David P. Boder Interviews Esther Krueger; September 2, 1946; Tradate, Italy

  • David Boder: [In English] Italy. September the 2nd, 1946. In Tradate, between Milano and Como, a displaced person's community given to self government of a number of Kibbutzim. That means small, formed, Zionistic groups which intend to enter Palestine by legal or illegal means, whichever possible. The interviewee is Miss Esther Krueger, twenty years old.
  • David Boder: [In German] To which Kibbutz do you belong?
  • Esther Krueger: Nochum.
  • David Boder: [In English] Belonging to the Kibbutz Nochum.
  • David Boder: [In German] And so, Miss Krueger, tell us again what your name is, and how old you are, and where you are from.
  • Esther Krueger: I am twenty years old. From Kielce, and [am] in Kibbutz Nochum.
  • David Boder: Yes. You are from Kielce.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu, tell us what happened to you when you . . . when the war started.
  • Esther Krueger: [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: Yes. Well, whatever you remember. You don't have to give the exact day or the kind. How was it? Where were you there? In Kielce?
  • Esther Krueger: You mean in which lager?
  • David Boder: No, no, no. Where were you at home?
  • Esther Krueger: I? In Kielce.
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.] You lived in . . . ?
  • Esther Krueger: Kielce.
  • David Boder: In Kielce. With whom?
  • Esther Krueger: With the whole family.
  • David Boder: Yes. And how many . . . ?
  • Esther Krueger: The parents and sisters, brothers.
  • David Boder: How many sisters and how many brothers?
  • Esther Krueger: I had three sisters and three brothers.
  • David Boder: Three brothers.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Were they older or younger? How many were . . . ?
  • Esther Krueger: One brother, an older one.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: And one a younger one.
  • David Boder: And so, one older brother and . . .
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . and three younger sisters?
  • Esther Krueger: [Words not clear] and two [younger] brothers.
  • David Boder: Two brothers.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: You were altogether eight . . . [correction] seven children.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: And [with] your parents there were . . . ?
  • Esther Krueger: Too . . .
  • David Boder: Nine persons in the family?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Speak a little louder. Yes. Nu, what was your father's occupation?
  • Esther Krueger: My father dealt in . . . in dry goods.
  • David Boder: Dry goods.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did he have a store?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. The mother too.
  • David Boder: The mother was also in the store.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu, did they earn well?
  • Esther Krueger: But yes. [They] earned well, but still . . . .[We] led a good life.
  • David Boder: A good life. What sort of an education did you receive?
  • Esther Krueger: I went to school.
  • David Boder: What kind of school?
  • Esther Krueger: Elementary school. I was still young.
  • David Boder: Yes
  • Esther Krueger: Sixteen years. I finished seven [years of] elementary school.
  • David Boder: Seven grades of . . .
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . elementary school.
  • Esther Krueger: And afterwards I was taken to the lager.
  • David Boder: And so wait a moment. Not so fast. And so when the war began you were in a Kielce.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Who marched in? Did the German march into Kielce?
  • Esther Krueger: The Germans.
  • David Boder: The Germans. And so tell me what happened when the Germans entered Kielce. What happened to you [plural]? Nu? Speak.
  • Esther Krueger: When the German came to Kielce they grabbed for forced labor.
  • David Boder: And so tell me, how soon? Immediately or a few days . . .
  • Esther Krueger: Immediately.
  • David Boder: . . . a few days later? How was it?
  • Esther Krueger: When [?]?
  • David Boder: Nu, not exactly . . .
  • Esther Krueger: In the year '42.
  • David Boder: In the year '42.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: How did they grab for forced labor? How did . . .
  • Esther Krueger: They grabbed for the munitions factory, to Skarzysko.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: They grabbed [for] forced labor, to munitions.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu, how was . . .
  • Esther Krueger: At that time . . .
  • David Boder: . . . one grabbed? What happened to you?
  • Esther Krueger: At that time a Jewish Community Council was established.
  • David Boder: A Community Council, yes.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. A Jewish one. And sent out forced-labor tickets for work.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: I, too, was taken to work. But I have . . . a few times I escaped. I wanted to remain together with my parents.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: So I was taken forcibly by the police, the Jewish [police].
  • David Boder: By the Jewish police.
  • Esther Krueger: Police.
  • David Boder: And so when you were at forced labor did you work and return home every day?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. Everyday we drove [to work] at seven o'clock and returned home at five o'clock.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: For a certain time, maybe two months, I worked thus.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: And then it was said that there is to be a resettlement [population removal].
  • David Boder: Aha. Nu, go on. And so, [let's go] on. How did the deportation come off? Tell about everything in detail. Nu?
