived through that time between 1939 and 1945. In 1940, January, or was it April, I'm not quite sure, a large number of Jews were taken out of Mlawa. We were lucky, we remained, although we didn't know what would happen. They chased out Jews from Mazrik, from Lukoff. My Zeidah, my father's father and his family, they lived on another street, were taken away. But we were left alone. They took about 40% of the Jews from Mlawa and they ordered that within 8 days, all of the Jews had to live in a certain quarter. We had to leave our house because it was to be a Polish quarter. Now we were crowded in with even more people for we were refugees, being that we were not Mlawa Jews. First came the Mlawa Jews, then those who had fled there recently. This was something that was happening all over Poland. This is the way it was. In pain and sorrow, my father and that very same Besser, b'shulom, managed to grab two large rooms around the Mikveh. In and around the Mikveh there were large rooms. We could not find any other place to live, because everything was already taken. Places were being grabbed up right and left, and being that we were not very good grabbers, we were left to take what there was. The Mlawa Jews knew what to do and we, of course, didn't know anything so by the time we came to look there was nothing left. *** Anyway, we were forced to move out of our two little rooms into two large—rooms high and large. I don't know what this had been before, but it was beside the Mikveh and that's what it was called. We moved into the room where we were to live. As for the other room, they came from the Judenrath, the Jewish Committee, and said that the first room with two doors was to be taken by a family of 8 people, people from Mlawa, and we could use the other room, being that we were already there. So they were given the first room and we stayed in the other room. The room was filled entirely with beds. There was a bed for me and my father, my mother slept in another small bed. In two folding beds, slept the Besser family members. They were 6 people, four children, a father and a mother. And so it went on—life in the ghetto. Life in the ghetto was very hard. As time went on, it got harder and harder. They began to build a fence around the ghetto and decreed that from such and such a day, the Jews would not be permitted to go in or out without a permit. This was during the summer of 1940. In 1940, they began rounding up Jews for work. They needed the Jews. My father did all kinds of things. He worked as a tailor for the Jewish Police. They had established a Jewish Police and a Jewish Committee. He knew them well and worked for them in their workshops. They had a small place with a few machines, especially for the sewing needs of the police. For this

he got extra rations. I went to work, because everyone 14 and older had to work, from 14 to 65. We had to give one day of work per week to the Germans, and the people who couldn't work, who had money, could buy their way out of this. So one day a week I worked for the Germans, and 5 days a week I worked for someone else. For this I got 5 zlotys, 5 marks, 8 marks, I don't know how much it was, but it was very little. The work was very hard. The money was nothing. I swept the streets. I did all kinds of things. I worked in the peat bogs, in the freezing waters, in the stinking sewers, in the heaviest snows. When winter came, they needed hundreds, thousands of people because the German Army was on the march and they needed the roads cleared. The enormous snows of 1941 were especially terrible that year. This was before the war with Russia. As time passed, circumstances kept on worsening. My mother, b'shulom, wasn't feeling well. She had lost an eye during the bombing of Rypin when some shrapnel hit her. She went through a terrible ordeal and lost the entire eye. Poor soul, whenever she saw me returning home from work, her heart cried. She didn't let it show that she cried, but I felt that she cried—that everything within her cried. *** We did all we could, but another fearful edict came out. Horrible things were happening in the ghetto. They were shooting people, they were beating people that had already been shot. There were hangings. They killed fifty people at once for no reason at all, for trivial things. Circumstances were getting worse and worse, day by day, day by day. And at the same time, they added another family to ours. This was once again Mlawa people, yes I say Mlawa again because they came back from the deportation, 6 or 7 months later, which I had forgotten to mention. So we were joined by a father, a mother and two small children. We added another few beds. How we managed, I don't know. In the middle was a small cooking apparatus, which we put together ourselves. It was quite something to see, quite a sight to see how three families cooked together and lived together. Each one worried about getting their own food cooked and everything else done.

This continued on until 1942. In 1942, by the end of the summer, there were rumors of deportation, of all kinds of things. But we didn't believe many of the things. We both believed and didn't believe. I was still a young boy of 16 and didn't know much of anything that was going on. Then the day came when a law passed that all of the Jews had to leave Mlawa, Mlawa was to be Judenrein, the ghetto was to be liquidated. We were to be moved to another area, to work somewhere else. We were to take with us just a few things, set aside a kilogram of bread and some marmalade, and that was all that we were to do. Let me go on. In 1942, beginning of November, it was decreed that Mlawa was to be Judenrein. We were to be sent to the East, to the Russian side. We were to take 15-20 kilograms per person, that was all we were allowed and we were to assemble alphabetically and await deportation. This was done in groups, our group was called on the third day of the deportation. We were held together in a big building, maybe a thousand people. We were there all night, lying there, in an empty warehouse. As we left, we were given a kilo of bread and marmalade and this was to be our rations for the journey. They took us through the streets, out of the ghetto, all the way to the trains. The degradation from the Poles, the merriment of the Poles was something indescribable. It will never be possible to describe it. It can never be forgotten, never to be forgotten. The laughter, the rejoicing, the mockery, the screaming. We were insulted and cursed with the ugliest of names, all of us Jews. These had been our brothers, our fellow citizens, our neighbors. The Poles. *** From there they took us to the train. There we stood the entire night. In the morning it started to move. We traveled for about 4 or 5 days. Where we were going, how we would get there, what was happening, it was impossible to know because it was entirely enclosed in the cattle cars—cattle cars they were called—in which they shipped animals. There was a small window and this window was barred with rods—just there to give a little air. I cannot describe to you those 4 or 5 days of being in that cattle car with 120 people, children, old people, women, men. The stench, the sweat, the wetness, the heat, the stink. We couldn't go out. They didn't give us water, nothing, period. They stopped at night. The trains didn't move at night. I don't know where they stopped it. Somewhere. We did not know where. We stayed there half the night and travelled half the night. Eventually we arrived at a large station. It was 2 o'clock in the morning. They opened the cattle cars.

