David P. Boder Interviews Israel Unikowski; August 2, 1946; Fontenay-aux-Roses, France

var english_translation = { interview: [ David Boder

[In English] August 2nd, 1946, Chateau Bouciaut, near Paris, of the organization of OSE. This is Israel Us . . . Unikowski.

David Boder

[In German] [whispers] How old are you?

Israel Unikowski

I am eighteen years.

David Boder

[In English] Eighteen years old, who should prefer to speak from a previously prepared, written story of his life. But he was convinced that we insist exclusively upon verbal reports without notes or memoranda. Eh . . . he is rather reluctant to do it, but he was convinced, by Dr. Reich and myself, at least to try. He said that is the first time in his life. Well, we don't think that his life, in spite of all his experiences, precludes to do anything for the first time.

David Boder

[In German] And so, Israel, tell me your full name and how old you are.

Israel Unikowski

Israel Unikowski. Born in Kalish, Poland, nineteen twenty-eight.

David Boder

Nineteen twenty-eight. So how old are you now?

Israel Unikowski

I am eighteen and a half years.

David Boder

Eighteen and a half years. You are born in Kalish in Poland?

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Yes. Nu, Israel, tell me first of all . . . eh . . . how large was your family and what was your father's occupation?

Israel Unikowski

My father left Poland in nine . . .

David Boder

One moment! Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . in nineteen thirty five.

David Boder

Oh.

Israel Unikowski

The mother died when I was three years. Three and a half years.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

I was raised in . . . in an orphan's home.

David Boder

In what?

Israel Unikowski

In an orphan's home.

David Boder

In an orphan's home. Yes?

Israel Unikowski

In the year nineteen thirty-nine, at the outbreak of the war . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . the personnel of . . . of the orphanage ran away and we boys, there were thirty two persons, we ran away from Kalish. The German stood already not far away. We wanted to get into Lodz.

David Boder

Aha. Now, and so how do we stand? You were thirty-two boys in an orphanage.

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

How old were the children there?

Israel Unikowski

From five to thirteen years.

David Boder

From five to thirteen years.

Israel Unikowski

Thirteen years.

David Boder

And how old were you?

Israel Unikowski

I? Twelve years.

David Boder

You were twelve years. So how was that? All ran away and they didn't take the children with them?

Israel Unikowski

No.

David Boder

No.

Israel Unikowski

En route we did meet one [of them]

David Boder

Yes. But of the . . . of the orphanage. Did the grown-ups leave and leave the children there?

Israel Unikowski

Yes. As far . . . as far as one town they did travel with us . . .

David Boder

Oh!

Israel Unikowski

Poddebice!

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

But afterwards they left.

David Boder

Oh. Then we have it like this: From the orphanage you went away together. Who? The grown-ups and the . . .

Israel Unikowski

One. The supervisor.

David Boder

The supervisor with the children?

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

How did you travel?

Israel Unikowski

We rented a cart.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

It was Saturday night . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . and we travelled to Poddebice.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And . . .

David Boder

How, thirty-two children on one cart?

Israel Unikowski

Yes. On one cart. One cart.

David Boder

On one cart. Hm. So he took them out from there. Did they take any things?

Israel Unikowski

The things were taken on another cart that followed. But not with us.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

But we never saw our things anymore.

David Boder

And where were you bound for?

Israel Unikowski

And we went . . . we travelled to Poddebice, and coming into the city we stayed there overnight.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

In the morning we heard that the Germans were approaching.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

We . . . we started on foot, because carts were too expensive. They demanded a lot of money, so that we couldn't rent a cart. We began to walk.

David Boder

And what happened to the cart that you had?

Israel Unikowski

It wasn't our own. It was a rented cart from a Christian.

David Boder

It was a cart rented from a . . .

Israel Unikowski

From a Christian.

David Boder

From a Christian. So, the Christian . . . Where did the Christian go with the cart?

Israel Unikowski

The Christian went back.

David Boder

Back.

Israel Unikowski

And we started on foot to Lodz.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

We arrived in Alexander. This is a small town near Lodz.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

There in Alexander we stayed overnight.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

In the middle of the night the Polish troops began to retreat from the front. A lot of troops marched so that we couldn't remain in the city. We knew the Germans were approaching. The supervisor who took care of the children went outside. He went over to a Polish soldier. He wanted to know how to get to Lodz. It was a terribly dark night.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Then . . . What happened to him afterwards we don't know. He disappeared then.

David Boder

[adjusting the instrument]. Nu, what happened then? Go on. Continue.

Israel Unikowski

The boys divided into two groups. The older ones said we should go to Lodz; the younger ones said we should return to Kalisz. It was decided to go to Lodz, because . . . because we knew if we return to Kalisz we will fall into the Germans hands. We arrived in Lodz at daybreak. At daybreak, on the Alexander street, we met a group of Christians and Jews who lived on the outskirts of the city. We were sat down near a church. When we were asked where we are coming from and we said from Kalisz, nobody wanted to believe us. We ate a piece of bread, and we started to inquire how to get to the Jewish Council. The Jewish Council was very far from Alexander street. It was on Pomorska 19. We arrived on Pomorska street. We went near the Council. There stood a guard. We were not let in. 'Where do you come from?' 'From Kalisz.'

David Boder

All . . . How many children were you there? The whole . . . the whole . . .

Israel Unikowski

All the thirty-two people.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

We weren't let in. It was said that the whole Council had run away. Jews passed by. They began to ask, 'Where are you from? Who are you?' And when we told them, we were told that opposite Pormorska 19 there is also an orphanage that belonged to the [Jewish] community, and since nobody was there now, and if we want, we can go in there. Needless to say we were tired from the journey and we went in there. But we couldn't stay like this without food so we/decided . . . we chose a delagation of two older boys. I was among the two, and we were supposed to go the Council to find out what will be. We came up to the Council with great difficulty. They let us enter. We were met . . . we were received by an old man completely gray. We go over to him. We showed him a paper that we are from there and there, that we are from Kalisz. We showed him a paper that we ask that the community of Lodz should take care of us [?]. The old man, who was the [one] later known as President Rumkowski, stopped us, read the petition, and answered us, 'Dear children, I have nothing to help you.' He took us through all the rooms. The bureaus [desks] were overturned, a disorder. And he gave us back the paper, 'With me you can't remain. You will die from hunger.' We left the paper in his hand, and we went down. Downstairs . . .

David Boder

What kind of a paper?

Israel Unikowski

We had a paper from the Kalisz [Jewish] community . . .

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

. . . that we should be received in Lodz.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

Coming down he threw after us, down the stairs, the paper, and we returned. The children asked us all about it, and we said..we said that it is very bad. And so we waited a few hours. About five o'clock Rumkowski came. He entered the room. [Noise on the wire sounds like an airplane passing overhead.] He asked, 'Who is here from Kalisz?' We stood up, and he said thus, 'Dear children, don't worry. You will have to eat and to drink.' And he said that we will remain here. So we came to live on Pomorska 19. On Pomorska 19 we lived for two months when began the . . .

David Boder

Did they bring you food? Were you given to eat on Pomorska 19?

Israel Unikowski

Not good, but . . .

David Boder

Of course.

Israel Unikowski

. . . it was war. And there was a special bakery that was baking bread for us. In town people still ate white bread, but we didn't eat any more white bread, just black bread, very inferior bread. A lot of children died of dysentery also.

David Boder

What is this? The . . . the . . . from the . . . what is the . . .

Israel Unikowski

This is from Auschwitz. The number.

David Boder

Eh . . . [In English] I notice on his left arm the following tattoo B-7687. He tells me that that is the tattoo that was made on his arm in AuschwitzâAll right. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

This was in the winter, nineteen forty-four . . . [corrects himself] nineteen thirty-nine. There was the first expulsion from Lodz. It was said then that people may travel wherever they want, and so we traveled to Kalisz [?]. In Kalisz we . . . we were supposed to catch a train, and from there we . . . we were supposed to travel wherever one desired. So it was said. The Kierownik of the orphanage.

David Boder

What does Kierownik mean?

Israel Unikowski

The supervisor [?] . . .

David Boder

The caretaker? Well?

