David P. Boder Interviews Adam Krakowski; July 30, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: [In English] This is a record of Adam Krakowski, taken at the schools of the ORT in Paris, July 30, 1946. There is some interference. A typewriter is knocking in the other room, and noise comes in from the streets of Paris, but we just don't have studio facilities, and we will have to make the best of it. At least the conditions are the natural ones.
  • David Boder: [In German] How old are you, Mr. Krakowski?
  • Adam Krakowski: Twenty-one years.
  • David Boder: You are twenty-one years [old]. And you were born in Lodz?
  • Adam Krakowski: In Lodz.Łódź, located in western Poland, was the second most populous city in the country. When World War II began more than one third of its 665,000 inhabitants were Jewish. Of these, more than forty percent worked in manufacturing, most in the textile industry.1
  • David Boder: Tell me, what were your parents?
  • Adam Krakowski: My father worked in a textiles store.
  • David Boder: He was working in a store. He did not have his own store.
  • Adam Krakowski: No, no.
  • David Boder: No, and do you have brothers or sisters?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, I have a brother here in Paris.On the eve of World War II, Paris had a Jewish population of some 200,000, but only about one quarter were French-born. The majority of the remainder, including Mr. Krakowski's brother, were eastern European Jews who had migrated to France after World War I.2
  • David Boder: You have a brother in Paris.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did he come together with you from Poland?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, he was . . . he has lived in France already for twenty years.
  • David Boder: He has lived in France already for twenty years.
  • Adam Krakowski: The family in Poland is . . . are all dead.
  • David Boder: How do you know that?
  • Adam Krakowski: They were in the lager . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . in an extermination camp.
  • David Boder: Extermination camp?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: What is that?
  • Adam Krakowski: Hm . . . crematories . . . gas chambers.
  • David Boder: Hm. Where were these lagers?
  • Adam Krakowski: In Poland. In Belzyc.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Adam Krakowski: In Belzyc.
  • David Boder: Belzyc?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, near Lublin.
  • David Boder: Near Lublin.
  • Adam Krakowski: There the parents were done away with. There I had a brother . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . and also a sister.
  • David Boder: And so, well . . . Would you tell me whatever you remember from the day when the Germans came to Poland. Go and tell us as much as you can. Talk about it just as you can. Go ahead.
  • Adam Krakowski: For the first few months I was still going to school, in the year '39.
  • David Boder: When did the Poles . . . when did the Germans come to Lodz?
  • Adam Krakowski: In September, '39.
  • David Boder: Yes. Did you know that the Germans will come?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, only when the polish army broke down I already knew everything, but it was already too late . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . to run away.
  • David Boder: Yes? Did many people run away?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, not many. Only later did many people run to Russia.
  • David Boder: Hm. All right. So the Germans came. And so, tell us what happened then.
  • Adam Krakowski: For a few months, I was still going to school. And then we were deported from Lodz. A group of SS officers came, took us to a lager, a temporary lager, and then deported us to [name of locality] in Galicia.Galicia signified the geographical and political region of eastern Europe located in southeastern Poland and northwestern Ukraine, extending northward from the Carpathian mountains to the San river.3
  • David Boder: Tell me, did you know in Lodz a Doctor Falk?
  • Adam Krakowski: Falk?
  • David Boder: Yes, Ludwig Falk.
  • Adam Krakowski: [Pause.]
  • David Boder: You did not know him. All right. Go on. All right. What do you mean by 'you were deported'?
  • Adam Krakowski: We were only allowed to take a rucksack and were sent over to another town, because Lodz was in the Third Reich and [name of locality not clear] was taken over by the general government.After the defeat of Poland in the fall of 1939, Germany annexed segments of the western and northern parts of the country including the city of Łódź. In the remaining areas of Poland under German occupation at the time, the Generalgouvernement, a civil administrative region under the rule of Hans Frank, was formed. Warsaw was the key urban center in the Generalgouvernement. Krakowski is mistaken in his belief that it was annexed to Germany.4
  • David Boder: What?
  • Adam Krakowski: A part of Poland the German annexed to Germany . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . as a part of Germany, and the rest was the General Government [of occupation?].
  • David Boder: Yes? And where were the Jews sent?
  • Adam Krakowski: A part of the Jews were sent to various towns in the General Government; not all [of them].
  • David Boder: Hm, nu?
  • Adam Krakowski: The rest remained in Lodz in the Ghetto.
  • David Boder: Hm. How was the Ghetto arranged there? How was the Ghetto . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: The worst part of the town was taken, and all the Jews were squeezed in there. There were, I believe, a hundred and forty thousand people inside quite a very small area.
  • David Boder: And who had lived there before, in that . . . in that . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: Various people. The Aryans were resettled, and all the . . . the Jews were squeezed together. And the Aryans . . .
  • David Boder: Were the Poles also called Aryans?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. And what did the Poles do?
  • Adam Krakowski: They were resettled in the Jewish homes in the town outside the Ghetto.
  • David Boder: Yes. Were the Poles . . . the Poles friendly toward the Jews?
  • Adam Krakowski: [Chuckle.] Not very.
  • David Boder: Speak louder, please.
  • Adam Krakowski: [Chuckle.] Not very.
  • David Boder: Not so friendly.
  • Adam Krakowski: Not so friendly.