  • Esther Krueger: I got up in the morning and said good bye to my mutti. Afterwards I didn't want to go to work, but my mutti was crying very much. If I don't go to work then I will be kept in the barracks.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: So I had to go to work.
  • David Boder: Now wait a moment. Where? In which barracks? Was your mother already in the barracks?
  • Esther Krueger: No. My mutti was at home.
  • David Boder: Yes? Did . . .
  • Esther Krueger: But . . .
  • David Boder: . . . people knew that the deportation was coming?
  • Esther Krueger: We did not know exactly.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: People in town were talking. Today will be a deportation. And when the deportation was about to be, then the block [the workers] were detained in the barracks.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: So I became afraid to go to work.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: But my mother said, 'Don't be afraid. Today they will not [?] detain in the barracks.' And I went to work.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And when I went to work on the same day they detained us.
  • David Boder: Whom?
  • Esther Krueger: Us. All the girls [words not clear].
  • David Boder: Oh, the girls who were . . .
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . at work.
  • Esther Krueger: At work.
  • David Boder: Oh, you were kept back at work. Nu?
  • Esther Krueger: Kept us back in the barracks. Did [not] let any more [go] home.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: Because every day at five o'clock we came home
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: But this day they did not let us go home any more.
  • David Boder: Where was that barrack? Near the factory?
  • Esther Krueger: The barrack was in . . . near the factory.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Esther Krueger: In Skarzysko.
  • David Boder: Aha. Nu.
  • Esther Krueger: And afterwards I have seen the worst. And I imagined that I am being left alone without my parents.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: I cried very much. I cried so much I then received from an SS man in the face that I . . . I couldn't hear, on my ear.
  • David Boder: What does it mean 'you received'?
  • Esther Krueger: Received such a . . . a . . .
  • David Boder: Slap in the face. He hit you in the face.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Esther Krueger: I did not feel well then, but I still could not control my crying.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: Because this was the worst that could happen in life.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Esther Krueger: To be left without parents, without sisters and brothers.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Esther Krueger: But that didn't do [help] anything. I had to remain in the barrack. And my parents were still at home for perhaps four weeks.
  • David Boder: Yes. And where did you remain? In the barrack for those four weeks?
  • Esther Krueger: And I remained in the barrack, and later on I received letters from home. I also wrote, through Poles.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And my mutti wrote me that the deportation was put off for three months. But it was not true. My mutti wrote [it] in order that I should not have so many . . . eh . . .
  • David Boder: Worries?
  • Esther Krueger: Worries.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: And afterwards . . .
  • David Boder: Did your mother write through the mail?
  • Esther Krueger: The mail, yes. Through . . . through Poles.
  • David Boder: Yes. And so one was not supposed to receive letters.
  • Esther Krueger: Pardon?
  • David Boder: They didn't allow to receive letters.
  • Esther Krueger: Did not allow. No.
  • David Boder: No.
  • Esther Krueger: It wasn't allowed.
  • David Boder: But they were sent through the Polish clandestine 'post.'
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. They would bring it into the lager.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu?
  • Esther Krueger: And afterwards was Yom Kippur [ Day of Atonement].
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: I had also written how a paper a day earlier.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: And I was supposed to receive a letter a day the next day. The Poles came and they said that they could not get a letter any more because all had been deported.
  • David Boder: On Yom Kippur?
  • Esther Krueger: On Yom Kippur. On the same day.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: At dawn, at three o'clock at night, they were awakened.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And mutti had to get up with the small children, take everything, and leave the house.
  • David Boder: And so did people still go to Synagogue on Yom Kippur in the evening? Did people still go to Kol Nidrei [special services for the Day of Atonement]?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. They still had gone in the evening. And they came home. And they did not know anything.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: At three o'clock came that deportation.
  • David Boder: Yes. Who were . . . and how old were the small children?
  • Esther Krueger: The youngest, my sister, was four years [old].
  • David Boder: And your father was also taken?
  • Esther Krueger: My father too, was in a larger, but on another shop. I was in shop 'B' and my father was in Shop 'A'.
  • David Boder: Oh, already from before.
  • Esther Krueger: Before. But I didn't know about my father. I was told that my father had gone home because my [his] eyes had become weak. I was very happy because my father will be . . .
  • David Boder: Whose eyes became weak.
  • Esther Krueger: . . . together. Yes.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Esther Krueger: With my mutti.
  • David Boder: Yes. Was it so?
  • Esther Krueger: No. I wrote home. My mutti did not answer me anything about the father. And afterwards, a year later, I was told that my father had died in the hospital before the deportation of Skarzysko.
  • David Boder: Hm. And so your father was also taken to a barrack?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: My father was also in the barrack, but he was working on wood.