Israel Unikowski

Yes, the leader. I don't know . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . how to say it in English.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

He packed up. We saw he was going to leave. [Pause.] He . . . the boys . . .

David Boder

So he was with you through the whole two months, this Kierownik?

Israel Unikowski

It was another one. This was the . . .

David Boder

Oh. This was another one?

Israel Unikowski

This was another one that Rumkowski appointed. From Lodz.

David Boder

Nu? Did he . . .

Israel Unikowski

I had a brother there.

David Boder

Where?

Israel Unikowski

In the orphanage also. A bro- . . . he was a year older than I. We decided that we two will also go away.

David Boder

The brother was the older one?

Israel Unikowski

A year older.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

We decided that the two of us will leave for Russia. We will go till Kaliszek. In Kaliszek we will take a train for Warsaw and from Warsaw we will go on foot to Bialystok.

David Boder

Where did one take the money?

Israel Unikowski

The community gave fifty zlotys to everyone who wanted to leave Lodz. So it was said. Whether it was true I don't know.

David Boder

Oh, you didn't have the money yet?

Israel Unikowski

No, no. We arrived in Bial- . . . in Radoszyce[?]. This was a village near Lodz. There was a gigantic factory. All the people were taken into this factory.

David Boder

Who?

Israel Unikowski

The Germans already.

David Boder

Aha.

Israel Unikowski

There stood . . . they were dressed in uniforms. People were [Noise sounds like a plane] horribly beaten. We wanted to get in but we didn't get in. This was fortunate, because these people . . . we don't know what happened to them, to a lot of people from there. We were chased back. In the morning, a man from the Rabbinat rode around. I don't remember any more what his name was. And he informed us that expulsion has stopped. The expulsion lasted three weeks.

Israel Unikowski

In a few . . . A month later began the Ghetto. They began to fence in . . .

David Boder

What town was it in? Lodz?

Israel Unikowski

In Lodz.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

They began to fence around [word not clear] the whole of Batut[?]. It took in [the area] as far as the Wschodnia[?]. They began to send the Jews into the Ghetto [of Lodz]. We had to . . .

David Boder

Where were you?

Israel Unikowski

I was still in Pomorska 19. Because this was a . . .

David Boder

Was this in Lodz?

Israel Unikowski

Yes. Pomor- . . . that was in the city.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

In the center. The Ghetto was in the environs of the city.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

In the suburbs.

David Boder

What did you do all day?

Israel Unikowski

We studied. We were still children.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

We studied.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And on Passover, on the first day of the mid-week an order came out. The Ghetto is being closed. Every Jew who will be encountered in the city . . . will be . . . gets the death penalty. In the meantime wires were installed around and around the Ghetto. Every fifty meters stood a German guard. There were large signs: entrance to Jews prohibited. And it was . . . it was impossible. Everybodyâthing in the Ghetto. Some time passed. There were Jews who smuggled food into the Ghetto. Food was still a little easier to get. But this lasted a short time. Soon began the tragic time of the Ghetto. People started to swell up from hunger. A deka . . . a deka of sugar did cost twenty marks.

David Boder

Twenty mar- . . . A deka sugar . . .

Israel Unikowski

Twenty marks.

David Boder

. . . cost twenty marks.

Israel Unikowski

Twenty marks.

David Boder

How much is a deka of sugar?

Israel Unikowski

A deka is a hundred grams.

David Boder

Hundred grams. All right.

Israel Unikowski

Ten grams. Pardon.

David Boder

What?

Israel Unikowski

Ten grams.

David Boder

A deka is ten grams?

Israel Unikowski

Ten grams.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

A hundred grams is ten deka.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And a bread has cost twelve hundred, thirteen hundred marks.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Hospitals were created in the Ghetto, for consumptives. Schools were created in the Ghetto. But this was only in the first years. Nine . . .

David Boder

What kind of schools?

Israel Unikowski

For the children to learn.

David Boder

For the children to learn?

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Not to pray?[Footnote: The word school has in Yiddish a double connotation: a.) establishment of learning; b.) a house of prayer.]

Israel Unikowski

And this was only in nineteen forty one. No, to pray at that time was forbidden.

David Boder

To pray was forbidden? Why? Nu?

Israel Unikowski

Because just as the Germans entered, there were huge placards, 'Every Jew who will be caught praying gets the death penalty.' There were Jews who were caught praying. They were paraded around town in their praying shawls and phylacteries and they were . . . they were mocked . . . and so forth.

David Boder

Ah. So prayer meetings were not permitted, or what?

Israel Unikowski

No. This was strictly forbidden.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

I remember an instance . . .

David Boder

Do you remember how it was phrased in German?

Israel Unikowski

It was so. The heading of the placard stated: The Fuehrer has set us free.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

This means they were allowed to do with the Jew anything they wanted.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

There were ditches that were dug yet by the Poles in the Polish times against the aeroplanes, during the bombardments.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

Jews were caught to work, and these [ditches] the Jews had to fill in with their [bare] hands. I remember, Jews were caught praying during Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement]. They were taken out dressed in their shrouds [cassocks] and praying shawls, and they had to fill in the ditches. A fourteen year old youth passed by, a Hitler youth.

David Boder

To do what?

Israel Unikowski

With the [bare] hands they had to fill them in.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . A fourteen year old youth passed by, a Hitler youth.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

He took a bayonet, a stiletto, . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . and he cut off the beard of a Jew, an old Jew, with the stiletto.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

It became steadily worse and worse. I was still then in an orphanage. This was . . .

David Boder

In the Ghetto?

Israel Unikowski

In the Ghetto.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

It was on Dworska 10.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

One can't say we were treated badly there. Better than in the Ghetto.

David Boder

Who?

Israel Unikowski

Rumkowski, the President.

David Boder

Oh. The . . . Rumkowski was the Jew from the Council [?].

Israel Unikowski

Yes. He became the president of the Ghetto of Lodz.

David Boder

Oh. Rumkowski became the president, . . .

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

. . . of the whole Ghetto of Lodz?

Israel Unikowski

Ghetto. He wasn't just president. He was a Kaiser [emperor], one may say.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

He had under him a police.

David Boder

Jewish police?

Israel Unikowski

Jewish police. A jail, hospitals, schools. His word was as from a dictator. His word was . . .

David Boder

How do you spell his name?

Israel Unikowski

Rumkowski Chaim.

David Boder

[Slowly?] Chaim Rumkowski.

Israel Unikowski

[Slowly] Rumkowski.

David Boder

Good. Nu? Go on.

Israel Unikowski

Us children he treated very well. But the town, that was terrible. One can say that out of a hundred per cent of the Ghetto there was ninety five per cent who hated him terribly. A few times attempts on his life were made. They wanted to kill him.

David Boder

On whom?

Israel Unikowski

On that Rumkowski.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

But he had with him the German might.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

And nothing happened to him. And the worst thing of which he was blamed was this. A lot, a lot of potatoes was brought into the Ghetto.

David Boder

A lot of what?

Israel Unikowski

Potatoes.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

And when it was asked of Rumkowski why he doesn't distribute them, he answered, 'You have no business to meddle in my affairs. I'll distribute the potatoes when I want! Frosts came and the potatoes became rotten, and they had to be thrown away. They were buried in chlorine [?] in the earth. And afterward for three years people still searched for potatoes at this spot where they lay buried for three years.

David Boder

What did they search for [word not clear]?

Israel Unikowski

Potatoes. It was . . . Moreover, the people talked themselves into the belief that they taste better this way. Because the water had evaporated from the potatoes.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Like this, time passed in the Ghetto. There began to happen terrible epidemics. The first epidemic in the Ghetto of Lodz was dysentery. People died like flies. They began to organize hospitals. People . . . began to leave [escape from?] the Ghetto. There was one by the name of Gerthler.

David Boder

A what?

Israel Unikowski

A man, Gertler. I believe he is still living today. He is in Germany. He began to take people out of the Ghetto illegally. Illegally and legally. That means the Germans knew about it. It has cost two hundred or three hundred marks per person.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

He would take them to Warsaw. People began to get out of the Ghetto. Then there came out an order from the German authorities. From this day every German may shoot as many Jews as he wants. That means they were not permitted to enter the Ghetto but if anybody came near to the wire fence, as far as his rifle could reach, he could shoot him. Hundreds and hundreds of people perished in the Ghetto of Lodz in this way. [Pause] The worst thing in the Ghetto was the state of distress. We began to receive very little food. A ration, an allotment for fourteen days consisted in the Ghetto of the following: Three deka of turnips, forty deka of flour, and ten deka of oatflakes, and forty-five deka of sugar. This [the sugar] consisted of twenty deka brown, dark sugar, and twenty-five deka white sugar. This was the ration for fourteen days.