Out of the cattle cars, people came, half dead, already dead people. We had arrived at a place called Aushwitz— the ramp. The place was so lit up, I thought it was daytime. From lack of seeing daylight those 5 days, we had become blinded. Blinded so that we couldn't even see. I am telling you all this in a shortened account. I went out with my mother and father. They chased us along. We held on. I was in the middle. My mother was on my left side, my father was on the right side—we held on to each other. They were beating us. All of a sudden, I don't know from where or how it happened, a German soldier grabbed my mother and took her away. My father and I remained. Where they took her, we couldn't even try to look, because we were already being beaten over the heads. They stood us aside. How it was, I have no idea. I know only one thing. There stood a man, Y'mach shmo, may his name be obliterated, an SS man. This must have been Mengele, and he was directing, right, left, left, right, telling people where to go. My father and I were standing on the right side with all of the men. An hour passed, we stood for an hour. What went on during that hour on that ramp is totally indescribable. To this day, I think to myself, I cannot understand what really happened there. People ran, screamed, were shooting, were being killed, ran. Everyone was in total chaos. We didn't know what was going on. After 5 days of traveling, after 2, 3 years of ghetto life, it was a horrifying war. Then, we stood, maybe 250-300 people, we stood and we waited. We waited. *** November, you know, the rains had just begun. A light rain was falling, a light rain. We were marched along. Maybe a half hour of marching, till we came to a large concentration camp all lit up. It was by now 5 o'clock in the morning, maybe 4, and over the gate above us we saw, "Arbeit Macht Frei'' a large sign with bright lights and some large buildings, 2 enormous buildings. They took us away. We saw people, wearing pajamas, to us they looked like pajamas. These were their uniforms, the prison uniforms, with stripes, blue and white, or gray. We saw the people. We couldn't speak. They took us off to the side. This was called the receiving station for the new prisoners. In German, they called us prisoners. We stood there. It was already morning. Hungry, wet, without sleep. Wet, hungry. I repeat once again. Thirsty, tired, not knowing what fate would bring further, what would be with us. We had no idea. I asked my father, "Where is Mama?" My father looked at me. I looked at him. Neither one of us knew what to do. What would be our end? Fifty people had to go into the large room. I held on to my father like we were iron, as if we were baked together. What will be will be. But together. We talked about my mother. Maybe we'd hear something from her. Our belief, our hope was great, that we'd live, so we had to remain together. He spoke to me, "Yaacov," I was called "Kuba." "Remember, keep us together—no matter how they might beat us, hit us, whatever will be. We must be together. Together. Do you hear? Stand with me, wherever I go, wherever you go. We must be together." And then we were next. They told us to get undressed, all of our clothes, just to hold on to our boots. I had a pair of boots and my father had a pair of boots. In came some Poles, they were the ones in charge. They noticed the boots and one said, "Take off your boots, put them on the side. You'll get others. These are not for you." We went in to the bathroom to take showers. Our heads were shaved. They gave us small things, little things, prisoner's things. I didn't have any shoes and my father didn't have any shoes. *** One of them asked me, "Where are your shoes?" "I don't know why they took away my shoes. That's the way it is. I don't have any shoes. They took them away." "What do you mean took them away? Here they are." They gave us 2 pairs of wooden shoes, shoes made of wood. Mine were very large, my father's very small. We exchanged. We continued standing on another line. They were going to tattoo numbers on our arms. They tattooed numbers on us. They took our arms. One held the arm, the other jabbed at it with a kind of pen, so hard. All of a sudden, I started to scream. The minute I began to scream, I was smashed over the head. My father stood right behind me. I always went first, and he stood right behind me. I don't know how it always worked out that way, but that's the way it always worked out. After this, I took a look, my hand was all swollen, blackened. I rubbed it and it turned entirely black. I didn't know what had happened. I smeared it all. I began to cry to my father. I said to him, "Look, it's all black. You can't even see anything on my arm." As I turned to the Pole to tell him I had smeared my arm, he gave me a few blows with his hand or something. The blood began to pour. My father grabbed me. I don't know if he covered me with his hand, covered my head. And all the while, they chased us along, here and there, until we came to the interrogation. They interrogated us. What were our names, where had we lived, had we had relatives, if we had people, who, how, where was the family, what did we do during the war, before the war. They asked us everything. And

after this interrogation, they assigned us to a block. Me they took somewhere else. It was called a bricklaying school, 7A, it was called. Block 7A, Aushwitz. It was 1942, November. My father was taken to another block. For two days we were together. On the third day, they took him away. I didn't know where. But they said he had been taken away. I was with the other people, young people. We were all young people, 15, 16 years old, up to 19 years old. We were supposed to learn in the summer, how to build houses, to make houses. I don't know exactly what. I was to be a brick layer.

What can I tell you? What took place in that concentration camp, Aushwitz, is not something that can be written down. Every minute we were in danger. There were beatings, there were hangings, there were killings. From our block, from every block, hundreds of people had fallen. Hunger. Work. We worked. The summer of 1943 came. 1943, summer time came. Before I tell you what happened in the summer of 1943, I will tell what happened to my father. My father figured to be with me for another 3-4 days in the concentration camp. But they said he had been taken away to Buno somewhere. I didn't know where. This was the factory of I. G. Farben, the German I. G. Farben is where he was to work. It took about a month or two, or maybe a little more, and they sent him back, he and a group of people. My friend, whose father had also been sent there, came to tell me the news. "Yaacov," he said, "all of the people that were sent out, some of them have come back, maybe 10 or 15 of them, and I think that your father is also back. Block 23 or 17, I think that's right." *** After the roll call, every night at 7 o'clock there was a roll call, twice a day, once in the morning, 5 o'clock in the morning and at night, 6 at night, when we came back from work. By the time we stood in line and finished it all, it was about 7 o'clock. If we were lucky, we went up. Then we ate. We stood in line to eat. A person came out to give us food. If you weren't holding your cup right, the food, which could hardly be called food, a little water with some food, maybe a little cabbage, then you got your food spilled over your head. So you were drenched in blood and hot soup, that is, hot water. You got coffee, a piece of bread, bread that you could plaster the walls with, a little margarine, if it really was margarine. I ran over there with this same friend. We kissed each other. We held each other. I couldn't recognize my father. My father had always been a thin person. They had shaved his head. They had dressed him in the pajama/clothes, with a round hat, ringed with stripes all around. And what he had endured those three months, was pitiful to see. We clutched each other. We both kissed. We both wept. Our joy was very great—for me and for my father. I can see it now as if it were real. There is no one in my house now. This is the first time in 40 years that I have these thoughts in my mind. I see it. It is not a dream. It's real. I have never in my life talked about the things that I am saying now. It will be, even for me, though I hear the words being spoken, I myself cannot believe it. This is you, Jack Pavony, you are saying these things into the microphone, and you are bearing witness to your dearest, most beloved, your children, your grandchildren, your friends, your children's friends, I am speaking to you…I am speaking. *** This joy was not long lived. For it wasn't long before that "Y'mach shmo”, Mengele, whether he still lives or he doesn't, whom I have seen perhaps 40 times in my lifetime, during the time of the war… My father, before they had taken him away on Sunday…but I jump ahead of myself, because I am in such an emotional state now, as I speak, that you must forgive me a little. I am so enraged and I speak to you from such anger…but I am controlling myself, as much as I can. I am controlling myself. And my father said to me, "Yaacov, Kuba," that is what I was called, "This Sunday, I will be working for the man who is in charge of keeping the barracks clean. He dispenses the food. I will get an extra liter of soup. Come over after 3." On Sundays we didn't work, sometimes yes, but most of the time not. We didn't work on Sundays. And at 12 o'clock was the roll call. They counted off again. We were more than 20,000 people. But things ran like clockwork, like clockwork. Aushwitz was not like Birkenau. Aushwitz was a model camp, a death camp. Everything had to be run like a machine. The beds had to be perfectly clean, everything had to be clean,