  • David Boder: How old was he?
  • Esther Krueger: My father was forty-one years.
  • David Boder: Forty-one years?
  • Esther Krueger: Forty-one years.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. My father was working on wood in the Karl [?] forest, and a big tree fell on [his] leg and my father was . . .
  • David Boder: A big what? A big tree.
  • Esther Krueger: Tree. Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: Fell on [his] leg and it broke my father's leg.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: Then the father went to the hospital, and he died
  • David Boder: Hm. Nu? And so what happened on Yom Kippur night? You were not there. You had been told.
  • Esther Krueger: No.
  • David Boder: What were you told?
  • Esther Krueger: I was told thus. When my mutti and my brothers had gone to Kol Nidrei, they came home. They knew nothing. They went to sleep as any other day.
  • David Boder: Was there a ghetto?
  • Esther Krueger: It had been partitioned off.
  • David Boder: Yes. It had been partitioned off.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: In Kielce.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Esther Krueger: And later on, at three o'clock, the Jewish police came, and they began waking. My mutti didn't know what was happening, what was going on, but she understood that it must be already . . . .there had arrived SS men, and they sur . . . surrounded the whole town with SS men.
  • David Boder: Who were those SS men? Germans or Ukrainians?
  • Esther Krueger: There were Germans and there were Ukrainians, too, but mostly Germans. They badly beat the Jews. The worst that could happen. Without any distinction whether a woman or a man, they would beat badly. And my mutti arose, got up the children, and left the house, at about six o'clock. That is what I heard. I don't know it exactly.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: Around six o'clock they led them to the train, and they shipped them away, in closed wagons [railroad cars], lime spread inside [word not clear]. They received no water.
  • David Boder: Nu, yes. You didn't see that yourself.
  • Esther Krueger: I heard about all that.
  • David Boder: Yes. That we already have from the others. Nu, what happened to you?
  • Esther Krueger: And I remained in the lager. At that time I didn't know anything any more.
  • David Boder: In the barracks?
  • Esther Krueger: In the barracks, yes. I didn't know anything any more, what will be with my life, whether I will survive, or if it will be the end of me. But I worked at machines. I worked very diligently so I got a good eye [fell in favor] by the German foreman.
  • David Boder: A what?
  • Esther Krueger: By the German foreman I got a good eye. I worked well.
  • David Boder: A good eye?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: By him. Nu?
  • Esther Krueger: And I worked by a brush machine.
  • David Boder: What did they do? What did . . .
  • Esther Krueger: The brush machines shined the shells.
  • David Boder: Yes, the ammunition shells.
  • Esther Krueger: The ammunition shells. And afterwards I was given more soup. The most important thing in the lager was to keep oneself clean. Always clean, ne to keep oneself, and too take care of the work.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And all that was by me in order. I conducted myself very well. Clean. I have . . . we received [for every] seven people a kilo ninety (1.90) of bread. So I had to, together with my friend -- I had one girl from home for a friend -- [we] had to sell one portion of bread.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: For that to buy soap.
  • David Boder: What kind . . .
  • Esther Krueger: For washing.
  • David Boder: What kind of bread was it. Was it baked every day?
  • Esther Krueger: It was so: Some days it night be fresh, but it could be moldy, too.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: Old bread.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: It varied. So we . . .
  • David Boder: So you sold the bread to buy soap.
  • Esther Krueger: So we sold one portion of bread, two people [men] to buy soap.
  • David Boder: You mean two women.
  • Esther Krueger: Two.
  • David Boder: Two girls. [Chuckle.] Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes, two girls. And one portion of bread we ate.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: Everyday. We received the bread in the evening. We were very hungry, so we ate it in the evening. And in the morning we had to wait till twelve o'clock till dinner. The dinner varied. One day there was plain water. The next day might be already a little pea soup or a little potatoes. The soup varied.
  • David Boder: Did they give bread for dinner again?
  • Esther Krueger: [With emphasis] No. For dinner . . .
  • David Boder: The bread was given once for a whole day
  • Esther Krueger: . . . they didn't give us any more bread. In the evening we received bread for the whole day. And twice a day we . . . and twice a week we received marmalade with the bread.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: One spoon of marmalade. And thus we lived all that time, a year and a half, in Shop 'B.' And then . . .
  • David Boder: In shop what?
  • Esther Krueger: Shop 'B' It was . . . Skarzysko had three shops, Shop 'A', Shop 'B' and Shop 'C.'
  • David Boder: Hm. And you lived in Shop 'B.'
  • Esther Krueger: Shop 'B.'
