Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Final Part of Book One - Pages 276 to 392- The Holocaust Effect - The Saga of a Survivor and his Influence On His Decendants

      The next four days Binem immersed himself in the books on the shelves scattered throughout the room. The books were exquisitely bound appearing to be new or in pristine condition.  After tiring from reading he would walk over to one of the many large windows giving a view from three sides of the mansion.  He would gaze out at a picturesque view of the estate and daydream.  He saw the gentle soft snow falling and the sleeping magnificent assortment of trees. Binem tried to imagine what the trees might look like when spring arrived.  Another of his window pastimes was watching the servants scurried from one place to another as they were involved in their daily tasks.  He would focus on one and then try to guess what was the occupation of the servant.
The strangest feeling of all was watching a world which from all appearances seemed to be exempt from the hatred and fighting of World War II. For brief moments he felt that he was in a safe zone and the War for him was now over. He envisioned that one day he would be able to step out of the confines of this safe haven when the time finally arrived when the forces of good subdue the Nazis and their allies.
        Then his mental depression returned. He knew none of his thoughts mattered.  The only thing that mattered were Hitler’s thoughts his machinations.  Binem had come to the stark and shocking conclusion that everyone he knew was now probably dead or about to be murdered.  His world that consisted of his friends and associations in Radziejow no longer existed.  Radziejow, that beautiful community that he grew up in was for a Jew gone forever.  He was now truly alone.  He knew that no matter what his future would be bring he would always be haunted by these terrible memories. 
          He would say to himself, “How can I think that I should survive when any Nazi that looks me in the face says that because I am a Jew then I am evil.  So evil that the only solution is kill you for the sake of mankind.”
        Sometimes Binem’s thoughts would drift into the realm of curiosity.  He was puzzled that he never saw the husband of the Princess.  Why hasn’t anyone but the Princess even approach the door?   These questions triggered Binem’s self learned internal survival warning signs.  “I have it too good here. It is wrong that while all the Jews are suffering, I will live over the War in such luxury.”
          Unfortunately Binem’s utopian like setup didn't even last a full week. On his fourth day in the palace, disaster struck.  That morning the Princess, as usual, went to the kitchen to pick out Binem’s food for the day.  She now was familiar with what types of food Binem preferred.  As she went about her selection, one servant became overly curious concerning the Princess now regular routine.  He couldn't understand why the Princess was now coming daily to the kitchen.  In the past she never was seen in the kitchen.  If the Princess wanted something to eat between meals she would always send one of her servants to the kitchen. Now, she was actually walking around the prep table, picking out different foods and putting them on a tray.  Even more disturbing, she carried the tray out of the kitchen without the help of a servant.
On that terrible fourth day when the Princess left the kitchen this bold member of the kitchen staff decided to stealthily followed her.  The Princess was oblivious of her “tail”. She casually made her way to the attic.  The servant now spy observed as the Princess approached the room of her deceased son and knocked on the door, precisely three times. Then he watched as the door opened.  He couldn't see who had open the door. She then entered the room and remained there but a brief moment.  She then exited the room and descended the stairs. 
        Less than an hour later Binem surprisingly heard the code rapped on the door again. Binem, assuming it was the Princess, opened the door without any suspicion. When he looked out in the hallway a black feeling of dread crept over his entire being while he looked in horror at a strange man standing in front of him.  The man didn’t say a word, he stared at Binem.  Binem looked back at him without saying for a word for a total time of about five seconds. Then the man abruptly turned around and walked towards the stairs.  Binem wasn't sure what to make of this strange encounter.  He had no idea who this man that used the code could possibly be.  The mystery was solved a short time later.
          In less than an hour Binem heard the code of the three knocks yet again.  This time Binem hesitated. He thought to himself, "[w]hat's going on?" Having no option of escape, he cautiously opened the door.  He looked out and saw standing there with tears in her eyes, the Princess.
        She entered the room in such a state of dismay that to Binem she was shouting silently "all is lost!"   She was crying in such a manner that she appeared crushed, but in a dignified way.
           Binem asked, "what happened?"
The Princess answered in a whimper. "One of my servants has told my entire staff that I am hiding someone in the attic."  She went on to explain that the servant wasn't sure actually who the person was that was hiding." She then told Binem that there was no doubt that "[t]his will leak out and soon the Gestapo will here."
       She stood in front of Binem and stared at him as she continued to sob. Binem assumed that she didn't have the heart to tell him that he must leave immediately for his sake as well as hers.  When he subtly inquired, the most she would say was that this "constituted a great deal of danger".
      Binem was quite familiar with the sinking feeling of danger. It was as if one was drowning with no chance of rescue.  He thought that while his definition of danger was always fatal the Princess's danger was probably no more than an inconvenience and embarrassment because of her status of being an aristocrat married to a German.  But definitions and concepts didn’t matter in this situation what mattered was "tachlis", what should he do.  Binem quickly came to the conclusion that he was  morally obligated to ease the mind of this noble woman.  Binem felt he had only two choices. First, and what would be more advantageous to himself, was to suggest that she should simply make a different arrangement for him. His second choice was to conclude that he must just get up and leave. It never entered his mind a third choice being that he simply refused to leave and just see what would happen.     
Binem comforted her. He told her that  "I don't want to endanger your family, so as soon as it dark I will leave."
Binem saw by her facial expression that his words was exactly what she had hoped to hear. Binem understood that she feared that he would not voluntarily leave without any argument. Binem then thanked her for all her help.
The Princess quickly arranged that the entire staff have the night off.  As soon as it was dark Binem left the palace by following the same route that he entered that he entered the mansion just a few evenings ago.  This time there was no carriage.  Instead Binem was now hitting the road again.
As he entered a barren field near the mansion that led to the perimeter of the estate Binem understood that he was now literally out in the cold. He was alone without any support.  As he trudged along his feet sunk deep into the snow.  Most disheartening was that Binem's short stay in the mansion had caused him to grow accustomed to a life of relative normalcy.   He was not mentally prepared to go back to his previous existence of a life that he was prey for the Nazi hunters.  He no longer had the willpower to overcome being hunted, starving, freezing, and without shelter. 
        Binem said to himself that “[t]he past few days spoiled me too much.  I can't go back to a life hiding in the fields. There is no hope for me."
        As a result of Binem's growing despondency he ceased to follow his rules that had kept him alive for so long.  Instead he became uncaring about life and thus became reckless.  He started by returning to his home village of Radziejow during the daytime.  His purpose was to find a means of ending his misery. He decided that he would not voluntarily surrender to the Nazis instead he would put himself into a position that he would inevitably be caught.
        He walked the streets of Radziejow passing Pole after Pole.  They themselves looked miserable.  Not one approach him.  Even familiar faces either did not see him or pretended to not see him. To Binem's utter astonishment no matter what he did to reveal himself not a single Pole approached him let alone made any effort to turn him in.  It appeared to Binem that the more he tried to get caught the more the Poles of Radziejow ignored him.  No matter what he did including walking down the main business street in broad daylight, not one Pole even acknowledged that he existed.  Binem came to the surreal conclusion that he must be invisible.  To test his theory he even contemplated walking into the Nazi Barracks. He quickly dismissed this thought.  For even though he wanted to be caught in his heart he knew that it would be a sin to actually turn himself in.
      Night had fallen onto Radziejow.  The streets were dark and empty. He stood on a gravel street in a residential neighborhood that he had long since forgotten. Frustrated by his failure to be caught. Binem now faced the most critical decision of his existence.  He believed that it was not meant to be that the Poles of Radziejow would have him arrested.  On the other hand he had completely lost his drive to survive.  Feeling he was trapped without any solution to his misery save one.  The taboo thought of suicide entered his mind.  Binem knew that according to Jewish Law that under no circumstances did a person have G-d's permission to kill oneself.  Still he remembered  a few examples in Gemorah that while not endorsing the act of suicide the Rabbis showed a great deal of understanding for those that killed themselves rather then desecrating G-d's commandments. Complicating Binem's decision making process was the fact that he was  so distraught that he couldn't think straight.  He was on  the verge of  a complete mental collapse.
    After a few hours he finally made up his mind.  He would commit suicide. But still the question remained as to where.  He immediately found the answer. So in the still of the night Binem found his way to the Jewish cemetery located on the outskirts of Radziejow. 
      As Binem entered the cemetery he thought to himself that he was not particularly superstitious. Binem was walking in a trance like state feeling that it was surreal that as he may be the last Jew alive from the town of Radziejow the only remnants of the Jewish community lay beneath his feet.   He notice that several parts of the cemetery were no longer there.  More disturbing wasthat several of the headstones had been removed.  He inwardly laughed as he he remembered from his youth that to wander  a cemetery after dark was crazy. Then another thought occurred to him that it was a " kal bechomer" (a fortiori argument) that be in the cemetery after midnight was even greater since it was approaching midnight.   He then decided that since he was about to join this community of the deceased that his movements were completely in order. He said to himself that "the mashkas (demons) that roamed a cemetery at night will be welcoming him to the neighborhood of deceased Jews that were buried beneath his feet." 
       He proceeded to make his way to the graves of his mother and father.  There was little light save moonlight.  The magnificent grave marker that stood guard over his mother's grave was no longer there missing from the beginning of the German occupation.  Binem remembered being told that it was requisitioned by the Nazis for their unholy war effort.  Still Binem seemed guided to the graves.  It is important to note that when my father described this event on the Spielberg video his facial expression and tears in his eyes revealed that even decades later he still has not come to terms with that night. Binem started was that the first thing he did was prostrate himself across the widths of both graves.  Shimon's grave was closely placed next to Hinda's resting place of several years. Binem proceeded to talk aloud to his dead parents explaining his entire ordeal from the time of his father’s death to this very night. He informed them that he believed that he had no choice but to join them by ending his life in this very place.   
He said, "I'm going to finish myself here.  Better to end it this way then get caught by the Germans and be tortured.   This is the end."
      Binem now prepared to "meet his Maker" suddenly realized that he had no idea on how to actually accomplish the act of suicide.   Binem mind raced trying to come up with a method. He then search his pockets for some means.  All he found was a bar of soap that he used to sooth the face after shaving.  There was not even a razor with it. 
       With no other alternative he decided to crush the bar into pieces.  He conjectured that the chemicals within the bar were deadly.  When he finished transforming the bar in a more or less fine powder he swallowed the crushed materials.  Binem waited and nothing happened.  Then a few minutes later Binem vomit out the powder.  While he felt nauseated he understood that he was still very much alive.
       After realizing that he failed to accomplish his act of voluntarily taking his own life he became even more determined and tried a different method of suicide. Binem removed the flimsy piece of leather that acted as a belt to hold up his tattered trousers. He then methodically wrapped the leather strap around his neck several times pulling the strap as tight as his strength allowed.  As he gasped for air he prostrated himself on top of his parents’ graves.  He then closed his eyes, recited the prayer Shema and awaited death to overcome him.  To his anguish nothing happened. He noticed that the belt loosened on its own accord. He tried wrapping the belt around his neck once more but again the same results occurred.           
       Binem said to himself in a thought of irony, "[w]hat’s happening, I cannot not even achieve one simple thing such as killing myself."          
           Now he was not only suffering from a near complete mental breakdown he now added to his troubles this new anguish.  He was disgusted with himself because by not even being able to commit suicide he labeled himself a complete failure.          
        He repeated shouting at the top of his lungs.  "My G-d, I can't even kill myself."         Binem stood up in this lonely eerie cemetery and realized that he was no different than the dozens of tombstones. He was like a gravestone marker serving as a reminder of the dead.  In his case it was the murdered Jews of Radziejow.  
       He was confused as to what he should do next. As he thought about his remaining of options of either killing himself or turning himself into the Nazis he heard voices that seemed to be coming from the trees in the forest next to the cemetery.  He could clearly make out the sounds that formed the Yiddish words, "Gea Aveck, Gea Avek (Go Away)!"  Binem wasn't sure if the voices were a figment of his imagination that formed words from the noises admitted from the wind rustling the trees or as illogicial as it sounded to him that perhaps it was a person or even a spirit ordering him to leave this place of death.   
           As Binem stood motionless contemplating the meaning of the message from the dead he discovered that sun was about to rise.  He knew he had to act so he decided that his only option was to leave the cemetery and find a hiding place.  As he began to walk he determined that suicide was not the solution.  He became resolute in the concept that G-d clearly had other plans for him since the Almighty went to the trouble to send him a Bass Kol (heavenly voice) that ordered him to leave the cemetery.  So he would not disappoint G-d.  He was determined to let fate decided his future.
Binem left the cemetery by way of the front gate. It was near daylight when he found a safe covered area in the nearby woods.  As he sat himself down on the cold ground he covered himself with branches. He then closed his eyes and soon was fast asleep.  Come evening, Binem awoke somewhat refreshed both spiritually and physically. He decided that he would make his way to a nearby village where he remembered that there lived a friendly Pole, a shoemaker.  This shoemaker was a valued customer before the war.   The cobbler would regularly buy items such as soles, nails and other materials that were essential in making shoes. As Binem stood at his doorway the shoemaker immediately recognized Binem.  From the entrance, Binem saw the shoemakers' children.  They were sitting at a table finishing dinner. The children saw Binem at the door.  Binem disheveled appearance frightened the children.  To them he looked like a wild man.  As a result the children in unison became audibly hysterical.  Seeing his children's reaction the shoemaker approached Binem menacingly and thus Binem turned tail and ran away. 
Binem  was already accustommed to such reactions from several hostile encounters with Poles. Binem was not flustered.  He spotted a small patch of woods near the shoemaker's house and hid himself in the thicket.
His physical and mental exhausted returned to him. He felt that he was enveloped in a dark shadow.  He just couldn’t understand why this particular Pole acted in such a violent manner.  
Binem thought to himself. “How could that man behave that way towards me?  Has he too changed as a result of the War and became selfish and cold hearted like so many others?”
He sat leaning against a tree and watched the snow blow freely between the trees.  As he watched he became drowsy and eventually fell into a deep sleep.
A few hours later Binem suddenly felt that he was in danger.  As he opened his eyes he could distinctly hear sounds moving towards him.  He thought that perhaps the shoemaker had informed on him to the Nazis. But instead of Germans approaching he saw the shoemaker along with his wife. As they came closer he could see that they were both smiling.  In the wife’s hands was a tray supporting a hot steamy meal.  
The shoemaker spoke up in a soft soothing voice. He earnestly apologized for his earlier behavior.  He said that he was forced to act in such a crude uncivilized manner because of his children. 
          He continued, "[i]f I would have invited you in, then for sure at least one of my children would have told someone about you."
Binem thought to himself, "I couldn't have asked G-d for a better miracle. I was down and out and G-d sent me these two kind Poles to comfort me."
As Binem devoured his food he discussed his plight with the shoemaker and his wife.  When Binem finished eating, the shoemaker was truly saddened by the pains Binem expressed. 
He told Binem, "You can't stay in these woods, there is too much activity taking place here."   He suggested that Binem go see a woman that lived not far from the woods.  She lived in a small house in area surrounded by fields. 
"The police never go there.  Perhaps she can hide you."
So Binem sought out and found this woman.  When he arrived at her small house, he told the woman that answered the door that the shoemaker sent him to her.  She smiled and replied in a polite and pleasing way.  She apologized to Binem because he could only stay a few days because she was scheduled to return to work and then nobody will be in the house.  Binem wasn't sure exactly why that would be a problem but still he was happy to find a food and shelter.  "A short time is better than no time," he said to himself.
Those two days refreshed Binem's spirit.  He was hoping that she would tell him that he could stay even longer, but alas, she didn't.  So Binem thanked her on the third night and left.  He again searched for a new hiding place.  But he found none.  He became worried because it was almost light.  He saw in the distance a few barns a few hundred meters beyond a main road.  