David Boder

Did you have to buy this, or what?

Israel Unikowski

No. This come from the supply center. This was organized, one can say, very well. Because in the beginningâthis was already afterwardsâin the beginning it was much worse. In the beginning a committee was organized in every house [apartment house]. The committee received the allotment for the entire house, and they distributed it to all the people. This was very bad. They stole. But Rumkowski remedied this. It may be considered in favor of Rumkowski that he didn't permit theft. What does it mean, he didn't permit theft? Enough was stolen because whoever had a hand and a leg stole. But at least the ration that was allotted to every person, this at least everbody received. It was organized in this way. There was a warehouse. There in this warehouse the allotment of food was received. For example, the street [section] from Podrzeizna to Polska was assigned to the twentieth district-warehouse. There were in the Ghetto forty-three district-warehouses arranged according to streets. And everybody had a card, a card for bread, a card for vegetables, a card for nutrients//meat?/, and so forth. Today, for instance, comes out bread for such and such card numbers. One went to the warehouse, the card was clipped, entered in the book: On this and this day such and such a person has received a bread, and . . .

David Boder

Didn't one pay for it?

Israel Unikowski

One paid for it. Certainly one paid for it. But in the Ghetto we didn't walk around idle. We worked and earned.

David Boder

Oh.

Israel Unikowski

For a . . .

David Boder

You paid for your food.

Israel Unikowski

Certainly! Because . . . in the Ghetto one worked from the age of ten. Children.

David Boder

Yes. For whom did you work?

Israel Unikowski

For the Germans, naturally!

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

But . . . How did we work? There were organized large factories. One simply can't imagine the factories that were organized in the Ghetto In the Ghetto . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

Nothing went to waste. For instance, I worked in . . . in a tailor-factory. There came to the Ghetto materials. From the materials we made tunics for the German soldiers. From the scraps of the tunics were made divans [vide infra]. Beautiful divans out of rags, one can say.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

The scraps from the divans[?] which were by then thin little bits [of rags] . . .

David Boder

What are divans?

Israel Unikowski

Divans are rugs.

David Boder

Oh. Rugs.

Israel Unikowski

Yes. Out of rags. One really cannot believe it.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And the scraps from the carpets, the very small, tiny pieces, entered in a factory that had machines to tear them apart. From this threads were made. From the threads materials were made, materials and so forth. Nothing went to waste. Also in the Ghetto ammunitions were manufactured. There were huge factories! Ordinarily, we didn't earn too badly. But we . . . There was in Ghetto Jewish money.

David Boder

What?

Israel Unikowski

Jewish money. German marks prohibited [to us].

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

There was Jewish money in circulation. This money had a Star of David . . . with a Star of David, signed Rumkowski Chaim, and for this money we could get things. For this money we could buy things in the Ghetto. Naturally, outside of the Ghetto this money was worthless. It was valid only inside the Ghetto. On this money we . . . we . . . we lived. The hunger, the need, and the epidemics still were not able to break the Ghetto. The worst things in the Ghetto were the deportations.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

It was in nineteen forty-two. They began to send away thousands, thousands of people.

David Boder

How . . .

Israel Unikowski

Where to we didn't know.

David Boder

How were they chosen?

Israel Unikowski

How they were chosen? This is THE question. This is the greatest guilt [crime] of Rumkowski without question [?].

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

People that were sick, weak and old were taken.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

People who couldn't walk!

David Boder

Nu.

Israel Unikowski

Jews didn't want to believe that people go to their death. Right after this, after forty thousand Jews were deported, there came into the Ghetto thousands and thousands of kilos of radishes, tiny red radishes.

David Boder

What was that?

Israel Unikowski

Little . . .

David Boder

Radishes. Yes.

Israel Unikowski

I don't know what they are called in German.

David Boder

Little radishes.

Israel Unikowski

Yes. Red ones.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

From every radish the leaves were cut off. So people interpreted it in this way. How is it possible to cut the leaves off from so many pounds of radishes? This is what the Ghetto receives. The Germans have to eat too! Nobody could do this but the children and the old people from the Ghetto of Lodz [the deported ones.]. And thus we deceived ourselves with foolish 'songs' and made believe that the people don't go to their death [they obviously are working].

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

There had passed . . .

David Boder

Talk a little more about the deportations. What happened? They came and said what?

Israel Unikowski

There arrived . . . was sent a paper . . .

David Boder

Well.

Israel Unikowski

. . . to this and this family. On this and this day you have to report to the general prison on [name not clear] street. And when the man reported, . . .

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

. . . nu, then he was sent away. How the deportation was conducted I'll relate to you later.

David Boder

Yes. Yes.

Israel Unikowski

But if he didn't report, for this Rumkowski had a good remedy. To the store where he received his food rations was sent . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . a note: 'such and such a man does not receive any more bread.'

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

And this man did not receive anything any more to eat! Not the least little thing! And this man was dommed to death!

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

There were people who went into hiding.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

And many times they were found dead! There were cases of murder where people killed one another to take away . . . There were people who stole from others at night.

David Boder

Why did they kill one another?

Israel Unikowski

[Ration] cards they didn't have. Food they didn't receive.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

To report? People understood. They knew what was in store for them.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

There was a case when a girl was killed. She was seen leaving [the store?] with two loaves of bread.

David Boder

Yes. A Jew did it?

Israel Unikowski

Yes. Then a Jew followed her and with an iron [bar] he killed them both in the house. The mother was then at work.

David Boder

The mother was where?

Israel Unikowski

She was at work then.

David Boder

Yes. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

When the Ghetto was closed there were in Ghetto a hundred and thirty thousand jews.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

By '42 there were in the Ghetto seventy thousand.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Then there began to be sent in people from Vienna, from Berlin, from Cracow, from all . . . from over Europe.

David Boder

They were sent in?

Israel Unikowski

Into the Ghetto.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

If there were again too many people, then another deportation began. I remember when the Viennese entered the Ghetto. They came in from [conditions of] utter abundance. There were among them Jews who even had served in the German army. When we asked them why they were sent to the Ghetto they said that the Germans want to protect them from the bombs, because where they are [from], there are severe bombings and here there are no bombings. You know the German Jews! In such a way people were deceived. In short, a field was alloted to them in God's acre. Thousands and thousands of them died. Because we, the Polish Jews, became adapted to it little by little . . . It became worse by degrees. And they who entered Gehenna directly from affluence were strewn over the field . . .

David Boder

Who were strewn?

Israel Unikowski

The Viennese.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And they were all deported.

David Boder

So this was the deportation in Vienna?

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

But all this wasn't yet the worst. The most terrible event in the Ghetto of Lodz happened in the eighth month of ninteen forty-two. This was the stay-in-order [Sperre] blockade.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

It happened one day. We didn't expect anything. We went to work. There appeared placards. 'Starting tomorrow at a certain hour, it will be forbidden in the Ghetto to walk on the street.' Everybody understood what was going on. A day later Germans began to enter the Ghetto. This deportation was for children. Rumkowski made a speech, the most infamous speech in the being of the Ghetto.

David Boder

This deportation was for children only?

Israel Unikowski

For children.

David Boder

Nu?

Israel Unikowski

On the square before the fire department he made a speech. He began the speech with these words, 'Mother, bring your burned offering.' Then he spoke to the conscience of the mother that the mother should bring and deliver the child.

David Boder

That he said?

Israel Unikowski

That he said.

David Boder

Why did he say that?

Israel Unikowski

Because . . . Why? He said thus.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

'The Ghetto will not survive . . . '

David Boder

Will not survive.

Israel Unikowski

No. 'So I want that at least a small part shall survive.'

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And who should survive? Naturally his people. These who stood in good graces [had influence, pull] with him.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And . . . and he urged that the mother should deliver her . . . their children.