immaculate. This was a death camp of cleanliness, Aushwitz. They killed thousands of people, every day, hundreds were slaughtered. But this obsession for perfection they held on to. And how I looked forward to that hour. I said to myself, "It's alright, I'll be with my father on Sunday." This was the greatest pleasure of my life, to be together, those 2 or 3 hours after three. We ate, after the roll call we were forced to sleep, rest ourselves. We had to lie quietly for an hour or two. The whole camp didn't go out. We lay quietly. This was the German perfectionism, Y'mach shmo. At 3 o'clock, we heard a bell ring and everyone went out of the barracks. We got dressed and went out— to see one another, to look, to do, to talk, to tell each other things. We had 2-3 hours free, until 6 o'clock. I started to run immediately to my father. But to my sorrow, that very Sunday, my heart at once told me that something had happened because into every barracks had come Mengele, and he had taken a look and sent people out. They were being sent to the gas chambers. He did this once a month, more or less, probably more. He came and took out one thousand or two thousand people, people who didn't look right in his eyes, who were not fit enough for work. They were making room for other people. For every day hundreds, thousands arrived—in and out. The dead went out of the chambers and new people came in. There was a curfew and we weren't allowed to go out. And I even said to my friend, who was the same age as I, I think he is alive now and lives in America, his name was Olevnik, I said to him, "Olevnik, I am afraid that something has happened to my father." "Don't be silly," he said. "Hallevai, that my father could be like yours. He sews for the barracks orderly." "I don't know, I have this feeling." *** Anyway, at 5 o'clock they let us out. They had by now taken away all of the people. All of the people. I went out of the block. I ran. I Flew. Impossible! I stood next to my father's empty bed. Empty. Nebech, someone stood off at a distance. I couldn't ask where my father was. I stood. I hung my head down and I cried. The man, a stranger, came over to me and took me in his arms. This I have not forgotten. This I will never forget. He held me and said, "Go, my child. Go, Go, my child. Don't ask anything." I didn't ask. I went out of the block. I went back home to my block, block 7A, the upper bunk. I lay myself down and I cried. I cried for weeks.

And this is the way my life went on—from 1943 to 1944.
I, Jack Pavony, had lived through everything, had passed through all the angels of death. Mengele. Every few weeks, every few weeks I saw him. Once, in 1943, while in my work unit, I fainted away. I don't know what happened. I am telling you small episodes of what went on—just small episodes—for I cannot tell certain other episodes because they would take hours, hours, hours to tell, to hear. They took me away to the Kranke Baus, the hospital. To ever leave that place alive was almost impossible. There were no treatments, no medicines, you just lay there. I lay there, in such circumstances, in a raging fever, and shook. The first day, I didn't know what was happening to me, no food, no drink, they let me just lie there like that. Suddenly, someone called me and shook me, "Yaacov, Kuba." It was my minahel, my counselor from Hashomer Hatzair in Rypin, Liebel Brown, b'shulom. "What are you doing here?" I could only shake my head. He gave me a little soup, he gave me an aspirin, I don't know what. This went on for 2-3 days. He came to me every day. He worked there with the sick people. One night, he came to me and said, "Yaacov," he said to me, "Tomorrow comes Mengele. He will carry out a selection. Listen to what I tell you. I want to save you however I can. But you have to help yourself. I know it's very hard. You can't stand up on your feet. But you must do it. Otherwise, you will bring a tragedy upon me, upon others and upon yourself. Because I have a friend here, the doctor and as he passes each person with Mengele, he reads a medical report. He says, this man is sick, this man is swollen, this man has this or that. And Mengele makes up his mind. We will tell him that you are here 2-3 days, that you caught a cold and you're going out in 2 or 3 days. Stand strong on your feet. Your feet are still good. You are thin, yes. But, be careful. Stand straight." *** I turned to him, "Leibek, are you a fool, or are you laughing at me? How can I stand if I cannot even get up?"