Binem realized that he was facing a life threatening quandary.    He was well aware of the kind of traffic that used this particular road since in his wanderings he had passed near it a few times.  That traffic included a heavy presence of police and military vehicles.  Several months ago Binem made it a rule that under no circumstances would he ever attempt to cross this road.  
Now it was getting light.  He knew that if he stayed out in the open field he would surely be seen.  On the other hand, if he successfully crossed the road and found shelter in one of those enticing barns he would be safe.  Binem hesitated.  He realized that time would soon determine his fate if he didn't take matters into his own hands. His mind raced in his mental trying to solve this life threatening dilemma he faced. With sunrise too close to avoid he finally made up his mind.  With much trepidation, he decided to risk the crossing.  
         He looked in both directions and it appeared safe. He started across the dirt road that was approximately fifteen meters wide.  As he traversed to the halfway point he suddenly experienced at total feeling of dread.  He described it as a black dull pain over his entire body that foretold impending doom. This caused Binem to panic. He broke into a sprint and nearly reached the other side of the road when disaster struck. Suddenly he saw several spotlights shining on him.  Binem knew this was the end. He was finally caught.
Binem thought to himself,  "I'm trapped by the Germans. What is there left for me to do?"  
Binem realized that it was futile to try and escape. He saw many menacing soldiers and policemen.  All were heavily armed.  Some of them pointed their rifles at him.  Others did not seem to be overly concerned.  Still there were several on motorcycles that were obviously positioned to run him down if he tried to make a break for it. Binem evaluated his predicament and concluded that it was over.  It was finally the end for him.  He had been anticipating this moment for several months.  However, when it finally arrived he was totally unprepared to face the consequences.
Then out of nowhere a thought of inspiration popped into his brain.  That thought developed in literally microseconds into a plan. Yes there was a glimmer of hope that had entered his mind.  He remembered his escape from the Lager.  Then he escape by simply walking through the open but well guarded gate.  Could it be that simple, he thought. So he stopped  running and instead he acted oblivious to the the dire situation by continuing by walking forward, at a snail's pace, towards the field next to the road.
The soldiers reacted in a professional but in a deadly manner. They quickly surrounded him.  Binem kept his gaze down but knew he was now surrounded by several of the menacing soldiers. There were guns were pointed at him from all directions.  They shouted out orders to him in German to stop.  Binem came to  a stopped but stood their silent. He listened to their discussions and came to understand that they were not looking for Jews but in fact the roadblock was set up  to capture escaped Russian POWs that were hiding in this area.
One of the soldiers,a large menacing looking killer, with a voice that was deep and frightening, appeared to be in charge. Speaking German he demanded of Binem, "[w]hat are you doing here?"
Binem evaluated this hopeless situation.  He was caught "red handed" by the very murderers that have been searching for him for over several months.  He decided that he had but one chance of surviving.  He formulated the plan in his mind. He would pretend that he was a simple Polish peasant. To do so he would disguise his educated Polish accent to that of a Polish peasant.  
Each time he was asked something in German he repeated the words in Polish that he didn't understand.  The soldier appeared to be familiar with those Polish words.  Still he continued to repeat his question in German, "[w]hat are you doing here?"
Binem understood every word the soldier had said in German; still, he remained firm in his reply in Polish that he did not understand. He reasoned that if he would answer in German then it might occur to the soldier that he was a Jew. Few Polish peasants spoke German while it was known to the Germans that a good many Jews understood and spoke some German because the Yiddish language contains many German words. Nazis took offense that Jews spoke Yiddish because of two reasons.  Many of the Nazi fanatics felt that Jews bastardized the German language and in their philosophy of hatred it was an insult that the pure German language would be spoken by Jews.  
Frustrated the soldier called to a German policeman standing by a motorcycle about a hundred meters away.  When the Police officer drew closer Binem’s face turned pale and his entire body began to shake.  For Binem recognized the policeman.  This Gendarmerie was none other than the notorious "Pacher of Radziejow". Not only did all the Jews of Radziejow know that this policeman spoke Polish but evern more frightening was his reputation as a sadist that did everything he could to humiliate and physically harm Jews. His usual assaults occurred when he would randomly walk over to any Jew and slap his face.  Even more frightening to Binem this was the very same German that had entered his house while his father Shimon was studying his holy books.  Binem fervently prayed to the Almighty that the officer did not recognize him. 
The Pacher shined his flashlight in Binem's face.  He stared at Binem.  Then with a seemingly knowing smile on his face, he asked Binem in a voice that he indicated he already knew the right answer, "What are you doing here?
Binem answered, "I work on a farm."
The Pacher had a disbelieving look on his face. "A farm?” And then he added, “It’s too early to go to work on a farm."
Binem knew that the Pacher was correct.  It was around 4 a.m.  He had observed during his time on the run that field peasants never appeared in the fields or roads to walk to their farm jobs for at least another two hours.
So Binem had to think fast, he answered continuing speaking with a peasant type accent, "I go to milk the cows."
The Pacher again flashed his devious smile indicating that he didn’t believe it but incredulously, and to Binem's utter astonishment, the Pacher replied, "O.K., go ahead."  Binem started to walk but as he took his first few steps the Pacher gave Binem a firm kick in the rear.  Binem thought he did this as the prelude to beating him.  But in fact it was more of a friendly kick that communicated the he should hurry along.
As Binem entered the field on the other side of the road he concluded that the Pacher had in fact recognized him.
Binem thought, "[o]f all the Germans he had met during the War he was the one I was most afraid of. But instead he was the one that let me go."
This prompted a question from me.  I asked my father, "[w]ere you ever beaten up by the Germans."        His answer sounded almost mystical. "I remember that once I was slapped by a Nazi while I stood in line.  After he slapped me the Nazi I watched the his face turned white as if he received an electric shock."
As Binem scurried away from the Pacher and the throng of German soldiers, he heard a German shout, "[l]ook that way, I see three POWs!"  With that all the soldiers and Police hurried off in the opposite direction.
Binem continued across the field until he made his way to the first barn.  Like a trained locksmith Binem successfully jimmied the lock.  He spent the day hidden deep in the hay that filled the barn.  That evening he felt hunger pains.  With no choice he set off to find food. After a few hours he approached a small village.  He spotted a poor house.  The first thing Binem did was check the wind direction.  After positioning himself to enter the hamlet with the wind blowing from behind him he made his way to the first shack.  He knocked on the window.  An elderly man opened the door.  Binem was in luck, it was a friendly shoemaker named Antoine Claus. The Najmans had known Claus as a Goyisha Mench.  He was honest and humble.  After exchanging a few pleasantries, without hesitation he invited Binem into his house.  The shoemaker immediately gathered some food and set it on his workbench where Binem was sitting on one of the two stools.  Binem wolfed down a sizable portion of food.  Then the two began to talk. 
The small house, actually a shack, consisted of one large room.  The room was essentially a workshop that had a small area in the back sectioned off by a floor to ceiling curtain.  Behind the curtain was just enough room for Antoine's bed.   
Claus was most hospitable.  He talked as if there was no war.  He surprised Binem by telling him that he could stay with him as long as he wants.  But he cautioned Binem that he must remain quiet for during the day German soldiers would be in this very room to having their shoes repaired. This situation didn't seem to concern Claus at all. He simply instructed Binem to remain hidden behind the curtain during the day.  Binem was skeptical that this arrangement could work.  Still, with no better prospects he decided to to take the chance despite the real danger.
The two slept in the same bed.  At the crack of dawn Antoine arose and immediately went to work at his cobbler’s bench while Binem continued to sleep behind the curtain. An hour later Binem heard the footsteps of a few people enter the house.  They were speaking German.  By the conversation Binem understood that these two Germans were soldiers that had come to have their boots repaired. As Antoine worked on their boots, the soldiers conversed with one another. Binem intently listened. At first it was all small talk.  Suddenly the word "Juden" echoed in the workshop.
One German said, "I killed hundreds of Jews."
The other German scoffed and mocked him.  Then he said, [w]ell I killed more than a thousand.”
The two laughed and began trading war stories on the methods they used to kill Jews.
Binem continued to be a "fly on the wall" listening to all their comments knowing that the two would kill him if they only knew that they were but a few steps away from him.
Binem spent the next three days in terror knowing that at any moment he would be discovered.  Binem couldn’t believe how calm Antoine remained. Not once did he mention a word about the danger.  He was completely fearless. Binem, on the other hand, was fearful that at any moment a German would for whatever reason part the drapes and discover him.  Binem was doubly troubled knowing that if he was caught then Antoine Claus would likewise suffer the ultimate punishment, death.
I asked my father, "[w]hy was Claus so nice?"
He answered, "[b]ecause he knew my family before the War. So he didn't have the heart to tell me to leave."
       As important it was for Binem to have a roof over himself and food to eat, he knew that this arrangement was fraught with danger. No matter how hard he tried to think of a way to make it work he was forced to conclude that it was impossible that he could safely hide in this one room workshop that was frequented by German soldiers.  
So on the fourth evening of his stay Binem told Claus,  "I cannot endanger you." He then added, "[i]f I get caught you will suffer."  
Claus gave a one word reply, "Nonsense."
Antoine wonderful display of humanity gave Binem hope that someday things could return to normal.  Nevertheless, Binem stated in non-uncertain terms that he must leave. He thanked Antoine Claus for his hospitality. 
(As a side note, after reviewing my notes and finding this remarkable story I wrote an article on my Blog dubbing Antoine Claus as the true Santa Claus.)
As Binem left the shack he said, "I hope that one day I will be able to repay you for your kindness."
Binem’s level of despondency had reached a new low. He was out of ideas. He knew he couldn’t continue with the fear of the Nazis, the sorrow in his heart, his constant hunger pains, the frigid temperatures, and possibly the most painful, his loneliness 
Suddenly a thought popped up in his mind.  What about Wanda. She might be able to help. 
He thought to himself, [w]hat do I have to lose if I impose myself on her a second time."
 So that night he set off for her village.  This time luck was with him for he miraculously found both her village and her cottage after only a few hours of walking. 
Binem hesitantly rapped on the door of her cottage.  After a short period Wanda answered the door.  To Binem’s surprise the look on Wanda's face appeared as if she was genuinely pleased to see him again.
Binem, cut to the quick, "I can't take anymore. It’s no use, tomorrow, I plan to give myself up to the Germans."
Wanda face seemed to change to a pale sickly color as if the words had a physical effect upon her.
 She answered, "[d]on't do it! I can fix this. Come back tomorrow night and we will find a solution."
Wanda told Binem to wait while she rustled up some food.  After eating his fill, Binem told her of his plight since he circumstances forced him to leave the Princess.  A few hours later he left.  He found his way to the hiding place he used the previous time he had dealings with Wanda. He settled in to wait for the coming evening.
Binem returned the following evening as soon as darkness fell descended on the village. He cautiously approached the front door of Wanda's cottage.  He knocked and waited a moment. Then Wanda opened the door.  As he took the few steps from the the tiny foyer to the adjacent parlor to his utter surprise sitting in the room was the Princess.  Standing beside her side was Wanda's brother.  Binem later learned that it was Wanda's brother that used his influence to persuade the Princess to give it one more try.  Binem found that strange  because he felt the brother's coldness the last time they met.  Then Binem concluded that the brother didn't like him in particular and Jews in general.
The Princess remained silent. Wand's brother told Binem to go outside and enter the waiting carriage.   Binem was excited. There was hope. He anticipated the good life he experienced the time before.  His mind’s eye envisioned the beautiful mansion, the piping hot food, the wonderful view and the soft luxurious bed.  Binem waited inside the carriage.  Then the door opened and the Princess entered.  Jus like the first time he sat next to the Princess.  As the carriage set out the Princess exchanged a few words with Binem.  To Binem she looked at best apprehensive. The rest of the way she remained silent.  
When the carriage stopped Binem looked around.  He did not see the mansion.  Instead the carriage was in front of a barn door.  Binem noticed that this was no ordinary  barn.  It was the largest barn that he had ever seen. Binem thought that the barn was at least a half a kilometer long and almost a hundred meters wide.   Binem understood that this would be his new home and sadly not the luxurious mansion.  
The Princess remained in the carriage as Wanda's brother led him to the great barn door. Wanda’s brother explained that this was a very special barn.   Since the beginning of the War this barn located at least a kilometer from the mansion was in area of the estate that was off limits to all the workers.  The barn was posted as being under the auspices of the German Army. The barn’s sole content was a seemingly sea of  straw.  This straw was earmarked as an emergency reserve for the feeding of thousands of horses that were used by the Wehrmacht. From the beginning of the War, the standing rule to all workers on the estate was, "If you are caught entering the barn, you will be shot."Therefore, none of the workers would even go anywhere near to this barn.
In the Spielberg Shoah Holocaust tape interview that was completed ten years after my interview with my father, Binem in his seventies seemingly confused this story with an earlier story.  Binem remembered that he was taken to a cow shed.  There the brother said, "I don't know why I have to put up with this kind of shit."  Binem said the brother was an anti-Semite.
However, in that version, Binem was hidden on a loft above the animals. Every morning, Wanda's brother would bring him food before the other workers arrived.  Binem's main problem was dealing with the rats.  The barn was infested.  The rats would steal his food. They would also crawl on him whether he was asleep or awake.   Still, Binem maintained it was better than being on the run. Wanda’s brother began to worry.  As the rat population grew, he was afraid that it would dawn on the workers that someone was feeding them.  So at this point Binem was moved to the giant barn where straw was stored.  This barn was off limits to the workers.  At this point the Spielberg version and my tapes matched up again.
Binem, the Princess, and Wanda’s brother entered the barn by way of a normal size door located just a few meters away from the enormous double doors of the barn When Binem entered he was immediately fascinated by the vastness of it.  Straw as far as the eye could see.  As he looked at the abundance of straw he thought that there was enough straw in this barn to feed an army of horses for a hundred years.  Wanda's brother spoke up saying  that when he would come by he would utilize the earlier code consisting of three raps on the door.  He continued that he would come by every night. and bring enough food to last until the following evening. 
The Princess then chimed in.  She said that he could order whatever  food he wanted.  She then pointed to a place next a few feet away from the normal side door the barn door and told him there was clothes, a warm coat, a small lantern, and several blankets.  
Wanda's brother directed Binem to a short barrel with a removable lid that was located about ten meters from the small door entrance to the barn.  The barrel was half filled with finally cut straw. Wanda’s brother told him that he was to use it to evacuate his bowels.  Once a week it would be removed and replaced with a new barrel.  Then without exchanging any words of parting the Princess and Wanda’s brother exited by way of the small door.
Now alone, Binem contemplated his fate.  Shelter with plenty of space, food for my choosing, warm clothes, straw to protect from the chill, but most important he was in an area that was off limits to the world.  Barring any emergency or surprise inspection he was safe until the conclusion of the War which he prayed would end with the utter destruction of Nazi Germany.
The first thing Binem did was he removed his clothes that were no more than dirty rags and donned  his new clothes that consisted of a flannel shirt, wool pants, and wool socks.  He then put on a well constructed pair of  fur lined winter boots.  Finally he placed over his new clothes the heavy wool coat, the warm leather gloves and the winter hat lined with soft fur.  Binem was surprised that all fit perfectly.
Now fully dressed and feeling warm as if he was sitting next to a fireplace, Binem began to walk.  He walked the length of the barn and back.  He thought to himself that this arrangement is even better than the one where he was in his mansion.  Here he had plenty of room and did not have to worry that someone would happen upon him like the time before. He made his way back to the front of the barn and picked up the three of the blankets and then jumped into the nearest straw pile and burrowed himself into the straw.  Within minutes he fell into a deep and restful sleep.
During the following days Binem developed a routine. When he woke he would wash his face and evacuate himself.  Then Binem would exercise by walking the length of barn and back several times.  When he felt sufficiently tired he would sit down eat the breakfast that was nightly provided for him. He then would read the reading materials provided to him that accompanied his meal delivery.  As he read he realized that the world outside the barn continued to be filled with death and destruction. He, on the other hand, was living in a seemingly impenetrable fortress making him isolated and far away from the evil and violence that was all around him.  One day lapsed into another and thus time passed quickly. 
One night, Binem made a special request.  He told Wanda’s brother that he was afraid that the reason he would susceptible to catching colds due to there being no direct sunlight entering the barn. Binem reasoned that to remain healthy  he needed to supplement his diet with large quantities of garlic and onions.  This type of diet was a known home remedy among the peasants of Europe, The next night and every night following along with his meals was an ample quantity of  onions and garlic.
This arrangement continued for a period of approximately eight months. Among Binem’s reading materials there was the daily German propaganda newspaper. Even though Binem knew that the paper was mostly propaganda Binem became skilled at reading "between the lines" in order to understand what was really taking place. One thing was for sure, no matter how the paper downplayed events on the Russian front, Binem understood that when the newspaper reported that there were temporary setbacks for the Wehrmacht it meant that the Germans were suffering severe setbacks.  According to the papers the setbacks started the previous winter in the Soviet Union at a battle called Stalingrad.  He learned that there were other fronts opened up in France and in Italy by the American and British.  All this led Binem to the singular conclusion that the so called Supermen Nazis days were indeed numbered.  Binem prayed that G-d continued to assist all those who were standing up to the Nazi regime.  He added in his prayers that G-d willing he would survive the War. (Historically, the battles raging between the Soviet Union and Germany took a turn for the worse during the battle for Stalingrad that began August 2, 1942 and ended February 2, 1943. On November 19, 1942 the Russians staged a two prong attack that destroyed the Romanians and the Hungarian troops that were protecting the flanks of the German 6th Army. This maneuver enabled the Russians to eventually surround the German forces.  In December the extreme Russian winter set in.  This further weakened the morale of the Germans.  By February 1943 the Germans surrendered. Hundreds of thousands of German troops were killed, wounded.  Even more demoralizing for the Nazis was that about 100,000 German soldiers surrendered.  After Stalingrad, the Russians continued a broad advance constantly pushing back the Germans lines closer to Germany.  By December 1944, it became apparent to anyone that the Germans strategic retreats were no longer strategic they constituted an out and out rout.)
With each delivery of German papers Binem would take great pleasure when reading thinking to himself, "[h]a, it appears that things are going bad for the Germans."      
Binem now took note that as time a correlation became apparent that when the news in the papers appeared worse for the Germans his nightly food allotment provided to him by his benefactors improved.   After several months of this bad news for the Germans it appeared to Binem that it was just a matter of a short period of  time before the so called invincible Germans would be defeated, Unfortunately the Germans didn't surrender as fast as Binem wanted. The days and nights of anticipation seemed endless.
I asked my father, "[y]ou had all this time in the barn for several months, what did you think about all day while you did nothing?"
He answered, "I thought about living over the War. I read the German papers, and I knew all I can do was patiently wait."
One night, after Wanda's brother some time earlier had brought him his food, Binem heard the code of three knocks. Binem was suspicious.  He walked over to the small door that served as an entrance to the barn for individuals and looked through a small crack between the extra piece of wood that supported the hinge of the door and the beginning of the wall next to the door. What Binem saw was his ever present nightmare. Binem was completely aghast. Standing in front of the door was nothing less than a German officer in his dress uniform. His dressed told Binem more than he wanted to know.  This tall strapping young man with blond hair and blue eyes was a highly directed SS officer.  This vision caused Binem's  hopes of surviving the War fade before his eyes. 
The German was smiling pleasantly and then after a moment he spoke in the direction of the door saying, "[o]pen up, don't worry about it, I’m your friend."
Binem thought to himself in a fatalistic humor as he tried to grasp the meaning of the word friend.  
He said to himself, "[t]hat’s a new one, I never had an opportunity to have a friend wearing a German uniform."
Binem knew what would be the direct consequences if he opened the door.  What to do.  The latch that locked the door and Binem controlled would do little to stop a determined Nazi. So, after a moment of hesitation, he realized he had no alternative so he unlatched the door.  
The rusty hinges on the door creaked as the German pushed the door opened.  The German, with an aura of military authority, marched right into the barn.  Binem looked him over.  He was indeed a German officer.  Binem was fixated on the SS insignia consisting of two lightning that shined by the light of the small lantern that the German carried in one arm while toting a basket in the other. The black uniform itself was very fancy compared to those that he had encountered during the course of the War. Binem’s eyes then focused on the officer’s side arm. He saw a black holster attached to  a  black belt with a silver buckle.   Binem knew that inside the holster was Germany's preferred handgun, a Luger.  He thought to himself that it really didn't matter if he was an officer or an enlisted man.  As far as he was concerned, anyone who wore a German uniform on was his enemy.  Anyone that wore a German uniform was out to kill him.      
Judging by the look on the Nazi's face Binem knew that the officer understood that he was quite fearful of him.  The German tried to placate him. He slowly spoke in pleasant German tones explaining that he was the son of the Austinsaken, the owner of the estate.
  Binem became curious even though he was well aware of the immediate danger. For the first time he had the opportunity to speak to someone that may be willing to explain why the owner of this barn was willing to feed and protect him.   Up until now all he knew was a prominent Volksdeutsche that was married to the Princess. Still Binem was very much on guard.  He asked himself that "[i]f this Nazi really wanted to assure me that he had no ill intentions then why didn’t he come here with his mother, the Princess." 
The German officer explain that he was home on furlough from his unit that was serving on the Russian front.  During dinner, he was surprised when he was told by his parents that they were hiding a Jew in the barn.  After discussing the matter with them in the light of the present War situation, He told his parents that he must meet the Jew.
The officer removed a cloth that covered the wicker basket.  Binem looked at the contents of the basket.  It consisted of  a bottle of  whiskey, two glasses and assorted cookies.  
The German then said to Binem. "Come over, don't worry about it, I’m your friend."
Binem who up until now had kept a safe distance from the German moved a little closer.
The officer offered, "[h]ow about a drink." 
This triggered a frightening thought in Binem’s mind.  “This Nazi is going to poison me.” 
The German understood Binem's reaction as if he could read his mind. So the Nazi poured out a drink and downed it in one gulp. 
  He said, "[s]ee, it is not poison."
So the Nazi poured Binem a double portion of whisky.  Binem hesitated for a second than drank from the cup in a nursing manner.  
Eventually the whiskey caused Binem to loosen up.  The officer took note that Binem didn't look as afraid as in the beginning. Then he said to Binem,   "I just came back from the front. We are in very bad shape, it won’t take long, maybe three weeks, and the Russians are going to be here."
Binem said to himself, "[i]’m glad that the word we doesn’t include me. Soon I will be free.” Then Binem caught himself and added, “[w]ell as free as a Jew can be in Poland.”
I researched the time-frame that the Nazi officer could have made such an assertion.  The German's statement places the date of this encounter around Christmas, 1944.  For Radziejow was liberated by the Russians on January 20, 1945, approximately four weeks later.     
The German officer continued. "You have to make a promise.  You must promise that you will save my Father's life.  You will do so because he is saving your life. So make a vow to me that you will save him and if you do I vow to you that you will live over the war."
      Binem was taken aback.  Binem thought to himself.  "I am supposed to save someone?  Only by the grace of the Almighty have I lived this long!" Binem continued to analyze the German's demand.  "I am being told to save the father of a German officer? That is out of the question! " 
Still Binem had a great deal of respect for this Nazi’s mother, the Princess. He didn’t want to say anything that might get back to her and upset her.  More urgently, he didn’t want to say anything to this German officer, his so called "new friend” that "at any moment might end up with a bullet in my head."
       So Binem collected his thoughts and decided that he would answer the German in a manner that seemed reasonable."I’m not sure that I can make such a promise. I am nothing! I have no power. I don't even speak Russian. Even if I vowed to to save your father, how could I.  I don't even know how to talk to them." 
The son replied with a smile.  "Don't worry about it.  There are plenty of Jews in the Russian Army, they will help you."
Binem replied. "If this is true then I can only promise you that I will do whatever I can."
The officer seemed to take it as if he had succeeded.  For he stopped talking about this and instead focused on his drinking with Binem until the bottle was empty. The empty bottle was the excuse the German officer was waiting for to leave.
Binem accompanied him to the small barn door. As the German crossed the threshold he looked Binem in the eye. "Remember, my father risked his life for you so now it is your turn.  I know that the majority of Russian officers are Jews.  It won’t be long. They will be here.  You tell them that my father protected you.  You have vowed to do so. You have an obligation to protect him."
I asked my father, "[d]id Austinsaken really protect you, or was it only the mother?"
My father answered. "He knew that she was hiding me but he acted as if didn't know.  I suppose he did so because even under torture he could honestly say that he never saw the Jew."
I asked my father. "Did you discuss with the German officer the plight of the Jews?”
 He answered. "I did. But the German said that he was in the SS army so he wasn't involved in what others were doing to the Jews."
The German officer’s final statement to Binem was, "[g]ood luck, I have to return to the front tomorrow. I don't know if I will ever see my parents again."
Those was the first and last time that Binem saw the Nazi SS officer.   My Father told me that the son of Austinsaken never returned home.
Binem had mixed emotions about this German officer.  On one hand he was the first German soldier that actually treated him as a human being.  Likewise he was not exactly a German.  He was Volksdeutche. He was either drafted or volunteered to serve in the the German Army.  Since he was not a native German he could only serve in the SS Corp. On the other hand, he was still a  Nazi who wore a German uniform.  Now that his dream of world domination was crashing down around him he would say and do anything, including chumming up to a Jew, in order to save his father.
After this astonishing meeting where a battle hardened SS officer, in essences, begged a defenseless Jew to protect his parents, Binem reflected on the significance of such a meeting.  Binem concluded that what was encouraging was that this German officer spoke honestly of his projection concerning the War.  With that, Binem took heart that his days of hiding were numbered. As far as protecting the parents, Binem thought to himself that he would honor his commitment to a point.  That point being that he would not let such an extorted promise compromise his own ability to survive the chaos surrounding him.
Nothing seemed to change during the following weeks. Binem continued his daily routine of eating, sleeping, walking to keep himself in shape, and most of all thinking.  He thought about how things were growing up, how things were when the Nazis destroyed everything, how he managed to stay alive, and how things will be once he was liberated.    After a few long weeks there were actual signs that the Soviets were approaching. He watched the skies through a crack near the top of the barn wall. During the day he could see air battles raging between Russian and German planes.  
About a month after Binem’s meeting with the German officer, the Princess came to the barn and told Binem that he can accompany her back to the mansion and stay in her son's bedroom.  As Binem walked with her they did not exchange a word. He could hear the faint sounds of battle in the distance.   He knew that this day was significant. He understood that he would not be allowed to walk in the open where all the workers could see him  unless the Germans were at the very brink of losing the War in Poland.
This time Binem entered the mansion, not through the window at night, but rather, in broad daylight by way of the front door.  He felt that he was a guest.  Servants saw him but did not utter a negative word.  The Princess escorted him up the royal staircase to her son's bedroom.  He settled in as he did once before. As before the Princess would deliver him his food.   Everything was the same except that his presence was no longer a secret. The entire staff knew that the Princess was hiding a Jew.
Three days later the Princess came to Binem's room located on the top floor.  Her face was pale and distant.  Binem could sense that there was something wrong.
          She began by asking Binem, "[w]hat should we do?  My husband just received orders from the Germans to retreat with the Army towards Germany."
Binem took this as a good sign.  The Germans were now being pushed out of Poland. Still, Binem couldn’t comprehend why the Princess would seek advice from a poor dried up Jew when until this moment he knew that his opinion was worthless to any Pole let alone the wife of a German. Now she was asking him what she and her husband should do? That was incredible.
Still, he did promise her son to help so he said to himself that he would give it his best shot. He gathered his thoughts. Quickly he understood that a German and the wife of a German to remain in Poland would soon be very dangerous. For it was forseeable that both the Poles and the Russians would target them. He then tried to what would happen if they joined the retreat.  Binem remembered the first weeks of the War when Germany invaded Poland. He remembered the chaos of his experience when he and his family sets forth as a refugees.            
After weighing the two alternatives, Binem answered. "I really can’t advise you if you should comply with the order.  What I do know is that if you go back with the German Army, I will not be able to keep my promise to your son to try and protect your life as well as your husband's life.  So if you go with the German Army, I am free from your promise.  But if you stay then perhaps I can try to do something."
At first, the Princess just stared at Binem with an incredulous look on her smooth milk white face.  Then suddenly her countenance changed. She looked as if Binem’s answer contained the key to her future. She then thanked Binem and gracefully exited.
 Binem thought about how ironic it was that the Princess would probably explained to her husband what was the opinion of the young Jew.  The next few days were the same.  The Princess continued to bring him his food.  After a few days Binem concluded that the Austensakens must have been swayed to stay.  Now Binem felt a great deal of pressure and responsibility.  
He thought to myself. "How can I possibly protect my protectors? I cannot even protect myself!”  He now spent the majority of his waking hours contemplating this problem. No matter how hard he tried he found no answers.  Finally, he decided to stop thinking about it and just wait and see what happens.
I  asked my father in a probing way to see if he had an ulterior motive.  "It was good for you that they decided to stay, because if they left you would have to fend for yourself."
He answered. "No, that wasn’t important. At this point it really didn't matter. We all were equally in danger. The mansion was now situated in a no- mans-land that was between the German lines and the Russian lines."
      The Princess would deliver Binem's meal in the deceased son's room.  Each time  she would inform  Binem the latest news concerning the War and in particular the Russian offensive. She was told by her husband that the German civilian retreat was “successfully” completed so they assumed that they were on their own.  Which meant that  there no longer remained any German soldiers or police in this district.
  From his bedroom window Binem at first strained his eyes trying to observe the distant air battles taking place far in the horizon. Binem assumed that these dogfights were being fough between the German and Russian air forces. Each day these “dogfights” became visually clearer signalling to Binem that the Russian offensive was closing in on the estate.
I asked my father, "[d]id you ever think about making a run towards the Russian lines?"
He answered, AI understood that the front was constantly shifting. Also, the Russian lines wasn't a straight line. If I ran I wouldn't be capable of determining where the Germans were located or where was the exact location of the Russian line."
Binem was content with these ongoing developing events.  He was delighted with the current military situation.  Further, he realized that without a doubt the Russians were winning. He said to himself that "[e]very Russian victory was a victory for himself and the Jewish people." 
He continually had a singular thought that delightfully would pop into his head. "The impossible had occurred.  I lived over the War."
Binem couldn't believe his good fortune.   He noticed that he no longer suffered from fear.  Any time that doubts would creep into his head he would just repeat to himself that "[t]he Russians were now here."
Only one thing nagged at Binem’s conscious. "I have an impossible responsibility to my hosts that I feel obligated fulfill.  I am not fluent in Russian. Just the opposite I know only a few words and phrases.  What could I have been thinking when I promised them that I was going to try and save the Austensakens' lives."
   With the Germans no longer occupying the area around the estate, Binem was no longer restricted to the attic bedroom. He had complete freedom to roam the entire house. The servants viewed him as an honored guest of the Austensakens and behaved accordingly. This new freedom and restoration of his dignity did wonders in repairing the terrible fear that he was constantly subjected to for the past five years.   
He would spend much of the day sitting in the main parlor reading.  The Austensaken library was extensive.  It included hundreds of books written in Polish and classics translated into Polish.  At least once a day the Princess would ask Binem whether it would bother him if she turned on the radio to listen to the latest developments. Of course, Binem never refused.  He took note that the Princess would avoid listening to the German broadcasts and instead listened only to broadcasts in Polish.  Binem too would listen intently. He felt that the Polish broadcasts were probably more truthful and accurate than the news in German that continued to spew forth the filth of Nazi propaganda.  In contrast, the Polish radio broadcast told mostly about the military progress of the Russian Army.  
Everyone living or working on the Austensaken estate was aware that the entire German Army, in just about all sectors of the Eastern Front,  was making a wholesale retreat back to the 1939 German borders.  The Russian Army were systematically overrunning all of the German positions recently abandoned. When the Germans stood and fought, as per the orders of Hitler, they were obliterated by the share mass of Russia's  massive manpower and devastating firepower.  
Then Binem found that the War was not only not over but was still close to the Estate.  Word was received that there were skirmishes being fought near Radziejow.  Binem now understood that he was still in a great deal of danger.  “No matter what, the Germans had time to kill Jews!”
Despite the possibility of reversal with the the Germans may retake this area, Binem’s status should have been degraded.  Instead, he was given free access to all of the amenities of the  mansion.  The servants were under the impression that his status was elevated to that of an honored guest of the owners. 
I doubted that the servants would look at a Jew on the level of the important people that the Austensakens regularly intertained, so I asked directly, "[t]ruthfully,  how did the servants treat you?"
He responded understanding my doubting question., "They all knew I was Jewish. Still, they treated me with respect. But I was careful. I didn't order them around."
 Then, a few days later, on a bright winter day, Mr. Austensaken the owner of the estate, for the first time, introduced himself to Binem.  Up until that day Binem wasn't even sure if he was inthe mansion.
Austensaken, sounding like one of the many of the Germans that had ordered Binem around for the last four years announced, "I am the man that saved your life."
     Binem wasn't sure how to reply to such a statement.  He knew that the Princess had saved him, Wanda had saved him, even Wanda's brother could honestly say that they had saved him.  So to Austensaken might be correct in saying such a thing.  Still, none of the others had ever used such direct language. So Binem decided the best way to answer was by thanking him.  Mr. Austensaken then asked a few questions and Binem meekly answered not knowing how to talk to a man who was so rich. After exchanging a few words the two walked towards the dining area where the Princess was waiting.  All three sat at the magnificent dining room table.  As they ate a sumptuous meal instead of talking, all three listened intently to the radio. Austensaken had the radio placed right next to him so he could switch back and forth between  his two preferred channels.  One station was broadcasted from England in both English and Polish and the other station was a Russian station that broadcasted exclusively in Polish. Binem was surprised that Austensaken, a German, never listened, at least in his presence, to any German broadcasts. 
  