  • David Boder: And so, good. Nu, where did you then go?
  • Adam Krakowski: To [name of city not clear, possily Neusatz].Neusatz was a small town in Lower Silesia, then Germany and today Poland. On the eve of the Nazi takeover, it had a Jewish population of sixty. None remained following the war.5
  • David Boder: What?
  • Adam Krakowski: To [Neusatz?].
  • David Boder: To [Neusatz?] in Galicia. All right. And when you came there, what happened then?
  • Adam Krakowski: I spent in that town four months.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: Then I went to a lager, and the parents still remained in the town.
  • David Boder: Where, in . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: In [Neusatz?].
  • David Boder: In [Neusatz?].
  • Adam Krakowski: And I went to a labor lager to work.
  • David Boder: Yes. What did yo do during the four months in [Neusatz?].
  • Adam Krakowski: At first we . . . the first few months we worked freely.
  • David Boder: For whom?
  • Adam Krakowski: For ourselves.
  • David Boder: I mean, what did you do?
  • Adam Krakowski: I, for example, was teaching children.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: Privately [words not clear].
  • David Boder: You were teaching [tutoring]?
  • Adam Krakowski: Teaching.
  • David Boder: Jewish children?
  • Adam Krakowski: Jewish children.
  • David Boder: Yes. What did you teach them?
  • Adam Krakowski: Normal [subjects]. There were no schools for Jews . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . whatsoever . . . whatsoever.
  • David Boder: And how did the people pay you?
  • Adam Krakowski: Not well, but yet it was enough.
  • David Boder: Where did they take the money to pay?
  • Adam Krakowski: The people had from before, from before the war.
  • David Boder: Hm. So you were teaching there. Nu, good. Then you went to a labor lager?
  • Adam Krakowski: To a labor lager.
  • David Boder: Why? Were you forced to go?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, all the young people [men?] went at that time.
  • David Boder: All right. Nu, tell me . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: I was then seventeen years old.
  • David Boder: What? You were then seventeen years old. So, go on. Nu?
  • Adam Krakowski: There I was two years, in that lager.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: Then there was a deportation from the town, and all the people were deported to an extermination lager.
  • David Boder: Nu, tell us a little more about the two years in the lager. How did people live there and what did they do there?
  • Adam Krakowski: There is not much to tell.
  • David Boder: Oh, tell me all that you are able.
  • Adam Krakowski: Work and again work.
  • David Boder: Yes. What did you do?
  • Adam Krakowski: Road building at that time.
  • David Boder: Road building?
  • Adam Krakowski: Road building.
  • David Boder: Why were they building roads?
  • Adam Krakowski: They needed it. That was a large hydroelectric plant.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: In Rozno.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: We were building there a side [extra?] road.
  • David Boder: Hm. That was where, in Rozno?
  • Adam Krakowski: Rozno.
  • David Boder: Rozno. Which district? Was it in Poland?
  • Adam Krakowski: Lozandor [?]. It is not far from Cracow.Kraków located in southern Poland, was for several centuries the capital of the Polish kingdom. In November 1939, it had an estimated Jewish population of 60,000. The city became the seat of the General Government during the German occupation. Anti Jewish legislation and directives were issued from Kraków. Only some 4,000 of Kraków's Jews survived the war, most in slave labor camps.6
  • David Boder: Not far from Cracow. Tell me about it. Now how did you live in the lager? Where did you live? Where did you sleep?
  • Adam Krakowski: We slept in barracks. There were not even windows in these barracks, only a door . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . and a whole row of beds.
  • David Boder: Hm, and who had built these barracks?
  • Adam Krakowski: Also the same people, the Jews.
  • David Boder: And so, tell me, a row of beds? What sort of beds were there?
  • Adam Krakowski: Wooden beds, and on top straw.
  • David Boder: A bed for every person?
  • Adam Krakowski: No. One whole row for twenty, thirty persons.
  • David Boder: And so, there were no beds then. There was a . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: Plankbeds.
  • David Boder: Oh, plankbeds. And so, go on. All right. And how many people slept on such a plankbed?
  • Adam Krakowski: Twenty, thirty people. It varied, small ones and larger ones.
  • David Boder: And how near one to another did you sleep?
  • Adam Krakowski: Oh, quite near. One meter perhaps.
  • David Boder: One meter between the . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: No. Every person had a meter in width.
  • David Boder: One meter in width.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Hm. And how did people keep apart? [Pause.] How did people feel . . . how did people . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: It was very dirty there, and vermin, and . . .
  • David Boder: Vermin.What kind of vermin?
  • Adam Krakowski: Fleas. There were as yet no lice there.
  • David Boder: How come?
  • Adam Krakowski: Still . . .
  • David Boder: Did you have a chance to wash?
  • Adam Krakowski: Not much. There was one well for the entire lager, for about eight hundred people.
  • David Boder: Were there bedbugs?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, there were no bedbugs.
  • David Boder: No. Than you had mostly fleas.
  • Adam Krakowski: Fleas.
  • David Boder: All right. Nu? And so you slept there, and in the morning when did you get up?
  • Adam Krakowski: At four o'clock in the morning. When we got up there was an appell. It lasted two hours.
  • David Boder: Was that called in German, too, Appell?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: Appell.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Adam Krakowski: And then, at seven, half past seven . . .