"You must." He stood me up and said, "Stand up. You will stand now. You will get used to standing. I've brought you a little food. Tomorrow morning, around 10 in the morning, between 9 and 11, he will come. Expect him. He will make an inspection. He's going to empty everyone out because there aren't enough beds. So the least little thing…he'll be looking you over, from top to bottom. Maybe you had malaria, I don't know, but you don't have any fever now. You're just weak. Stand straight and walk. We'll catch you by the bed, over by the bed." In the middle of the hall, stood a table and he sat there, that murderer. What can I tell you? The time came, the next morning and my friend came to me and said, "You see. Everyone is standing around the beds. You will go around and over to the table and then go back and I will wait for you here. You won't have long to walk. We'll catch you." And so it happened. I stood myself up and walked over to him. I turned my head like this. The will to live was very great. I don't know why. But the will to live was very great. And that is what happened. As long as he didn't write the number from your arm down, you knew that for the meantime, you lived. And that is how it was. I passed by. The doctor told him that in 2 days I was to leave the hospital. He laughed that I had caught a cold and that I was alright. I went out. I walked back to my bed and they caught me as I fell. And so my life was saved. And so it went on, hard, day in and day out. What I will tell you now happened sometime in 1944, I figure between May and June of 1944. In the middle of the night, about 2 AM, we were all woken up in my block where I was. They selected about 50 people from the block, and I was among them. They took me, too. They told us to get dressed very quickly, "shnell, shnell" and go downstairs. We went outside, in front of the gates to Aushwitz, and we waited. At the same time, more people started coming. It seemed that from all of the blocks, they had pulled out some 50, 40, or 80 people. In all, it appeared there were a few hundred. They counted us up again—a few hundred people were assembled there. They opened up the gate, and marched us out. There stood a few SS, about 100 SS men, with their dogs, their trucks. We quickly realized that—being that we had already been in the camp for 2 years—all of us were certain that this was it—it was the liquidation of Aushwitz. *** They took us in groups and put us on the large platform trucks. We rode for about 15 or 20 minutes and then came to a large clearing—a huge empty place, brilliantly lit up. There were so many lights, we thought it was daytime. We were told to quickly get down from the trucks and everyone was to wear only shoes and underwear—to put everything else on the side. And that is what happened. What can I tell you about how we, how I felt? I was sure that the end had come. They were about to murder us all—to shoot us. We took a look and suddenly noticed that off to the side were enormous military trucks—filled to the top, packed up with suitcases and packages. And we were told to quickly unload the trucks and remove all of the things. They began chasing and hitting us. Until 2 in the afternoon, we worked from 2 AM to 2 that next afternoon. We were still totally confused, not knowing what was next. We were given our clothes and told to get dressed, and were marched out. This, then, is what I began to do for the next 3 months. Now I want to explain to you exactly what we did. For the next 6 weeks, we worked a day shift and a night shift—the same people. Because there were so many things there, they called this place CANADA. All those thousands and millions of people who had been transported to Aushwitz, all of their belongings that they had brought were left behind on the Ramp. Then they were loaded onto these trucks, brought to this special sorting place, and we were the unloaders. Just imagine, for 6 weeks, doing nothing but unloading and sorting through the belongings of some 400,000 Hungarian Jews who had just been brought to Aushwitz—between May and June or July. We worked, we worked. Then, one day the platform trucks stopped coming. We were taken away in groups. Me, they took to open up the valises. Every group had its task. Some worked to sort out certain things in large boxes—this one for gold, this one for silver, this one for teeth—false teeth, for gold rings, for clothing. Everything was carefully sorted. New things with new things, old things with old things. Shoes— children's shoes, men's shoes, women's shoes, every kind of shoe. Eyeglasses, false teeth, watches, dollars, pounds and so on and so on. Every kind of money, diamonds, gold—everything had to be put in its place. And we were carefully, carefully, watched. Always wearing our short underwear—because they were afraid we might take something into the camp. Hard to imagine what they thought we would do with it. *** Now this went on for a good month or so. As we worked, the SS men stood and with whatever they happened to have in their hands, they battered us. One day I was standing aside and looking around me. Before I knew it, I was smashed with a bottle and gashed my hand. Of course, I had to just continue working and didn't pay much attention or worry about treating the injury. In about 5 days, I noticed that my hand was entirely red,

totally infected, all swollen and red. I had only one choice—to go back to that hospital where I had been once before. For that reason, I was afraid to go back, but I had to go. As I am relating this today, in this day and age, it is hard to believe what a person can endure. I was signed up for an operation. There we stood—20-30 men, boys and men, naked—our numbers written up on the board. They called us in. They called me in. I lay myself down on a bed—they tied me down—my feet and hands. One held my head. One held a knife and began to cut. I don't know how I stood it. I screamed out, and then fainted. And before I had a chance to come to. I was already on the floor. Paper, white paper was wrapped around my wound. By now, I was already being beaten, and had to run for safety. I took my belongings and there I spent a few days. The moment my hand healed, I had to go back to work. Back there, I had a new commander. Now I need to talk about something which has always plagued my mind. How could this have been done by the cultured, educated German people—who approached every aspect of this horror with a plan, a preconceived plan. To take millions of people and gas them, do away with them. Then to take their things, sort them all out, take out the gold and send it on to Germany, to Berlin or other places, and then give all these valuables to the "fine" German people as a gift. How can a person hope to understand something like that. It is a very important point. The German people wore those things—they wore the clothing of the Jewish people. They wore all of these things, and they knew. They must have known—there isn't a thing that the mind doesn't know. And that is how it was. It's an important thing to contemplate. A very painful thing. That millions of people were taken, gassed, then their belongings, every tiny thing, was kept and used. Imagine my feelings as I worked with those packages—opened them up, and saw photographs. Photographs of families. Albums of family photographs. Children—whole families. I stood there and held them in my hands and wept. I was reminded of my family. Was it possible, I thought. Was it possible, that this could have happened? I saw and I knew that a whole generation had perished. Children—laughing little faces. Little boys, little girls, a father and a mother and their children— proud. All of these things, nebech, thrown and discarded in a pile—passing through my hands. How did I feel? As I am retelling this—it still hurts me so. At this very moment, as I sit here, tears stream from my eyes. I am alone, here in my home. I sit alone. Otherwise, I would not have been able to express these emotions and what I felt when I saw those things. *** This is how it happened. The world would like to forget this. But we, the survivors, give of our memories, what we can, because we are the last ones. Now the second generation, the generation which we brought into this world and raised, that generation has to take over this legacy. Hold it dearly and remind the world of what the German people did to the Jewish people. And never let it happen again, otherwise, history will repeat itself. Remember this well. This is what I wanted to tell you.

Now I have another episode to relate, which shows that what a person can endure, makes him stronger than iron, stronger than iron. I myself cannot quite believe that I could have gone through this. I worked in a unit with about 20 or 25 people, and I was the only Jew—the rest were all Poles. They worked for the Germans. They made for each of the blocks where the SS lived, ovens—large ovens—of all colors. They were the craftsmen. They were the Polish civilian tradesmen and worked together with Polish prisoners in Aushwitz. I was not really aware of what was going on there. I knew something was going on, but I wasn't sure what. The unit consisted of about 20-25 people. It was a good unit because first of all, during the winter it was good because we worked indoors, which of course, was much warmer than working outdoors. I helped carry the stones for the ovens. They were the craftsmen, the meisters, and I was just the laborer doing the dirty work, whatever they wanted. Myself and another Pole, who was around my age, would go out every day at 12 o'clock, to the kitchen, not far from the main gate of the camp, from Aushwitz. It was about a 10 minute walk, with SS guards accompanying us. We had a large vessel, or container—maybe 20 liters deep, for the 20 or so people we had. We brought the container over there empty and returned with it full. And this is how it went day after day, day after day. ***