Historically, the War was coming to a climax in Poland.

During the night of 11 January 1945, the long period of relative quiet on the Eastern Front was suddenly broken by a massive all-consuming Russian artillery barrage that lasted for several hours.  It proved to be one of the heaviest barrage experienced so far in the course of the war.  The devastating hail of death dealing bombs and their shrapnel was followed by an equally huge Russian armored attack. Numerous spearheads easily penetrated the bloodied and disintegrated German front, where in most places, the withdrawal of the German forces was nothing more than a rout.
     Endless columns of Russian motorized infantry and military hardware followed in the wake of these enemy spearheads, and by the evening of 16 January, Soviet tank columns were already approaching Cracow [only a few hours drive from Radziejow]. So far Army Group Center (formerly Army Group "A" had been unable to halt the advance of Marshal Koniev=s 1st Ukrainian Front. The situation was desperate.@ Forgotten Legions, Obscure Combat Formations of the Waffen SS, p. 149 by Antonio J. Monoz, 1991.

        After four days of a seemingly nonstop assault, the Russians finally arrived at the outskirts of the Austensaken estate. Everyone working on the estate knew that the Germans were no longer a factor in their immediate survival.  
The Princess declared to Binem, "[n]ow you are free, you can do whatever you want. If you wish to stay with us, you are welcome.  If you desire to return to town then please do."
I asked my Father, "[w]hy was she so nice?"
Binem answered, "[i]t was her way of stating that she successfully completed a noble act."
I asked my Father, "[d]o you think that the Austensakens only saved your life as a kind of insurance policy against the prospect of Germany losing the War?"
        My Father answered me by stating, "[t]his is a subject for debate. Why did they save me?  Did they save me only to help themselves, or was the wife doing a noble act in memory of her son that drowned in the Vistula River? I just don't know."
 My father’s statement indicated that in his own mind he would continue to ask himself this question that could never be answered. So, I decided not to press the issue.
Binem dated these events to have taken place in January of 1945.  I wondered if his recollection comported with the history of World War II.  I decided to examine some of the historical evidence.  I found a fascinating news article that made the front page of the Brooklyn Eagle.  The piece was written near the end of January, 1945. In it it stated that, “Moscow announced today that the 1st White Russian Army, joining the all-out Soviet Winter offensive, had smashed westward from the Vistula up to 37 miles on a 75-mile front in a mighty on surge flanking Warsaw to the south and carrying to the outskirts of Random. Marshal Gregory K Zhukov of the Soviet Supreme Command revealed to be in command of the 1st White Russian Army which charged westward across the Polish plains from two Vistula bridgeheads and in three day overran more than 130 towns and villages.”     
I continued my research and found a book entitled, Russia at War 1941-1945, written by Alexander Werth.  I learned that many experts considered this book as the definitive book available in English.  It is most revealing since it was written from the Russian standpoint.

The full weight of the Russian Army led by Marshall Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front and General Konov's 1st Ukranian Army began its drive from Warsaw to Berlin on January 14, 1945.   The German High Command was caught off guard.  The Germans now faced the onslaught of an overwhelming combined force of Zhukov and Konov that had a total of 163 divisions.  Combined with all other Russian forces, two million soldiers bore down on the retreating Wehrmacht.  On top of this the Russians had several times the number of guns, planes and tanks attacking whatever German reserves could be mustered.  General Konov's forces captured Piotrkow on January 18, 1945.  [Piotrkow was about five miles from Radziejow.]  Russia at War, Alexander Werth, 1964 p. 862-863.