David Boder

Did he say 'Mother bring your . . . '

Israel Unikowski

'Mother, bring your burned offering.' Naturally, there arose a screaming, wailing. "You lunatic, down from the platform,' people screamed.

David Boder

Wait a moment. At first it was ordered not to walk on the street in the Ghetto. And then you were what? Assembled?

Israel Unikowski

On the same day he held the speech.

David Boder

For whom, if there was nobody in the street?

Israel Unikowski

No. The . . . the . . . the placards . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

The posters said that beginning tomorrow one isn't permitted to walk in the street [at certain hours].

David Boder

Aha. Well?

Israel Unikowski

And on the same day . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

It was, I think, yes, in the eighth month on the . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . sixth or on the seventh.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

I don't remember exactly. It was about ten days before Rosh Hashona.

David Boder

Yes. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

Instantly people began to build bunkers. People began to hide.

David Boder

What are bunkers?

Israel Unikowski

Bunkers are . . . [chuckles] people dug holes in the cellars. On the attics . . . People hid wherever they could.

David Boder

Oh. This is called bunkers.

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Places to hide.

Israel Unikowski

To hide.

David Boder

Nu?

Israel Unikowski

They started to go from house to house searching for children.

David Boder

Searching for children?

Israel Unikowski

Children.

David Boder

What for?

Israel Unikowski

For deportation. Germans.

David Boder

Who made the search?

Israel Unikowski

Germans.

David Boder

Oh. Germans made the search.

Israel Unikowski

Yes. Because the Jewish police, on this occason, didn't want to co-operate.

David Boder

Who were called children? From what age?

Israel Unikowski

children up to fifteen, up to fourteen years.

David Boder

Aha. And how old were you?

Israel Unikowski

I was about thirteen years [old].

David Boder

Oh.

Israel Unikowski

Or thirteen and a half.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Yes, but what is the thing [the problem]? The Germans were aware that they don't have too many children, because mothers had hidden them. So they began to take people who in the Ghetto were called derelicts. In the Ghetto a derelict was one who looked bad.

David Boder

Aha.

Israel Unikowski

One was swollen at the legs, one looked bad on his face. All these were taken away.

David Boder

Now then, about children. Did the Germans go around . . .

Israel Unikowski

One cannot imagine how the childr . . . how the people were sent away. They were accompanied by wagons. When they entered a courtyard, they fired from a revolver. 'Everybody down.' People came out. They were lined up. The Germans looked them over. The fuehrer was then Hans Bubov. The trial is going on today.

David Boder

Whose?

Israel Unikowski

This Hans Bubov who was now caught in Poland, and now is the trial.

David Boder

Now?

Israel Unikowski

Yes. Today his trial is going on in Poland.

David Boder

Oh.

Israel Unikowski

He was the fuehrer of these selections.

David Boder

What was his name? Hans Bubov?

Israel Unikowski

Hans . . . Hans Bukov.

David Boder

Is he a Pole or a German?

Israel Unikowski

A German.

David Boder

Yes. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

There began . . . the . . . This lasted four days. But the Germans saw that they have too few children.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And Rumkowski, who like always, never refused . . .

David Boder

Uh huh.

Israel Unikowski

. . . took and handed over the orphanages, the orphanage where I was.

David Boder

Oh. He handed over the orphanages.

Israel Unikowski

And this is the most infamous deed that Rumkowski has committed.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

It was on a Wednesday. We sensed when we arose that something is not good in that day. It was a little chilly. Early in the morning there came to us . . . At that time there were in the orphanage, in the so-called children's colony, one thousand two hundred children.

David Boder

Thousand two hundred children.

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

From thirty two?

Israel Unikowski

No. The thirty two came from Lodz [Kalisz].

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

But this was in the Ghetto.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

Because Rumkowski produced [manufactured] enough orphansâthe fathers died at the machines, the cutting machines.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

In the morning there came to us a messenger, and [he] said that around eleven o'clock we are leaving for the square there and there. And naturally, perish the thought, we won't be sent away. The German only wants to take a look at us. We should dress nicely and we shouldn't worry about anything. About ten-thirty we marched out. We went out with joyful faces. We went out with a military [?] step, with an ached, shtain, shelosh, arba [one, tw o, three, four in Hebrew].

David Boder

What was the simcha [celebration]?

Israel Unikowski

We didn't . . . we ourselves couldn't imagine. We didn't know. I can't understand. We went like this. We knew that we are going to [our] death, whoever leaves! But we marched so contentedly, as if there was no deportation. We went out and thought what will be, will be!

David Boder

Oh.

Israel Unikowski

We . . . Surrender we will not! We shall do anything possible not to go away!

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

We came out on the square and lined up. We waited for an hour.

David Boder

How many children? About . . .

Israel Unikowski

Thousand two hundred.

David Boder

. . . [thousand] two hundred children.

Israel Unikowski

Hans Bubov and another German arrived. They began to go out [around] . . . to go out [around] on the square. He began to look [us] over. He passed through, one, two, three. He came over to a small boy of ten years. 'Oh, you little one. Do you know what is about to happen to you? You are all going to be shot.' The boy didn't answer him anything. He marched through, two, three. He went over to the woman-fuerer of the orphanages, an ex-mistress of Rumkowski.

David Boder

A what?

Israel Unikowski

A . . . a beloved girl of his.

David Boder

Aha.

Israel Unikowski

She was twenty-two years old.

David Boder

The leader of the orphanage?

Israel Unikowski

Yes, a girl twenty-two years old was a leader of one thousand two hundred children.

David Boder

A girl?

Israel Unikowski

A girl of twenty-two.

David Boder

Oh. And you say that she was Rumowski's what? She was his . . .

Israel Unikowski

She wasn't . . . Rumowski later married, and she wasn't his mistress any more, but he thought a great deal of her.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

One can't imagine otherwise. That he would make a girl of twenty-two an overseer over one thousand two hundred children.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

He goes over to her. 'Genia, how many children are there here?' [that was] Bubov. 'One thousand two hundred.' He stands up straight.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

He calls over the head of the Jewish police. 'Look here, if one of them is missing you forfeit your head!' When he finished saying that, we were surrounded from all sides!

David Boder

Who?

Israel Unikowski

Jewish police, fire-fighters, chimney sweepers . . .

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

. . . whoever wore a hat and a uniform surrounded us, with a triple line [?].

David Boder

They surrounded you to watch over you?

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Yes. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

It began to get worse. Wagons began to arrive. We began to run away, but it wasn't possible because there were police around and around.

David Boder

Jewish police?

Israel Unikowski

Jewish police.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

Luckily, it was . . . we were surrounded from three sides, and on one side there was a parkan [a fence in Polish].

David Boder

A what?

Israel Unikowski

A parkan . . . a plot [a fence, in Yiddish].

David Boder

A zaum [a fence, in German/?

Israel Unikowski

A zaun. A wooden fence. On the side where the fence was there was no police because one didn't understand . . . one didn't believe that we could get through the fence, because it was very tall. It was, one can say, three, four meters. Over the fence there was some kind of dump of different things, of iron [asen] and so forth, like a factory.

David Boder

What is asen?

Israel Unikowski

Eisen [iron].

David Boder

Iron. Yes. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

When they surrounded us from three sides, when we saw the wagons arriving, we got together five or six boys, and we ran over to the fence.

David Boder

And you . . . you were among the five or six?

Israel Unikowski

Yes, yes, I was [among] the five or six, and near the . . . There was a frightful squall on the square, because there were a thousand, two hundred children. Everyone cried. Everyone screamed, so they didn't notice.

David Boder

Were there only . . . only boys, or were there girls, too?

Israel Unikowski

Boys, girls, children, from four years up . . .

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

. . . to around fifteen.

David Boder

And in the orphanage where you have been, among the thirty-two were there only boys, or boys and girls?

Israel Unikowski

With me there were only boys.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

Where I have been it was a religious orphanage.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And so . . . when we were surrounded, we ran over to the par- . . . the fence and began to tear away a board. Nobody paid attention to us because there was a frightful squall, [in low voice, excitedly] and we tore it away. We started out, one, two, three, four.

David Boder

Nu?