One fine day, as I went through the Aushwitz gate, I identified myself. We all had to do that—to give our
numbers, explain who we were and where we were going. This time, the Pole and I were held up while carrying the container. They took us upstairs to a special room. We sat there for about half an hour. Then they came upstairs with the container. They had discovered that the container had a false bottom. How they had done this, I don't know. I had been satisfied to work there because the Poles had always given me a little extra soup since they didn't eat this soup. They ate food from the parcels they received from home. They, perhaps, had also been stealing and sending out gold from the camp and smuggling in whiskey, ham and other things. They came into the room and took all of these things out and put them on the table—2 bottles of whiskey, ham, cigarettes, chocolate, tea. He looked at me and said, "You, Jew, how is it you've lived so long?" He glanced at my number. "You will tell me right now, and you, too, Pollack, how is it that you are going out every day—this goes out empty—we've been watching you." He wrote down our numbers. They told us that tomorrow we would have to go to the German Political SS interrogation and we would have to tell what we knew. If we refused, they would have no problem getting us to talk. I received a few punches, the Pole, too. And we were returned to the camp— separated from the others. But two of the Poles came to me at night, the two who knew everything that was going on. One called out to me. Although I was in a different place, they had bribed the guards and had found me. "Listen," he said. "Tomorrow you are going into the German Political SS interrogation. You have one way of coming out of this alive—we will help you. But if you return to the camp, and we know that you told them something, I guarantee you won't come out alive." I didn't sleep the whole night. To think—I didn't know what to think. At 5 o'clock in the morning they woke us up. The Pole and I were put off to the side, during the roll call in camp—there were over 20,000 people in the camp. They put us both aside to wait for the SS men to come. The whole camp had already gone off to work—the Music was already playing. There was music playing every day and every night, with marches they took us out. We were made to remove our hats, for the military parade—the Germans stood there, watching us. One of them would shout a command and we would remove our hats—just like a military review. Two SS men came for us—put us in a jeep and took us away. They took me first somewhere, and took the Pole somewhere else. Two SS men sat there, one a tall man. He asked me if I wanted to speak German or Polish—Polish was a little easier, I told him. They brought over a Pole, also from the camp, an interpreter. And he spoke to me. "You can speak German to me. Whatever you don't know in German, you can say to this man in Polish. You can understand my German." He asked me how long I had been in the camp. "Hmm, number 76559, you are a very lucky man, that you have lived so long." I answered, "I work. I do what I can." He asked me if I wanted a cigarette. I said I don't smoke. He said it was good that I didn't smoke. "How old are you?" I told him my age. "Well, let's get on with our business. You see what we have here?" The same things stood on the table. "Tell me how these got in here. If you tell me everything, you will get out of here alive. I know that you are not involved in this. But you must know—you carry these things in and out every day. You must know. What do you have to say?" I said to him, "Herr Obersharfuhrer, I know only one thing. When 12 o'clock comes, I go with this container. They give it to me and my friend, who works with me. We go into the kitchen." He asked me if I could identify the man who gives me back the container. "It's possible that I could identify him, but it's not always the same person. I put it down and they call out my number, so I can't always know the person." He said to me, "You mean to tell me—how long have you been working here?" "Four or five months, now," I answered. "You mean to tell me that working here four or five months, with 20 people in the unit, you don't know what's been going on here, with these civilians in their green armbands? Don't they talk about anything?" "I know only one thing. I carry, I do everything that needs to be done for the ovens. I prepare everything I'm told to do. More than that I don't know." He said to me, “A Jew remains a Jew." I didn't answer him. ''I'll give you five minutes," he said in a kind voice. "Tell me everything you can. Whatever you saw, with whom they spoke, and who spoke. For four months—you must know what went on." What can I tell you? I sat there. I heard the words of that Pole, that Capo, from last night. "One way out only—don't talk. If you come out alive, you'll have a chance to remain alive. If you talk, either they'll kill you or we will." This is what went through my mind. So I said, “All that I know I told you. I don't know anymore." I don't know how or from where, they lifted me up and began beating me—a murderous beating. Blood ran all over me. The SS man went out of the room and another one came in. They took me to another room, all beaten, my nose swollen. A bench stood there, I got up on the bench. My eyes were already swollen shut. I don't know why I haven't told this story before—it is very painful to tell this. I tell it now, because I am alone and I have tried to talk about this a few times. Each time I stopped. I couldn't go on with it. And now, I must stop and come back to it later— *** There was a large table, a bench. From the ceiling hung two ropes, to bind the hands. And there I stood, my

hands tied. He kicked away the bench and I hung there. It hurt me terribly—cut into me. I was so swollen. The same SS man came in, and two more SS men stood there with the Polish interpreter. I had by now spoken German, Polish—I was completely out of it. "Well, do you want to come down and tell me everything. I'll give you a few minutes." And he went out. The minute he went out, they began beating me with a large whip. They beat me so mercilessly, that I fainted—hanging up there—They poured water on me. I came to and I looked and saw that he was there—the SS man. They took me down and sat me down. It was no longer possible to recognize me. I couldn't open my mouth anymore. I said to him. "I can't speak anymore—I just can't speak." He asked me, "Can you write?" I told him I could still write. My hands shook. "Write in Polish—what I will ask you. The interpreter spoke to me asking me to tell him how this was and that. And so it went on. I wrote because I could no longer speak. My face was like a balloon. I could only write slowly with great difficulty. I couldn't understand what I wrote. And so they continued to beat me and beat me—I stayed there the whole night. In the morning, maybe around 7, they took me out again. I couldn't even move myself. I walked slowly, painfully. They said, "Now go back to your block. You'll go to a special punishment unit and then they'll call you back again—till we find out what happened." The Polish boy had gone through the same torture as I. He was beaten just as I was, but he didn't last. He died after two days. I lay there. And in the morning, I was supposed to go to the special hard labor unit, as it was called. They would keep a special watchful eye on me. What can I tell you? A Polish Capo, he came to me—gave me a pat on the head. I heard him vaguely speak to me. "You will live." More than that I couldn't hear. I was so swollen, so totally broken, that I suffered these pains for months to come. How I went through all of this, only God in heaven knows, only He can answer this—no one else. They did help me, those Poles. And this saved my life. I was supposed to work in the punishment unit, working on Sundays, too, standing, doing the worst kind of work. But I couldn't stand. They took me off to a safe place, did everything for me, until I came back to life. And so I went through this, somehow. *** I am remembering this now, this moment, but I cannot believe that I could have gone through all of this. Being so brutally beaten, so bloodied, so broken, to have worked so hard—and then to remain alive, to live through this, to get married after the war, to rejoice, to bring forth a new generation—a daughter, Annette, my dear Annette, and a dear son, Howard, and my five grandchildren. This is something that I cannot describe. I am so proud. I am so very proud of them and I hope that they will pass this on from generation to generation —"mi'dor l'dor."