Radziejow was liberated by the Soviet Army on January 20, 1945. Binem described the first Russian soldier he spotted as someone that looked more like a peasant than a triumphant soldier.  The man was so dirty that it was hard to see that he was wearing some kind of uniform. He carried a rifle without a belt attached to it.  Instead the gun was supported by a makeshift rope that lazily hung slung around the soldier’s shoulder.  The rifle itself was caked in a thin layer of mud.  His personal equipment included a knapsack, canteen, and shovel.  He carried two sacks of sugar and what appeared to be a loaf of bread.
Binem thought, "[t]his is my rescuer?" "This is an example of the kind of soldier that was able to defeat the invincible Germans?"
Still, no matter how he looked to Binem he was his most welcomed liberator.  Like a fan of a movie star Binem approached in awe the Russian and introduced himself.  Binem knew a few words in Russian.  He somehow was able to explain that he was Jewish.  The Russian didn’t seem to care one way or another about Binem or his religious status.  In fact he looked at Binem as if he did not exist.  Binem was at first upset by the soldier's indifference.  But on second thought Binem realized that this soldier was not because Binem was a Jew it was more of matter that the soldier had no idea what a Jew was.
Binem slowly processed this.  If being Jewish was of no account to the Russians than what possible chance did he have to fulfill his promise to Austensaken’s son that he would protect his father.  In the back of Binem’s mind Binem recalled the words of Austinsaken's son who advised him to look for a Jewish soldier.
Binem decided that the best place to wait for the Russians was on the road outside of Radziejow that people traveled when they were headed towards Germany. He only had to wait a few hours until he saw a small column of vehicles and soldiers.  He learned later that this was the main advance element of one of the  Russian armies. The first column was followed by every increasing numbers of soldiers, tanks, trucks and artillery pieces. It began as a trickle and gradually increased to a raging flood of men and machines of war.  
Binem had made up his mind that the best approach to find a Jewish soldier was to try and spot a Jewish face among the troops as the seemingly endless columns passed. He hiked to highway and found a position in a bend in the road that allowed him to look directly into the faces of the passing soldiers.
Binem pondered the question over and over in his mind.  "Sure, I know what Polish Jews looked and dressed like but how was I to recognize a Russian Jew that did not dress as a Jew but rather he dressed like a soldiers?" 
With no answer he said to himself that he would just follow his instincts to search for a Jewish face among the soldiers. Binem at once noticed a tall skinny Russian with a long nose. 
Binem thought to himself, "[t]he only chance of recognizing a Jew in uniform was by scrutinizing his nose."
  Binem submissively went up to the soldier with what appeared to him to have a Jewish looking nose and asked him in Russian, "Evrietchik?"
The Russian answered in stride,  "[n]eyet, Kirgeez."
Binem was not discouraged. He thought to himself that his plan was good so he would continue to focus on the noses of soldiers that passed him.
He soon spotted a different looking soldier that nevertheless fit the criterion he established. This soldier not only was blessed with having a nose looked Jewish but he also had a beard.
Binem shouted to him, "Evrietchik?"
The Russian stared at Binem for moment then replied, "Neyet, Uzbek."
Binem was still not dissuaded. He continued to evaluate the soldiers as they passed.
He queried a third Russian who answered, "Kazakstan".  A fourth Russian replied, "Tatar."
Binem started to get frustrated.  He thought to himself that his plan was sound but perhaps there were no Jews in this long line of soldiers. But it seemed to him that there must be at least one.  Then he had a flash of inspiration.  If he couldn't spot a Jewish soldier maybe a Russian could point one out to him.
So this time he ran up to a soldier and tried a new line in his broken Russian,
"[s]how me an Evrietchik soldier."
The man was taken aback by such a question.  But politely Binem understood him to answer that he was a Tatar but he added, "[n]o soldiers, Officers, only officers."
Those words in Russian were music to Binem's ears.  Officers meant the power to do something.So he asked the Tartar a second question.  "Show me Evrietchik officer!"
The Tarter stared at Binem with a look of bewilderment as if to say “can't he tell the difference between a lowly soldier and officer and why would an officer be interested in a Pole or Jew”.  But the Tartar was polite. So he raised his hand and pointed lazily at an officer in a parked staff car a short distance up the road.  The officer he pointed to was handsome, tall, a crisp looking uniform and a chest full of medals. 
The Tarter said, "[t]here. Evrietchik."
Binem couldn’t believe his good fortune. He thought, "[a] Jewish officer?  How could there be such a thing?"
 Binem was elated.  Caught up in the moment with sheer audacity he ran up to the staff car and was stopped and grabbed by a menacing looking Russian soldier. Binem, not to be dissuaded, shouted in the direction of the officer whose back was now towards Binem, "Shalom Aleichem, a Yid."
The officer heard the words and quickly turned around. He stared back at this skinny young man.  The proud officer face changed to that of a person that thought had just seen a ghost.  The strapping officer, Binem's Russian liberator, gathered his thoughts and then with great big smile and genuine sound of pleasure in his voice he answered, "[y]a, a Yid?" 
If that wasn't enough, The elated Jewish officer followed his words with the enthusiastic behavior of a man that just found his long lost brother.  He grabbed Binem with a giant Russian bear hug and kissed him on both cheeks and hugged him for several seconds.
He released Binem and then spoke in Yiddish, "I have fought the Nazis from Moscow to Radziejow, but you are the first Jew I have seen. How is it possible you lived over the War?"
Binem was astounded that a Russian officer of apparently high rank spoke fluent Yiddish and with such a passionate tone. 
Binem evaluated his fellow Yid.  He said to himself. “Impossible, such an impressive Jew.  He looks strong, fit, a real commander. The World has truly changed since the beginning of this War.
Binem, who had spoken very little Yiddish for the last two years exploded with a torrent of a gush of words trying to articulate, mostly for himself,  his depressing ordeal during the last five years. 
The officer listened with a look of wonderment on his face.  After about five minutes of Binem's non-stop soliloquy, the officer interrupted him.  "You must stop for now. My friends won't believe me if I tell them what you are telling me here. Come tonight to our headquarters and there you will tell us all."
Binem nodded. As Binem backed away he watched as junior officers approached the Jewish officer to ask him for orders. He then turned and departed with a renewed vitality to his soul.  “A Jew and an officer, wow, and he spoke Yiddish!” He thought to himself.  "With Jews like him no harm will ever again will come to the Jewish people."
Although the weather was extremely cold that January day Binem spent the rest of the day watching in amazement as the power of the Russian military passed before him.  He was enthralled with the prospect that the Germans were now going to get what was coming to them.  As the sun began to set, Binem spotted a smartly dressed Russian soldier.  He ran up to him and asked where he could find his Headquarters. Without hesitation the Russian gave him directions.  When he was finished Binem was perplexed. From what little he was able to decifer he believe thosec directioms would lead him to a place he was completely familiar with. For the Russian Command in this sector had set up its headquarters in the nicest house available in this area.  That house they chose was none other than the Austinsaken mansion!
Binem laughed to himself, “I didn’t have to go to the trouble of searching for a Jew, G-d planned on bringing many Jews to me.”
So Binem returned to the estate. He walked into the mansion without neither the dozens of Russian guards nor the remaining Polish servants what he was doing there.  Binem finally told a soldier that he was asked to come there by an officer. The soldier, appearing completely disinterested, directed Binem to of all places, the Austinsaken ballroom. 
When Binem opened the heavy highly polished wooden doors he was overcome with a feeling of amazement from what appeared before him.  Sitting around a grand table that could easily seat more than thirty diners seat at was more than a dozen of high ranking officers dressed as if it was a special party sat around the grand table that sat at least thirty.  On the table were all the delicacies that the heart might desire.  Cakes and desserts, meats of all kinds, liqueur in abundance and even music being played by several soldiers.  The officers seemed to be all friends talking and laughing like Binem used to do before the War.  But when Binem entered the room and he was finally noticed by one of the officers, a hush fell over the crowd.  Then a simultaneous burst of greeting gushed forth as Binem was surrounded by giants of men who greeted him with hugs and kisses.
There smiles remained as Binem was escorted to the seat of honor.  Binem felt that he was in the middle of a dream. 
Binem asked himself, “How can it be that such a gathering of heroes found time in their holy mission to destroy the evil Hitler, mach shemo (may his name be forever erased), to honor me, a skinny Jew from Poland?”
As impossible as it was for Binem to understand, Binem felt a sense of pride looking at these Lantzmen (fellow Jews) that were doing G-d's work to avenge the Jewish people.  
As the party continued Binem observed the same servants that were employed by the Austensakens along with Russian enlisted men were now serving the Austensakens enemy, the Russians, with the very best food, whiskey, and wine.  Much of these delicacies came from both the Austinsaken reserves as well as special rations provided to high ranking Russian officers.
After several courses of the finest foods were consumed accompanied by great quantities of vodka, wine and whiskey, the officer that Binem met on the road stood up and gave a short speech in fluent Yiddish,  He boasted that he had won the wager he made with these  fellow Jewish officers as to who would find the first Jew. As Binem listened to the words of this distinguished officer, approximately the same age as him, Binem suddenly realized that he symbolized to them, something most precious, for to these men the liberation of Jews was always competing with their sacred task of destroying the Nazi scourge.  He now understood that this gathering of Jewish warriors was their way of proving to themselves that the death and destruction they thus far witnessed was both in honor of their struggle to save Mother Russia and Jews fighting valiantly to save and liberate their brethren.
The officer concluded his remarks with a solemn reminder with the ultimate question. "Where are the millions of Polish Jews?"   Binem was proud to be the representative of Polish Jewry for these gallant warriors.
The officer then turned to Binem and asked him with humility to tell of his long struggle for survival. Binem rose from his chair and began.  The side banter of the officers in the room stopped and their was an eerie silence.  Binem spoke to the large audience but he couldn't fail to observe that the dead silence in the room was indicative of these officers sincere quest to understand his suffering. Binem, needing no notes, orated a detailed version of his ordeal from beginning to end.   The officers seemed to be transfixed on his voice for they listened so intently that not once did they interrupt. When he finished, many of these battled harden soldiers had tears swelling in their eyes, struggling to hold them back.  After a brief pause the first question was asked. Binem answered as best as could.  Several questions followed. The officers were especially interested about the part in Binem's story that told of the last eight months.  There faces revealed a disbelief when Binem again stated that a German had hid him and as a result he was the reason that he was alive today.  Many of these young Jewish officers became angry when Binem stated that his saviors owned this very mansion.  He closed the questioning by stated to them that they help him to save the Austensakens.
Binem then sat down.  He reflected on his speech. He felt that G-d had blessed him with a true miracle by allowing him this experience of being welcomed into Russian Headquarters to speak with such a group of high ranking Jewish officers in our common language of Yiddish.
Binem saw the irony of this event. “All this is taking place in Austinsaken's mansion where its owner had save me.  This is truly incredible.”
After several minutes of applause for Binem’s saga the officers focused in like a laser beam on the person Binem referred to,  the German Austinsaken.  A heated argument broke out concerning the "Savior of the Jew." Throughout the room raised voices, and passionate pleas could be heard both in Russian and Yiddish. These young Jewish officers laughed, shouted, argued and drank more and more vodka. Binem tried his best to follow the lines of thought.  He understood that being the first Jew that they have encountered since leaving Moscow was the catalyst for their soul searching opinions.
In the end the officers divided into two camps concerning Binem's request to help him save the life of Austinsaken. On one side the officers were in agreement that "they should take a picture of the German and frame it in gold for he risked his life to save a Jew." Their reasoning was that if Austensaken was caught then “he probably would have been hanged by the Germans."
The other side was much more passionate. They advocated mnost  vehemently that Austensaken “must have been one of the biggest killers.”    "He only did it to save his own skin.  He wanted an alibi that proved that he wasn't a killer, so he saved one Jew."
Finally, the officers agreed that they would decide the fate of Austinsaken by majority vote.  The floor was opened and each officer argued their point. Many spoke in Yiddish. Binem listened intently He gathered that it sounded like Austensaken didn’t stand a chance.
Binem himself was torn by the arugments.  He hardly knew Austensaken and it was unlikely that he would not have been saved by Austensaken if his wife, the Polish princess, didn't press the issue. To Binem all he could be sure of was that he made a vow to Austensaken’s S.S. son.  So, even though he felt out of place addressing a group of Jewish heroes,  Binem felt obligated to voice his position. His first words were weak in volume and crackling in sound.  "Please, can I participate in the discussion?"
The officers looked at him kindly, and all nodded in the affirmative seemingly saying “why not, he is one of us!" Binem was surprised that he was being treated as an equal among such important high ranking officers.  These  brave men genuinely appeared just as interested in his opinion as they were with each other’s opinions.
As Binem began to speak he noticed in the background Austensaken walking around in another room.  He was oblivious of the fact that Binem had returned to the mansion.  And more importantly had had no inkling that his very life was being deliberated.   
Binem gathered his thoughts then began.  "I see you are not sure what to do with the German. Some of you say that he should be honored, the others say that he should be killed.  I must in fact admit that I don't know anything about the German's background. In fact I just met the German a few weeks before you arrived. So I cannot say which side is right. But I do know one thing, the fact remains that he saved me.  The proof is that I am alive today to tell you my story.  So if he deserved to be killed then let him be killed, but not by Jews."
Binem’s simple pronouncement caused these powerful men to take a moment and reflect.  As Binem stared at their faces he could tell that his words struck a weak nerve in these men toughened by war. They then began to murmur to one another.  Finally, the officer that invited Binem to this party spoke up.  "We will let the Polish Government that is a few days behind us decide his fate."
The dinner and mostly the drinking ended the next day.  Binem decided to remain in the house. Partly to make sure that the Jewish officers didn't change their minds, but mostly because he liked staying in the Austensaken mansion. A few days later the Russian divisional command moved on.  The house was replaced by a civilians made up of both Polish communist officials from the Polsh Committee for National Liberation and their enforcement police which was the early elements of the Polish NKVD (KGB).
Binem was incredulous to the possible dangers in this changing of the guard. The very day they took over the Austensaken mansion, Binem found himself in mortal danger. When a few NKVD officers saw Binem talking in a mixture of Polish and German to Austinsaken, the officers assumed that Binem was also German. 
One of the  NKVD walked over to Binem.  Binem could tell from his smell and slurred speech that he was near total inebriated. He yelled then in a flash was behind Binem squeezing Binem's neck.  He then slammed Binem into the wall, face first.  Binem was completely stunned as the officer tied Binem's hands and made him face the wall.  Next to him was Austensaken, also tied up. Apparently one of the other officers had did the same to Austensaken.
Binem thought, "[h]ow stupid could I be.  What have I done?  By trying to save this German, I’m now going to die!  I lived over all the trouble of this (terrible) War only to die because I tried to save a German. I don’t even have the honor of dying because I am a Jew!”
Binem was completely clueless of what to do next.  He didn't speak Russian and these Russians didn't speak Yiddish.  They were not Jewish. To them, he was just another fly on the wall ready to swat.
Binem thought, "I have to try something, but what?" 
Binem evaluated the situation and came to the conclusion that his only chance was to try and take advantage of the fact that the three Russians were completely intoxicated. That being, they may be susceptible to a bluff.
Binem who was presently facing the wall.  He decided to take a chance. He turned around and faced the Russians as they sat around the small table.  All three had the look of surprise on their faces probably thinking that this German scum has the audacity to actually look at them.
Binem, without hesitation, starting lecturing them in Polish but making sure to mix in the few Russian words that he knew. "This man that you tied up isn't a German.  He saved me.  I am a Communist. I am not German. I was a Communist before the War"
The three Russian officers stared at the spectacle trying to decide what to make of it. They tried to sober up to comprehend why this German claims to be a Communist. But they were so drunk they simply didn't have the strength to reason it out.
One of the Russian officer's responded, "[w]ell if you are not a German and you say you are a Communist, then come over and drink with us."
With those words one of the officers, a large brute of a man, that was sitting at the table got up and pulled out a large menacing knife.  But instead of stabbing Binem he used it to cut Binem’s bonds.
Binem sat down at the table. The apparent head officer who invited Binem over placed a large glass of whiskey in front of their new drinking buddy.  Binem knew that he had a serious problem.  Whenever he had drank strong intoxicants he was unable to remain rational.  He knew that with one drink he would be twice as drunk as the Russians. On the other hand, he knew that he would be writing his death sentence if he refused.  In the minds of these officers, all communists loved to drink heavily. Binem decided he would take the chance and drink because it was imperative to show the Russians that he could drink whiskey like a loyal Russian Communist.
By the time Binem finished half of the contents in the glass he distinctly felt that the room was spinning.  By the time he completely emptied the contents of the glass he couldn't tell whether he was sitting down or standing up. Despite his high level of intoxication he did remember that he was in mortal danger and therefore he had to do whatever it takes to save himself and Austensaken.
Now completely plastered Binem spoke again using all the languages he knew, Yiddish, Polish, German and a strong emphasis on the few Russian words. Before starting, Binem banged on the table several times employing a common attention getting technique that he had seen used by communist agitators.
Binem started by repeating his initial statement, "I am a good Communist.  This man that you have over there is not a German. He saved me and he knew I was Jewish.  He saved me!  And I was a communist before the War.  I got special orders from Stalin.  And I was the head of the Communist Party in my town. You want to kill this man?  If you do you will suffer for killing a man that was working with me before the War and during the War against the German Army.  And he was working under my command. He knew I was a communist. You have no right to kill him."
Binem was sure that they didn't understand what he was saying. "I myself didn't understand it.   They were drunk, and I was drunk."
So the three Soviet security officers stood up in unison.   The head officer spoke.  "If it is the way you said we will not kill him. We will leave this matter to the Polish Government which will follow us. And let them judge."
Then they turned to Binem and each shook his hand. The three staggered out of the room toting a bottle of whiskey.
 Binem quickly approached Austensaken and untied him..
Binem said to Austensaken, "[y]ou are free, they will not kill you."
Austensaken, his face white with fear, suddenly bursted out in  a hysterical emotional sob.  Tears wetted his entire face and he was unable to bring himself under control. Eventually he stopped and he thanked Binem over and over again. When the two found the Princess Austensaken, with a shaky voice, told his wife what transpired. She too broke down sobbing but in a much more dignified manner.  After a few minutes of the couple clinging to each other they both turned to Binem and thanked him for saving them.
Binem graciously accepted their thanks. He then said to Austensaken, "[f]rom now on you are a free man.  But I suggest that you don't stay on the estate.  Try to live between the peasants.  That way no one will have big eyes on you that you are a rich man.  You can be sure that the communists will be coming more and more."
They accompanied Binem to the front entrance of the Mansion. They said goodbye to one another. As he left he told them that he would look in on them from time to time.  He said, "I got to go back to town, because I can't believe from six hundred Jews that lived in Radziejow, I am the only lucky man to live over the War.  There must be some other people."
Austensaken and his wife immediately took Binem's advice.  They abandoned their estate and went to live with Wanda and her family.
I asked my Father. "Did they give you any money?" 
He answered. "There was no money, neither German or Polish."
So I continued. "What about something of value."
My Father responded with one word. "Nothing."
After a few hours of trudging through the snow he arrived in Radziejow. He decided that he would call on a shoemaker that used to buy leather goods from the Najmans before the War.  Binem thought the shoemaker, who was very friendly to the family before the War, would be glad to see that one of the Najmans lived over the War.  
Instead, when the shoemaker saw Binem walk into his shop he apparently thought that Binem was coming to get back the leather that the family entrusted to him to hide during the War. In reality, Binem did not remember that the shoemaker was holding leather for them.    Binem smiled and walked up to the shoemaker.  The shoemaker face turned red and without any provocation ran from his shop shouting bloody murder.  Binem stood there speechless having no idea why the shoemaker reacted in such a way.  Binem soon found out.
The shoemaker stood in the middle of the street shouting that a German came into his store and is trying to kill him. When the townspeople in earshot heard this they along with a few Russian soldiers rushed to investigate.  The Russians entered the store and grabbed Binem.  
Binem then said to these Russian soldiers, "I'm not a German, I'm Jewish." Luckily, the surrounding townspeople recognized Binem and told the Russians that he wasn't a German that he was only a Jew.      
I asked my Father, "[w]hen you were later a member of the Police did you get back at that shoemaker?"
My Father answered, "[n]o.  He was so ashamed for what he did that he apologized using the excuse that AI didn't recognize you."
 Binem searched in vain to find another Jew that had returned. When evening approached Binem decided that he would walk back to the Austensaken's mansion.  When he arrived he learned from a servant that they the Austensakens had hurriedly packed up and left the mansion. Binem was amused that the servant viewed Binem as the replacement master of the estate. Binem didn't discourage this thought.  Instead he decided that, tor the time being,  he would remain at the estate and walk daily to Radziejow in search for his fellow Jews. He reasoned that after the incident with the shoemaker it was safer in the mansion where the servants knew him then then finding a place in Radziejow and there having to live alone.
  Binem ate a large breakfast every morning before he set out on the long walk to Radziejow.  The servants were more than glad to serve him since Binem was the last vestige of the old order. One day, Binem was walking in the old market square when he recognized a Jewish friend at the other end. His name was Aaron Frankenberg.  Aaron was one of Binem’s best friends.
Seeing his childhood friend, Binem’s long lost feeling of innocence momentarily returned.  A feeling of euphoric nostalgia caused Binem to revert back to his younger innocent years before the War when he was virtually carefree.   He was now twenty-five years old somewhat bitter and mostly hardened because of his experiences during Poland’s occupation that resulted in so much unimaginable evil. 
Binem playfully thought it would be fun to sneak up on his good friend. With the stealth of a child playing tag he managed to come upon his friend from his backside undetected.  Binem was confident that his friend did not detect his stealthful approach.  Binem then ran up and grabbed Frankenburg from behind with one arm around his friend's waist and simultaneously  placed the other hand over his friend’s eyes.
Binem jocularly inquired. "Guess who is here?"
The friend immediately recognized Binem's voice and responded.  "It must be you, Binem."
The friend turned and the two embraced with tears of joy running down their faces. Then Frankenburg and Binem walked together for some time sharing their terror ridden experiences of the last few years.
Frankenburg asked Binem if he has been back to the Najman building. Upon hearing those words Binem thought to himself why he did not think of that. He answered himself by saying that he was so focused on finding out if any other Jews from Radziejow had survived that such a thought never entered his mind.  He finally answered with a simple, "No." So, with really nothing other to do they decided to check it out.  
Just outside Market Square on a corner the  Najmans' building on  5 Rynek Street still stood seemingly undamaged from the years of War.  The building looked abandoned. The display window was covered with the same brown heavy butcher block paper that he and his brothers put up at the beginning of the War. After rattling the front door and determining that it was securely locked. They walked to the rear of the building and tried the back door.  It didn't feel securely locked.  So with a little bit of force they managed to open the door without damaging the lock or door. 
When the two entered they were surprised that it was empty.  All of the contents were gone. Binem and his friend decided that since it was empty and it was in fact owned by Binem and his family that this would be a good place for them to live. So that  night they slept on the floor of the room that was once the parlor. Even though it was now empty Binem's mind-eye conjured up the contents of the house which he had spent over twenty years.  Most vivid in his imagination was the image of his father faithfully studying a volume of the Talmud that he had removed from one of the many bookshelves that seemingly covered three of the four walls. All of his departed father's beloved books were either in Hebrew or Yiddish and covered only one subject, Judaica.
Within days, Binem and his friend Aaron Frankenberg were joined by Frankenburg’s three sisters, Sala Frankenberg and Yetka Frankenberg and Ganya Frankenberg.  Soon thereafter another lifelong chum showed up, the infamous Arthur Lubinski.  Arthur, much like Arthur Fonzarelli [The Fonz] from the hit tv show "Happy Days",  was the tough guy of the group. His presence gave the group a sense of security. The united friends decided to make their home in the Najman building.  They lived as brothers and sisters.  These survivors were all of similar age, all in their twenties.  
The group moved up to the second floor of the building  where there were several bedrooms. The men occupied one of the bedroom and the women took up residence in a second bedroom.  There was no furniture so they spread blankets on the floor and thus slept. Of course this arrangement was not only uncomfortable but also gave the feeling of transiency.   So the group elected Binem to approach the mayor. 
 The Mayor was very busy man trying to bring back a semblance of normalcy in the community and at the same time comply with the hundreds of directives being issued by the occupation forces of the Soviet Union. These included both civil and military authorities.   
Binem found the Mayor at the City Hall.  He walked up to the Mayor and said  bluntly that the Jewish returnees need some beds.
The Mayor under a great deal of pressure was unsure concerning his responsibilities to the few Jews that returned to their town.  He was a fair man so he stopped all other activities for the moment to give this new issue on his plate some thought.  After a seemingly long pause he responded. "We  simply don't have extra beds because the Germans took away all the furniture that was confiscated from the Jews."
The Mayor judged Binem's reaction and concluded that however true this might be it was not the proper answer for addressing the needs of returning Jews.  So he changed directions and said that he would see to it that the Jewish returnees would find them some beds. A few hours later he was able to requisitioned three beds for the six survivors.  Binem, Arthur, and Aaron dragged the beds across town and up the stairs to the second floor.
I asked my Father, "[w]as anyone living in your building during the War?"
Binem answered, "I imagined Germans lived there but they ran away."
My father described the returning Jews living arrangement resembled a kind of “kibbutz”. They all shared in doing chores.  The Frankenberg sisters did the cooking while the men canvassed the nearby countryside calling on Polish farmers and explaining their situation.  Then they would ask the farmers if they could spare them some food.  For the most part the Polish farmers were very friendly and sympathetic.  That resulted in the collective of farmers supplying the Jews as much food as they desired.
I asked my Father, "[w]hy were the farmers so friendly?"
He answered that the  farmers were good people that now no longer had to worry about being punished by the Germans."
 These donations caused the good nature local farmers to compete for the bragging rights as to which of them was able to provide the best assortment of  foodstuff  to the Jews. Binem and his friends benefited from the competition.  For the Jews ended up being supplied with an excellent variety of chickens, grains and vegetables in more than adequate quantities.  
A few weeks after Binem moved back into his family's building he decided to determine what was his rights as the sole survivor. He went down to City Hall and discussed the matter with a clerk.  He was referred to the civilian civil court that was established by the Russian occupation authorities.  There he was instructed to fillout several documents.  When he finished he was assigned a court date.  When he arrived a the court on the scheduled date he was told to stand in front of a Judge.  The Judge looked over the documents Binem submitted and then reviewed the researched documents provided to the Judge by his clerk that obained them from the still existing town archives of Radziejow.  The court then issued a ruling that Binem Najman was the sole survivor and therefore he is declared the owner of the building.  The court issued the official certification and deed.



