The Story of My Liberation from the Nazi Death Camps
I was born in Grodno, Poland. At the time of Hitler’s occupation of my town I was a teenager and I lived with my mother, Fruma, and my father, Jacob. My father died from illness two months before the war broke out. I also had four brothers (Leon, Daniel, Aaron, and Joshua) and two sisters (Tamara and Deborah) all of whom were married with children. All of these people perished in the ovens of Treblinka and Auschwitz.
After surviving six death camps including Treblinka, Majdanek, Lublin, Blizin, and Auschwitz, I was put on a train once more. On January 1, 1945, that train entered Bergen-Belsen. On April 14, 1945, we heard rumors that the guards and the captain of the camp had run away because the liberating armies were approaching. We thought that the Germans would probably blow up our camp with mines to destroy the rest of us. But the English army approached the camp the very next day, April 15. The guards were found and rounded up. That day, I witnessed the German commandant and all the Nazi guards digging three large graves in which thousands of corpses were buried.
Right after the liberation, the barracks of Bergen-Belsen were burned. We were all sprayed with disinfectant, and we slept in the Nazi soldier quarters. The first thing we had to do was register our names in survivor books. Of course, I had no place to go. So we waited to see what the future would hold.
In the middle of May, two young men came to Bergen-Belsen from Munich, among others looking for loved ones. To my great surprise, they were looking for me! They told me that they had survived in Dachau thanks to a man from Grodno who had taken care of them while they were together in the camp. After discovering that I had survived, this man, my cousin Ely Grodziensky, asked these men to find me and bring me back to Munich if I wanted to come.
They journey from Bergen-Belsen to Munich was a rough one, and it was another miracle that I survived. There was no public transportation because the trains and train stations were bombed out. They found a food truck driver with whom we caught a ride part of the way. But as we came closer to Hanover, Germany, the open truck made a left turn too quickly. There were fifty of us packed in and no sides to hold us, so everyone fell out of the truck! Many people had to return to Bergen-Belsen injured, but I managed to escape unharmed. The two men and I walked the rest of the way to Hanover, following the train tracks. As we came closer to the city, we found a coal freight train going to Munich. We climbed aboard and slept on top of the coal barrels. It took us four days to get there, but we finally arrived in Munich, where I met Ely.
Ely and I never stayed in a displaced persons camp. In Munich we registered affidavits to go to three places: the United States (because Ely had a brother who had moved there after the first World War), Sweden (because Ely had a sister there), and Israel (where we decided we would go illegally if we had to). We agreed that we would accept the first affidavit that was approved. Luckily for us, our registration to go to the U.S. came first.