Thus it went until 1945, January. We had heard, we knew that the Russians were coming near, this was the 12th of January. We heard that the Russians were about to capture Cracow. There was tremendous confusion and tension in the concentration camp. The Germans began burning all the files and papers. They grabbed me, too, at night on the 15th of January to help burn the files down by the new laundry, all the papers by Block 11, by the death bunker. There they had killed thousands and thousands of people, they shot them, killed them. It's impossible to relate what they did there. They brought people from all over the world. Political and non-political—everyone was brought there, and from there no one ever came out alive. It burned all night, the whole night. The snows were terrible. On the 17th of January, I was forced to leave Aushwitz. At night, on the 17th of January, 1945. This was known as the Death March. And so the Death March from Aushwitz began on January 17, 1945 in the middle of the night, at 2 o'clock, in the greatest and most terrible snows that fell in 1945. It was a terrible, extremely difficult winter. They chased us on for 10 days. Thousands of people fell. Those that couldn't walk and stopped for a minute to rest, we immediately heard a shot and we knew that a person had just been killed. Thousands of people fell. At last we came, on the 10th day, to a train station. I think this was in Glawitz, in Germany, between the Polish and German border. We were shoved into a cattle car, 150 or so people. We sat or stood, packed together. They stuffed us all into the cattle cars, those trains that were meant for animals, cattle cars. They locked them up and we traveled for an hour or two and we stood half the night. We arrived at night. And this went on and on, this going and standing and going. We were given no food. The cold was bitter. We got no food, no water. We must have traveled about 6 or 7 days. Then the trains stopped.


They opened the cattle cars and we found ourselves in Matthausen, Austria. They opened the cattle
cars and from every cattle car they began to beat people. Nebech, from every cattle car in which 150 people had gone in, 15, 20, 30 people at the most came out alive. The rest of the people were either dead or half dead. From there they took us into the Matthausen concentration camp. They took off our clothes. We waited outside. We were washed down with cold water, and then driven into a barracks where there were only naked people lying in beds, maybe 100, 150 or 200 people. There we stayed for about 10 days. From there they sent us to another concentration camp, Melk, also in Austria. There we worked very hard, but the killing, the beating, nothing got any better for us. We worked there in the stone underground tunnels, large underground tunnels where the Germans were planning to make ammunition, missiles and other things.

And so I was there until the beginning of April. In the beginning of April, we heard that the Russians were in Vienna. We were not far from Vienna, I figure some 80-100 kilometers from Vienna. And so they began to round us up again, back into the cattle cars and we traveled to Ebense, also in the Tyrols, further away. And so we stayed at Ebense, and, what can I say? There we were also killed, beaten, all the time things were getting worse and worse. People expired, fell by the thousands. We knew that the time of liberation was approaching. But we didn't believe that we would survive it. It was impossible. We knew one thing. That their plan was to kill us all. Not to let us fall into the hands of the Americans, English, French or Russians. And so I continued to work until the 6th of May. On the 6th of May I was supposed to work, but they started chasing us, again into the stone tunnels, the miles and miles of underground tunnels for the making of German ammunition and missiles. They were about to put us in there and blow us up. But we were in luck. At the last minute, the Americans were very near—the concentration camp was abandoned by the Germans and taken over by the Austrian militia. They hung out the white flags. People started running. They immediately began to rejoice. *** My joy was very…I sat alone. It was about 12 midday, the 6th of May. We heard that the Americans were coming. It was said that the Americans were coming any minute. We began to see tanks. We saw a few cars with soldiers driving. I continued sitting. I couldn't move. The tumult was so great, that I became entirely hypnotized. I sat. I didn't know what was happening to me. I sat. People tried to rouse me. "Look, who's here!" I continued sitting, as if hypnotized. I couldn't believe that this moment had come, that this moment had happened, that the liberation was here. We saw it. We felt it. I didn't feel it. I couldn't believe it. I was very weak. I was very thin. I couldn't walk anymore. I walked, but very weakly. And so, this is the description of my liberation, where thousands of people rejoiced. Those who could walk, laugh. I continued sitting, not able to believe that this could have happened. The time did come, a few hours later, that I stood myself up. I saw with my own eyes, with my own heart. I suddenly realized, I have really been freed. Having lived through all of this for 5 years, and seen all this —I couldn't imagine that this could be. That I had touched it. I saw. I saw the Americans coming from a distance. People laughing. They were giving out chocolate. They were giving out food. I was so weakened, so unbelieving already, that the realization came with great difficulty. And so I gradually accepted that the liberation was there. That there would be a new world. A new beginning. I was still young. Maybe I would still have a chance to have some happiness from life, so much of which I had lost during all those years. At that moment, thoughts of my parents came into my mind. My happiness was cut dead. I realized almost for the first time what I had lost. Where is my mother? Where is my father? What has become of them? I knew what had happened to them. I could not believe it. Could this have really happened? Fate willed it that life would have to go on. And so, I became involved, pulled into a new life. This was my liberation—on May 6th 1945. From then on, there began a new life for me, a new stage.