Judge's Order Awarding the Najman Building to Binem

At this point,  Binem and his roommates felt that the townsfolk of Radziejow and the farmers in the surrounding area were most hospitable to them given the conditions that the War still raged West of Radziejow. They were all impressed that several Poles, who had their own severe problems, made an effort to ease their return and absorption back into society. However, this experience was not true when it came to many other Jews that returned to Radziejow.
Survivor George Gronjnowski chillingly remembers that after his liberation he decided to return to Radziejow.  He traveled by train.  Since Radziejow did not have a station he disembarked at the next stop which was Chelm.  At the station Gronjnowksi found several transport wagons available to take riders to the nearby towns.  George located the one designated to transport passengers and their luggage to Radziejow.  As he boarded the open wagon he couldn't help but stare at the familiar face of the large Polish driver who sported a tremendous mustache.  
The driver recognized George immediately.  His first words to Gronjnowski was "you survived, but be careful, the partisans are shooting Jews around here!”
Similarly survivor Ann Goldman Kumer tells of a her even more ominous and perilous return. Shortly after being liberated by the Russians She returned to Radziejow accompanied by her friend, Fella Feldman.  Taking the transport from Chelm she was dropped off near Radziejow's Market Square. From there she walked directly to her family's house. As she walked the familiar path she hoped that despite the War there might be some pictures of her family there.  When she arrived she tried the front door. The door was locked so she knocked.  Soon a Pole that she recognized answered the door.  That Pole was none other than a well known town criminal. As the Pole looked at Ann the criminal's equally infamous wife joined him at the entrance.  Ann could not help but feel fear that was caused from the evil and angry faces of the notorious couple.  The two verbally assaulted Ann as she and her friend had no idea on how to react. 
The criminal occupants of her parent's house repeatedly shouted diatribes against not only her but all Jews.   The husband then as if by an evil spell, produced a weathered machete.  He waved it ominously at Ann.  
He shouted wildly. "What do you want here? This is my house!”
Ann had only one desire.  That was to escape before the anti-Semite had his way. Meanwhile the wife of this criminal was instigating her husband to escalate his verbal and menacing behavior. 
Ann made one last plea. “I only want some pictures of the family.”
The man angrily answered.  “Out you go from here if you know what’s good for you.  You dirty Jews, out!”
From first hand experience of the last five years, she knew that there was no reasoning with these Jew haters.  Both Kumer and her friend turned and fled from the doorstep, walking at a brisk pace.  When they were about a block away from her house the two slowed down . As they discussed the surreal encounter, at the very house that Kumar was raised, they were confronted by a mob of several Poles.  Kumer recognized one in the group. She calmed, for she remembered that he had a reputation of being friendly to the Jews before the War.  That sense of safety lasted but a fleeting moment.
This “friend”menacingly pointed a pitchfork at her and barked, “Where are those Jews?”
This time Ann and her friend didn't bother with answering instead they  broke into a desperate run with the blood thirsty mob following just a short distance behind.  In Kumer's panic she suddenly remembered that just around the corner was a house owned by a Polish woman that long ago was the family's seamstress.  She was always very friendly.   
Ann and her friend turned the corner with the mob just a few seconds behind. She immediately banged on the seamstesss' door. The seamstress opened the door, and looked into Ann's panic stricken eyes. The Polish seamstress correctly accessed the situation  
She stated to Ann, “Come in quickly.”
Ann spoke up with tears in her eyes. “Thank you." then added, "Please save us!”
The seamstress led the two young women into her bedroom.  She told them to lay perfectly still on her bed.  She then completely covered them with an elaborate over sized and thick goose down bed comforter.
Almost immediately after covering the women all three heard a loud series of raps on the door.  Without the courtesy of at least waiting for the seamstress to open the door the mob forced the door open. They spotted the seamstress as she left the bedroom. 
One giant Pole demanded. “Did you hear someone running?”
The seamstress replied. “No, why?”
The man shouted out “Those whore Jews came back to the city and we want them.”
The blood thirsty mob turned and exited the house. 
Waiting an additional moment the seamstress then returned her bedroom and uncovered the two Jewesses.  She invited the the two frightened women into her kitchen and they sat and ate some food.  As they talked the seamstress' son, Bartak, who was a farmer, entered the house and came into the eating area.   She told her son that he must help the two young ladies.  Bartak was a nice polite man. He asked no questions but instead without hesitation he executed his mother's request.  He exited the house and drove his wagon around the back.  After making sure that no one was watching he instructed the two Jewish woman to sit in the bed of his wagon.  Then he covered them with straw.  He then drove wagon several minutes until they arrived at his farm.  There he hid the two in the barn.  The next day he drove the two Jewesses to the train station that was located approximately three kilometers from the farm.  He bought them two train tickets.  He then waited to make sure that they boarded the train safely.
Survivor Roman Rogers returned to Radziejow and remembered staying at his cousin’s house, which was most likely Binem’s building.  He stated that they lived a communal life there and that he stayed with them for a few weeks.  He remembered that the group had no plans but seemed to live day by day.  He remembered that he was successful in bartering clothes for food.  He had a significant stash of clothing, most likely given to him, when he was liberated in Germany.  He stated that the others begged for food from Polish farmers.
Survivor Roman Rogers described an incident that took place in Radziejow when a Jewish man bought a horse and buggy from a Russian soldier.  The soldier used the money to purchase a large amount of vodka.  The soldier got very drunk and began to verbally abuse the other patrons in the tavern.  If that was not enough, he shot at a Polish policemen that heard the commotion from the tavern so he entered to investigate.  After the Soldier was restrained, of all conclusions, the populace blamed the Jews because the Jews gave him the money for the vodka! The Jews had no choice but to flee Radziejow.  Soon thereafter, a delegation of Poles from Radziejow set out and found the Jews.  They begged the Jews to return to intervene with the communist administration, for the communists now effectively controlled Radziejow.  Rogers said one of the Jews accompanied them back to town in order to defend the Poles.  Based on my understanding, it was most likely Binem that return with them to be there defender.
Atrocities against the Jews in Poland after liberation were common.  I recently attended a lecture at the Holocaust Museum located in Farmington Hills, Michigan where the speaker was Ruth Lichtenstein, the publisher of Hamodia, which is a national religious daily Jewish newspaper,  told of her mother's experiences during and after the Holocaust.
Her mother lived in Poland.  When the War broke out her mosther was a young girl age thirteen.  She came from a very rich and respected family that owned a large estate.  When the Germans began the wholesale slaughter of Polish Jewry during the summer of 1942, Ruth's grandmother and her aunts and uncles along with her mother hid in a specialty prepared bunker located on the estate.  Sometime afterwards, Ruth's mother was by chance out on an errand for her family when the caretaker of the estate informed the Nazis of the location of the bunker.  The Nazis soon arrived and, on the spot, executed all of her siblings.  The caretaker was rewarded by the Nazis by making him the owner of estate.  After surviving the War Ruth's  mother returned to the estate but was refused entry by the caretaker.  That was the last time her mother saw the estate. Sometime thereafter she left Poland and found her way to the United States. 
In the 1990s, Ruth arranged permission with the Polish Government to enter the estate for the purpose of finding the remains of her ancestors.  She would be allowed to exhume the remains and take them to Israel for a proper burial.  With orders in hand and workers she entered the estate to find the remains of her family. Unfortunately, after much searching she concluded that the bones were nowhere to be found. She figured that  likely her family's remains were removed by the caretaker as an effort to cover up all evidence of his traitorous behavior of cooperating with the Nazis.  Ruth questioned the the local priest, who obviously had no sympathy for her efforts.   He stated that probably the reason that she couldn't find her family's remains was that  “people don't like bones on their property.”
          After the War, throughout Poland, anti-Semitism continued unabated.  One of the reasons for this was Athe unwillingness to relinquish Jewish real estate and property to the rightful owners, or just plain greed." Poland's Holocaust, P. 130.
To the credit of the vast majority of the Poles of Radziejow, they were not like the caretaker nor were they driven by hatred of the Jews.  My website Polishinjustice.com was set up to present the case for the return of my father's property. After several years the citizens of his hometown have thus far failed to do so.  Even so, I can say a number of things in Radziejow's favor.  First, the building, from the day my father fled Poland to today, is still owned by the municipality and is not privately owned. Thus, officially, its ownership is still in question.  Second, when my father was liberated he returned to Radziejow.  He found that his building was unoccupied. That is in spite of its being a corner lot across from Market Square, which made the building a prime commercial real estate location.  Third, the Judge fairly ruled after the War, that because my Father was the only surviving descendant of Shimon Neuman the owner of the property,  that he inherited the property under law.  Finally, my Father encountered, for the most part,  reported little outward anti-Semitism towards him when he return to Radziejow after the War.

A short time after Binem and the few Jewish survivors of Radziejow had set up their living accommodations in the Naijman building when a Polish farmer came to Radziejow and informed the townsmen that the militia found a destroyed Russian tank.  Several Poles of the town followed the peasant to investigate.  When they arrived they found inside the tank remains a dead body.  The men brought back the body to Radziejow for burial.   When the news spread of the funeral Binem felt that he must do something.  He discussed the matter with his fellow Jews.  “This Russian died to set us free.  We Jews must be present at the funeral to show our thankfulness to him.” 
It was agreed that the least they could do was attend the soldier’s funeral service. This was no small issue. The funeral services were to be held at the same church that was used by the Nazis to house the Jews the night before they were all transported to Chelmo to be murdered.  For the first time in Binem's life he entered the Radziejow Catholic Church.  The Jews felt most uncomfortable sitting in the Pew while the Catholic service took place.  When the service was finally over all the Jewish survivors agreed that attending was a giant mistake.  Although the purpose was noble the results were not.  The Jews sitting in a pew with the giant cross with Jesus in front of them along with the smell of incense which was completely foreign to them.  The result was that although the idea was good in theory the implementation fell quite flat because the Jews were neither before the War or after the War comfortable being on the grounds of the Catholic Church.
A few days later a Russian tank became stuck in an anti-tank trench located next to the outskirts of Radziejow. The tank crew came to the town in order to enlist help from the Poles to extradite the tank. Binem and his two friends volunteered to help out.  The tank was mired in mud that was literally several feet deep.  The Poles saw no problem in dealing with this problem since they were the ones that actually dug the several anti-tank trenches that the Germans forced them to complete. For Binem and his two friends it was a problem.  They were still weak from their years of starvation and horrendous living conditions of the past few years. As hard as they tried to keep up with the Poles the Jews were exhausted withn the first hour of work.  
Binem approached the Russian soldier in charge.  He explained to the Russian officer in charge of the work detail  that he and his two friends were Jews.  That for the past few years they had barely survived.  Then Binem added that as a result of their depravation that, "[w]e are feeble. We Jews can't work as hard as the other Poles."
The Russian officer frowned and replied with a tone of disgust. "If you could work so many years for the Germans, you can work two days for the Russian Army."
Binem and his friends were inwardly ashamed for they all thought, deep down, there was much wisdom to what the Russian said.  Still, it didn't change the fact that they were in fact physically weak.  Even with this admonishment Binem remembered that the Jewish contribution to the effort to extradite the tank was insubstantial. In fact, when the job was completed Binem and his three friends joked  that “with or without our help the Poles were able to extradite the tank!”
For a short while Binem and his friends had little interaction with the Poles living within Radziejow.  The Poles ignored them when the Jews walked around the town. Then officials from the new Polish Government entered Radziejow.  One of its first acts was a war mobilization to assist the Russian Army. A selective service board began processing the young men in the town. There were no exceptions. Days later, Binem and his two male friends received an order to present themselves before the Board. Standing before the panel Binem and his friends explained that they were still not physically capable to perform the rigors required of a soldier.  The Board members were sympathetic so they gave the Jewish men a choice.
"You can be drafted and sent to the German front or if you prefer you can remain in Radziejow and serve as policemen.” 
One of the board members spoke up to explain to the duties of a police officer.  “As policemen you would be responsible to maintain order in the town and also you would be sent out of Radziejow to search out and take into custody Germans still remaining in the area.”
I asked my father.  "Weren't you excited to have the opportunity to go directly to the front and fight the Germans so you could revenge your family and the Jews of Poland?"
He answered; "I was still too weak to go fight. And I wasn't trained. To live over the War only to be killed in the Russian Army made no sense." 
The three male Jewish survivors of the Holocaust asked for a moment to discuss the options between themselves. The only  point made in favor of joining the Russian Army was that they would be able to help and watch the destruction of the Nazi murderers.  On the other hand they knew that they were not in the necessary physical condition to fight. Moreover, they understood that they would be thrown into the fight without any combat training.  
They then discussed their other option of being drafted as police officers. Two  main points were made. First, by staying in town they would be able to protect the women survivors. Second,by remaining in town they would be better able to determine whether it was feasible to reestablish their lives in Radziejow once the War ended..  The three unanimously agreed that the logical choice to stay and join the police force.


Binem in his police uniform
 Binem and Arthur Lupinski were assigned to the Maspochanso Poblinchna which was the Polish equivalent to the Polish AinKavoda.   According to a World War II expert I consulted, only Russians were allowed to be members of the infamous NKVD.  Binem and his friend were actually assigned to  a special section of the Polish Police.  An expert on World War II uniforms confirmed this by a photo I possessed that shwoed my Father in uniform.  The uniform was simply an enlisted man's Polish uniform that Polish soldiers wore before the German occupation.       
  Little did the two know that civil war was brewing between members of the Polish Army of the Exiled Polish Government in London in exile and the new Communist installed government that had the backing of the USSR.  As a result the feuding quickly changed to violence with both sides assassinating members of each other’s group.  Moreover, terror tactics were used by members of the  anti Russian occupation government in order to dissuade Poles from participating in any of the to choose their side. Jews drafted into the Polish Police were deemed traitors by many  Poles because by being members of the Polish Police meant that the police officers were a fighting arm of the Russian back communists.  Those Poles that were already life long anti-Semites used the fact that Jews were in the Polish Police as an excuse to carrying on Hitler’s goal of ridding Poland of Jews.  These anti-occupation forces carried out several post war massacre of innocent Jews. 
My research revealed that an estimated 100,000 Jews were similarly assigned to the police.  Interestingly, a possible reason for this high number was that the new Communist installed government was of the opinion that Jews of Poland were their natural allies.  The Jews owed their lives to the Russian for liberating them.  Also, there remained rabid anti-Semitism throughout Poland.  In the book, Poland's Holocaust, the author points out that A[i]n an attempt to divide and conquer, Stalin placed some Jews in highly visible positions of authority in the PRL (Polish Peoples Republic), an in the organs of oppression.  The diabolical strategy was purposefully engineered to put Poles and Jews directly on a collision course."
    Hatred of Jews still exists today in many circles in Poland. When I posted my Father's picture on my website of him posing with a gun, I received a rash of anti-Semitic diatribes in the Polish language.   
On a trip to Toronto to meet with Jewish survivors of Radziejow I asked them what the true story about my Father's service in the Polish Police?”
 One replied, "[h]e had no choice, he did what he had to do to survive.
That triggered a memory of my discussions with my father. I recalled asking my father about his service. , "Which unit were you assigned to?"
   He replied, "[i]t was like the FBI."  
Binem’s unit was assigned to keep law and order in Radziejow. He became a competent peace officer. That mainly meant making his rounds around Radzijow in his uniform to show a Police presence.  On occasion it required him to arrest Poles that became rowdy after consuming too much alcohol.  Another duty that he had was to go on patrols that were tasked with flushing out the remaining Germans in and around Radziejow.  
Binem found that his fellow police officers treated him with respect. And as long as the Police behaved in a civil manner in performance of their duties Binem enjoyed his work. But as time went on, Binem found that the atmosphere changed.
I further inquired of my father. "Why didn't you use your new position  to get vengeance on those Poles and particularly those remaining Germans that helped the Nazis."
He answered, "I probably should have.  But I didn't have the heart to take vengeance on a German old woman, or for that matter, even a young one."
  During Binem's service the War against Germany continued. The mad evil Hitler from the safety of his concrete bunker in Berlin continued to bark out incomprehensible orders to attack the enemy when in reality his troops were daily being decimated on all fronts. Binem and his fellow Jews living with him still didn't feel as if the War was over.  For in fact the sounds of  artillery shells exploding still could be faintly heard. Also rumors in town pointed out that a military reversal could happen anytime that would result in the Nazi oppression returning to Radziejow.
This fear proved to be unwarranted because the German troops were now subject to wholesale slaughter by the Russians.  Binem and his friends rejoiced as a stood near the highway and watched seemingly endless columns of Russian troops, tanks and artillery as they advanced towards Germany. At the same time, it was told that just as many trucks were heading back with confiscated German property which was now war booty war booty for the Soviet Government and the individual soldiers.   
Binem did not forget the Austensakens.  He would visit them at Wanda's house where they were currently living.  He would discuss the progress of the War with the Austensakens.  Both Binem and Mr. Austensaken anxiously awaited the end of the War.  But they did so  for very different reasons.  Austensaken was still hoping for a German counter attack.   For Austensaken clung to the reports being broadcast on German radio that Hitler had a secret plan that would snatch victory from seemingly defeat.  This was to be done by attacking the Allied forces with what the Nazi called. "wonder weapons".  
Binem's assessment was that in the very near future Nazi Germany would be completly and utterly destroyed.  As 1945 progressed it became clear that there that Hitler did not have the promised miracle weapons at least not in sufficient quantities to change the course of the War.  The revolutionary weapons of warfare such as rocket bombs and jet airplanes were being produced in quantities that was too little and too late to turn the tide of the War.  Hitler, his cadre of criminals, along with the duped citizens of Germany were heading towards a catastrophe that resulted directly from their own doing.  The more the Germans fought back the more Germans were slaughtered both soldiers and civilians.
The Russian army successfully crossed the western Polish border resulting in the horrors of artillery fire was raining down on towns and cities in Germany.  After the incessant pounding Russian troops entered the towns and villages wiping out the remnants of the German units stationed in those towns.  The first days of occupation were filled with raping and pillaging.  Thee was no stopping the evil that had befallen the German people.  For some Germans that still had a sense of divine justice,  deep down, grudgingly acknowledged that  they were deserving of this catastrophe if not worse. These Germans that still hadn't completely given over their souls to the Nazis would probably agree with the New York saying, "What goes around, comes around."
The Russian Army was conquering previously German held territory so fast that the retreating Germans were overwhelmed. At the same time the Allies that were fighting the Germans from the west meant that soon the two triumphant armies would meet. 
 The Russians were determined to conquer the ultimate prize, Berlin. The Russians had five main reasons for doing this. First, the capital of Nazi Germany was also the residence of the most hated man in Russia,  Second, the destruction of Berlin would signal to the world that the German government no longer exists. Third, the road leading to Berlin would be be drenched in so much German blood that every German would understand that Hitler was responsible for their suffering. Forth, while Hitler tried to conquer the Soviet Unions capital, Moscow and failed, the Russians would conquer the German capital, Berlin.  In doing so the Russian thirst for revenge would be, at least, partially quenched. For no country had lost as much as Russia.  The Russians meant to repay the Germans in a like manner that which the Russian people experienced under Germany's invasion and occupation. Finally taking Berlin would accomplish a top priority of Stalin that of achieving the strategic goal of controlling and dominating post- war Germany.
Binem was still, in a different way, remained a victim on the run.  He was constantly remembering the dangers he faced when he was on the run. Sometimes,   without provocation, he experienced moments of dread that caused his fear to encompass his entire being.  Even sleep was no solace.  Regularly he had nightmares that revolved around a situation that the Germans were on offensive.  Always the Russians were retreating in rout and abandoning the town of Radziejow to the Germans.  Other times he would dream that the Poles were attacking Jews.   
His nightmare about the evil Germans returning proved to be pure fantasy. At this point in the War, the Germans were barely capable of putting up meaningful resistance. Even the so called fearless S.S. troops learned to be afraid as they confronted the overwhelming firepower of the Russians.  
All across Germany, the Nazis were conscripting boys under sixteen years old and men over sixty to provide for a home front defenses.  These children and old men were laughable to the battle harden Russian soldiers.  Hitler challenged the German people stating that if the Germans lose to the Slavic people then the Slav race would prove superior to the German race.  These Germans were incapable of fulfilling the impossible demands of their demi-god, Adolf Hitler.
 Poland was basically cleared of any organized German resistance.  The Polish people showed little mercy to the Volksdeutche among them.  Binem instinctly understood that the Jews that survived would soon be a target. His fear of the Poles attacking Jews was based on reality. While most Poles were not interested in harming the Jews; still, there were thousands of Poles that were exploiting every opportunity of continuing Hitler's program to make Poland "Judenfree".  
Binem would discuss these matters with Austensaken. In Binem's opinion his savior had a great deal to fear from this new communist government administrating the region for the Russians. Austensaken was in denial and preferred to avoid even thinking about this real threat. 
Then only a short time later Austensaken came to terms with a future that bode ill for himself and his wife.  For it was becoming abundantly clear that  the Germans remaining in Poland were a minority that was to targeted to be greatly reduced if not completely eliminated in Post-World War II Poland.   The Austensaken’s again turned to Binem for protection. Binem knew that his status of being a police officer was not enough to even protect himself.  Austensaken also was aware of this.  He probably was thinking that his wife should have picked a leader, an important Jew, to save them.  Instead she had to bring into his home a skinny good-for-nothing Jew.
         In June of 1945 Binem was on a routine duty shift when he recognized a group of excited police officers from his station dragging a man. Even from a distance Binem could tell that this man was obviously badly injured.  As he drew closer Binem observed that the man's body was soaked in blood and his clothes were literally shredded in pieces exposing raw bleeding skins.  Upon closer inspection the man whose face was swollen from a beating and covered by blood looked somewhat familiar.  It then dawned on Binem that it was Austensaken.  He asked his fellow officer why the prisoner was in such condition.  The officer answered that most of the way they had dragged behind a wagon.
Binem's initial reaction was that he had to try and help Austensaken.  In the back of his mind was the last time he tried to save Austensaken he almost got killed for the effort. This time he knew that he should proceed cautiously.  He froze in his place as he collect his thoughts to come up with a plan of action. The overriding consideration in planning  was how to keep his pledge to Austensaken's son? Finally he decided to act. 
Bnem went up to one of the arresting officer who he was friendly with and asked, "[w]hat did this guy do?"
The officer responded as if he was making an announcement to everyone in the station. "This son of a bitch?  We have been looking for him, and finally we caught him. He was hiding himself with a Polish family."
Binem asked, "[w]hat is he charged with?"
The officer replied with a sadistic smile. "The son of a bitch is charged with treason. He was a spy for the Germans before the War broke out.  Then he worked with the Germans throughout the occupation."
Binem knew that such charges were punishable by death. After an initial inquiry Binem learned that there was a great deal of evidence implicating that Austensaken was a German spy.  He actually took photographs of Polish towns and Army installations, ammunition dumps and other military targets and delivered those photographs to the Germans prior to the September 1939 invasion. Included were photos and information concerning vital Polish industrial factories.  Austensaken's spying materials were ultimately used by the Luftwaffe for acquiring targets for devastating aerial bombing in which hundreds of Poles were killed. 
If that wasn't enough, he was charged with mistreating Polish peasants during the War.  There was plenty of evidence to show that Austensaken either worked with the Gestapo or was a Gestapo agent during the Nazis reign of terror.
When my father told me, I couldn’t believe it.  How could my father even thing of protecting a Gestapo agen?.  The big question in my mind turned to, Why?
I wanted to make sure I understood what he was saying so I asked   AWas he in fact a Gestapo agent?"
My Father answered. "He was in the Gestapo."
I asked my father. "Were all the allegations against him true?" 
He answered in a way to avoid the question. "I didn't know this man before I came to live in his house."
I wasn’t going to allow my father off the hook so easily so I pressed on in an indirect lawyer like way. "Did your unit always make false allegations against German Nationals?" 
          My father continued to avoid answering. "I wasn't interested in other Volksdeutche.  When I saw those arrested for similar crimes,  I figured maybe yes.  But I was only interested in him because he saved my life, and I promised to save his life."
Not satisfied with my father's answer, I tried another approach. "Didn't you want to take vengeance on these Germans for what they did?"
He smirked and said.  "I could leave it to the Pollacks.  They were much better killers than me."
But I pressed. "Didn't you want vengeance?"       
He answered thoughtfully. "No. I figured everybody should have a trial before being executed."
I still wasn't satisfied with his answer.  "Nobody gave you a trial or your brothers and sisters a trial."
He answered with determination. "That is precisely how the Germans behaved.  I was different.  I figured maybe Austensaken didn't do it. He can't be responsible for what other Germans did. I had to be sure that he was the guilty one."
Binem walked over to Austensaken whowas lying in the street in front of the police post in a pool of his own blood.  Austensaken looked like a mortally wounded animal.  He was still conscious despite the terrible beating.  His body was trembling with obvious fear.  
As Binem stood above his savior, Binem addressed the arresting officer."Leave the German to me, I'll take care of him!"
The officer, figured that Binem who was known to all his fellow officers as a Jew was really going to work over the Nazi Gestapo agent.  Giving Binem the knowing nod, he gleefully handed Austensaken over to Binem.  Binem, in apparent display to his fellow officers, dragged Austensaken to a cell and closed the door behind himself.
Binem looked around the eight by ten foot cell.  He saw that there was a pail of water in the far corner of the room.  He carried the bucket over to Austensaken who was laying on the cell floor near the door.  Binem ladled a portion of the water into a cup and encouraged Austensaken to drink.  Austensaken drank the water as if he had just emerged from the desert.  When he finished, Binem dipped a rag into the pail and gently wiped Austensaken's face until it was clean from the blood and grime. Binem then tried to comfort him by offering words of encouragement.  He told him not to be afraid.  All was not lost. He lied when he told Austensaken that he had a sure fire plan to gain his release.
Binem racked his brain attempting to formulate some way of saving his protector. Finally he decided that his best course of action was to go to the top guy at the station, the Chief of the Post.  Binem had long before determined that the Chief was a fair man that at least outwardly, gave any indication that he was anything but honest.  So he left Austensaken in the cell and went directly to the chief's office. The office consisted of nothing more than a small room behind a rotting working door.  Binem knocked on the door and the Chief gave him permission to enter.  The office furnishings consisted of a table that served as a makeshift desk and three chairs.  The Chief was sitting on the chair behind the table looking at a file.  
The Chief looked up and smiled at Binem as he entered the room.
Binem stopped by the two chairs in front of the table, but did not sit down.
Instead Binem got right to the points and said,  "[t]he prisoner that was just brought in, his name is  Austensaken  and he helped me to live over the War. He deserves a break."
The chief stared back at Binem with a look of sympathy for Binem but his mind had sympathy for Austensaken. "I've been told that this guy named Austensaken is not only a Nazi but also a traitor."
"I don't know anything about him being a Nazi.  But if you say he should be treated fairly, then O.K. You are in charge of him."
So for the next several weeks Binem daily visited the German and at the same time made sure that Austensaken was provided with the necessities.  As a result of Binem's humane treatment of the prisoner the other officers started treating Austensaken better most likely thinking, “[i]f a Jew can treat this man with dignity then why shouldn’t we do the same.”
It then came the day for Austensaken's trial. The evidence against him was overwhelming.  Binem, Austensaken's sole witness, testified on his behalf. In open court he told the story how Austensaken had saved him from certain death.  He told in detail how  Austensaken had hid and fed him and added that he was sure that Austensaken was  “a nice man.”  
The Spielberg interview differed from my interview in that Binem stated that he testified on behalf of Austensaken only by way of a written statement.  In both versions, Austensaken was found guilty.  However, the sentencing of the tribunal was quite lenient as a result of Binem being Austensaken's character witness.  In most cases where the Volksdeutche collaborator was arrested he was killed without trial. When an actual trial would take place the typical sentence was that of being condemned to death by either hangaing or firing squad.  In an unusual sentence of mercy, Austensaken received a remarkably lenient punishment.   He was sentenced to exile and forfeiture of his entire estate. Exile was defined as not being able to live within three hundred miles of Radziejow.          
Austensaken was dumbstruck by the exceedingly lienient sentence.  He had already steeled himself to accept the inevitable sentence of execution.  But thanks to his savior, Binem, he left the courtroom a free man. Both Austensaken and his wife thanked Binem profusely.   That same day they boarded a train and went into exile. They eventually settled in a large town outside of the three hundred mile perimeter. Later he was joined by Wanda and her Brother
In the Spielberg interview my Father stated that for a long time he did not visit his saviors because the village was too far away. Then one day the Polish Princess showed up in Radziejow to specifically meet with Binem.  Binem was gracious with the Princess. She told him that in the town they settled the neighbors upon discovering that her husband was German were threatening to kill him.  Binem had both a soft heart for the Princess, for she selflessly saved him, and at the same time he still felt obligated to fulfill the promise he made to her son to protect his father. Binem  requested from his post commander for a short leave.  With permission in hand he told the Princess that he would help.  He accompanied her back on the long two day trip.  When Binem arrived, the neighbors saw him in his uniform.  The police was now feared throughout Poland. Thus when the neighbors saw that Austensaken had connections with the Government that fact alone was sufficient to put an immediate stop to the threats against the Austensakens and eliminated any possible plans to harm them in the future.
I asked my Father, "[w]hat happened to Austensaken and the Princess?"
           He answered, "I know one thing, when I left (Poland) they were still alive.  Later I was in more in danger then they were.  They were far away from the turmoil that struck Radziejow."
I asked, “What happened to their son.”
He replied, “The Austensakens had no idea of what happened to him.
My father explained that the post war political struggle between the two factions the Communists backed by the Soviet Union and the Home Army backed by England. The two powers were fighting for political control of Poland.  He stated that as a Jew he was caught in the middle between the factions that were daily committing daily horrendous attacks followed by equally barbaric counter attacks.   
I asked, “[w]hich was the better side for Poland?”
He answered, "I didn't know or care. It wasn't my war anymore."