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: The worst shop was Shop 'C.' People worked with 'Pikrina' at 'yellow labor.' [Note: On work 'C' two ingredients were used in the manufacturing or ammunition: 'Trotyl' and 'Pikrina.' From these substances people were covered with bright yellow pigment. They were named 'canaries,' hence the 'yellow labor.' B.W.] From this work many people died.
  • David Boder: What sort of labor?
  • Esther Krueger: 'Pikrina.' This is such a 'yellow labor.'
  • David Boder: What does that mean?
  • Esther Krueger: That is such a yellow . . . from which ammunition is manufactured.
  • David Boder: Shells?.
  • Esther Krueger: Such a yellow labor. Yellow. A man immediately become yellow from the work
  • David Boder: Oh, one become yellow . . .
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . from that work. What sort of work is it that one becomes yellow?
  • Esther Krueger: I didn't work at that. I was in the second shop.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: But I saw the people who were so yellow.
  • David Boder: Aha. Nu.
  • Esther Krueger: And our shop was not the worst, but the German foreman of our work were the worst. There was foreman Herrick. Every day he used to beat Jews to death. Many Jews did he kill. Every two . . .
  • David Boder: Did he really beat to death?
  • Esther Krueger: [With Emphasis] Beat to death. When a Jew didn't do something right by the machines, perhaps he made sabotage, they called it sabotage.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: He didn't do it on purpose. He [ the foreman] would come running, and he would kick him so hard in the stomach that his guts would drop down.
  • David Boder: One moment. With what did he do that?
  • Esther Krueger: Pardon?
  • David Boder: With what did he do that?
  • Esther Krueger: With the foot. With the boots.
  • David Boder: With the foot.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: With the boots.
  • Esther Krueger: He would kick him so hard [his] guts would drop down, and then the person dropped. He would live perhaps another three or four days.
  • David Boder: And . . .
  • Esther Krueger: Then he died.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And besides these things, also every two weeks there were also . . . eh . . . in Polish it is . . . what is called . . .
  • David Boder: Say it in Polish.
  • Esther Krueger: Eh . . . Przebiurki [selections].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: Every two weeks the people were re-sorted.
  • David Boder: Hm. Selection.
  • Esther Krueger: There were selections every two weeks. They were taken into the woods and shot.
  • David Boder: Right there?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes, right in Shop 'B'
  • David Boder: Who saw it?
  • Esther Krueger: Many Jews saw it. When the two weeks came, he said, 'These, these,' because maybe she would look bad . . .
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Esther Krueger: . . . or perhaps she wasn't dressed so nicely. Their numbers were written down, because everyone had her [own] number . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: . . . and written down by names. They all knew that she is being taken into the woods to death. When there came the third day, there they came, the Jewish police, and said, 'This name, this name,' and they all would be reported. They would say good bye to the rest of the Jews and were led into the forest.
  • David Boder: What did the Jewish police do there?
  • Esther Krueger: There had to be Jewish police to lead out the Jews to work, to the factory . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: . . . and led them back in the evening . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: . . . so that no Jew should escape from the lager.
  • David Boder: Yes? Nu, what did the Jewish police have to do with the shootings?
  • Esther Krueger: The Jewish police didn't shoot. They would take the Jews and lead them over, with the shop guards, the Ukranians . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: . . . and would lead them into the forest, and afterwards we . . .
  • David Boder: The Jewish police had to do it?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. Then the Ukranians took over those Jews and shot them all.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: We could here the shots and later . . .
  • David Boder: You did hear the shots?
  • Esther Krueger: We heard it in the barracks. It was not far from our barracks. And afterwards they did not return any more.
  • David Boder: Hm. And what does it mean 'look nice,' 'dressed nicely'? Did you have your own clothing? Were you able to dress nicely?
  • Esther Krueger: We had to [see] that the clothes which we did have should not be torn, dirty.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And a few, from hunger, could not keep themselves so . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: . . . clean
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: They neglected themselves because they were badly starved. And I . . . I have . . . I was already so used to it, and I only . . . because I knew that in the first place one has to keep clean.
  • David Boder: One moment.
  • Esther Krueger: But not all were able to keep themselves so.
  • David Boder: [In English] Esther is chubby, good looking, now plump and young girl of twenty. She is not understanding what I am saying. And I caught her . . . I got her in interrupting her on the way towards washing, and she has put down here on the table a piece of soap. She was going to do either some washing, to groom herself, or to wash some . . . .to do some laundry. She is very well groomed. There is no rouge or anything, but she has a very healthy and pleasant look. [In German] Well, go on. Did you understand what I said? No. [Chuckle. Words not clear.] Go on. [In English] Her teeth are exceptionally good. [In German] You have very nice teeth.
  • Esther Krueger: [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: Nu, yes [words not clear]. Go on.