Israel Unikowski

We didn't hurry. I got out. What happened, how many got out after me, I don't know. I only know one thing, that when I was quite far, I heard a policeman calling after me, 'Hey, you, stop.' Because . . . I noticed that [the place] was closed from all sides.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

I came to the wall of the holy site [cemetary].

David Boder

Where to?

Israel Unikowski

The holy site. [In Hebrew] The abode of life [another synonym for cemetery].

David Boder

What is that?

Israel Unikowski

That is the cemetery.

David Boder

Oh. To the Beth- . . . Beth-Olom [another synonym for cemetery]. Yes? Nu?

Israel Unikowski

There was a tall wall. But near the wall there was a pile of coal.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

I got between the tombstones. There I was saved for the moment.

David Boder

What?

Israel Unikowski

There I was saved for the moment.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

I heard the screams of the children, at night.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

[Pause.] We hid out. In the morning they came and searched on the abode of life. The Germans went around with machine-guns.

David Boder

Where, on the Beth-Olom?

Israel Unikowski

On the Beth-Olom.

David Boder

And where did the other children remain?

Israel Unikowski

They were sent away.

David Boder

They were what?

Israel Unikowski

They were sent away.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

We saved ourselvesâout of the thousand two-hundred childrenâa hundred children.

David Boder

Two-hundred saved themselves?

Israel Unikowski

A hundred.

David Boder

What?

Israel Unikowski

A hundred children.

David Boder

How? They ran away?

Israel Unikowski

Some were freed, some through connections [political pull].

David Boder

Oh. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

Of the rest [the deported], that is self-understood. We later received no more word.

David Boder

Oh. So?

Israel Unikowski

A few more days had passed . . .

David Boder

And these few days, where were you? On the Beth-Olom?

Israel Unikowski

On the Beth-Olom.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

It rained on those days. We were there in the Tahre-chamber.

David Boder

Oh, you were the four . . . how many children?

Israel Unikowski

We were five persons.

David Boder

Five persons?

Israel Unikowski

Five persons.

David Boder

And you were there in the Tahre-chamber, The five persons.

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

What is a Tahre-chamber?

Israel Unikowski

There were the dead are washed.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

There we stayed overnight. The Germans searched these also. We hid in an attic. We saved ourselves.

David Boder

Were there no funerals during the few days on the Beth-Olom?

Israel Unikowski

No. There were enough dead. But one wasn't permitted to walk in the street.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

So there weren't any.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

There was terrible starvation . . .

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

. . . during the eight days, because no food was issued.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Thousands and thousands of people perished there. Just in the Ghetto alone.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

Besides those who were sent away. Then there were sent out all together around thirty thousand children, sick [people].

David Boder

[In English] This concludes Spool 17, on Israel Unikowski, and we continue on . . . [ends abruptly]

David Boder

[In English] This is Spool 18. Continuation of Spool 17. August 2nd. The interview of Israel Unikowski at Chateau Boucicaut. Simply a continuation of his interview.

David Boder

[In Yiddish] And so you were there on the Beth-Olom [cemetery]. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

A few days later the deportation ceased.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

It is important to mention the way of action of the police in the Ghetto.

David Boder

Wait. Let's go over this again. Tell me what happened to you afterwards. Omit the general stories.

Israel Unikowski

I think that the 'general stories' are more important than my own.

David Boder

But that was already written about. I want your story. Let us talk it over. So far it [your report] went on very well. True? So then what happened to you? You returned? You will some day write a good book about it. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

What happened to me happened to every Jew.

David Boder

Now then let us have it. Where did you go from the Beth-Olom?

Israel Unikowski

When the . . . We were there for three days. Later the deportation stopped.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

We returned . . . we returned to where we have been before, to that orphanage. Nobody was there.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

So we got together three people, that is, myself and the brother and another boy.

David Boder

Oh. Your brother was with you?

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

The older brother?

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And we rented a room in the Ghetto, a private lodging.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

And we worked. Again we earned.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

Life again became calm, like before.

David Boder

Yes. Did nobody recognize you? Didn't know that you . . .

Israel Unikowski

In the Ghetto it was like this. There was a deportation. They would send away whoever was caught, whoever fell to be a burned offering was sent away.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

Whoever remained . . . a week [?] would pass . . . he remained.

David Boder

Hm. And what did you want to tell about the police?

Israel Unikowski

The . . . It is important [to notice] how things happened in the Ghetto.

David Boder

Yes. Well, this was described already. We know it. Nu? And so, you began working. How long did you work? And what did you do?

Israel Unikowski

I worked then at wooden knick-knacks.

David Boder

Wooden . . .

Israel Unikowski

Wooden knick-knacks.

David Boder

What is that?

Israel Unikowski

These are small . . . small things for . . . made out of wood.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

I worked at a band-saw and there we manufactured toys for the German children.

David Boder

Oh. Toys for the German children. Nu. And?

Israel Unikowski

To . . . until the year forty-four . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . things were quiet, because the . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . after . . . after the deportation . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . of the children . . .

David Boder

Speak a bit clearer [?].

Israel Unikowski

. . . he came to power.

David Boder

Who?

Israel Unikowski

Getler. I mentioned him before.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

He had a lot of power in the Ghetto.

David Boder

Was he a Jew?

Israel Unikowski

Yes, he is a Jew.

David Boder

What has become of the other one, Rumkowski?

Israel Unikowski

He was also around, but the other one, Getler, had a lot of power, too.

David Boder

What was his name, Getler?

Israel Unikowski

Getler. He is living today.

David Boder

Getler, yes. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

There had been sent in a lot of potatoes into the Ghetto. People recovered a little. There passed a few good months.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

In nineteen forty-three, no, forty-four, in the beginning, there came [?] again a deportation.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

At that time it was already carried out with another system. Every factory had to surrender fifty per cent of the people to be sent away.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

Those who . . . those who worked there.

David Boder

Yes [pause]. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

[Pause] And such was the deportation . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . because . . . Beside the deportation there had reigned at that time in the Ghetto terrible epidemics of lung disease.

David Boder

What kind of disease?

Israel Unikowski

Long-disease. Suchoty, grozlica.

David Boder

What is that?

Israel Unikowski

Tuberculosis.

David Boder

Oh, tuberculosis. Yes?

Israel Unikowski

Terrible. I can say that in the Ghetto there were, out of a hundred per cent of the people, there were sixty, seventy per cent sick with tubercolosis.

David Boder

What did you call it before, lung disease?

Israel Unikowski

Lung . . .

David Boder

Lung disease.

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Yes, Nu?

Israel Unikowski

Because, from the work, from the bad food . . . it is . . . The hospitals were full! At that time my brother, too, became sick. And sure enough he died in the Ghetto.

David Boder

Died in Ghetto.

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Nu?

Israel Unikowski

I came everyday to the hospital. One can't imagine what a hospital looked like in the Ghetto!

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

Every person knew . . . that he won't live through! Because one consolation for the people was that nobody will survive.

David Boder

Yes. This was consolation? What sort of consolation is this?

Israel Unikowski

This . . . the person himself, the one from . . . he saw [?] that he is in such a bad way, and if one talked with him, he would say, 'Sure, I will die, but we will all die. One will die a little earlier, one will die a little later.

David Boder

Yes. Nu? [Pause] Were there doctors in the hospital?

Israel Unikowski

Doctors there were enough, but there was nothing with which to heal.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

There were no injections. When one needed an injection [in Polish], such an injection [in German], calcium was given. It was very expensive. It was impossible to obtain it in the Ghetto.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

In addition came also the deportation.

David Boder

What was the name, Getler?

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

What was his first name?

Israel Unikowski

I don't remember any more.

David Boder

All right.

Israel Unikowski

The deportation had come. People were being delivered.

David Boder

And so, fifty per cent of the . . .

Israel Unikowski

Fifty per cent from every factory.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

First on the lists were the . . . single persons.

David Boder

The single persons . . .

Israel Unikowski

Who had no family.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

I at that time was unfortunately also a single person and was also on the list to be sent away.

David Boder

Your brother had died in the hospital?

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Did you bury him.

Israel Unikowski

Yes. In the Ghetto one was buried normally like before the war.

David Boder

Was one allowed to say . . .

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

El Moleh rachamin [a prayer for the dead].

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Yes. You said one was not allowed to pray.