  • David Boder: And so where was the Appell? What did you do immediately after the Appell?
  • Adam Krakowski: Nu, they loaded us on trucks, and we went to work.
  • David Boder: Not so fast. Wait a moment. Did you get dressed?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did you wash?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: All right. Were you counted?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, and then sent to work.
  • David Boder: Did you get no breakfast?
  • Adam Krakowski: No. We only got the bread in the evening, and that was [had to be] enough for breakfast too.
  • David Boder: Hm. All right. Then you were . . . tell please . . . you were . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: Driven to the construction job.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: Then we worked till twelve o'clock.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: At twelve o'clock was dinner, which they brought from the lager also on trucks. We ate the dinner on the construction.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: And then . . .
  • David Boder: Continued working.
  • Adam Krakowski: Continued working from twelve thirty until seven o'clock.
  • David Boder: All right. Tell me this. They brought dinner. What did they give you?
  • Adam Krakowski: Just one course, soup.
  • David Boder: Did everyone have separate bowls?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, everyone received a bowl, a spoon, and out of that he ate.
  • David Boder: Out of that he ate. Nu, all right, and then you worked until . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: Till seven o'clock.
  • David Boder: Until seven, and between, from twelve till seven, did you get anything to eat?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, nothing.
  • David Boder: All right, nu, what did you do at seven o'clock?
  • Adam Krakowski: At seven o'clock, back to the lager, again at appell.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: Counted up, and received supper.
  • David Boder: What were you given for supper?
  • Adam Krakowski: Hm, bread, an eighth part of a loaf. One loaf for eight people.
  • David Boder: And how much did the loaf weigh?
  • Adam Krakowski: A kilo fifty, I believe.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: One thousand five hundred grams.
  • David Boder: One thousand five hundred grams. So everyone received approximately two hundred grams of bread, and what else?
  • Adam Krakowski: Nu, two, three times a week there was also a little piece of margarine.
  • David Boder: Oh, and then what was done? Went to bed?
  • Adam Krakowski: Went to bed.
  • David Boder: Did you have anything to read?
  • Adam Krakowski: Oh, of course not. That was impossible. There was no light in the barracks.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Adam Krakowski: There was no light in the barracks.
  • David Boder: There was no light in the barracks. Did you have a chance to sit down and talk to one another?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, just to lie down. The plankbeds were in two stories.
  • David Boder: Oh, could you talk to one another?
  • Adam Krakowski: Talk, yes.
  • David Boder: Were you permitted to sing?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, that they did not permit. Silence had to reign.
  • David Boder: Silence had to reign. Did you have Sunday free?
  • Adam Krakowski: Sunday we worked until dinner.
  • David Boder: Sunday you worked until dinner.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: All right. What did you do after dinner?
  • Adam Krakowski: Nu, it was free. Everyone would wash, wash the underwear.
  • David Boder: Did you have soap?
  • Adam Krakowski: No. This we got still from home yet.
  • David Boder: What do you mean from home. Did they send it to you?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did they permit to send you?
  • Adam Krakowski: It was not permitted, but still there were ways.
  • David Boder: Did they pay you any money?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, no money.
  • David Boder: No money. Then what did people who wanted to smoke do?
  • Adam Krakowski: Those who received from home, those smoked. Those who got nothing, did not smoke.
  • David Boder: Tell me, how did people receive mail there? Were the letters distributed every day?
  • Adam Krakowski: No. There was no mail service.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: We received no letters, and we were not permitted to write any letters.
  • David Boder: Then how did people receive things from home?
  • Adam Krakowski: Someone would be sent, a Pole most often, and he would bring it.
  • David Boder: Where did one find such a Pole?
  • Adam Krakowski: In the town.
  • David Boder: When did you go to town?
  • Adam Krakowski: The parents, for instance, would find such a Pole. They would send him.
  • David Boder: Hm. And then . . . did he have a chance to see you or what?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, on the construction job.
  • David Boder: Oh, on the construction job, on the street.
  • Adam Krakowski: On the construction job.
  • David Boder: On the street. There you could pick it up? Nu, how were the Germans to you, those who supervised you?
  • Adam Krakowski: There were various.
  • David Boder: Yes? Were there good ones?
  • Adam Krakowski: There were, but not many.
  • David Boder: There were decent people.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Who supervised the construction, engineers, or who?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, there were German engineers, too.
  • David Boder: Were there any Jewish overseers?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, there were no Jewish overseers. Only later there was Jewish self-government in the lager, but no overseers. Just the food distribution, the kitchen, was in Jewish hands.The term, Jewish self government, was a complete fiction. The true governmental authority in the camps was the SS and the overriding power in them was death.7
  • David Boder: That was the self-government. Nu, go on.
  • Adam Krakowski: Nu, then occurred the depopulation [of Jews] of the town. That was in August, '42. All the people were in a transport. A transport was assembled and all the people were sent to an extermination lager, and until now . . .
  • David Boder: Were you told that they are being sent to an extermination lager?
  • Adam Krakowski: No. Only later we found it out.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: From the Poles who told us that.
  • David Boder: Hm. Where were they sent?
  • Adam Krakowski: To Belzec.
  • David Boder: To Belsen?
  • Adam Krakowski: Belzec.
  • David Boder: Belzec. Where is that?