  • Esther Krueger: [Whispers. Sounds like] I was in the hospital.
  • David Boder: And so they were shot.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: The girls.
  • Esther Krueger: It could happen also many times that a girl would be cooking some soup for herself. She had received a few potatoes. She would take from the mill . . . there was a mill for flakes. From these flakes soup would be made. [Note: On Shop 'B' was a mill in which potato flakes were made. Occasionally these flakes were used to thicken the soup of the lager. B.W.]
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: She would take a few potatoes, and she would cook a soup. She didn't know a thing. She [her name] had been written down, but she didn't know which day she would be called to death.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: And while cooking . . .
  • David Boder: Where did you cook? Eh . . . where did she cook the soup?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. By us in the barracks there were in the winter . . . .We had small stoves for heating . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: . . . so that it shouldn't be so cold.
  • David Boder: Hm. Nu, go on.
  • Esther Krueger: So we could cook. So she was cooking that little soup, and she didn't know anything. In that moment comes in a Jewish policeman and says the [her] name. She had to leave behind the soup. She knew that soup she will not eat any more. It is not for her any more. She said good bye, and she had to leave everything. She knew exactly that it is to death, but she had no way out.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: There had also happened a few times that the Jewish boys would fight with the police. When they were going to be taken into the wood, they would . . .
  • David Boder: With the Jewish police?
  • Esther Krueger: With the Jewish police. They didn't want to go , but the Jewish police couldn't help anything. When the SS man said, 'You are to bring these and these people,' they had to bring them immediately. And those boys knew that they are going to death anyway, so they didn't want to go. So several times they fought with the Jewish . . .
  • David Boder: Did the Jewish police have revolvers, rifles?
  • Esther Krueger: No. They had nothing whatsoever. But a piece . . . so . . .
  • David Boder: Stick.
  • Esther Krueger: A stick. Nothing more.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And so it was. Thus we were living, that was all. We didn't know how long we would live. And the time could have come when I, too, will be picked out for death. But I didn't make anything of it. I already knew, parents I didn't have, sisters and brothers neither. From the family nobody remained but I alone. So I didn't make anything of it. If to death, then to death. But today [then] I live and what will happen tomorrow, I knew nothing. Later on Shop 'B' was transferred to Shop 'A,' also in Skarzysko. And I remained in Shop 'A.' Shop 'A' was much better because we could . . . I had learned to knit.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: Handwork. Socks and mittens
  • David Boder: Gloves.
  • Esther Krueger: Gloves, yes. I earned a little and was already able to buy an additional piece of bread and make a dress or to make something over, and I could buy soap. I didn't have to sell the portion of bread anymore. And . . .
  • David Boder: And so you had learned to knit in your spare time, not in the fact- . . . factory you didn't knit.
  • Esther Krueger: I had learned to knit in the barracks.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: When I came from work at seven o'clock I learned knitting till nine o'clock, two hours.
  • David Boder: Did the Germans allow [one] to bring in wool or such things?
  • Esther Krueger: This the Germans didn't know.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: The Germans only watched at work in the factory, but when we returned home we were guarded just by . . . [from] the first day we were guarded by Jewish police.
  • David Boder: Men or women?
  • Esther Krueger: Men. Only men.
  • David Boder: Yes. And later on
  • Esther Krueger: And later on I learned to knit. I would . . . with my . . . with my comrade, that girl, too, thus earn. And thus I lived the whole time. I was also in the shop.
  • David Boder: Did they pay for the work?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. For the work we would receive from the others [other prisoners?] bread or we would get money, Polish money.
  • David Boder: No, no. I mean for the work in the factory. Did they pay?
  • Esther Krueger: No. For the work in the factory we didn't get anything. We prayed for only one thing, [that] we should remain alive from the work.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: Nothing more.
  • David Boder: Nu. And so you had learned to knit.
  • Esther Krueger: And later on we learned to knit. When I already knew how to knit, I earned a little. I already had for soap to make some clothing, and I was able to buy an additional piece of bread.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Esther Krueger: And then . . .
  • David Boder: Where did you buy the bread?
  • Esther Krueger: The bread was brought by the . . . the Poles. They brought it for themselves. They would bring it so that the Germans would not know, and they sold it to us for much more money than it cost in town.
  • David Boder: What would you pay with, money or things?
  • Esther Krueger: We would pay in money and things. Whoever had money gave money, and whoever had things from home paid with things.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: I also had things from home. Then I became sick with spotted typhus.
  • David Boder: Spotted typhus.
  • Esther Krueger: Spotted typhus.
  • David Boder: Did you have lice?