Israel Unikowski

One was not allowed to pray, but there were no Germans in the Ghetto, not too many.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

One was . . . There were funerals. They took place on the 'Abode of Life.!

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Nobody was there.

David Boder

Nu?

Israel Unikowski

And my friend also was on this list, the one who roomed with me in the Ghetto. We began to hide out. We already knew then that under the Germans to be sent away is not one of the simplest things. That we are not going . . . that we are not going to pick radishes or leaves, but we are really going to [our] death. We began to hide out.

David Boder

Yes, but didn't they need there people for work? Why did they take them?

Israel Unikowski

The Germans needed people only as long as they had use for them!

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

If it was found that they are not needed, they were sent to death.

David Boder

Nu.

Israel Unikowski

We began to hide out. We slept in one attic . . . from one attic to another attic. Where we slept, there we didn't stay overnight. [wo man ist geschlofen dort hat man nicht genachtigt]

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

We were not permitted to stay till morning and so forth. [Ration] cards we didn't receive.

David Boder

What?

Israel Unikowski

To eat.

David Boder

Oh, to eat.

Israel Unikowski

We . . . we didn't receive, because there had come an order right away to the store not to issue any food. We lived on what we stole from the fields, the leaves from . . . from radishes and beets [?]. This we cooked, we ate, till this deportation had also ceased. There approached began the deportation of the eighth month, nineteen forty-four. At that time began the general deportation of the Ghetto of Lodz.

David Boder

Oh.

Israel Unikowski

They started to send people, five thousand persons a day. It became gradually worse and worse. There was no more order. There was no way out. The Germans surrounded whole streets and took people. I and my friend, and another family with whom we lived there, we hid out, but there had come out an order that our side of the Ghetto has to present itself.

David Boder

That who?

Israel Unikowski

The Ghetto was divided in three parts.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

To cross from one side to the other side, there was a bridge.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

They closed the passage.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

The whole side had to go out. A chance to live in the other [part of the] Ghetto I didn't have. And we reported. We traveled for twenty hours, and we arrived in Birkenau.

David Boder

Birkenau?

Israel Unikowski

Birkenau.

David Boder

What was Birkenau?

Israel Unikowski

Birkenau was the main lager. It was near Auschwitz a few kilometers [away]. We got off the train. There were the Germans right away who divided us. The ones from right went to death and these from left went into the lager.

David Boder

What did they tell you? How were you divided?

Israel Unikowski

We got off . . . we got off the train. The train was surrounded.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

There were in the RR-cars . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

There arrived a prisoner who was there, a Jew.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

He said, 'Jews, know that now you are going to a life and death decision.'

David Boder

What?

Israel Unikowski

To a life and death decision. Who should live and who should die.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

But I knew what it means. Then he said, 'Say that you are older.' To us he told, to say we are older, to the other ones he said, 'Say that you are younger.' He said that to old people.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

We started to march in one row. The women were immediately detached. There stood a German. He was half drunk.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

'You here and you here' One he sent here, one he sent there. There were Germans who immediately separated [them]. We didn't know where the others are going. Later we found out that they went to death.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

And I and my friend went to the lager. In Birkenau we were twelve days.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

SS men arrived. One bega- . . . They came over to us and took out . . . there were about six thousand juveniles [adolescents].

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Hungarians, Polish, Czechs. They selected a hundred, two hundred and thirty-two persons. We were divided. It was said that we are going to an estate to work. It is interesting how we were selected. They watched that a brother should not remain with a brother, or an acquaintance with an acquaintance. We were taken into a barrack, told to undress the way the mother had born us, and if one had the smallest spot on the body, he was immediately sent back.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Then they chased us[?]. Suddenly they stopped us.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

This one here, this one here and this one here. I was chosen for a house. It was eight kilometers from Auschwitz. It was called Budy. There we were . . . we worked. I worked in a cattle barn. One took care of horses. This was an estate for the SS men.

David Boder

An estate for SS men.

Israel Unikowski

For SS.

David Boder

Hm, a farm belonging to the SS men.

Israel Unikowski

Yes. There we weren't badly fed, but one was beaten a lot. There I was six months till the evacuation came. The Russians began approaching.

David Boder

Hm. And when were you tatooed?

Israel Unikowski

Still in Birkenau, before I went to Budy.

David Boder

[In English] Aha. He carries a tattoo from Auschwitz. Tattoo B7687.

David Boder

[In Yiddish] Nu? What were you told when you were being tattooed?

Israel Unikowski

They didn't tell us anything. When we were looked over [by] doctors and again doctors and again, a few times, we were arranged in one row, in a queue [?], and we were given numbers.

David Boder

Yes? How was it done? With what were the numbers made?

Israel Unikowski

There was a needle, a sharp needle, dipped in ink. They painted, with somthing, the skin and pricked thus.

David Boder

Did it hurt?

Israel Unikowski

It hurt a little, according to the individual. Some fainted, some . . . some . . . It didn't hurt me so much. It swelled up a little, but that went away.

David Boder

Nu, so?

Israel Unikowski

The Russians began to approach. A night before . . . and so, the Russians were already very near. They took the whole lager, and half-past three in the afternoon we marched out. We walked on foot a hundred and fifty kilometers. Thousands and thousands of people perished at that time, on the way.

David Boder

How come?

Israel Unikowski

People were weak from walking. Whoever lagged behind a few steps, they immediately shot him. They . . .

David Boder

Did you see it yourself?

Israel Unikowski

What a question, whether I saw it? They [?] walked behind me. People wept, 'I can't any more!' If he remained lagging one . . . one step, 'Oh you old creature!' He took off the rifle and shot him on the spot.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

The whole road . . . It snowed. It was winter when we went out. Every ten meters there was a corpse . . . shot. I remember a women . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . from our lager, A Russian, a Russian girl. She carried . . . she carried a rucksack with bread. She wept to the SS man that she can't walk any more so he answered . . .

David Boder

A rucksack full of bread?

Israel Unikowski

No! Two, three breads, a small one, a hand ruck-sack.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

So he asked . . . so he told her, 'Throw away the bread.' So she says, 'But that is bread.' He took off the rifle and shot her.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

For nothing. She was still able to walk. She was quite healthy. People . . .

David Boder

What happened to the bread?

Israel Unikowski

It was left lying.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

With dogs they followed . . . surrounded by dogs.

David Boder

Yes. Tell me more about the dogs. What were . . . I keep hearing about dogs. What did the dogs do?

Israel Unikowski

They were bloodhounds. When one ran away, the dogs were released after him and they would find him.

David Boder

Uh-huh.

Israel Unikowski

They were quite well trained dogs. They . . . we walked a hundred and fifty kilometers, left behind a few thousand dead on the road. We arrived at the German border. There we 'boarded a train, open RR-cars. These were winter nights. Frost. We travelled three days and three nights till we arrived in Buchenwald.

David Boder

Oh, to Buchenwald. Nu?

Israel Unikowski

In Buchenwald there was yet a new pack of troubles. We entered a block. Again we suffered hunger, again deprivations. Again people died.

David Boder

Did you work in Buchenwald?

Israel Unikowski

We didn't work in Buchenwald. People worked, but when we arrived, there were already in Buchenwald so many thousands of people . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . that they couldn't employ the people any more.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

One lay on top of another. We were at that time over eighty thousand people. The lager could accomodate only twenty thousand people.

David Boder

Describe your block, and what you did the whole day and night.

Israel Unikowski

I was in several blocks. At the beginning I was in the sixty-second . . . in fifty-sixth.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

The morning came. Bread was brought in, a bread weighing a kilo twenty. It was for six people, sometimes for five people. It depended . . . They gave [?] . . .

David Boder

How many deka did one receive?

Israel Unikowski

Twenty . . . twenty-two . . .

David Boder

Yes. Hm.

Israel Unikowski

We ate up the portion of bread. Around ten o'clock, or nine-thirty . . . Later on we used to eat at six . . . at ten o'clock there was soup.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

The soup however it happened. Sometimes it was thin, sometimes a little thicker. Sometimes it had a piece of potato, more, sometimes less. When we ate up the soup we walked till next morning at six.

David Boder

Were there plates? Did everybody have a plate? Or, how did one eat the soup?

