Read reflections and testimonies written by Holocaust survivors in their own words.

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  • Winter Coats

    Winter of 1942 was severe. In the Drohobycz ghetto the Germans had decided to exterminate the Jews. The ways to achieve this were by starving or freezing them to death. The food rations were extremely small and there was no coal to heat the homes. People tried to avoid starvation in any way they could. Many of those who before the war worked in professions or trades had to resort to begging—after selling or bartering all their possessions for food, they had no other choice. Cold and hunger combined made people’s lives miserable. As a result, many starved to death. In the spring and summer the misery was intensified by an outbreak of typhus caused by outrageously unsanitary conditions. There were frequent Aktions during which we hid in a hole dug under the floor of our apartment, or in the lumber factory where my father worked. There were often rumors about forthcoming Aktions, which made life so very tense.

    Tags:   marcel drimerechoes of memory, volume 7escapeghettospoliceaktionfood

  • To Give Up or Not

    In April 2012, President Barack Obama came to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to talk about the government’s efforts to fight genocide wherever it exists. He also announced awarding posthumously the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a Polish hero whom we, Polish Jews, admire. The president addressed Holocaust survivors, sitting in the front rows, as those who “never gave up.”

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  • Hiding

    The Germans entered Drohobycz June 30, 1941. Some of their first published orders deprived the Jews of their civil and legal rights. They confiscated items of value, such as fur coats and jewelry, as well as radios and guns that would help the Jews to be informed or resist the Germans. The Nazis used this loot to support the war effort. As a result there were no taxes imposed on German people during the war.

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  • Escape from the Ghetto

    Conditions in the Drohobycz ghetto in the summer of 1943 were unbearable. They included hunger, frequent Aktions*, and indiscriminate beatings and killings. The Germans were forcing the Judenrat (Jewish Council) to deliver 100 women and old people every week for executions or deportation to Belzec. Constant fear was the order of the day. There were other signs that the ghetto would be liquidated soon, so my father decided to smuggle out my mother, my sister, Irena, and me by bribing the guard who was taking the workers to and from the ghetto. It was still dark when my mother, dressed in men’s clothing, hid my sister under her coat; my father took me the same way and we marched out of the ghetto.

    Tags:   marcel drimerechoes of memory, volume 7ghettosescaperescuersrighteous among the nationsparents

  • The Diamond and the Cow

    My uncle, Abraham Gruber (nicknamed “Bumek”), was called up for active duty in the Polish army in the summer of 1939. He was a corporal in the cavalry. He was a strong, handsome, and very likable man. I remember him telling me that he could jump over two horses side by side. The Polish cavalry was well known in the world; they fought bravely, but it turned out they were no match for German tanks. At some point the officers realized that the war was lost and disbanded the units. Bumek walked some 250 miles from near Warsaw to our home town of Drohobycz pretending to be Polish or Ukrainian. He knew how to talk and pray in these languages, worked for food and shelter along the way, and made it home to his wife, Blimka, and daughter, Liba. Drohobycz at that time was under Soviet rule.

    Tags:   marcel drimerechoes of memory, volume 6aktionjewish communities before the warhidingmass shootingsrescuerslife after the holocaust

  • Coincidences of Life

    I was seven years old when the German army entered our town, Drohobycz, in Soviet Ukraine on July 1, 1941. Immediately they started persecuting Jews by indiscriminately robbing and killing us, forcing us to wear armbands with the Star of David, and confiscating our arms, radios, gold, etc. They encouraged Ukrainian thugs to enter Jewish homes, beat up the inhabitants, and take whatever they wanted. In fact, it did not take much encouragement. My maternal grandfather was one of the victims of the beatings and died a few days later.

    Tags:   marcel drimerechoes of memory, volume 6anti-jewish legislationcollaborationdenunciationaktionbelzecfamily

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