History bears out my father’s recollection of events in post war Poland.  The Jews were in an untenable position. "Unfortunately, the killing of Jews in Poland did not end with the end of the war.  One report stated that 350 Jews were killed in Poland within seven months after the end of the War."Poland's Holocaust P.128.  Several members of the Allied back ranks of the Home Army were the main perpetrators of these anti-Semitic killings. These Jew haters justified their actions by purporting that it was Polish Jews that returned to Poland during its liberation were the enforcers of the Soviets and there occupation. They claimed it was these Jews that were imposing communism onto Post WWII Poland.  To prove their point they pointed to several Jewish officials in the newly formed Communist government.  
The truth was that the survivors that returned to their homes were confronted by anti-Semitic Poles that felt that Hitler's task of removing all Jews from Poland was in fact a noble endeavor. The Jewish survivors were faced with a deadly dilemma; either they should ally themselves with the communists for self-preservation or abandon Poland and join the millions of Post-World War II refugees.  "The anti-Semitic campaign... drove out of Poland 100,000 Jews"  These Poles that advocated a Jew free Poland  felt such a move was essential in the rebuilding of "Poland from its wounds after the war." p.129.
In the beginning Binem had little to fear. The Home Army had little influence in Radziejow. As a member of the Police he was protected by his position and fellow officers. Binem felt that the comradery of police officers to watch the back of their fellow officers was sufficient to make him impervious from any potential Jew haters.  Moreover, many members of the Police’s upper command were communist leaning,                  The focus of the rank and file officer was on police matters and not political infighting.  Whether the ordinary police officer was a communist or leaned towards the Home Army was not a card not openly displayed.  For the most part, Binem's fellow officers were indifferent to politics.  These officers were watching “which way the wind would blow.”
A few months lager Binem was reassigned from Radziejow station to the police station located in Alexandrow, a town larger than Radziejow located about 20 miles away.  This post was much more active in both normal policing and arresting those people that collaborated with the Nazi occupation.  It was the second part that Binem was not prepared for. For the most part those labeled collaborators were Volksdeutche, Germans that have lived in Poland for many generations.    The arrest procedures for these "traitors" at the Alexandrow police station often times did not go by the book. Rather, the officers had a silent pack that it was preferable to cut through the tedious red tape of standard procedures by using other methods.  In Binem’s unit many of the officers were not concerned with the need to gather evidence against a suspect but rather were simply out for vengeance against the Volksdeutche.   

Binem, wanted no part in participating in this illegal and immoral behavior that was prevalent in his new post.  As the son of a pious Jew he abhorred such behavior. In the beginning it wasn't a problem to find excuses to avoided any situation that could force him into participating in this illegal behavior. Binem had his own dillemna  concerning such behavior. On one hand he respected the law. On the other hand, he understood exactly how his fellow officers felt about Germans.  He often had such angry thoughts. Sometimes when he remembered how the Nazis wiped out his entire family and turned his own life into a living hell he became so angry that if he wasn't careful he could crush a glass in his hand. So he understood the Polish officers hatred towards the German people.  The Germans invaded Poland to take over the farms and lands. While doing so they raped, tortured, and murdered hundreds of thousands of Poles. 
Binem resolved his quandary by siding with the law. He maintained that individuals did not have the right to take the law into their own hands. Binem believed that anyone suspected of traitorous behavior must have a fair chance to prove his innocence. That meant in Binem’s mind that every man deserved a trial.  “First give the suspect a trial and if he is guilty let the court sentence him." 

There was another reason why Binem did not rush out to seek vengeance against the Volksdeutche. Many of the Volksdeutche had lived in Poland for hundreds of years.  For the most part, this ethnic group of Germans had always been friendly to Jews. Perhaps they did so as a feeling of solidarity as both Volksdeutche and Jews were minorities in Poland. Binem was not naive about the Volksdeutche. He knew that many did cooperate with the German occupiers.  Moreover,  Germany actually annexed the part of Poland where Alexandrow  was located.  The region was renamed Wartheland. The Volksdeutche were given important positions in the governance of the area.  And according to Hitler's plan not only was it to be Juden free but also Slav (Western Slav - Poles) free.  

Binem’s convictions were placing him more and more at odds with his fellow officers. During these days of civil and political chaos in Poland, it was common for some overzealous police officers to disregard the protocols and just take the law in their own hands.  As the struggle between the two political and paramilitary factions increased, Binem found that members of his unit were openly taking sides to the extent that he thought his fellow officers were behaving like criminals.  Even worse, at night, they engaged in unspeakable acts of violence. Binem surmised that his superiors were responsible for either giving explicit orders to like minded police officers to carry out this form of "ethnic cleansing".  Binem likewise believed if his superiors were not involved, it was clear that they surely were not taking punitive measures to stop the murders. As these acts of barbarity continued to grow Binem felt that his construct of a new Poland with laws to define and protect society was proving to be nothing more than a fallacy.