  • Adam Krakowski: It is, I believe around a hundred kilometers from Lublin, between Lublin and Lemberg.Lublin, located in southeastern Poland, had a Jewish population of 40,000 when the war began. It became the headquarters for Odilo Globocnik, the SS officer place in charge of "Aktion Reinhard." The majority of Lublin's Jewish community perished in the Belzec and Majdanek extermination camps. Only a tiny remnant survived the war.8
  • David Boder: Yes, now, in the lager where you were, where you were working, were there many women?
  • Adam Krakowski: No.
  • David Boder: Only men.
  • Adam Krakowski: Only men.
  • David Boder: All right. Then you came to Belzec.
  • Adam Krakowski: No, not we. Just the transport from the town, and these people who were in lagers . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . these remained. And we were there a few more days. Then we were sent to another lager, to a wood construction job.
  • David Boder: What did you do there?
  • Adam Krakowski: There barracks were built. We made parts for barracks . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . out of wood.
  • David Boder: Then you did not go to an extermination lager.
  • Adam Krakowski: Not I, but the family went there. [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: Hm. Oh, then your family was . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . taken and sent away to an extermination lager.
  • Adam Krakowski: Extermination lager.
  • David Boder: And where was this lager?
  • Adam Krakowski: In Belzec.
  • David Boder: In Belzec. And how did you know that they were sent to Belzec?
  • Adam Krakowski: We only found that out later.
  • David Boder: How?
  • Adam Krakowski: The Poles told us that later . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . where the transports went to.
  • David Boder: Hm. Nu, tell me this . . . and you have heard nothing from them?
  • Adam Krakowski: Nu, that was already all. Only later did people come to us, when I was already in another lager, and there were many people, too, who had been in the extermination lagers, in Treblinka. They already told exactly how things looked there.
  • David Boder: Yes. How did they get away from Treblinka?
  • Adam Krakowski: These people were in an outside detail, who had been sent from Treblinka to work.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: And they came to Budzina.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: Another lager, and from Budzina we went to Rzeszow [repeats in Polish] Rzeszow, and [words not clear] in the third lager.
  • David Boder: Yes. Where was the third lager in which you were?
  • Adam Krakowski: In Rzeszow. [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: Where is that?
  • Adam Krakowski: Between Cracow and Lemberg.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: And there was a factory, an airplane engine factory.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: And there I was about two years.
  • David Boder: What did you do there?
  • Adam Krakowski: We worked there at the airplane engines. Mostly odd jobs.
  • David Boder: Odd jobs. And where did you live? Where did you sleep?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: In the factory there was a small lager. We were there, three, four hundred people.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: And there the conditions were already somewhat better.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: We were only working twelve hours. Then we had free, and on Sunday it was free, too.
  • David Boder: Tell me, there were so many men there. Did they ever see women or . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: No, never.
  • David Boder: And . . . eh . . . how did the men feel being away from women?
  • Adam Krakowski: Very bad, but . . .
  • David Boder: Eh . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . there was no way out.
  • David Boder: Eh . . . did it ever happen that . . . all right. Nu, tell me this . . . and you were there two years?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: In what years was that?
  • Adam Krakowski: From '42 to '44.
  • David Boder: To '44.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Summer or winter of '44?
  • Adam Krakowski: Summer.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Adam Krakowski: Then the Russians advanced, so we were evacuated. We had been already quite near the front lines.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: The front was about four, five miles away from us.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: So we were sent to lager Plaszow, near Cracow.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: There we were twenty-one or-three thousand Jews.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: There were already women, too.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: There we were only a few days. Then we were sent to another lager, WieliczkaWieliczka originally had a small Jewish population which increased greatly as a result of thousands of refugees who streamed into it from Kraków and elsewhere. Most perished in the Belzec extermination camp.9, also thirty kilometers from Cracow. Again a few days and [to] Flossenberg in Germany. This was the first lager in Germany.
  • David Boder: Yes, and from there?
  • Adam Krakowski: There I was again three weeks. The I went to a lager in France, Colmar.Colmar was located in the Haute-Rhine district of eastern France. Its entire Jewish community of 1,140 Jews was expelled by the Germans to southern France. After the war, the survivors reconstituted the community.10
  • David Boder: Oh, they had sent you to France.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes. And then again to another lager in France [word not clear]. We were working in a tunnel, again at airplace motors.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: In a tunnel, underground, four kilometers long.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: There we were two months, until the Americans approached. We were again evacuated. We were sent to Sachsenhausen.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: There we were three weeks and [then sent] to Branschweig to a bomb and grenade factory.Branschweig was a German town located in north central Germany between Hanover and Magdeburg. The town's Jewish population dated from the thirteenth century and was wiped out by the Nazis.11
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: Those were the Hermann Goering Works.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: Steel works, Braunschweig. There I was half a year, until April, '44. When the Americans began approaching again, we were evacuated to Ravensbrueck. For fourteen days we sat in railroad cars. We were a hundred, a hundred and twenty people to a railroad car.Mr. Krakowski misspoke when he said he was in Braunschweig until April 1944, when he was relocated to Ravensbrück. He meant April 1945, during the final days of Hitler's "thousand year Reich."12
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: And then in Ravensbrueck again two weeks. There came a representative from Sweden and told us that all Jews are going to Sweden.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: On a train they . . .
  • David Boder: Put?