Israel Unikowski

There were plates. Large jars, small plates, large, pots, small pots. One had spoons, the other didn't have spoons . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . however it happened. Later I went over to the sixty-second block, and there [it] was worse yet. There was . . .

David Boder

What do you mean 'you went over'? You were . . .

Israel Unikowski

Transferred.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

In block sixty-two there was a German a block-fuehrer, a block elder. This German was once an SS man but got into trouble, what kind I don't know, and he became a block elder. He caused a lot of trouble. In the middle of the night he would sprinkle . . . sprinkle in the block under . . . under the . . . the plank beds!where we lay . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . full of soda and lime, and this burned the eyes. He was a terrible criminal.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

He is still living today. This Gustav . . . he did for us a great thing. He arranged that there should be a separate youth block.

David Boder

Was he a prisoner too?

Israel Unikowski

He was a prisoner. He was a block representative. He is in Germany today. He was already here, in France, too.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

And he made it so there should be a youth-block.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

We . . . we came to the youth-block. We were there a thousand two-hundred and later a little more. We didn't work. We organized in this block theaters.

David Boder

Theaters?

Israel Unikowski

In secret from the SS, naturally. One organized lectures.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

We organized schools of geography, of grammar. There, one can say, one spent the day very nicely. Besides the hunger, we didn't feel the terrible conditions of the lager. There had passed a few months. The Allied armies began to approach Buchenwald. They began to send us out. We started again to hide, again to conceal. There began the old stories. Until, one fine day there came the turn of our block.

David Boder

Came what?

Israel Unikowski

Our block's turn.

David Boder

What for? To be . . .

Israel Unikowski

To be sent out.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

People are already being taken . . . We came out on the appell square. From there we were to leave. There was a terrible alarm.

David Boder

Who made the alarm?

Israel Unikowski

There were . . . In this group there were either English or American planes. They flew very near, nearly overhead.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

The SS scattered, ran into shelters, and we ran back to the blocks. At night people were sent again. We hid again. Thousands and thousands of people went out on this day. There began . . .

David Boder

What do you mean, 'went out'?

Israel Unikowski

Sent out from the lager.

David Boder

Where were they sent?

Israel Unikowski

Sent away to Dachau . . . I don't exactly know where.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

To Theresienstadt. Then, on that day our youngest comrades went out.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

They are alive today, all those boys. They are in England.

David Boder

What?

Israel Unikowski

They are in England, those boys. And . . . so many thousands of people were sent out. In the lager there remained twenty or eighteen thousand people, out of eighty . . .

David Boder

Of the Jews?

Israel Unikowski

. . . prisoners.

David Boder

Or altogether?

Israel Unikowski

No, altogether. Of the Jews there were left only a few . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . because Jews wered the first 'fowl of atonement' [sacrifices].

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

Because the first deportation meant all Jewish prisoners step forward.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

First were the Jews. And then [?] that night when assembled for evacuation in the morning, we again expected that any minute we would be sent away. Then came the great day of our liberation. Around three-thirty we saw from the . . . there began . . . we heard shooting. There was an alarm, a siren. Then we didn't know whether to rejoice or not to rejoice. We knew that the German is able in the last second to take us out. The lager had been blown up [vide infra].

David Boder

What was blown . . .

Israel Unikowski

Blown up. Mined. [Footnote: He obviously confuses the terms to blow up and to sow mines, to mine. âD.P.B.]

David Boder

What was mined?

Israel Unikowski

The lager, all around . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . had been mined with bombs.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

To blow up.

David Boder

Hm, it was mined.

Israel Unikowski

Mined. Yes

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

I remind myself of, when . . . yes, later. Because the moment we heard shooting, in one second . . . on the Germ- . . . the whole . . . all around . . .

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

. . . from . . . where there had been the SS watch-towers there were no more SS men. Half an hour later we ran out right away. We tore down wires, and everybody grabbed a rifle and ran to meet them.

David Boder

Who grabbed the rifle, the Jews?

Israel Unikowski

Jews, Turks [?], Russians, Poles, all who were in Buchenwald! We grabbed rifles . . . we . . . because the towers of the SS all became empty!

David Boder

And the SS ran away?

Israel Unikowski

They ran away! We began chasing. We caught many. We brought them back. We beat them. They were . . .

David Boder

You didn't shoot any of them?

Israel Unikowski

No shooting was done!

David Boder

Why?

Israel Unikowski

Why? Because . . . In the camp there were Germans, . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . but they were prisoners, [these] Germans . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . political prisoners.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

They said no! We are not the ones to shoot. We favor if we catch a prisoner . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . to turn him over to the American army.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

And they didn't allow shooting. One can say that . . . perhaps it is a crime that we didn't take revenge, but they, the political Germans, were, in the majority, communists, they took care that the lager should be orderly, that means, not to become wild. Cooking was done in a normal way. Everything went . . . we dug graves [ditches].

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

We got out and went to meet them. To our great joy in one of the first three tanks that came in first was a Jew, an American soldier.

David Boder

Do you know his name?

Israel Unikowski

No. Alas!

David Boder

Nu?

Israel Unikowski

There was an American. He gave us right away to eat cakes. We simply couldn't imagine, a Jew, an American soldier! We were liberated!

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

The joy, that I can't picture in words!

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

How . . . how we were liberated! Oh yes, half an hour after we were liberated, there came a telephone call to the lager elder.

David Boder

A prisoner?

Israel Unikowski

A German. And it came to the bureau of the SS. The lager-commandant, an SS who was over the lager, telephoned to the lager-fuehrer that the lager should be blown up, to set off the mines, to set off the mines.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

But it was already too late.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

The block . . . the lager-commandant was already away, the lager-fuehrer. The call already was taken by an inmate.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

He spoke from . . . from Weimar. It was eight kilometers from Buchenwald. The lager should be blown up. So the prisoner answered him, yes, everything is in perfect order, but he has to come to Buchenwald.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

He didn't come. I don't know why. Possibly on the way he found out that the Germans are running away, so . . .

David Boder

The prisoner said that he should come?

Israel Unikowski

That he should come!

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

He didn't tell him that the Americans are already here. He told that he has to come because he by himself can't do it without his knowledge [presence].

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

The end is . . . we were liberated.

David Boder

Nu.

Israel Unikowski

Food we didn't lack. We went out from the lager right away. We went into the beautiful quarters of the SS. We were four weeks there in Buchenwald. We didn't lack anything, chocolate, all good things.

David Boder

The SS had that?

Israel Unikowski

No! The American army had delivered all that!

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

And . . .

David Boder

From what day on did the American army begin to feed you, to give food?

Israel Unikowski

The first days was still a great hunger, because everything was still far away. The tracks were out. Weimar hadn't yet surrendered. Erfurt wasn't yet taken. The American ary still consisted of only the first line troops, those first soldiers who came . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

. . . but all of this was foolishness [inconsequential]. We knew that we are liberated!

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Three days later there began to arrive food and chocolate and all good things. We began to travel. There began to arrive [people] from the UNRRA. People started travelling to France.

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

People travelled to Germany. Where we passed we did some damage. In everything . . . in the gardens we broke everything, the houses. We did some . . .

David Boder

Who? The . . . the . . .

Israel Unikowski

The boys.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

If we found . . . if we met a German on the road, a young one . . . we also . . . we also told him a bit. The important thing is, we arrived in France! We arrived in . . . France received us very nicely. We passed through towns. Boy scouts lined up. They sang the Marseillaise. [We were] very nicely received. We travelled in first-class RR-cars. We were met with goodies [refreshments], with very good things, and we arrived in [location not clear]. Here we rested a few months.

David Boder

Where?

Israel Unikowski

Ecouis.

David Boder

Ecouis?

Israel Unikowski

It is ninety-nine kilometers from Paris. A beautiful village, a 'preventorium.' We enjoyed ourselves there very much.

David Boder

What?

Israel Unikowski

We enjoyed ourselves in Ecouis.

David Boder

You said 'a beautiful village' and what?

Israel Unikowski

A preventorium.

David Boder

A preventorium?

Israel Unikowski

Yes. In the beginning we weren't too satisfied. I don't know why. We were not able to communicate. Why, it was I don't know.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

The important thing is [that] later on we were well satisfied. We traveled to . . . to the house where we are now, [name of locality?]. Today we are learning trades, and everything goes in the best order.

