David P. Boder Interviews Lina Stumachin; September 8, 1946; Bellevue, France

  • David Boder: [In English] Paris, Paris September . . . Paris . . . Paris . . . Paris, September the 8th, 1946. Bellevue, a home for displaced children. The interview is Ms. Lina Stumachin, 36 years old, a tattoo number from Auschwitz: 26569.
  • David Boder: [In German] Now, Ms. Stumachin, would you mind beginning again. There was something wrong with the recorder. Would you like to tell us where you were when war broke out?
  • Lina Stumachin: Well, I am—I was in Zakopane. I was there with my family, and my husband, and my child.
  • David Boder: So, how old was the child?
  • Lina Stumachin: The child was thirteen [unintelligible] years old, that was the sixth year of age.
  • David Boder: In what year was that?
  • Lina Stumachin: In 1939.
  • David Boder: In the year 1939.
  • Lina Stumachin: Yes, 1939.
  • David Boder: And what was your occupation?
  • Lina Stumachin: I had a photoshop and a photographic business in Zakopane.
  • David Boder: And your husband?
  • Lina Stumachin: My husband was also in this line of work, at the time.
  • David Boder: Aha. Where did you learn photography?
  • Lina Stumachin: I was, I mean, I learned from my husband. 15 years.
  • David Boder: Aha. Have you been married for 15 years?
  • Lina Stumachin: Yes, I have been married for 15 years.
  • David Boder: Aha. Now then, is your husband here now?
  • Lina Stumachin: No. Nor do I know where he is. I do know that . . . [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Aha, now.
  • Lina Stumachin: Now in 1939—no, I mean in 1940, the Germans came to Zakopane and we had to leave.
  • David Boder: Where did you go?
  • Lina Stumachin: We went to Cracow. Er, in a village. We worked a little in the village and later we had to move into the ghetto.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Lina Stumachin: And we were in the ghetto for about a year.
  • David Boder: Who do you mean by "we"?
  • Lina Stumachin: Er, my husband, my child, my father, and my brother. All of us.
  • David Boder: Now, the ghetto was in Cracow. Could you give a brief description of the ghetto.
  • Lina Stumachin: Well, there were, er, roughly seven streets surrounded by a wall.
  • David Boder: A wall or a fence?
  • Lina Stumachin: A wall.
  • David Boder: Was the wall built from bricks and stones?
  • Lina Stumachin: From bricks and stones.
  • David Boder: Who built the wall?
  • Lina Stumachin: The inhabitants built it themselves.
  • David Boder: Built it together.
  • Lina Stumachin: And we lived there in such a tiny apartment. And then, even our children were under a death sentence [unintelligible] in the ghetto, we were frightened, but we couldn't do much about it—there was no possibility of leaving.
  • David Boder: Tell us, how did it come about that you . . . [unintelligible] understand?
  • Lina Stumachin: In Zakopane, we did not have a single language that we all used.
  • David Boder: Now, Zakopane is in the Ukraine?
  • Lina Stumachin: No, it is a Polish spa town.
  • David Boder: Aha. Where is it in relation to the nearest large city?
  • Lina Stumachin: It is 115 kilometres from Cracow.
  • David Boder: 115. How far is it from Katowice or Sosnowice?
  • Lina Stumachin: About 140 kilometres from Katowice.
  • David Boder: 140 kilometres. And what sort of spa town is it? What?
  • Lina Stumachin: It was a spa town in the mountains. A sport . . .
  • David Boder: A sports resort. Yes. And how [unintelligible]
  • Lina Stumachin: Now, later on we were taken to the camp from, from er, from . . .
  • David Boder: Would it be better for you if we spoke Polish?
  • Lina Stumachin: Yes.
  • David Boder: Please speak in Polish.
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] We were in the ghetto, later, from the ghetto, we were sent to a camp. I worked at a post [unintelligible].
  • Lina Stumachin: [In German] Can I start in Polish and then everything . . .
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Lina Stumachin: I have, I have already . . .
  • David Boder: Don't worry, that's not a problem. Now, let's begin, but you, let's begin. We don't need to . . .
  • Lina Stumachin: Ah, yes.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Speak Polish.
  • Lina Stumachin: [German] From Zakopane?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] So I lived in Zakopane and I owned a photoshop, with my husband and my child. We lived in our own house. In 1940, the Germans established, in Zakopane, a health resort, and they ordered all the Jews to leave Zakopane. They allowed us to take some of our things and we had to leave our city. We went to Cracow. Near Cracow, in a small town, we lived for almost a year. Next, we had to go to the ghetto, since everyone . . . there was no other place. The Jews were not allowed to live in any other cities besides ghettos. In the ghetto, we lived about a year. During that time, there were several groups who were sent away, which, due to the fact that we were working, we were able to avoid. We were forced to accept shifts of mandatory work. Because those that did not work, got sent elsewhere. And to stay with our child, we accepted work at different companies. My husband in one company, and I at a different company. Next, our posts were eliminated, so we were moved to a camp and we were forced, forced to leave our child at home in the ghetto. We had the opportunity to visit our child once a week. Next, the ghetto was shut down, when we arrived on the day before the liquidation, we found our home empty, our child was taken away [unintelligible] . . . it was said that there were camps for children, that the children are in the same kind of camps as we were, and that there would be a possibility of seeing them, when the war ends shortly. We cheered each other by saying that we would all be together soon. But our high hopes did not last long, we saw, how they were continuing to treat the children, constantly taking them to the camps away from the ghetto. So our continued experiences became sad. In the camp at Plaszow, we stayed a year and a half, no, about a year, together with my husband.