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . put us and we traveled for four or five days. On the fifth day we were brought again to another lager, to a region near Ludwigslust. And we could not go any more to Sweden. And after two weeks the Americans came and . . . Ludwigslust was a northern German town located somewhat east of Hamburg. As Allied forces closed in from the west and Soviet forces closed in from the east, prisoners were deported to the ever shrinking territory controlled by the Germans. Many died from exposure, exhaustion and despair in filthy, overcrowded railway cars.13
  • David Boder: Liberated.
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . liberated us.
  • David Boder: Tell me, when so many people were sent to extermination camps, how do you explain that you and other people were driven around and dragged around so much?
  • Adam Krakowski: We happened to be able to work for them. They still needed us.
  • David Boder: They needed you. Hm. Tell me this, you say that you talked with people who had been in extermination lagers.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: What do these people tell about it?
  • Adam Krakowski: The lagers were in the woods, Treblinka for example.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: When the transports would arrive, all would be made to get off and were first of all taken to a bath house. Everyone had to undress, and then his . . . his clothing he had to put aside, and he would receive a piece of soap, a towel and he would enter a large hall.A number of Jewish victims never reached Treblinka. They died during the journey in overcrowded, airless and waterless railway cars. Those who arrived alive were stripped of their possessions. Families were brutally broken up without a chance to say farewell. After undressing the victims were made to run naked through a gauntlet of German and Ukrainian guards who chased them into the gas chambers disguised as shower rooms. There were thirteen gas chambers at Treblinka powered by diesel engines in which victims died agonizing deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. Suffocation took fifteen to twenty minutes when the gas chambers were functioning properly and longer when they were not. Although Treblinka claimed more than 800,000 victims, Mr. Krakowski's number of daily deaths at the facility is exaggerated. 14
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: And there they would open the gas . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . in that hall, and when the people were all dead they were transported to the crematory, and there they were all burned.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: I believe a thousand people could get into such a hall, and such a hall could dispatch [liquidate] up to forty thousand people daily.
  • David Boder: Hm. Tell me this, you were working in a labor detail. If anyone was sick, was there a doctor?
  • Adam Krakowski: Sometimes one was allowed to be sick for only one week.
  • David Boder: And when . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: And when one, for instance, was already sick for eight days, they shot him.
  • David Boder: And . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: The Gestapo was called and he was immediately shot.
  • David Boder: You mean, there in the lager?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did the others . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . know that it is done so?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: What, did they say so?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, they said so. Seven days one may be sick, but not any longer.
  • David Boder: Nu, if one would have typhus?
  • Adam Krakowski: Then he was immediately shot. This was until the year '43.
  • David Boder: Until '43.
  • Adam Krakowski: Until '43. After that, not any more.
  • David Boder: What happened then?
  • Adam Krakowski: The we had already what was called a revier [sick-ward]. Such a hospital. A provisional hospital in the lager.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: That was a barrack, and there the sick would be kept.
  • David Boder: By the Germans.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: There were Germans, too, prisoners. Separately.
  • David Boder: German prisoners. Were there Jewish physicians?
  • Adam Krakowski: There were Jews, yes.
  • David Boder: And others?
  • Adam Krakowski: Others, too.
  • David Boder: Hm. And how did you get to France?
  • Adam Krakowski: Now?
  • David Boder: Yes, and so, the Americans liberated you.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: In which lager?
  • Adam Krakowski: In [word not clear], near Ludwigslust. In Mecklenburg.
  • David Boder: Yes? And what did you do then? Tell me what happened among the civilian Germans between the departure of the Germans and the arrival of the Americans? Did the Germans feel that they have already lost? How was it?
  • Adam Krakowski: It was on the first of May, '45.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: They loaded us again on RR-cars. They said that the Americans are approaching and we have to be evacuated again.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: And there we sat twenty-four hours in the RR-cars. Then we were told to get off again. There is no road [tracks] any more, they said. We must go on foot.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: And when we returned again to the lager, all the SS had disappeared.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: It lasted about fifteen minutes. Then we noticed it, that they escaped to the woods, so we took the weapons and wanted to take them over.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: And from the time that the SS had run away and the Americans arrived it took about half an hour. And there were already the American parachute troops.
  • David Boder: The parachute troops?
  • Adam Krakowski: The parachute troops, yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adam Krakowski: And they immediately . . . immediately appeared in the lager. In a short time we saw already other patrols.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: On automobiles [motorized].
  • David Boder: And when was the first time you received American food?
  • Adam Krakowski: Oh, American food we received later. Only two, three weeks later. In the meantime we organized [appropriated, stole] as it was called. We went to the village and fetched from there.
  • David Boder: What do you mean, you fetched. You took it away from the people?
  • Adam Krakowski: No. We told the German people there that we are from the lager, we are hungry, they should give us voluntarily, and they gave us.
  • David Boder: Hm. And were there only Jews in that lager?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, there were four thousand people. There were perhaps eight, nine hundred Jews and the rest were other nations.
  • David Boder: For instance?
  • Adam Krakowski: There were Frenchmen, there were Italians, Russians, Poles, Czechs, Rumanians, Danes from Denmark.
  • David Boder: How come there were also people from Denmark? Tell me, were there German Jews too?
  • Adam Krakowski: There were, too, but not many.