  • Esther Krueger: No. [Note: Skarzysko was crawling with lice. B.W.] It was so: When one had it [typhus], and then got it from hunger or from filth, and the next one . . . My girl friend became sick with spotted typhus, and then I got it, because I was helping her very much. I accompanied her to the bath. I comber her. So I took all that over from her.
  • David Boder: Did she have lice?
  • Esther Krueger: Of course. When she got spotted typhus she was in the hospital. And I had to go to work. I didn't have the time to be with her all day, because I had to be at work. And she couldn't wash herself. I had to wash her.
  • David Boder: In the hospital?
  • Esther Krueger: In the hospital. Before, [when] she was lying in the barrack, then in the hospital.
  • David Boder: And where did you wash her? When she was in the hospital or when she . . .
  • Esther Krueger: When she was in the barrack I washed her. And then she was taken to the hospital, to the second shop.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And I came to . . . to her, to the hospital, also. I was already sick. I had a forty degree fever. I came to her, to the hospital. She couldn't recognize me. She had such high fever that she didn't know anything. Off her mind. She knew nothing. She recognized me. She thought that I came to wash her. She started screaming, 'Esther, wash me.' But I fell on the bad from the bad fever.
  • David Boder: Did you sleep together with that girl in the barrack, or did you have separate beds?
  • Esther Krueger: No. In the barrack we slept together, two people [to a bed]. I slept with her.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And . . .
  • David Boder: How was it, in one bed, or how?
  • Esther Krueger: In one bed, such plank beds.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: Tierred, or two-tierred.
  • David Boder: Yes
  • Esther Krueger: And in one bed two people slept.
  • David Boder: Yes. Two women.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. And in the hospital there slept already ten people on one bunk.
  • David Boder: On one bunk.
  • Esther Krueger: On one bunk ten people. And . . .
  • David Boder: How wide . . . how large was the bunk?
  • Esther Krueger: That bunk might have been ten meters [wide].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: The number of people varied. I had in the hospital a separate bed, because when my girl friend came, there was one bed, so she slept [on it]. When she became well, then I . . . that bed remained for me. Then I slept in that bed.
  • David Boder: Did people otherwise sleep in the hospital two in a bed?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. In the hospital people slept five, six in the bed then.
  • David Boder: Well, and who were the doctors?
  • Esther Krueger: There were also Jewish orderlies and doctors. There were two or three doctors, also Jewish. And every few days there were controls by Germans. They picked out many for death.
  • David Boder: What does that mean?
  • Esther Krueger: When the sick one lay there five days or six, the Germans said he is not recoverable any more. Immediately [they wrote] wrote down [his name] and afterwards an auto came. [He was] taken on the auto, and [he] was driven to the woods and did not return any more.
  • David Boder: And so how were they . . . how were they murdered? Were they shot, or . . .
  • Esther Krueger: That I don't know any more, because I was in work 'A' and they were taken to work 'C.'
  • David Boder: What does it mean 'they were taken to work 'C?'
  • Esther Krueger: That was another shop in Skarzysko.
  • David Boder: Yes, but you were in the hospital, in the sick ward. Were those people.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . taken from the hospital?
  • Esther Krueger: They were taken alive, and . . .
  • David Boder: And they were brought over where?
  • Esther Krueger: Brought over to work 'C.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And then they didn't return any more. [Note: On work 'C' were the execution grounds and the mass graves. B.W.]
  • David Boder: Hm. And so you don't know if they were given injections, or you don't know that?
  • Esther Krueger: That I know nothing about.
  • David Boder: And . . .
  • Esther Krueger: That I have not seen.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Esther Krueger: And later I, too, recovered from typhus.
  • David Boder: How long were you in the hospital?
  • Esther Krueger: I was in the hospital fourteen days, until . . .
  • David Boder: But you said that one couldn't be [there] more than five days.
  • Esther Krueger: Nu, yes. I couldn't tell the Germans that I am there so long. When they came I didn't look so bad, so I said that I am only three days.
  • David Boder: And the nurse didn't tell?
  • Esther Krueger: No, the Jewish nurses said, 'Don't say more than two, three days.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: But when she [a sick girl] looked already very bad, she couldn't say so, because they could recognize. 'You look so bad. You are [here] more than three, four days.'
  • David Boder: Didn't the same ones come? Didn't they recognize you?
  • Esther Krueger: No. They didn't know so well because there were so many, so many sick. There were several hundred sick. They could not recognize.