Binem only wanted to be an honest and productive citizen in post-war Poland found that circumstances would not allow him to do so.  So he began thinking about the possibility of just running away and leaving Poland altogether.  But to do so would be an act of desertion because he was a member of what constituted the military of Poland.
He thought, "I’m a draftee.  To just run away meant being branded as a deserter.  Being caught as a deserter meant certain death."
Binem observed that several members in his unit were becoming bolder and bolder as they engaged in acts of vengeance against the Volksdeutche. At first he could only identify a few officers that could be rationalized as acting randomly on their own.  Then as time went on the evil spread to a level that it became a common practice among most of the officers.  
Binem wanted no part of it.  As this malignant hatred became more common Binem thought that there must be some justification that he was missing. He constantly asked himself, "[d]id all Volkesdeutche commit treason by in some way cooperate with Hitler and Germany during the occupation?"
Binem kept coming to the conclusion that the law required that each Volksdeutche be judged on actual provable evidence. Therefore, he would never acquiesce to joining the activities of these officers that were acting outside of the law.
But what actions could Binem take to stop these terrible acts. Binem understood that no matter how he felt or behaved it would have no influence on his fellow officers.  To them he was a "stinking Yid" who was no better than a Vollksdeutche.  On top of this, he watched as superior officers refused to investigate complaints concerning this ethnic "cleansing".  Policemen acting in public engaging in such activities found that no one would testify against them.  Therefore they understood that they were free to act without the fear of punitive repercussions.
One cold rainy night Binem was assigned for the first time to the midnight shift.  His shift leader ordered him to accompany him and several other officers on a night raid. When Binem asked for details of the action he was told that they were going to the house of man "[o]n the list that was a very bad German."
Binem was told that his duties included to assist in  "clean him out".   Binem wasn't sure what that exactly meant but he had a gut feeling that whatever this action wa he did not want to take part.
An order was an order in the Police so having no choice Binem boarded the truck and accompanied his shift supervisor and fellow officers on the raid.  A short distance out of Alexandrow they arrived at the farm house of the suspect.  The officers piled out of the back of the truck as if they were regular soldiers. Binem was the last out and he slowly and reluctantly trailed behind.  When he finally caught up with them he watched in horror as they dragged the obviously badly beaten suspect out of his dwelling and forced him to stand next to a fairly deep tank trench that was only a few meters away from his house.  His fellow officers were standing around the trench and within an instant they all opened fire on the suspect.
Binem was aghast. He thought to himself, "[h]ow could policemen that are sworn to uphold the law act in such a lawless manner?"
Binem could only compare what he saw to what he had witnest during the darkest days of the Holocaust. During his entire service with the Polish Police the thought never even crossed his mind that his fellow police officers could be cold blooded murderers. He wanted no part of this. He would never participate in something so evil.  To Binem it was illogical for him to conceive that law abiding people such as his fellow officers could behave in such a lawless fashion. He remembered how just a short time ago he was hunted by the Germans.  He remembered the fear of being a cornered animal.  
Binem knew that there was nothing he could do for that poor soul laying at the bottom of the ditch.  He just hoped that he would not be forced to witness such cruelty again.
At that moment he vowed to himself, "I will never be forced to behave like a Nazi!"
Unfortunately, luck was not with Binem.  He was now assigned permanently to the midnight shift which meant he was ordered to accompany his fellow officers on these raids.  Binem was now in the middle of a deadly dilemma.  If he refused to participate he would be labeled a Jewish coward who knew too much.  Binem knew exactly what that meant.  By not participating his fellow officers would conclude that if he was not with them then he was against them.  In such cases it was known that the way police officers solved this problem was to murder the refusing officer.
Binem knew that the clock was running on his very life.  Following the first raid Binem feigned that he was too ill to leave the town so he was left at the station.  Binem knew this excuse couldn't last very long. If he continued this ploy his fellow officers would catch on resulting in creating a situation that would ultimately result in getting himself killed. Again he contemplated going AWOL.  The problem he faced was where would he go? He knew he would be eventually caught which would result in his being executed.
He thought, "[w]hat other options do I have? I can’t run and join the anti communist Home Army for they would kill me for just being a Jew.
Having no alternative Benim decided that he would just wait hoping for and opportunity to escape. He made himself a vow that if he was ordered to go on a raid he would passively accompany his fellow officers.  If they performed their duties as prescribed by the law then he would assist them.  But if they did anything against the law he would pretend to be one of them but in fact not participate. Binem knew that this strategy was fraught with danger.  if his fellow officers caught him in his disception it would likely result in his comrades murdering him. Binem understood that he was on his own, that even among his friends that were police officers at the Alexandrow Station, there was no one that he could trust.  
I asked him, "[w]hy wasn't there any other law abiding officers that you turn to?"
He replied, "no, even if they were nice to me by day when I faced them, how would they react at night when I wasn't facing them?"
Moreover, complicating the situation was the fact that  the day Binem was drafted into the police he made himself a personal vow that other than to protect himself or any of his fellow officers he would engage in no conduct that might harm his fellow Poles.
Was my father's attitude unusual? John McCain in his book, Faith of My Fathers,  quotes Holocaust survivor Victor Frankel, "Everything can be taken but one thing: the last of human freedoms- to choose one's own attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one's own way."
Just like during the time he was on the run Binem  developed a set of procedural rules to avoid danger. The first rule was during these cleansing operations He was always to remain a few steps behind his fellow officers.  His other rule was if he was ordered to shoot the volksdeuche, He would obey the order to fire but when he fired his weapon he would be certain to aim the weapon at the ground.
     His strategy work for a short while.  Then, without warning he almost got caught.  During a firing squad, Binem, as usual,  positioned himself slightly behind his fellow officers.  When given the order to shoot Binem did what he always did he did not aim at the target rather he shot off a round into the ground . This time his aim was too close.
          The team leader shouted at Binem and said, “[w]hat the hell are you shooting at? You have to be the worse shot I’ve ever seen.  Keep shooting like that and your going to get one of us killed!"
          Binem, his face flushed,  stared back at him with the look of embarrassment, but didn’t reply fearful that his answer would reveal his trickery.
  A few days later, a second similar incident occurred with a different team leader. The officer that caught him joked with the others, "[h]ey he's trying to kill us!"   
Binem’s first reaction was that this time he had been caught red-handed because even though it was a new officer the rest of the officers would remember what happened during the prior incident. Surely they would all now suspected that Binem was not participating in the executions. A brief moment passed that seemed to Binem to be an eternity, then he had a sudden flash of genius
This inspiration was to laugh and say, "Comrades I wasn't aiming at you, the gun, for some reason, misfired."
His fellow officers stared at Binem for a long moment then they all began to laugh, probably thinking, "the lazy Jew didn't clean his gun."
After the second incident, Binem knew that his fellow officers would be scrutinizing his every move. Binem was out of excuses. Knowing this he decided to simply not show up.  He invented legitimate excuses for not being able to participate in the night raids.  Such excuses included “I’m sick, "I hurt myself today", "I have an important date with a lady friend", or even, "I must visit an injured friend.”
One evening after Binem was again successful in excusing  himself from the night raid he left the station and was walking down a quiet side street in Alexandrow when he was stopped by a civilian. Binem looked at his face and saw that it was one of those rare bland faces that don’t have any distinguishing features.  Binem thought to himself, “I know just about everyone that lives in this district, but I can’t place this man.” For at that time there were few visitors to Alexandrow.
The man spoke up and addressed Binem in Polish.  He stated as a matter of fact.  “You are Jewish."
Binem was perplexed. It was his job to ask questions. Why would a Pole dare say such a thing to a uniformed police officer?  Instead of becoming angry Binem just replied. "How do you know?"
The man stared into Binem’s eyes and said, "[b]ecause I am Jewish, too."
Binem thought to himself , "[c]an this man be  a Lantzman" ( a fellow Jew) .
Binem smiled then asked. "What is your name?"
The man replied by changing languages from Polish to Yiddish.  "It is not important what my name is, what is important is that I know your name.  I am under orders to tell you to go deep into Germany.  There are camps there for displaced Jews.  From there, they will send you to Israel. No Jew should live in Poland because all Poland is one big Jewish cemetery. No Jew should live in Poland anymore."
It was dark moonless night, most of the townfolk were already asleep, and so there were very few lights from the windows of their houses illuminating the street. 
Binem heard a sound behind him so he briefly turned around to see what it was. When he turned back the man had disappeared. The man vanished literally into thin air. Binem searched everywhere in the vicinity for him but to no avail. 
Binem thought to himself. “I know every street and hiding place in this town, it is impossible for him to disappear, but he did.”
I interjected. “Who do you think this guy was?”
 My father thought about it with the look on his face that he was revisiting the same question he asked himself nearly a half century ago.  He finally spoke up.  "All I can say is that he was a mystery man."
 Binem caught the regular transport truck to Radziejow.  The whole ride he couldn’t get his mind off the strange encounter.
He thought. "Maybe I was dreaming, it couldn’t be true that I met such a man."    
Even after he arrived in Radziejow he continued thinking about the message this strange Jew had delivered to him, Binem tried without success to unravel the mystery. In the end he never mentioned the incident to his roomates and instead dismissed the advice.
During this period the two opposing forces the Communist and what was called the Ander's Army vied for post-war control of Poland turned to violence against the other.  The Communist Party had a huge advantage.  The Russian Army  was occupying Poland and used the power of the Army to ensure that the Communists were in charge.  The Ander's Army, named after its leader was backed by England.  His followers formed a coalition of opposition parties making up  an anti-communist bloc.    
Binem, as a drafted Police officer, served in a unit known as The Home Army, Armia Krajowa. I asked him which side was he on.  He stated that he was on the Russian side.  He said, all the members of his unit sided with the Russians.  He remembered that there were several Jewish officers in his militia, and the militia was working with the Russians. 
I asked my father, "Were you a communist?"
He laughed.  "Oh no.  I had no interest in politics.  I was just a Jew trying to survive."
I remembered what he said when I asked him about pre-war Poland what were the Jews feelings about the Poland.  He said that the vast majority of Jews of Radziejow  "didn't mix in politics.  We were only interested in business."My Father desired to continued this philosophy in post-war Poland.  
The problem was there was no room for him not to become involved. He was faced with reality.  He was in the Polish Police.  The police was a type of military arm of the communists that were in power in Poland. In his heart he felt that he was in Russia's debt because through its military might he was liberated.  On the other hand, The Anders Army has proven to be infiltrated with the worst elements of anti-Semitic Poles.  Even their leaders were constantly using anti-Semitic diatribes as a tool to persuade their followers that the Jews and communists were one and the same.  They would emphasize as proof that certain Jews held important positions in the occupying government.  Binem, in trepidation, watched the actual danger level to Jews rises to the level of lethal ramifications.  Thus as his situation now stood he had survived the Nazi Holocaust only to find that he was now likely in terrible danger for he and his fellow Jews were in the middle of a new shooting war. 
Days later Binem’s thoughts turned into a deadly reality. He started hearing rumors that fellow Jewish police officers in the Armia Krajowa were receiving anonymous letters warning them to quit.  The letters were quite explicit stating that if the Jewish officer did not heed this final warning then he would be ambushed and killed in a gruesome manner.
These letters were not being sent in a vacuum. Deadly events against Jews were taking place throughout Poland.  In the town of Ociency, just a few miles from Radziejow, a pogrom against the Jews took place.  Members of the Anders Army entered the town and killed several Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. According to Polish historian Tadeusz Piotowski "1500-2000 victims between the years 1944 and 1947  due to general civil strife that came about with Soviet consolidation of power." Wikipedia, Anti-Jewish Violence in Poland, 1944-46.
Pogroms were taking place throughout Poland.  Binem read in the local  paper that a pogrom broke out in the town of Kelz.  Dozens of survivors were killed by the anti-communist parties supported by England. The reasons for Jews being killed included the fact that Jews were trying to reclaim their property, banditry, and political loyalties. ibid.  
Then the inevitable happened.  Instead of Binem being sent a letter, he received his warning via his best Polish friend in his police unit.  The Pole was also Binem's off duty drinking buddy.  The day Binem received his warning the officer approached Binem dressed in his civvies as Binem left the station after finishing his shift. 
He told Binem with a grave look on his face, “I just got the news.  There is a contract out on you. Tonight they are going to kill you." Binem was taken aback then he replied. "What Should I do?"
His friend replied,  "Take my advice, run."
Binem was in  state of shock. “How can I run? I don’t even own civilian clothes.”
Binem’s friend answered. “Switch your uniform with me and I will give you my clothes. No one will recognize you.”
Jewish Street, before the war, Alexandrow Poland
Binem was assigned to Police Headquarters in this town
So the two found a secluded corner and Binem exchanged his uniform for his drinking buddy’s civilian clothes. Binem thanked his friend knowing that this would probably the last time he would see him. Instead of using the transport truck to Radziejow, Binem used a civilian horse and wagon service and made his way back to Radziejow that was about twenty miles away.  Upon arriving at the Neuman building He gathered his fellow survivor roommates in the kitchen and told them what had just happened.  He told them that he had no alternative but to leave Radziejow.  He also told his friends that they must be careful because the way things are going they were also in danger.  All of the roommates were aware of what happened just recently to a returning Jewish resident Roman Rogers. Survivor Roman Rogers was placed under arrest on  bogus charges around March of 1946.  In his testimony he stated that he only returned to Radziejow for a couple of weeks.  His arrest had already caused the roommates to fear that their turn could be next.  Now that Binem received his warning they were now ready to make a decision about their future of remaining in Poland.   
The friends were all in  agreement that they too must flee.  The plan called for abandoning Radziejow and make their way to one of the displaced persons camp located on the other side of the border in Germany.  All knew that crossing the border was tricky.  Poland was the only country in this part of Europe  that allowed Polish citizens to freely leave the country. ibid. Still the tricky part was what was the law of entering Germany.  No one was quite sure whether it would be difficult to cross into Germany. Still it was worth the chance.  Their final destination would be Hanover,Germany.  Several of the roommates had heard that their was a Jewish refugee camp located on the grounds of the former concentration camp bearing the name Bergen Belsen. In today's terms, using highways Radziejow to Bergen Belsen  is a six and one half hour drive, a distance of 422 miles. But in War Torn Europe, all knew it would take a several week journey.
 It was likely that they left the next day since Binem would be soon discovered as going AWOL.  That would cause a search for him.  The night before each roommate packed what little belongings he or she had accumulated since liberation.  When it was light the friends set out on foot towards the German border, a good two day trek away. 
It was a pleasant enough day as they walked along the side of the road as they travelled west towards the German border.  A wagon stopped just in front of the group. The driver, a young a strapping young Pole, asked them if they needed a lift. The group was already dog tired so they found this offer from this Good Samaritan to be a blessing. They all thanked him. The driver, with a big smile on his face, told them to throw their luggage on the wagon first and then hop on board.  So each picked up their luggage and tossed them onto the bed of the wagon.  As soon as the wagon was loaded with all their earthly belongings the driver snapped the reigns and the horses caused the wagon to race off leaving the survivors standing dumbfounded. Binem and friend gave chase but the wagon soon left them far behind. As Binem returned to the group he could see on the faces of his friends the look of despair. After some time they all realized that there was nothing they could do so they must move on.  So after a few moments they continued towards the border minus their worldly possessions.  They were now truly leaving Poland with only the clothes on their backs.  The only upside to this event was that it was now allot easier to walk without their packs and suit cases.
The beleaguered group of survivors reached the border and found it opened for all to cross in either direction. Binem thought it was ironic that he and his fellow Jews were now entering Germany to seek refuge. They were not alone. The highway going west into Germany was filled with hundreds if not thousands of disheveled people walking or riding on wagons. Binem could hear them speak to one another in several different languages meaning they were refugees from several different countries.  Many were forced to work for the Germans as slave laborers.  Others were Germans themselves that had been forcibly evicted from other countries.
As they walked the group met several Jewish refugees. Since all spoke the same language, Yiddish, with varying dialects, they were able to communicate with one another.  These refugees were also told that the best place to go for assistance was a camp near the city of Hamburg named Bergen-Belsen.
Bergen-Belsen was ironically a place of great suffering for Jews during the War.  Up to March 1944 it was used to incarcerate influential Jews who the Nazis considered to have ransom value. During the early years of the War the conditions in the concentration camp were somewhat better than other concentration camps in Germany.  Those conditions changed radically in December of 1944.  At that time Josef Kramer, a former commander of the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, took command.  From that day the camp population quickly exploded from 15,000 inmates to approximately 95,000 inmates.  As the Third Reich entered its last days prisoners were killed by exhaustion, epidemics, and starvation.  Tens of thousands died in this manner. The inmates developed a saying, “nobody said goodbye”.
On April 15, 1945, the British army entered Bergen-Belsen and liberated the remaining 60,000 inmates. The vast majority of these prisoners were Jewish.  Physically, they were were still barely alive.  The War hardened soldiers were aghast to see the inhumanity of suffering in the camp.  The majority of the inmates were barely able to walk while the rest were lying near death.  Despite concerted efforts by the British medical teams, another 10,000 died within the next few weeks following liberation.
After the War the Allies designated the camp as a haven for homeless non-Germans.   At first the refugees from all countries that poured into the camp were housed together. This proved to be a disaster.  For example, many of the refugees were anti-Semitic and used their time to beat and on occasion kill several Jews.  Jews were not alone; other ethnic groups were also targeted by a criminal element that festered in the camp.

Bergen Belsen Displaced Persons Camp 

This behavior resulted in a great deal of tension and turmoil. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Commander in Chief of the American Forces of occupation in Germany, was alerted to this terrible situation by President Truman who received complaints from Jewish leaders in America. These leaders received their information from Jewish relief workers assisting at the camp.  Eisenhower dealt with the matter by issuing a number of orders.  The most important was that the Jewish population be separated from the general camp and housed separately.   The authorities administering the camp went one step further by dividing up the complex into several different ethnic camps. 
The newly formed Jewish camps were supported by several different international entities.  The main entities were the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the British Jewish Relief Unit, and the British Government.  The Jewish camp was self-administered by several different committees made up of fellow Jews.  The camp even had its own police force made up of Jewish residents.  
 Even with the creation of the Jewish adminstered camp the problem of anti-Semitic violence continued.  From the Polish camp at Bergen Belsen Polish refugees engaged in violent anti-Semitic acts. In May of 1946, eight Jews were stabbed by Polish displaced persons after a "friendly" soccer match.  During the incident, another Jew was shot and wounded by an officer of the Polish Camp Police. The conditions deteriorating to such an extent, that the Central Jewish Committee at Belsen petitioned the Allies that there police officers should not only be armed but actually augmented with a unit of the Jewish Brigade.  The Brigade was made up of Jews from Palestine.  


Binem sitting on window sill of his assigned barracks at Bergen Belsen
Binem arrived at Bergen-Belsen during the first few months of 1946.  After he and his friends were processed they were assigned to the Jewish camp.Binem was aghast to learn that his new living arrangement was located in a former Nazi barrack's just outside of the fence that surrounded the actual concentration camp.  Binem, like so many other Jews first action after getting settled was to contact his brothers Harry and Max that were living in America.  Binem had never met his older brother Harry and was too young to remember his Max. What he did recall was that his eldest brother lived in Milwaukee which was somewhere in America.  Assisting Binem in his efforts were caring members of different volunteer groups both international and the local residents. One of the goals of these groups was to aid in the establishlishment of direct contact between the survivors and their relatives located around the world.  Assisting in this effort was lists of thousands of Jewish relatives from dozens of countries searching for survivors from their families. Binem’s name was placed on the United States list with a specific reference that his relatives lived in Wisconsin.   Harry, Binem's brother, told my father that he was able to locate him after listening to a radio broadcast that read off the names on a survivor’s list from Bergen Belsen. 
Harry, a well established and beloved man in the Jewish community of Milwaukee, was elated that his youngest brother was still alive.  Immediately he made every effort to help his brother.  The two corresponded regularly.  Harry sent Binem packages filled with items that Binem suggested that would be most beneficial for him.  Harry was most thankful that at least one member of his family survived the Holocaust. Still, Harry suffered from the news from Binem of the fate of the rest of the family Harry thought to himself. "Why didn't they listen to me." He had tried to persuade the family to move to the United States before the War.  His words were backed by action. He even sent money for tickets.  He didn't understand why his family did not go along with his generous efforts and had remained in Poland.  As a result, only a few years later,  they all were murdered.
Binem's living arrangement was suitable for a young man in his twenties. The room itself was large, so it provided ample space for four of the Jews from Radziejow. Joyce Wagner in her book stated that living in this room were Yetka (Joyce), Binem, Binem's first cousin Manes and a mutual friend named Luba. Later that year, in October 1946, , Yetka married Michael, another survivor from Radziejow.  Michael became the fifth roommate. In order to accomodate the needs for a married couple, Yetka and Michael sectioned off with drapes part of the the room. Apparently they had sufficient privacy in that the two survivors had a post Holocaust treassure, a son, Michael. 
As an aside, Yetka informed me that she had a German nanny for Michael She was a young pretty local girl.  I was mildly surprised when she stated that the male bachelors living in the room, implicitly including my my father, were constantly “hitting on her”.
When I asked my father what was his daily routine at the refugee camp he was vague. It seemed as if  his daily routine was such that it didn't make an impression on him. It was if I was asking myself, what was my routine when I was twelve years old?" he did remember what he did with the "care" packages from his brother, Harry. He traded the contents of these packages along with other items he received as a refugee with the local German stores in Hamburg.  As evidence to this, as I grew up  I became aware of  a  number of expensive items in the house that my mother told me were acquired by my father during his days at Bergen Belsen. These items included a very expensive gold watch, a Leica camera, and a complete set of oversized sterling silver silverware.   When I asked him about that he bartered for these items using the coffee, cigarettes, chocolate and other items that he received from Uncle Harry.  Apparently he limited his trades to these items because he did become wealthy as other refugees.
I was informed by survivors from Bergen Belsen that some of the refugees became wealthy by bartering.  The most successful were those that actually dealt in stolen items from the camp.  Coffee was in high demand on the black market. Refugees went to all lengths to get coffee and other items that carried a premium on the black market.  Those Jews involved in such theft rationalized that they had to in order to survive.  In some cases these black market transactions allowed certain refugees to accumulate large sums of cash.  That cash was converted to diamonds and were ultimately used to finance new businesses after these refugees were relocated to South America, the United States, Canada, Germany, France and Australia.
Late in 1946, David Ben Gurion, then the head of the Jewish Agency in Palestine and was soon to become the first Prime Minister of Israel, came to Bergen Belsen on a series of visits.  My father attended one of the mass gatherings of the Jewish residents of Bergen Belsen to honor this new hero of the Jewish people.  
Binem attends Zionist meeting at Bergen Belsen
Binem is standing fifth on right
Ben-Gurion told the large audience that in Israel we, the Jews, are going to establish a Jewish Homeland in Palestine.  In order to do so, it would be a monumental struggle against a vast array of enemies.  He proudly said that we Jews must be prepared to fight to claim our inheritance that our ancestors dreamed about. He challenged those Jews that were ready to do battle against our enemies to sign up. He said specifically that Israel needed men that knew how to use a gun.  Binem was enthralled by the speaker’s words that went directly to his Jewish heart. For Binem it awakened those Zionist feelings that he developed as a youngster when he was a member of the Shomer Hatzair.  Binem saw this call to arms as an opportunity to repay G-d for saving him when so many of his friends were murdered by the Nazi scourge. And he felt that he was actually qualified for this challenge  As a former Polish police officer, he was trained in the use of both handguns and rifles.  So Binem gave in and signed up as his heart demanded.  After making this commitment he was pleased that he would soon serve a higher purpose in life.  That purpose was to help establish the State of Israel. Upon signing, he was instructed that arrangements were now being made to transported him to Palestine.
Max and Harry Neuman


After a few weeks of waiting for his transport to the Holy Land the enthusiasm he had exhibited faded. He was not sure what was the right thing to do. So he wrote to his two brothers telling them of his decision. 
Harry wrote back telling Binem in no uncertain terms stating, "Don't do this.  You are the only one of our family that lived over the War.  We give lots of money to Israel and there are many volunteers from the United States that didn't suffer as much as you.  They are going to fight for Israel.  You don't have to do it.  It will be done anyway.  We want to see you. You are the only one that lived over the War, I can't let you do it. For the money I give to Israel, they can hire someone to take your place."