  • David Boder: And did the German Jews and the Polish Jews get along well?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: There was already solidarity.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: We had to get along well together.
  • David Boder: Hm. So then . . . /pause] so only two, three weeks after the Americans had arrived, did the Americans begin to . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, to feed.
  • David Boder: Did the individual soldiers, the Americans, help you in any way?
  • Adam Krakowski: Oh, yes, quite often.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: They would give chocolate, cigarettes, quite often.
  • David Boder: But, otherwise, you had to go to the village?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes. There were then also many Jews among the Americans, and they helped us, too.
  • David Boder: Hm. How can a small village, or a small town, feed four thousand people every day?
  • Adam Krakowski: Nu, they were not . . . the whole four thousand people were not able to go. The majority stayed in the lager. They could not walk anymore.
  • David Boder: Why not?
  • Adam Krakowski: They were weak, sick.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: So there was only about a thousand people who were able to go [walk].
  • David Boder: And who cared for the sick?
  • Adam Krakowski: Other comrades.
  • David Boder: Hm. Did the Americans at least bring medicine right away?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, only later. After one week, two weeks, were all the sick taken to hospitals.
  • David Boder: So it was not that the moment they entered.
  • Adam Krakowski: No, no.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Adam Krakowski: Many people died already after the liberation, too.
  • David Boder: Hm. In what lager was that?
  • Adam Krakowski: Ludwigslust. Right near Ludwigslust.
  • David Boder: Ludwigslust, and who brought you over to France?
  • Adam Krakowski: Nu, after that I was a few months in Poland, and then I received the news that the brother in France is alive.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: So I left Poland.
  • David Boder: How did you leave? Did they let you leave?
  • Adam Krakowski: No. I smuggled myself across the border.
  • David Boder: Which border?
  • Adam Krakowski: Between Stettin and Berlin.
  • David Boder: Yes. So then you entered Russian Poland.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Were you not stopped there?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, from there I went on to the American zone in Berlin.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: And from there was a transport of the UNRRA.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: By automobiles . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . to Hannover, and then to Frankfurt.
  • David Boder: Hm, and the UNRRA took the people?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Whoever could go.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: How did you get into . . . tell me, you were in Poland . . . Wait. The Americans liberated you where?
  • Adam Krakowski: In Germany.
  • David Boder: And why did you go back to Poland?
  • Adam Krakowski: Well, I though perhaps someone may still be alive, perhaps some distant relations.
  • David Boder: Hm. Did you find anyone alive?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, there was no one.
  • David Boder: Did you return to Lodz?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: How did Lodz look then?
  • Adam Krakowski: Well, just as before the war. It was not destroyed.
  • David Boder: Tell me, there was in Lodz a factory of . . . Sigman . . . a large fact . . . Sigman, an American textile factory.
  • Adam Krakowski: Oh, yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adam Krakowski: It is now nationalized.
  • David Boder: It is now nationalized.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: But what did the Germans do with the factory?
  • Adam Krakowski: Nothing, it went on producing.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: For the Germans.
  • Adam Krakowski: For the Germans.
  • David Boder: You know the factory? A large . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: . . . American factory. What does it do now?
  • Adam Krakowski: It goes on working now.
  • David Boder: What do they produce?
  • Adam Krakowski: That I do not know exactly.
  • David Boder: Textile goods, or . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: I don't know exactly.
  • David Boder: You don't know exactly. So then you went voluntarily back to Poland?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: To Lodz, because you wanted to know what . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: If anyone of the family is still alive, of the distant relations.
  • David Boder: Yes, nu, and no one was alive.
  • Adam Krakowski: No one was there.
  • David Boder: What did the people tell you?
  • Adam Krakowski: They told they were in the ghetto, some of the family, and were from the ghetto sent to Auschwitz. I waited another month. I thought perhaps someone will still come back, but no one came back any more.
  • David Boder: Oh, you waited still.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: All right, then, from Lodz where did you go?
  • Adam Krakowski: I received the news from Paris that the brother there is alive.
  • David Boder: How did one get the news?
  • Adam Krakowski: Through the mail already. He wrote to the old address.
  • David Boder: And the mail went through?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, it took five months.
  • David Boder: Yes? And?
  • Adam Krakowski: Then I got [drove] out or Lodz. After six weeks I arrived in Paris.
  • David Boder: How did you get [drive] out? What did you take? A train?
  • Adam Krakowski: No, on foot.
  • David Boder: You drove out on foot?
  • Adam Krakowski: Sure. [Words not clear.] [Both laugh at the wording.]
  • David Boder: And over the border? Was the border not guarded, or what?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, it was guarded, but still . . .
  • David Boder: Who guarded the border, the Poles or . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: The Poles and Russians.
  • David Boder: Poles and Russians. So you got across?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Where did you eat? What did you get to eat?
  • Adam Krakowski: I took something along from Poland yet, and in Berlin I already received [help] from the Jewish committee.After Germany's surrender, the country was divided into four occupation zone, the Russian, the American, the British and the French. The latter three were eventually merged to become West Germany while the Soviet zone, excluding the city of Berlin which was divided between east and west, became communist East Germany.15
  • David Boder: You went in, directly to the American zone?Sarrbruecken was located in southwestern Germany in the Saar region, close to Alsace Lorriane. A number of the town's Jews perished in the Holocaust, but a small number returned to reestablish their community.16
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: And there was a Jewish committee?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Who were they, Americans or Germans?