  • David Boder: [In English] We see here that I am trying to give them some searching questions when [it appears that] the horrible story does not make any sense. [In German] Well go on. Yes? So you . . . in fourteen days you have recovered.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. The crisis had passed, and I recovered. I also sold my clothes that I had from home for . . . for mush to have something to cook after the sickness. I myself was doing the cooking. I was very weak, but I, myself was doing the cooking.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Esther Krueger: And later on I got well. I went back to work immediately. It was on work 'A' one year later, and on work 'B' a year and a half. It was already two and a half years. And then the lager Skarzysko was transferred to Czenstokhov.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: When we heard that the Russians are approaching, the Germans took us, transferred the whole factory to Skar- . . . to Czenstokhov.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: Czenstokhov . . .
  • David Boder: How were you transferred?
  • Esther Krueger: From Skarzysko to Czenstokhov.
  • David Boder: No I mean . . .
  • Esther Krueger: By train.
  • David Boder: By train?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes, in railroad cards.
  • David Boder: How many were loaded in RR-car?
  • Esther Krueger: In one RR-car were loaded a hundred people, eighty . . .
  • David Boder: A hundred girls, you mean?
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. A hundred girls and then there were RR-cars for men, because it had been a lager for girls and for . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: . . . men.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: Together. We were traveling, and we were given for the journey a small piece of bread. We were hungry on the journey, but that . . .
  • David Boder: How long did you travel?
  • Esther Krueger: We traveled only one day
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: One day and . . . half a night.
  • David Boder: Did they let you out to go to the toilet or where?
  • Esther Krueger: [Pause.] No.
  • David Boder: When people had to go out?
  • Esther Krueger: No. Not at all. Everybody stayed locked in the RR-cars.
  • David Boder: And what did people do when they had to go out?
  • Esther Krueger: Oh, all that varied. They had pots from . . . from the lager yet, and they took them for the road.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: There were no boys . . .
  • David Boder: What?
  • Esther Krueger: Only women.
  • David Boder: Only women.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes. One wasn't embarassed in front of the other. There was no way out. Then we came to Czenstokhov. We were taken to Warta. In Czenstokhov there were also three works, Czenstokhovianka, Warta, and Pelcery. I remained located in Warta. This is the work where there is the river Warta.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: We also worked at the same machines as in Skarzysko. It was already much better. We received half a kilo of bread for each person, usually every day in the evening, and a better soup, a thicker one, and much more than in Skarzysko . Life was already much better.
  • David Boder: And who was guarding you?
  • Esther Krueger: We were guar- . . . the Germans watched us from all sides.
  • David Boder: Were they of the SS or the Wehrmacht?
  • Esther Krueger: No. Wehrmacht. And Ukranians, factory guards.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: And we . . . life was already much better than in Skarzysko . We already knew that the front is coming closer and closer. Maybe we will be liberated. But we didn't think . . .
  • David Boder: Did they beat you?
  • Esther Krueger: Not that much any more. We didn't get [beaten] as much as a Skarzysko . They were already much better Germans than in Skarzysko .
  • David Boder: Which year was that in?
  • Esther Krueger: It was in the year '45.
  • David Boder: In the year '45.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: From '44 to '45. It was already towards the end of '45 [apparently '44], because we were liberated in the year '45. And we were living that way in Czenstokhov. Life wasn't as bad any more as is Skarzysko . We got much more soup to eat, half a kilo of bread, and thus we lived. And then we also knew that the front is coming always closer, and we will be liberated. But we didn't believe that it is poss- . . . [a pause apparently due to something wrong with the wire].
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Esther Krueger: We didn't believe that we will live through it, because everybody was saying to all the Jews, 'If freedom will come at twelve . . . at twelve o'clock, then at half past eleven the Germans will make an end of all the Jews.
  • David Boder: An end.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes, an end. Then we didn't want to believe that we will survive this war. But unexpectedly, [on] Monday it was, the Germans led all the Jews, men, out to Germany. It was on the fifth the first [month].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: And on Tuesday, on the second day, they were supposed to lead away all the women. They locked us in the armories. There were severe frosts at that time, very cold, but a miracle happened in that there were no RR-cars, [so] they could not transport us away, and we remained in Czenstokhov. Later on, it was at five o'clock in the evening, the bombardment began. We were bombed. The Russian bombed all of Czenstokhov. And at night they entered Czenstokhov, the Russians. The Germans abandoned the lager. There was great joy for the Jews when the Russians arrived. I, myself, didn't want to believe. I could see the Jews were taking and putting on rifles, but I didn't want to believe. I could see the Jews were taking and putting on rifles, but I didn't want to believe that all that is possible, and that it is true that we have survived this war, this terrible war. But all that was true. In the morning we left the lager. We got out on the street in Czenstokhov. We found many German soldiers, all dead, and we saw freedom. Russians came. We met many Jewish . . . many Jewish Russians who were in the Russian army. They told us that to us freedom had arrived. We had survived all that, it is true, and we want to journey home and look for our relatives, our family. For me it was very painful. I knew I have no one from the family, but I thought maybe . . . perhaps . . . perhaps someone did remain from my family. Three days later I traveled home. I entered our house. There wa- . . . there was a Polish woman living there. He told me that from my family nobody, not one, had remained. I remained living with this Christian woman. I lived . . . I lived [there] a few months. And later on I found out that there exist Kibbutzim for Jews.