After I was liberated, a few weeks passed and I regained my health. I wanted to escape from that prison world, the UNRWA run camp. My friend and I searched far and wide and finally asked the American soldiers if there wasn't something—anything that we could do—just to escape from that camp world. And so I entered the America Army to work. My work was to give out the food to the soldiers three times a day. And in this way I began a new life as a free person. A nice few weeks passed and one day as I was giving out the food, an American soldier, jokingly, but in a way that I could follow his English said, "Hey, Pollack, when are you going back to Poland?" I understood him and I answered him, also in a joking way, thinking he'd never understand, ''I'm going back around Pesach." To my surprise he answered, "Not Shavuos, but Pesach?" We both looked at each other in shock. Our eyes met—excitedly. He winked and motioned to me that we should see each other later. *** I stood there waiting anxiously anticipating seeing him again—because I realized that he was a Jew. This was the first time I had seen a Jew as a soldier—not as a prisoner. I was overwhelmed. The time came and I saw him. He called me into his quarters and we spoke. "You're a Jew?" he asked. "Yes." I showed him my concentration camp number. We hugged each other—tears filled our eyes. We understood everything about each other. We spoke in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, with our hands, feet and eyes. Every moment was precious. We felt like brothers who had met from different planets. I told him my story. He showed me packages he had received from his Aunt back home in New York. I saw a Kosher salami—I couldn't believe that I saw Hebrew words on the wrapping—KOSHER—I didn't want to eat it and destroy the Hebrew letters. I wanted to behold those Jewish words. He said, "No, eat and don't worry. From now on you will see a lot of Hebrew and Yiddish words. Next week the Chaplain will come and I will introduce you to him." And as we spoke, he asked me if I had any family that had survived. I told him that my mother had always spoken of uncles and aunts living in America. He told me he was originally from Texas. He had an aunt in New York. So I told him about my Aunt Regina Adler and Uncle Meyer David Alter. The address I didn't have but I knew they lived in New York. I remembered that while in the ghetto we received a small package from New York by way of Portugal—some tea, cocoa—so I knew for sure there were relatives living there. He told me that he had this aunt in New York and if I was interested she could put my information into the Jewish newspaper so that I could find my relatives. I was very happy to hear this. I gave him my mother's name, her name from home and then after she had married. I gave him my father's name and the town in which I was born, my address and my name. This was in Germany in Turckheim near Landsberg in Bavaria. He was very pleased and I was so happy to give this to him. He said that in the next letter he would write to his aunt all of the information, in the quickest way possible and he was sure that I would get a reply quickly, but it depended where I would be. I said I would probably stay with the Americans because I didn't know what was in the future and I was just living for the present. That is what was. *** One fine day, he came over to me and told me that the Chaplain had come and that he and I and two other American Jewish soldiers would meet him. These other Jews couldn't speak any Yiddish so I couldn't speak with them. He told the Chaplain my story. The Chaplain was very moved to see me and I spoke for the first time in real Yiddish, and I cried. The first thing that he did was that he blessed me. He asked me many things about the war years, about Jews in general. He was very moved to hear all of this. I could see that he was shocked and shaken. I asked him something. His answer to this day is not understandable to me. I asked him, "Rabbi, can you tell me one thing. Why did this happen to us? I have seen small children, babies—killed, murdered, buried alive. Of what were they guilty? Maybe adults, the Jewish people had done some terrible things. But women, old people, pregnant women bayoneted and killed. Can you tell me why this was, why did this happen to the Jewish people?" I was so young. I had never done anything evil in my life. It took him quite a few moments. I saw that he didn't know how to answer me. He answered me in a way that I still don't understand to this day, although now I understand it better. "My child, I don't know what to say to you. But you're very young. There will come a day when you get older, that you will discover it for yourself. There isn't an answer that I can give you." As we were saying good-bye to each other, he pulled out of his pocket a green Prayer book, a Sedur, in English and Hebrew and he gave me a chain and a silver mezuzah. He blessed me and said, "Start a new life, as a free, proud

Jew. The terrible times that you and the Jewish people have lived through are over." We said good-bye. It was a very emotional experience for me and the three American Jewish soldiers. Time passed quickly. I saw that the American soldiers were beginning to return home. At the same time, I learned that there were Jews living in Turchiem on the Wertach. And so I left the American Army and went to look for some fellow Jews. I reached Turckheim and found that Jews really did live there—girls, women, men, boys—all were like me—survivors. I was very happy that I found others like myself who had gone through the same Hell. This became a Displaced Person's Camp. I hadn't seen Jews for a long time—since the liberation. In time I got to know a woman, my future wife, Bronia Borer, and there we were married on January 12, 1946. A long while passed and it seemed that the fact that I had given all those details to the American soldier had never happened. Life went on and my wife got pregnant. In 1947, one day a friend told me that someone from Landsberg am Lech was looking for me through the Jewish newspaper. They were looking for me in that camp. I was very excited to hear this. I traveled there immediately to the person whose name was in the newspaper, Lubic, and I met with him. I showed him the ad in the paper and asked why he was looking for me. He asked me if I have relatives in America. I said yes, I have my mother's two sisters and two brothers. He said. "I just want to know about one of your aunts. I won't tell you her name. I have information written here about your aunt. If what you say matches what I have, you will have found your family." He asked me my mother's name, my father's name, what town I was born in. He asked if I have uncles. I didn't remember both uncles, but I remembered one uncle, or maybe two. Uncle Meyer David Alter and maybe an Uncle Usher, I don't remember about another aunt —Aunt May I didn't remember. He stared at me. He looked down at his paper. He took me in his arms and we were both in tears. ''Do you know who I am? We are cousins, I am from your aunt's husband's side of the family. He gave me the address. He told me they were Regina and Morris Adler. I was very shocked and very happy. That soldier whom I had met so long ago, had written to his aunt. She had in turn put an ad in the New York newspaper looking for the relatives of Yaacov Piwonia. Little did we know that the soldier's aunt and my Aunt Regina lived in the same house! I returned to Turckheim to tell my wife, Bronia, and we were both overjoyed. We thought that maybe in this way we could find her family, too, because she also had family in America. This in fact did happen, later on when we came to the United States. My family wrote back, and those first letters were written in Polish and in Yiddish. My Aunt Regina and my Uncle Meyer David wrote to me. I received the letters and I read them—I had never met them—but I was so encouraged that I had found my aunts, uncles, cousins—my mother's brothers and sisters—And they all wanted to see me and were so happy that they had received a sign that I was alive. This is how it happened that I found my closest living relatives in America.