  • Adam Krakowski: No. Jewish . . . Jews, Jewish Americans.
  • David Boder: Hm. And they took you from there to where?
  • Adam Krakowski: They sent me over to Hannover in the English zone.
  • David Boder: The English zone. All right, and from there?
  • Adam Krakowski: And from there again to the American zone, Frankfurt, Munich.
  • David Boder: Yes, and then?
  • Adam Krakowski: And then I went on already by myself. By train to Saarbruecken [sp?] and from Saarbruecken . . . The zloty was the basic unit of the Polish currency.17
  • David Boder: With what did you buy a ticket?
  • Adam Krakowski: I still had some money on me.
  • David Boder: From where?
  • Adam Krakowski: From Poland. I had been working.
  • David Boder: When did you work in Poland. After you returned?
  • Adam Krakowski: After the liberation. The few months after liberation.
  • David Boder: What did you work at?
  • Adam Krakowski: I made maps [sketched?].
  • David Boder: Are you a draftsman?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: What were you paid for it?
  • Adam Krakowski: I made a few hundred Zlotys a day.Telegraphie sans fil or wireless telegraphy.18
  • David Boder: And what . . . what did the food cost? Or did [you get] the food . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: It was about enough to live on without too much luxury.
  • David Boder: Yes. [Chuckle.] And then you bought your ticket . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . and you came to Paris.
  • Adam Krakowski: To Saarbruecken and from there again across the border again on foot.
  • David Boder: Yes? Did you smuggle yourself across the border?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Adam Krakowski: I was not able to get a visa.
  • David Boder: But your uncle [brother] was here.
  • Adam Krakowski: It was impossible. I had to take too much time. I was in the French consulate in Baden-Baden. He told me it had to take half a year, maybe longer.
  • David Boder: The French consul.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adam Krakowski: [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: So you crossed the border.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: And then . . . could you live here in Paris if you crossed the border?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes, and with whom are you staying here in Paris?
  • Adam Krakowski: I am staying with my brother.
  • David Boder: Oh, you are staying with your brother.
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: And in what business is your brother?
  • Adam Krakowski: He is a doctor of medicine.
  • David Boder: Oh, he is a physician.
  • Adam Krakowski: Physician.
  • David Boder: What . . . has he always lived here in France?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes, he studied here. He finished his studies here and was here already.
  • David Boder: Hm, and what do you now?
  • Adam Krakowski: Now I am learning TSF [radio] and go on with painting.
  • David Boder: And what are your plans for the future?
  • Adam Krakowski: Hm . . . to go working at TSF.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Adam Krakowski: TSF. Radio.
  • David Boder: And . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: They call it in French: telegraphie sans fil.
  • David Boder: Hm. TSF. You want . . . what do you want to do in radio?
  • Adam Krakowski: To become a radio mechanic. Set assembling.
  • David Boder: Set assembling and so forth.
  • Adam Krakowski: Installations.
  • David Boder: Do you want to open up a store later on, or what?
  • Adam Krakowski: Perhaps. At first I must learn the job, and then when I stand on my own feet and when it is possible, then I would like very much . . . [pause]
  • David Boder: What?
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . to work for myself.
  • David Boder: Hm. Do you want to remain in France?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Hm. Yes. Well, this is more or less a clear story. There are some particulars which . . . which we did not know too well. I wonder if you would do me a small favor. [Here follows one of the few attempts to administer a modified Thematic Apperception Test which was soon given up as greatly time consuming and falling outside the scope of the project.] Tell me, what does this picture remind you of? What would you think of this picture? What memories does it evoke in you? [Pause.] Were you to compose a story from this picture, what would you say it was?
  • Adam Krakowski: A child . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . perhaps an artist, playing the violin . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adam Krakowski: Looks quite young.
  • David Boder: And what is this picture?
  • Adam Krakowski: A woman. Looks suffering.
  • David Boder: Judging by your experience of the last five years, what would you say has happened to this woman?
  • Adam Krakowski: Went through a lot. Has suffered much. That is seen in her face.
  • David Boder: And what kind of a story does this picture represent?
  • Adam Krakowski: A corpse, a mussulman.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Adam Krakowski: A mussulman, a sick one.
  • David Boder: A sick one?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: What is a mussulman?
  • Adam Krakowski: A mussulman is a man who is already so weak that he cannot walk by himself.
  • David Boder: Where does this word come from?
  • Adam Krakowski: Ther Germans originated that word yet.
  • David Boder: What is the word?
  • Adam Krakowski: Mussulman.
  • David Boder: How do you spell is? M-U-S . . .
  • Adam Krakowski: . . . S-U-L-M-A-N.
  • David Boder: And that means what?
  • Adam Krakowski: That means weak people who cannot walk anymore. Sick people.
  • David Boder: Hm, and what is this?
  • Adam Krakowski: Freedom.
  • David Boder: Hm, and what is this?
  • Adam Krakowski: Work.
  • David Boder: Tell me more.
  • Adam Krakowski: This is our future.
  • David Boder: Hm. Now, what do you think of the future? Do you think we shall have war again?
  • Adam Krakowski: I shall not go to a lager again.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Adam Krakowski: I shall not go to a lager again.