  • David Boder: You didn't know it before?
  • Esther Krueger: I did . . . I did not know at all that there are Kibbutz.m. I didn't know what to do, to remain by this Polish woman, or to go. I didn't know anything, but later on I went to Kibbutz. I met [there] many Jews, many Jewish girls.
  • David Boder: Where did you go to Kibbutz?
  • Esther Krueger: I went to Sosnowie.
  • David Boder: Oh, Sosnowie.
  • Esther Krueger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: In Sosnowie I remained in the Kibbutz, well, all the . . . There were many girls and boys. We started to settle down. The way . . . the way a Kibbutz had been before today it was much better. There was enough food. Slowly we made for ourselves everything.
  • David Boder: Who gave that food?
  • Esther Krueger: The food was . . . there was an official. He brought money, and we did our own cooking and did all our buying.
  • David Boder: And from where did he get the money?
  • Esther Krueger: That I don't know.
  • David Boder: You don't know.
  • Esther Krueger: He [only] brought the money.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu? And then?
  • Esther Krueger: And from America came money from Joint. And we . . . with that we bought. We lived, received food and clothing. We were in Sosnowie a few months. Then we went. We wanted to go to Italy, but we couldn't go to Italy.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Esther Krueger: The border was closed. So [we] remained in Austria. In Austria it was very bad. We had no food. We got very little [food].
  • David Boder: Who held Austria, the English or the Amer- . . .
  • Esther Krueger: The English.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: We had nothing to eat. We went around very hungry. We got as much as in the lager during the times of Hitler.
  • David Boder: You mean as little as in the lager.
  • Esther Krueger: Very little. Little bread and little soup. Then we went from Austria to Germany.
  • David Boder: Did they let you cross the border or did you steal across?
  • Esther Krueger: We stole the border. Each border we would . . .
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.] How many people together?
  • Esther Krueger: It varied. Sometimes there would go . . .
  • David Boder: You with your group.
  • Esther Krueger: There had gone a hundred and twenty. We went across the mountains on foot.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: Russian soldiers caught us. We went back and then once again across the mountains, and we got through the border.
  • David Boder: To where? To Germany?
  • Esther Krueger: To Germany.
  • David Boder: And where did you go from Germany?
  • Esther Krueger: [In] Germany we remained a few weeks, and then we went to Italy. And now we are in Italy.
  • David Boder: Hm. And now you are waiting. What is the name of your Kibbutz?
  • Esther Krueger: Our Kibbutz is named Nocham.
  • David Boder: The Kibbutz-Nocham.
  • Esther Krueger: Nocham. Noah-Chalutzim Meichad.
  • David Boder: Write it sown. [Pause.] Noah?
  • Esther Krueger: Noah Chalutzim Meichad.
  • David Boder: Hm. And what does it mean in German, in Yiddish?
  • Esther Krueger: It is an . . . an . . . assembly of young Chalutzim.
  • David Boder: Hm. And now you are waiting to go to . . .
  • Esther Krueger: Now we are here. We don't know what will happen next.
  • David Boder: And what do people do here all day?
  • Esther Krueger: The whole day here? It varies. There is also an appell, and we . . . I also knit. I make socks . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: . . . today [at present], too
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Esther Krueger: And various things. What job one has he does. He washes and . . .
  • David Boder: Do you understand Hebrew? Do you understand Hebrew?
  • Esther Krueger: I don't understand Hebrew so well. I studied it after the war, not for long. I do read, but I do not understand too well.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool one hundred . . . this concludes . . . this concludes spool one hundred and nine. Esther Krueger who belongs to a Kibbutz, who went through her . . . her work in a slave labor situation. She has no tatoo. She was in reasonably clean conditions although she went through typhus, and she is here in Tradate, Italy, expecting by . . . legally or illegally to reach Palestine.
  • David Boder: [In German] Are you married?
  • Esther Krueger: No.
  • David Boder: No.
  • Esther Krueger: All that has been related briefly.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: About all the experiences.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Esther Krueger: But if one were to write it, one would have to write very much more.
  • David Boder: Yes, of course. I would have liked you not to have been so brief, but I will see. Maybe [we] will get together again. [A possible break in the wire.] . . . to write.
  • Esther Krueger: In the future we describe all that, make large books about all the experiences.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English Translation : David P. Boder