To talk about the outbreak of war, we have to go back a few weeks before. It was a war situation, like a war fever. We felt in our bones that war, war is coming. They dig trenches. They took away the young people to the army; and we knew for sure that war is going to break out any day. We were preparing for war. We know. It’s nothing we could do. We heard in the radio, for example, in our building it was two radios, and people were getting together to listen to the news. It was not like we know today, that every family has a radio or TV. It was one radio in a building, and it was enough. This, this was our contact with the world; and we heard the the speeches from Hitler. We heard the speeches from Polish officials, and we know that any day we're going to be in the war. And sure enough, I remember like today. It was Friday morning, September the first. We heard that this is war. And the same day we heard German planes already; and three days later, it was the third of September, it came an order over the radio that all young people should move, get away in, towards Warsaw, to the east. Because the Germans are approaching, they will need us to go into the army. And we packed our few things and we left. I left my mother and my sister behind; and the men, even my nine-, ten-year-old brother, what also we were going towards Warsaw. Like the order said. We found out later that this was a German provocation. The the voice on the radio was not from the Polish government. It was from the German government, actually. The Germans made, tricked us; and they want to jam the roads so the Polish Army would have difficulties to move. And sure enough, when we came on the road, we saw what's happened. The vehicles couldn’t move. The troops couldn’t move. Everything, every road was jammed with refugees, with people going towards Warsaw. On the way, it was not far away from Lodz, just several kilometers, German planes start to bomb us. We, and many of those refugees were killed, right there on the fields. In a little town near, outside Lodz, Brzeziny, it was like one huge cemetery, refugees laying all over the fields, injured, dead. And this was our first day actually that we experienced the war.
Leo Schneiderman remembers the beginning of World War II. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Leo Schneiderman was born in 1921 in Lodz, Poland. Soon after Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Leo, his father, and his brother set out for Warsaw to help defend the country. He describes the confusion and the carnage that he witnessed during the first days of the war.