Learn More about David
On David Bayer’s 20th birthday, he was working on an irrigation canal with other young Jewish men from the ghetto in his hometown of Kozienice, Poland. When he returned from work, he discovered that everyone, including his parents and siblings, had been taken away in freight cars, headed for the Treblinka killing center. None of his family survived.
David Bayer was born on September 27, 1922, to Manes and Sarah Bayer in Kozienice, Poland. Manes owned a shoe factory which supplied stores throughout Poland, and Sarah managed the household and helped in the factory. The second of four children in an observant Jewish family, David spent his days going to school, playing sports and working in his father’s factory.
The Germans captured Kozienice on September 9, 1939, eight days after the invasion of Poland. During the bombardment, the Bayers hid in a nearby forest. When they returned, they found that most of their possessions—including Sarah’s heirloom Passover dishes—had been destroyed or confiscated by the German army. Overnight, the Nazis’ antisemitic policies stripped Polish Jews of their citizenship, confiscated their businesses, and established a curfew. Manes’ factory was seized, and David was arrested for standing in a bread line after curfew had begun. His older sister Rose bribed a guard and secured his release.
In 1940, the Bayers were forced into the Kozienice ghetto. David volunteered to work as a farm hand at a nearby Polish estate in exchange for food before working as a house boy and translator for a Gestapo officer. He was then put to work on an irrigation canal project. On September 27, 1942, the majority of the ghetto’s inhabitants (including the Bayer family) were deported to Treblinka killing center, located in German-occupied Poland, where they were killed. David managed to avoid deportation because he had snuck away from the work site to steal food from local fields. He was smuggled back into Kozienice several days later and worked with a handful of remaining Jews to clean up the ghetto.
In December 1942, the approximately thirty-five Jews left in Kozienice were deported to the Pionki labor camp where David was put to work in a factory that manufactured gun powder. There, David was involved in an accident, an explosion that burned his face, hands, and feet. In 1944, the prisoners were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. David was selected for forced labor and tattooed with prisoner number “B74.” David was then sent to work in the Jaworzno coal mines at Neu-Dachs, a subcamp of Auschwitz. In January 1945, Jaworzno was evacuated and the prisoners were sent on a death march. After a brief stay at Blechhammer, another subcamp of Auschwitz, David escaped into the forest where he was liberated by Russian soldiers. He weighed only 70 lbs.
After his liberation, David made his way to the Foehrenwald displaced persons camp in the American sector of Allied-occupied Germany. In 1947, he moved to Panama then to Palestine to fight in Israel’s War for Independence (1948). After the war, David returned to Panama and lived there until 1955 when he immigrated to the United States. He settled in the Washington, DC area and owned a liquor store until 1992. David married Adele Abramowitz in 1958 and has two children. David volunteers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.