New Years card sent by Binem from Bergen Belsen - 1948



After reading the letter, Binem hesitated in going forward with his initial decision to fight for the rebirth of the State of Israel.  Instead he became reclusive, mulling over the pros and cons for going forward with his initial decision. Still undecided, after a few days, he wrote Harry back and told them that he would take his advice seriously and will now "think over what I am going to do."
Binem's life was at a crossroads.  While he was contemplating this important question about his future, Ben Gurion returned to the camp to give yet another speech.  After the speech several of the volunteers that had signed up with Binem were processed to be illegally transported to Israel. From the list of volunteers the representatives from the Jewish Agency picked the strongest ones that could contribute in the upcoming War with the Arabs. Binem was one of the chosen ones.
Travel papers from Hamburg, Germany to Ellis Island, USA

 At the same time, Max and Harry were actively working with the bureaucratic offices in the United States in order to bring Binem to America. They kept Binem apprised of their progress.  Binem just couldn't decide. "Should I go to Israel and fight and possibly die in the establishment of the Jewish State, or should I follow the sound advice of my brothers to move to America and live a normal life?"  Binem felt that both paths were correct and just. But he had to choose only one. In the end, Binem decided to listen to his brothers Harry and Max and immigrate to the United States. 
After nearly three years as a refugee at Bergen Belsen all arrangements were finalized for Binem to join his brothers in the United States. He boarded the SS Marine Jumper out of Hamburg in the beginning of February, 1949.  The ocean voyage took about two weeks. He arrived in the United States on February 15, 1949.  He disembarked at the port most famous for welcoming newcomers to America, Ellis Island.  Binem was processed by immigration officials.  Once completed, he was told that his brothers were waiting for him outside. 
Binem was enthralled about the prospects of a new life in the greatest country in the World, America. he was now an official immigrant in his new country the United States.  It did not matter to him that he neither spoke or understood English.  He knew that his Yiddish would go a long way with communicating with his fellow Jews in his new country. 
In the visitor reception area he saw a group of people waiting.  One man came up to him and presented himself as a representative from the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, better known as HIAS.  He told Binem in Yiddish to follow him because he was taking him to his waiting brothers. Binem scanned the crowd.  Binem had never met his two older brothers; he only knew them from photographs.  When the representative stopped he was standing in front of two men with great big smiles on their faces. Binem sort of recognized the faces from pictures that were sent to him.  These were the two brothers that he has never met face to face. He still wasn't quite sure. 
He said to himself. "If I wasn't introduced, I wouldn't even know they were my brothers."
     It was a joyous reunion.  Harry and Max were sincerely grateful to G-d that at least one of their brother lived over the War.  They repeatedly hugged and kissed each other. They talked in Yiddish exchanging pleasantry.  Binem could tell  by their true joy that his two brothers exhibited that they would do everything possible to help him. 
 From the port boarded a ferry to Battery Park in New York City.  From there they drove by cab to Grand Central Station.  Binem couldn't believe his eyes. New York City was the most amazing place he had ever seen.  The throngs of people, the high rise buildings, the thousands of stores, Binem thought there must be room for one more Jew in America. The hustle and bustle of pedestrians was in Binem’s eyes truly marvelous.  At the station the three boarded a train and went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  


Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, April, 1949
  When Binem arrived he was warmly received by his many uncles, aunts, and cousins that came to the United States prior to World War II.  Binem's arrival was big enough to make its way to the Jewish press of Milwaukee.  An article was written about him.  It stated that Binem was the first Holocaust survivor to take up roots in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  It warned its readers that in order to protect Binem from an onslaught of well-meaning people, the public should refrain from questioning Binem about his traumatic ordeal of survival.   The article went on to say that he was being cared for by his older brother, Harry Neuman. 
 Binem soon learned that Harry was a well-known member of the Jewish community of Milwaukee. He was also one of the highest ranking member of the Masons in the State of Wisconson.  Harry had a heart of gold when it came to Binem's welfare.  As important and busy person Harry was he seemed to have all the time in the world for his youngest brother. He pampered Binem.  At first he implored Binem to only rest.  Binem wanted no part of that. He was curious to explore his new country.  He wanted to begin his life.  So, without telling Harry, he started searching for a job.               When Harry later found out he mildly scolded Binem, "You didn't live over the War to work in a factory.  I know that i just can give you alot of money, but that would not be healthy.  You would probably just go out and spend it. So what I am going to do is put you into business, any business you want."
Harry had Binem accompany him to several different meetings with wholesale merchants. Harry told the wholesalers. "Give him any merchandise he wants, I'll pay." So with that carte blanche, Binem was able to acquire all the merchandise he needed to open up the business.  After listening to Harry’s wise counsel  concerning the prospects for opening a successful business Binem decided to open a store that would sell flowers, toys, novelties, and lamps.
His next decision was where to open this shop.  He consulted Harry and Harry had an idea. He owned a giant building where he operated a supermarket.  There was  plenty of room to add a store.  Binem liked the idea of being close to Harry. So it was agreed.  Harry had contractors come in and divide a section of the building that would have its own entrance and showroom window.
When it was completed, Harry said to Binem. "This is your store; you are in charge of it. You don't even have to pay rent."
           Thanks to Harry’s business acumen, Binem's little store was a success.  As Harry predicted, people shopping for food in his store would filter into Binem’s section looking for bargains.  In fact, Binem was so successful he soon determined that the local wholesalers could not supply him with new lines of merchandise.  So Binem began to travel to Chicago where the world famous Merchandise Mart was located. There he found an endless supply of the latest trends in merchandise.
During one of these buying trips he visited with a fellow survivor from Radziejow that was living in Chicago, Yakob Zelik. His wife Angie, like many married Jewish woman that there Binem a shidduck, a match. Binem was receptive.  He was now independent and ready to live the American dream.  He had already joined the Fred EstairSo he gave her the go ahead to make the necessary inquires.  A few weeks later he received a call from Angie telling him that she found for him a real bargain.  A meeting was arranged. Binem and Bernice Halevy. immediately hit it off at the very first meeting.
 Binem now was eager to travel to Chicago even more frequently.  After a relatively short courtship the two agreed that a prolonged dating period was not necessary especially considering the distance and the danger of traveling such a long way. So Binem proposed to Bernice and she said yes.  As part of the agreement she was willing to work with him in his busy store in Milwaukee.  
Soon thereafter there was a large wedding that took place in Chicago.  Everything was perfect except for the all important wedding photographs were later destroyed in a fire at the photographer=s studio.  All that could be salvaged were a few badly damaged negatives.  Binem and Bernice hired an artist that specialized in creating pencil version pictures that looked like photographs.  Using the damaged negatives he was able to recreate two of the pictures. Copies of those pictures are on prominent display at both my house and my sister's.  The originals can be found on the wall of my brother's house in the same place they have been on display for over fifty years.
After the wedding, Bernice joined Binem in setting up their lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bernice already picked out a beautiful apartment to rent with a spectacular view of Lake Michigan. Each day Binem and Bernice worked hard in the store making it even more successful.  
As time went on Bernice became more and more despondent.  The reason was simple. Bernice, throughout her life, was very close to her mother.  The sixty miles separating the two was too much.  As a result, Bernice missed her dearly.  After six months Bernice told Binem not that she missed her mother, rather that she hated Milwaukee. She ranted that compared to Chicago Milwaukee was no better than a "hick town". She declared that if she had to stay in Milwaukee than she must make frequent visits back to Chicago. For Bernice this lifted her spirits because the trips to Chicago were actually visits with her mother. The trips increased in frequency until a point that Bernice was visiting her mother just about every week. 
Binem had to close his store at least two days a week in order to drive Bernice to Chicago.  As  a result the profitability of the business soon vanished. Then on one trip to Chicago during the winter Binem had a car accident.  Though the damage to the vehicle was total the two were lucky.  They came out of the accident without injury.  Still both realized that the accident could have ended with catastrophic result.   
After the accident, Bernice pleaded with Binem in no uncertain terms. "We just can't continue doing this.  Let’s move to Chicago."
Binem knew that in order to have a successful marriage he would have to compromise. 
He thought to himself. "If the King of England can give up his throne (King Emperor Edward VIII’s abdicated his throne in 1936 in order to marry divorcee American Wallis Simpson) for his love, than I can give up a store."  
So Binem broke the news to Harry.  Harry understood.  A sign went up in the store window “Going Out of Business”.  Over the next few months most of the merchandise was sold.  What remained was to pack up the rest of their belongs and move to Chicago.
Bernice found a similar apartment in Chicago near the Foster Beach that had a near identical view of  Lake Michigan.  Since there was not enough money in savings for Binem to set up a new business, Binem searched for a job.  Binem chose a profession that he was both qualified and had an affinity to, shoe sales.  He figured selling shoes in Chicago was probably similar to selling shoes at the Neuman Store in Radziejow. Most of the major shoe stores were located in downtown Chicago, so that is where he searched for a sales position.  The first store he interviewed at hired him. It was at the retail shoe store, Mailings Shoes.  Mailings specialized in high price women=s shoes.  In the back of Binem's mind he planned to work there only for short term to gain experience.  The ultimate goal was to save enough money to open his own shoe store.
I asked my father, “[w]hy did you want to open a shoe store when you already proved successful in your toy and novelty store?”
He gave a practical answer. "Wearing shoes, not owning novelties, is a necessity in life.”        
Selling shoes on commission is not an easy way to earn a living. Mailings Shoes had dozens of salesmen.  The salesmen waited in order to be called upon by the floor manager to wait on a customer. On a busy day Binem might have the opportunity of waiting on up to five women an hour.  On a slow day it could be as little as one. The main way of increasing commissions was to make the sale as quickly as possible in order to get back in the line.
 Binem soon learned valuable techniques in order to make a sale quickly and  at the same time satisfy the fashion sa in overcoming the vanities of American women in the 1950s.  But making the sale was only half the problem.
Binem was quickly confronted with the hidden reality that commission sales was a cutthroat business. Some salesmen didn't play by the rules of the store.  They considered Binem a greenhorn and therefore they had a carte blanche to take advantage of him. One particular salesman went too far. He actually had a method stealing  Binem's already earned commissions.  He  wasn’t sure how to deal with the situation.This went beyond the pale of competition to grab as many customers as possible.  After not having several of his commissions credited to him but rather to the unscrupulous salesman, Binem knew he had to do something. He finally confessed the matter with my mother.  He was lucky, she was definitely the right person to ask for advice with bullies.  For my mother, since she was a little girl,  had a reputation of being someone that no one dared to take advantage of.  Her younger sister, Shirley, would tell stories about how when they were kids Bernice was her block's gang leader in their neighborhood located near Logan Park on the near north side of Chicago.
Shirley boasted about her sister.  “One time she had a fight with our own brother David and broke his arm!”  This was my mind boggling since we all knew Uncle David a giant of a man weighing nearly 350 pounds.  
At the time Binem asked his wife's advice she was pregnant.  Thus they both knew that there wasn't an option to find similar employment because Mailings was providing for health insurance.
My mother advised him. "Bullies only understand one thing, that is pain, so tomorrow at work take care of business.”
So the next day , during his shift he saw his antagonist and told him he would like to discuss something with him in private.  The two stepped out the back door and stepped into the alley behind Mailings. This was not unusual. Salesmen were always going out the back door to smoke.
Instead of talking or smoking Binem utilized a different set of skills that he acquired years ago as a policeman in Poland.  He was trained to answer violence with violence to effectively deal with Polish drunks that became rowdy.  By the time Binem finished with his colleague one thing was certain, this crook would never bother my father again.
My sister Helene was born in 1952.  Three years later, on September 13, 1955, I was born.  That same year my father  became eligible to become an American citizen.  He studied hard to pass the test.  He was successful.  He proudly took the oath of allegiance to the United States. At that time he, like all other new citizen, was given the opportunity to take on an American name.  So at the ceremony he changed his name from Binem to Ben. Four years quickly passed and in December of  1959 my brother Keith was born.
With the birth of Keith, Ben and Bernice came to the decision that the time had come to try their luck and open a shoe store. Ben and Bernice scouted out several locations, and finally decided that the best opportunity for a shoe store was in an area next to the largest Polish community in the world, outside of Poland.    In 1962, he opened Ben Shoes, on Milwaukee Avenue, in a neighborhood called Wicker Park in Chicago.  His landlord was a Polish man that had a jewelry store in the same building. It was a small store. The store was open seven days a week.  The hours were long and the profits were sufficient to support the family.  Keith was literally raised in the backroom of the store with my sister and myself being shuttled from our school when it ended to the store by my mother.
After a number of years in the small store Ben and Bernice decided that paying rent was not the best way, so when Binem was offered an opportunity by one of the shoe wholesalers, Sam Warren, to buy a building on the same block, he jumped on it. The building was in actuality two buildings next to each other.  The property had three stores and twelve one and two bedroom apartments.   Strangely, as if destiny had a hand in this purchase, this corner lot looked eerily similar to the Najman building of Radziejow.  The building was in poor shape and only steps away from condemnation.
My Father chose the center store for the new location of Ben Shoes.  The other two stores were rented out to various tenants that included a bar, bridal shop, thrift store, lamp store, voodoo store, clothing store, etc... . 
The apartments upstairs proved to be more of a headache then the income it generated.  The apartments were rented to low income families. As it is with low rent housing some of the tenants were not paying their rent and had to be eventually evicted.  My father hired a man named Pedro to manage the apartments. What little I understood about their relationship with Pedro could be summed up with my mother’s famous words, “He’s robbing us blind.”  After several building violations and a major court case filed by the building inspectors the Judge told Ben and Bernice that if he didn't close up the apartments then the fine would exceed the value of the building. So without any argument Ben and Bernice evicted the tenants and boarded up the twelve apartments.
Ben Shoes remained at this same location for the next forty years.   The store continued to be open seven days a week.  It was truly a family business in that for the employees, save a few days of experimentation with outsiders, were Ben, Bernice, Helene, Scott and Keith.  My parents worked there seven days a week. On the weekends, when we children reached the age of twelve we were forced to work in the store.  Between ages 12 and 16, I remember being paid five dollars a day.  Then one day my Father raised my pay to ten dollars. 
Binem’s new life as an entrepreneur was filled with interesting events and colorful people that were integral parts of the business. . Names that I remember and the stories behind them included my mother’s friend Loretta the lush;  Walkie, the walking policeman; Ismal, the bookie for the Puerto Rican lottery known as the Bolietta;  Pedro the crook; Mrs. Zisslis the old lady that ran the lamp store that was constantly being robbed when she would doze off; Junior, the bouncer and the list went on and on.
Over the years the customers changed.  First it was the Poles.  Ben refused to speak Polish with them.  One day I was working in the store and a Polish man in his forties was giving my father a hard time.  He claimed that he didn't believe the shoe was made from leather.  I saw my father lose his temper.  He shoved the shoe into the mouth of the Pole and said to him, "[t]ake a bite, the shoe is bushiki (leather).  My father then cursed out the customer with a long tirade in Polish.  It was as if my father was behaving like he would have in the Neuman Shoe Store in Radziejow. The Poles were interested in quality constructed shoes and did not insist that these shoes be stylish.
Years later the ethnicity of the customers changed.  There were fewer and fewer Poles and more and more Hispanics.  The majority were from Puerto Rico the rest were many from Mexico with questionable legal status and a few from Haiti. The men bought work boots and waterproof high boots for working in the meat packing industry of Chicago. Also,  I curiously observed that single men would bring their girlfriends in to buy them shoes. Bernice commented that the Hispaics men would be dragged into the store by their wives on Fridays.  Friday was usually payday or the day they received their welfare checks. The couple would bring in their children to buy shoes for school and church.  She smiled and added that it was always on Friday "[b]efore they spent the rest of their money at the bars!" The busiest season for the Hispanic community was Christmas and Easter.  The parents would buy white dress shoes for the girls and black patent leather shoes for the boys.
Then the customer base changed and more blacks started to shop at the store when I was selling shoes there in my teens. I enjoyed talking with them.  They were mostly good and loyal customers and fairly easy to sell to. For the most part, the black customers insisted on more color and style in their footwear. 
The most feared customers were the gypsies.  I remember working in the store when a gypsy family invade the store.  They were easy to spot.  The women actually wore gypsy style clothes, colorful dresses with lots of pockets! Upon seeing them looking in the outside display windows Ben would immediately sound the alarm to be on high alert. We were drilled to go to our action stations to guard against these professional shoplifters. They were the originators of the flash mob.  They would spread out throughout the store, making it impossible to keep eyes on all of them. When they left there was always at least one empty shoe box leaving a tell of their purloin activities. 
If the Gypsie attacks weren't bad enough, Ben and Bernice were victims of several robberies.  One robbery in particular stands out as a guidepost of the relationship of my parents and their approach to each other. A drifter stood at the outside display window within the corridor. He entered the store and called to my father to come outside. He then pointed to the shoe he would like to see.  The men’s section was located in the back of the store. My father located the shoe in the man's size in the open stock of hundreds of shoe boxes that was visible in the showroom. Suddenly, the drifter pulled out a “Saturday Night Special”, a cheaply made gun one step above a zip gun, and pointed it at my father. He told my father to keep calm as he came behind him and pushed the gun into my father’s back. He instructed my father to walk to the cash register that was located to the right of the front door. My mother was behind the counter manning the register. Ben took a plastic bag that was located on the side of the counter facing the showroom and handed it to Bernice. 
He calmly told Bernice. "Fill the bag with the money in the register.” 
Bernice, at first did not understand the unusual request, so she answered,. "Ben, what are you talking about."
Ben then repeated his previous instructions.  Bernice suddenly put two and two together and understood.  She then shockingly and unexpectedly replied. "The hell I will!"
Red face and full of anger Bernice rushed out from behind the counter in a fit of rage and was in a flash upon the would be robber. The robber was momentarily stunned by this unexpected move on her part but he quickly gathered his witts and removed the gun from Ben’s back and aim it at Bernice.  He then pulled the trigger on his Saturday night special revolver.  As if the Almighty directly intervened the gun didn't fire, it was jammed.  As this transpired Ben rushed out the front door of the store searching for help. He ran into his tenant=s bar located in the corner store next to Evergreen Street.  
Junior, part owner and the bar’s official bouncer, asked “Mr. Ben what happened? 
Ben explained the emergency in a few panic driven words.  Junior was a man of action and he was anything but not junior.  In fact he was a 30 year old dynamo; he was extremely large and was known as the Puerto Rican version of Hercules.  He also had a reputation of being fearless.  Upon hearing that AMrs. Ben@  needed help he rushed next store.  The drifter didn’t know what hit him when Junior at full speed tackling him to the floor.  In moments the Police arrived and handcuffed the drifter.
As the drifter stood there guarded by two uniformed police officer the detective on the scene asked Bernice, “[w]hat happened.”
Bernice simply answered, "I wasn't going to give him a damn thing!"
The detective then looked at the drifter and was surprised that he did not looked distressed that he was caught and under arrest. In fact the robber’s face emanated the look of relief.
The detective asked the drifter. "What are you so happy about?"
The drifter replied. "Just keep that woman away from me."
When the children were older, Ben and Bernice would travel during the slow sales month of February.  They traveled to Europe, the Caribbean, and Israel.
After my sister and I got married Ben and Bernice contemplated retirement.  As soon as they were elligible for Social Security they finalized their retirement in 1989.  They turned the business to their youngest son, Keith. He in turn paid them rent, at a reduced rate  and he paid for the remaining merchandise.  He kept the name of the store Ben Shoes.  He successfully continued to run the business  for an additional twenty two years. He then retired.
Bernice Neuman died of a stroke a few years after the business was sold to Keith.  With her death, Binem complained that he felt that he was suffering again as a survivor.   He lived an additional ten years with his son Keith.  Binem would insist on going to the store with Keith to make sure that his sonn was not alone in the store.  For Keith never hired any help for the entire time he owned the store. When I asked my father what could he do being that he was eighty year old to protect Keith.  His answer was simple, “I  can watch”.   
I eventually settled in Michigan. I made it a point to visit my Father on a regular basis.  We would eat out and talk.  Often times we would discuss his experiences during the Holocaust. Among the many questions I asked him over the years one stood out. The question was did he ever have the desire to contact all those people that helped him survive?
I would ask, “[a]ren’t you curious to find out what happened to the Austensakens and Wanda?”
He answered, “Of course.  I think of them sometimes.”
So I replied,.  "Then why didn’t you ever make an effort to visit Poland and make an effort to find them?”
His answer was not what I expected. "That's a good question.  As time went by I didn’t even know how to start to find them.  Later on I had my own troubles.  I was establishing a family.  Besides I couldn’t go back to Poland. I ran away.  I am considered a deserter from the Police.  If I did go back to Poland I would probably get arrested.”
I then slightly changed my approach and asked. "Why didn’t you nominate them for the Righteous Gentile Program at Yad Vashem?” (A committee at the Israel Museum and Memorial for the Holocaust known as Yad Vashem had a designated garden to honor those gentiles that upon examination were deemed righteous by their actions of saving Jews during the Holocaust. 
My father replied, "Its not so easy.  Who shall I pick as my savior. Austensaken? The Princess? Wanda? Or perhaps all the poor Polish peasants that put me up sometimes for one night sometimes for more? Better yet, those who gave me the equivalent of gold, a piece of bread.  These people had more at risk than the Princess.”
He continued. "There are just too many people for me to submit to Yad Vashem.  If it was only one person that saved me, then I should.  But there are so many people that I have to be thankful for.  Who should I thank more? 
I could see that he himself had probably asked the question to himself several times.
He then blurted out. “I am thinking about some day to go back (to Poland).”
My father never returned to Poland.   He died a few short years later.  In his final days, he reverted back to his religious beliefs that he had prior to the Holocaust, when he lived in his small town of Radziejow.  He became an observant Jew that attended prayers three times a day.  He reaffirmed his belief in G-d and the traditions of his father.  He never once, in my presence, blamed the Holocaust on G-d.  Finally he was not bitter about his fate on this planet. In fact he took pride in his raising a family that  all his children grew up to be proud that they were Jewish and none of his children married out of our faith.
As a result of my Father’s attitude, I never had cause to blame G-d for the Holocaust.  Because it was clear to me that if my father who suffered so greatly  found no guilt in the Almighty, who am I, a skinny little Jew from Chicago, to dare judge the Creator of the Universe.
On April 28, 2003, at about 7:00 p.m. I was with my daughter Ruth shopping. We were about to enter the Farmer Jacks Supermarket located just a few blocks from our house in West Bloomfield, Michigan when I received a phone call from my Father.  He asked me to come see him right away. I told him that it was late and I would leave in the morning.  He laughed and said it would be too late.  I  regrettably dismissed his his comment thinking that how could it hurt if I left early in the morning.  Surely that would be soon enough.  I was wrong. 
At 4:10 a.m. Binem died on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 29, 2003.   


This book is dedicated to my father, my family that lost lives in the Holocaust, the Jews of Radziejow and finally all the Jews that were murdered by the Nazis.












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