Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Typical Day for a Holocaust Jew in Hiding.

What does a Jew, alone, hiding from the Nazis and the antisemitic Poles, do to fill his day. I asked my father the question. He said that he would bury himself deep into the haystacks and try to sleep. He slept because when he was awake he would have terrible hunger pains. When he slept, he dreamed of all the foods that he turned away when he was a boy because he was finicky. He was afraid but not so much afraid of getting caught. In fact, he felt that his capture was inevitable. What he did not want to do was be the cause of being caught.
My father was filthy. He did not bathe. He could not bathe. The water in the streams was too cold. He could not wash his clothes. He had no way of changing his clothes because he did not have a change of clothes. So his clothing was filled with lice and fleas. He said that he never got use to it. That the itching tormented him all his waking moments. He had a wild beard. There was no razor or shaving equipment for such a luxury. His hair was long like a hobo. He had no access to a barber. He had no money and no place to go. He was on his own. Like an animal of the forest.
My father wandered, seemingly in circles, around the perimeter of Radziejow, in the forests and fields. He was alone and cold. The only thought that kept him going was to picture in his mind's eye the Nazis being put through what the Jews experienced. That thought kept him alive.
My father,with God's help, had the privilege of outliving his tormentors.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Almost Caught!

My father survived by hiding in the forests and barns in the surrounding area of Radziejow. He learned to open barn doors without the farmer being able to tell. He then would bury himself into the hay, trying to stay warm. He then would go to the shacks of peasants and beg for food. Often times he would go to the farmer himself begging. The farmer never knew that my father was hiding in his barn.
One winter day my father was hiding in a barn. He inadvertently moved some tobacco leaves drying on top of the hay. My father then buried himself into the hay and fell asleep. The next day the farmer entered the barn and noticed that the tobacco leaves were not in the same place. He understood that someone was hiding in the barn. The assumption was that it was an escaped Russian soldier. So the man called to all his neighbors to come to his aid and then called the Police.
The farmer and neighbors began to search the hay. They used pitchforks. My father didn't know what to do. Eventually they approached his corner. He knew it was over. So he emerged from the haystack. The farmer and neighbors didn't understand. They haven't seen a Jew in well over a year. My father, with his beard, looked like a Rabbi.
My father decided that maybe he could bluff his way out. He began to shout that he was a partisan. And his commander knew where he was. My father said that if he was turned over to the Germans, the partisans would burn the farm down. The farmer was alarmed. He apologized and told my father to hide in a trench on the other side of the farm and he would get rid of the Police.
My father ran away and searched for a safer area to hide.