David Boder

Nu?

Israel Unikowski

We are searching for relatives.

David Boder

And so, tell me this. You have no relatives?

Israel Unikowski

No.

David Boder

You don't have any uncles, any aunts?

Israel Unikowski

No.

David Boder

No. And so, what are you studying now here in the OSE?

Israel Unikowski

Dental technician.

David Boder

Dental technician. Has the OSE its own school?

Israel Unikowski

U-hm [yes]. Its own school.

David Boder

Its own school. How long will you study?

Israel Unikowski

I have to study for two years.

David Boder

Two years. Do you study other things? Do you learn to read, to write?

Israel Unikowski

We are learning French, a little English.

David Boder

A little English. How much education did you have altogether? You went away from . . .

Israel Unikowski

Not much. Four . . . four grades.

David Boder

That you had already in Lodz?

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Nu, and where do you plan to live after you become a dental technician?

Israel Unikowski

What kind of plans can we make? We already saw that thinking about tomorrow won't do. Today I am here [?]. Today I am there. What will be tomorrow, I don't know.

David Boder

Nu, then tell me another thing. Eh . . . you . . . If somebody were to ask what . . . Of course, your best moment was when the American came. That is understood.

Israel Unikowski

What was the best moment?

David Boder

Yes. Naturally. Can you tell what was the best moment of the whole time?

Israel Unikowski

I know only one thing. When I saw the German . . . the American soldier, when I saw that I was liberated, I didn't believe it! I didn't rejoice at all.

David Boder

You did not believe it.

Israel Unikowski

We believed [didn't believe?] We didn't understand ourselves that we are liberated. People were crazy. One grabbed clothes and tore them. Another . . . We broke up things. There are no words to picture what went on!

David Boder

Tell me this. This is what I want. What happened then? When did the SS men leave? Before the Americans arrived?

Israel Unikowski

A half an hour before

David Boder

A half an hour before. Did they say that they are leaving?

Israel Unikowski

How did they say! They left . . . They ran away. They were only too glad . . .

David Boder

Nu?

Israel Unikowski

We began chasing after them . . . many prisoners. We caught . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . the majority, one can say.

David Boder

Nu, and then, you took the weapons and then . . . then came the Americans? All right. Now can you tell me which was the most horrible in your . . . in your experiences?

Israel Unikowski

The worst momment was when we got off the train in Birkenau.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

We came out from the bath.

David Boder

From where?

Israel Unikowski

From the bath where we bathed.

David Boder

Where you bathed. Yes?

Israel Unikowski

We passed through a forest towards the tenth lager. There burned a huge fire.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

Then was the most terrible moment.

David Boder

What was the fire?

Israel Unikowski

This was the fire of those who had gone 'to the right.' Of those people.

David Boder

But they weren't burned alive?

Israel Unikowski

Burned, not alive. They had been gassed, and then burned.

David Boder

Oh, they weren't [burned] in a crematory. Right . . . where, in a . . . ?

Israel Unikowski

At that time, when we arrived, there were gas-chambers, but the burning was done in pits.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Because, there were . . . there were very many people.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

They entered the crematory. It said outside 'Bathing establishment.' The people themselves didn't know where they were going. They were given a towel. They were given soap.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

And instead of water gas came out!

David Boder

Hm. And then they were burned in open pits. Tell me one thing I have heard already, people had told me. There was talk about Gypsies.

Israel Unikowski

Yes.

David Boder

Have you been . . . Tell me something about the Gypsies.

Israel Unikowski

When I had arrived in Birkenau the Gypsy-Lager was already no more.

David Boder

What had happened?

Israel Unikowski

It was still called Gypsy-Lager, because, there where I had been, there were [before] only Gypsies.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

Old ones, young ones, men, but they lived [there?] only for a short time. And one time we heard that they are going away. And they were all, like one, gassed and burned. The lager became free for [occupancy by] the Jews of the Ghetto of Lodz.

David Boder

Where was that, in Birkenau?

Israel Unikowski

In Birkenau.

David Boder

The Gypsies were gassed and burned? How many do you think there had been of them?

Israel Unikowski

I don't know exactly because when I came there was already none of them left.

David Boder

Yes. They were . . . Now tell me one thing. Were there any poems there, songs?

Israel Unikowski

In Buchenwald? Very many.

David Boder

Do you know any?

Israel Unikowski

Yes, I know them quite well.

David Boder

Sing [one] in a very soft voice, so that only the words should be audible, true? That only the words should be heard. Begin.

Israel Unikowski

I'll try.

David Boder

Yes. In a very soft voice. [Footnote: This song is attributed to the Polish-Jewish song writer Gebuertig. See also the spool (without a number) marked HÃnonville Songs, where this song was sung by Guta Frank. See also Geneva songs, Spool 84 and Tradate songs, Spool 105. âD.P.B.]

Israel Unikowski

[Sings the famous song "Es Brent"] "It burns, brothers, it burns. / Our poor village, alas burns. / Angry winds in the streets [?] / Tear, break, and blow. / The wild flames strengthen themselves / Everything all around already burns. / And you stand around looking on / With folded arms, / And you stand around looking on / While our village burns!

Israel Unikowski

It burns, little brothers, it burns. / There may come, beware, the moment / That the town together with us / Will disappear all in flames, / Remaining just like after a battle, / All charred, empty walls. / And you stand around looking on / With folded arms. / And you stand around looking on / While our village burns!

Israel Unikowski

It burns, little [?] brothers, it burns. / Our poor village, alas, burns ! / If your life is dear to you, / Take the buckets and quench the fire. / Quench it with your own blood ! / Prove [?] that you can do it. / Don't stand, brothers, looking on. / With folded arms ! / Take the buckets [?] and put out the fire, / Because our village burns!"

David Boder

Nu. Another.

Israel Unikowski

Another one?

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

[Sings] "There, deep in a forest, / The barracks grey, / [???] / People were like animals imprisoned, / Torn off from the free world / And sentenced to silence, to silence."

David Boder

Very good. Do you know another one?

Israel Unikowski

I have to think for a moment.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

[Sings] 'Softly, softly, let us be silent.'

David Boder

This concludes . . . this concludes Spool 18 of Israel Unikowski. He sang the last three songs in a very low voice and what we hear here, of course, is amplification. We try to work the machine under best possible conditions, but we have no soundproof rooms, and we are working on fifty cycles. Hence we are to see what we are going to obtain when we use that in America.

David Boder

Nu, I thank you very much. It came out very well, and not written [without notes]. But I want to tell you, write as much as you are able and it will be collected in the future by Jewish academies and organizations that will want all that was written. And it will be very good. Write everything that you remember, all the songs, all the sayings, all the stories, of everything. As soon as you remind yourself of anything, that you had not written down, write it down.

David Boder

Now, here is a picture. This is a picture, and I want that you should tell me what does this picture remind you of? What does it remind you of? [Aside] This is 9.G.F., 9.G.F. Nu? Anything that comes to your mind. What does it remind you of? [Pause.] Nu? [Pause.]

Israel Unikowski

I'll tell you something . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

I am not much of an expert in these things.

David Boder

But, only the story. What story does it remind you of?

Israel Unikowski

From this picture?

David Boder

Yes.

Israel Unikowski

To me it would look like it is a summer home . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . and one made a nice sport . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . and this girl or a beloved one or a sister is fearing for his life.

David Boder

Feared what?

Israel Unikowski

For his life.

David Boder

Oh.

Israel Unikowski

Another [?]?

David Boder

Yes. [Aside] This is 12.M. What is this?

Israel Unikowski

This looks like a sick person . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . is having a vision.

David Boder

Hm.

Israel Unikowski

He thinks in his dream or awake . . . a very sick person . . . that someone comes to take his soul away.

David Boder

Hm. And this is number 1. What is this?

Israel Unikowski

He has a telephone here, he holds the telephone.

David Boder

Oh. What is this? Number 15.

Israel Unikowski

Oh, I made a mistake on the last one picture.

David Boder

What?

Israel Unikowski

He played on a mandolin . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

. . . and was moved by his own melody.

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

He had . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Israel Unikowski

He played his own melody . . .