Daily Life at Aushwitz
At 4 or 5 AM, a gong would ring. Before you even came down, the Schtubendienst went to each bunk, kicking and screaming to get people out. Twenty minutes later, we had to form a line for tea - the hot water that was meant to be tea. Still being beaten, kicked, always this murderous tempo. Then we went outside. We started forming lines for the roll call - each block formed its own line. Altogether over 20,000 people in formation. If we were lucky, this would take half an hour. But if someone were missing, asleep, in the wrong place, it could take 2-3 hours or more. It didn't matter - the heat - the cold. We always stood outside. It happened many times that we stood all night. People would fall down and be beaten, kicked for not standing straight in line. And even if we stood out all night - we went to work the next day. Finally after the roll call, every person had to reform into another line according to where they worked. We waited with the commandants - the music started to play - in the morning, in the evening. They played marches, it was like a military parade. Whoever couldn't keep up with the march was beaten or killed. Many people were killed this way, many people met their end this way. Every day. Each group had a commandant and a Capo. As we marched, the Capo hollered "Mitzen down" and we took our hats off as we passed the SS commandants. Then they yelled, "Mitzen up" and we put our hats back on. We walked out of the camp. I worked in Birkenau, in the women's camp. There we made toilets - concrete lengths with 30 or 40 holes in it. We walked 3 kilometers to work every day - back and forth. While we walked, the guards kept up their beating and killing. We had to carry the dead with us back to the women's camp. On the way back it was the same. This walk to and from work was a terrible time. The beating and killing was constant. Just as we went to our work every day, their job was to make corpses - and that is what they did. It was nothing to kill a person. There were no barriers to killing a human being. It was a hefker - a lawless hell. If they came back at the end of a day with 20 men dead, this meant they had done their job - more deaths. This was a death camp. At 12 o'clock we had lunch for 20 minutes. We ate a little soup with water and rotten smelly cabbage. After work, the routine began again. We formed lines for the walk back to Aushwitz. At the end of the day, many people never came back - so many people died. Then we arrived in the camp. No time to even look around. Each one had to form lines in their block for the evening roll call. If we were lucky, we would be in our block by 8:00. Finally, in the evening we got more watery tea and a piece of bread - it wasn't real bread but some chemically made bread with no nutritional value nothing. It was terrible. Then we finally went to bed - washed up a little bit and went to bed. Then, on many nights, there began a game a killing game. The schtubendienst would start to check us, to see if we were clean, if we had taken off our shoes, our clothes. They looked for any excuse to beat us and often kill us. In each block it was the same. Finally, we would have a few hours of sleep. But we were afraid they would come again. We slept a few hours. Then the day began again. This was the daily routine at Aushwitz. *** Over the years, I have asked myself many questions. These two things I cannot understand. In the 3 years I was there, how could I, a boy of 15, have survived this? How in this civilized German world, could this have happened?

A few words about Bronia
[Section dictated in English]

Now, dear Annette and Howie and Avi and Libbe, and my grandchildren, I will say only a few words about your mother, your grandmother, your mother-in-law, Bronia, your mother Bronia. Your mother was born in Warsaw on January 12, 1925. She was raised in Warsaw and she went through the Warsaw Ghetto and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Her parents were gassed at Maidanek. She had a sister older than she, she was the middle one, and she had a younger brother. The whole family perished in Maidanek. Your mother was also in Maidanek and she survived in Maidanek for a few months until she came to Aushwitz, I guess between June and July of 1943. Her concentration camp number was 47948, because I think I remember that we always matched. My number is 76559 and if you add both those numbers separately, 76559 is 32 and 47948 is also 32. I always remembered this number because we always talked about how by coincidence this happened. She went through a lot and also had a very hard life. Unfortunately, she went through a lot and she died very young. She suffered a lot in her life and she died on July 1, 1958. Those are only a few words that I wanted to say to my children, to my grandchildren. They should know. It is very hard for me to describe my whole life story—so you have to forgive me if my English and my Yiddish are not that correct. There are a lot of mistakes, I know. I have kept it, as much as possible, calm and I am concentrating to give you a better picture of my story. Anyway, you have to forgive me if you cannot understand in more specific detail. *** Now when your mother died, we all had a very rough time. I don't have to tell you. You know by yourselves. Me, as your father, myself, I tried to do the best that I could, the best that I could for you and all of us. One thing was on my mind. We have to be together. We have to stick together. I cannot give away anymore. We have to be together. We belong together. These were the words of my father, may he rest in peace. He always told me, when I was in the concentration camp, in Aushwitz, he said to me. "Yaacov, we have to stick together and be together and help each other. That's all. Maybe we will have a chance to survive." And this was my goal, to do this, at that particular time when I was only with Annette and Howie, when your mother passed away. I understand your feelings, your life. And as I said before, I did as much as I could. We were together. We stuck together, and thank God, it worked out for the best, I think. I am very proud of you, Annette and Howie and, thank God, you have families. You have children of your own. I have grandchildren, wonderful grandchildren. I have a wonderful son-in-law and daughter-in-law. I cannot complain. I am very proud of you, of all of you. And you have your careers now. This has given me the courage to go ahead, to live and to see it. One thing. Be together and help each other as much as you can. That's all that I can say. And I wish everybody a good, healthy, prosperous life. Before I end, I must remind you that we should all remember and never forget, this tragedy that happened to 6 million Jews, including your grandparents and your whole family. This we cannot forget. I cannot forget and you will not forget. I am hoping that these few words that I am saying will pass from "Dor l'dor", from generation to generation. That we should never forget this—what the Germans did to the Jewish people. And I will say a few more words. It has been very hard for me to bring out, about myself, all these things. It is very painful to talk about it. It took me 40 years to do it and I made it very short because it is very painful for me. This you should all know. I always had it in mind to do this, but when it came time to do it, I had a tape recorder, I started and I couldn't do it. Finally, I decided and I had the courage to do it. And, I am very glad that I did. Let this be a reminder, a legacy, of where you came from, of who your parents and grandparents were, your family. This is your father and grandfather your Poppy and Saba Jack. Shalom, u'vracha. Shalom.

The Will to Survive, by Eric Pavony

The Will to Survive
Summer, 1992 A tribute to my grandfather, A Holocaust Survivor
by Eric Pavony It was dark and gray on that rainy night The homes and synagogues were nowhere in sight The only thing I saw and heard were screams and fire The next thing I knew I was surrounded by wire I was beaten and humiliated and wished I were dead I cried and I cried in my hard and dirty bed As I lost all my strength and identity The more I wanted to die I kept asking my God, why, why, why? The people around me were all being killed They were shot, gassed and some were thrown in fire I wanted to escape but after awhile I had no more desire Every day this interminable hell got worse More and more people were dying I wanted to save them, but there was no use in trying Finally one day I saw Red, White, and Blue Was I saved? This couldn't possibly be true In this one instant Everyone was relieved and lost all fears I fell to the ground surrounded by tears Where was I going to live? What was I going to do?

My family was gone, Just because I was a Jew It took me many years to start a new life I finally had a job and a beautiful wife I now have a family and all hate slithered away like a snake I told my children and grandchildren all about this terrible date Now I look back to many years ago To a time when you were lucky to stay alive I guess I had that luck and the will to survive

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