  • David Boder: What would you do?
  • Adam Krakowski: Anything, but not that.
  • David Boder: Yes, but it does not . . . it did not depend on you whether to go to a lager.
  • Adam Krakowski: Now it shall already depend on me.
  • David Boder: What will you do then?
  • Adam Krakowski: Anything, but not to go to a lager again.
  • David Boder: For instance.
  • Adam Krakowski: Become a soldier.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adam Krakowski: Fight.
  • David Boder: All right.
  • Adam Krakowski: [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: Was it then possible for you to become a soldier? How old were you when it started?
  • Adam Krakowski: Fifteen.
  • David Boder: Fifteen, and you are now?
  • Adam Krakowski: Twenty-one.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes a record by . . . taken from a young man, Adam Krakowski. He lives now in Paris.
  • David Boder: [In German] Is your brother's name also Krakowski?
  • Adam Krakowski: Yes.
  • David Boder: [In English] His brother, a long-time practicing physician here in this city . . . He is studying radio at the ORT and plans later to become a radio technician . . . radio man. He does not plan to leave the country. He neither thinks of going to the United States nor Palestine, nor any other place. He is apparently hoping to get set up here.
  1. Łódź, located in western Poland, was the second most populous city in the country. When World War II began more than one third of its 665,000 inhabitants were Jewish. Of these, more than forty percent worked in manufacturing, most in the textile industry.
  2. On the eve of World War II, Paris had a Jewish population of some 200,000, but only about one quarter were French-born. The majority of the remainder, including Mr. Krakowski's brother, were eastern European Jews who had migrated to France after World War I.
  3. Galicia signified the geographical and political region of eastern Europe located in southeastern Poland and northwestern Ukraine, extending northward from the Carpathian mountains to the San river.
  4. After the defeat of Poland in the fall of 1939, Germany annexed segments of the western and northern parts of the country including the city of Łódź. In the remaining areas of Poland under German occupation at the time, the Generalgouvernement, a civil administrative region under the rule of Hans Frank, was formed. Warsaw was the key urban center in the Generalgouvernement. Krakowski is mistaken in his belief that it was annexed to Germany.
  5. Neusatz was a small town in Lower Silesia, then Germany and today Poland. On the eve of the Nazi takeover, it had a Jewish population of sixty. None remained following the war.
  6. Kraków located in southern Poland, was for several centuries the capital of the Polish kingdom. In November 1939, it had an estimated Jewish population of 60,000. The city became the seat of the General Government during the German occupation. Anti Jewish legislation and directives were issued from Kraków. Only some 4,000 of Kraków's Jews survived the war, most in slave labor camps.
  7. The term, Jewish self government, was a complete fiction. The true governmental authority in the camps was the SS and the overriding power in them was death.
  8. Lublin, located in southeastern Poland, had a Jewish population of 40,000 when the war began. It became the headquarters for Odilo Globocnik, the SS officer place in charge of "Aktion Reinhard." The majority of Lublin's Jewish community perished in the Belzec and Majdanek extermination camps. Only a tiny remnant survived the war.
  9. Wieliczka originally had a small Jewish population which increased greatly as a result of thousands of refugees who streamed into it from Kraków and elsewhere. Most perished in the Belzec extermination camp.
  10. Colmar was located in the Haute-Rhine district of eastern France. Its entire Jewish community of 1,140 Jews was expelled by the Germans to southern France. After the war, the survivors reconstituted the community.
  11. Branschweig was a German town located in north central Germany between Hanover and Magdeburg. The town's Jewish population dated from the thirteenth century and was wiped out by the Nazis.
  12. Mr. Krakowski misspoke when he said he was in Braunschweig until April 1944, when he was relocated to Ravensbrück. He meant April 1945, during the final days of Hitler's "thousand year Reich."
  13. Ludwigslust was a northern German town located somewhat east of Hamburg. As Allied forces closed in from the west and Soviet forces closed in from the east, prisoners were deported to the ever shrinking territory controlled by the Germans. Many died from exposure, exhaustion and despair in filthy, overcrowded railway cars.
  14. A number of Jewish victims never reached Treblinka. They died during the journey in overcrowded, airless and waterless railway cars. Those who arrived alive were stripped of their possessions. Families were brutally broken up without a chance to say farewell. After undressing the victims were made to run naked through a gauntlet of German and Ukrainian guards who chased them into the gas chambers disguised as shower rooms. There were thirteen gas chambers at Treblinka powered by diesel engines in which victims died agonizing deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning. Suffocation took fifteen to twenty minutes when the gas chambers were functioning properly and longer when they were not. Although Treblinka claimed more than 800,000 victims, Mr. Krakowski's number of daily deaths at the facility is exaggerated.
  15. After Germany's surrender, the country was divided into four occupation zone, the Russian, the American, the British and the French. The latter three were eventually merged to become West Germany while the Soviet zone, excluding the city of Berlin which was divided between east and west, became communist East Germany.
  16. Sarrbruecken was located in southwestern Germany in the Saar region, close to Alsace Lorriane. A number of the town's Jews perished in the Holocaust, but a small number returned to reestablish their community.
  17. The zloty was the basic unit of the Polish currency.
  18. Telegraphie sans fil or wireless telegraphy.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English Translation : David P. Boder
  • Footnotes : Elliot Lefkovitz