  • David Boder: [In German] I didn't understand you fully at one point. Where did your daughter stay?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] I continued to go to my forced job in the city, this was a benefit for us, because, from the city, we could bring home food to eat, and at the camp it was very hard, very difficult, to obtain any nourishment, we would get a pitiful soup, and it was hard to work with that kind of nourishment. So, with what I brought from the city, I could help my husband, as well as other people around us. But this did not last long, the ghetto was closed, the camp was closed and Jews were no longer allowed into the city. We were sure that we would stay in that camp and wait until the end of the war, but it played out differently. In 1944 . . . they took action on us, we didn't know, what, in fact, was to happen with the people, who were taken. It turned out that the people who were left, were taken from Poland to work in Germany. Among others, I was taken at this time, but because I didn't want to go, and leave my husband at the camp, I escaped from there. When I arrived back at the camp, I found my husband, who was very happy to see me, that I was able to return from the round-up. The next day, I wanted to visit my husband, turns out, that overnight, he was caught and sent away. From that time, I never saw my husband, to this day. From Plaszow, I was taken to Auschwitz. I stayed in Auschwitz for three months, in horrible misery. Next, from there, we went on foot until the 18th, 18th of January, during the coldest part of winter we walked to Ravensbricken. I lived in Ravensbrück, I was there for 8 weeks. The misery is indescribable, corpses at every step, the experience was hugely overwhelming. We didn't get any food at all. Everyone had to get their own. They came, they brought a cauldron, everyone would throw themselves at the cauldron and whoever got some was able to eat. When we went to . . . tell the Camp Commandant they told us [unintelligible] and that's where it ended. After 8 weeks we were taken to Malhoff [Malchow?]. There, we were left to starve, that was obvious, that they wanted to starve us to death. In 8 weeks, I lost 15 kilos. I weighed 39 kilos, when I left Malhoff [Malchow?]. Besides me, there were others who looked much worse than I did. From Malhoff [Malchow?], they took us by train; we traveled for about 3 days, totally without food, until we got to Leipzig. We arrived in Leipzig during the worst bombings, and we were there for several days. It turned out, that, that it was almost the end of the war and, in truth, we did not work, but we also did not get any food. There was very, very little food, so little; that we thought that, there, we would surely die. After several days, we were taken out into the street and were forced to march like that for 6 weeks. There we walked in circles. Where ever we would get to, on one side were the Russians, on the other the Americans, and the Germans would escape from one front to another. On the way, we gathered greens, so we could eat, this was in April, nothing was growing in the fields yet. We survived on grass and dug up potatoes, which were just planted. On the way, we came across a lot of people who died of hunger, corpses, lying on the road. We were killed if we got the courage to wander away, so we could find something to eat. Regardless of this, none of us were scared and each of us went, because we were faced with death from hunger. We thought that we would never stop, that our road was leading into endlessness. Until one day, a lot of us escaped on the way, but we didn't know . . . we were scared that they would shoot, because that had been our prior experience. Whoever strayed from the group was shot. Regardless of this, many people decided to break away from the march. And one day, I, with two of my girlfriends, broke away, and at one farm, we found work. We worked there for 4 weeks. The Germans were now more or less nice to us, because they were scared, because the front was getting closer and closer. [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: [In German] [unintelligible]
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] [unintelligible] In Saxony, I was freed by the Russians. I was sick, my legs were swollen. I decided that I would rest, but homesickness wouldn't let me rest. In my imagination, I saw my house, and those that I had lost would come back to me. [unintelligible] We had to go on foot. A hundred and fifty kilometers we went on foot, and pulled with us a wagon with food and some tattered rags. We passed cities in ruins, we met people on the way, who were the same as us, on their way home, they sang happy songs of hope and we were also happy. On the 8th of May I arrived in Cracow and there I was met with my first disappointment. Out of my family who lived in Cracow, I couldn't find anyone. For eight days I wondered around Cracow, looking everywhere, where we lived, I searched the homes we had in the ghetto, where I left my child. I thought, maybe someone left an address, maybe someone had already been there before me, but it turned out that no one had been there yet. I decided to go to Zakopane, but everyone advised me against it, they said that it was not safe, that Jews should not return to small towns, that there were many incidences. In a word, if I survived the war, then I should wait in a larger city, until our people return, and that they would be able to find us. But I was anxious, I wanted to be there already. I thought that maybe they went there, that maybe they are waiting for me. I decided I was going to go. On the eighth of June, I arrived at my home, and unfortunately I was astonished. There, were my house once stood, was just a field. There was no sign of my house. Some goats were grazing in the pasture. I stayed with my neighbor, and day after day I waited for someone to return. I waited for long days and weeks for nothing. I waited . . . until I was forced by necessity, because I didn't have, because I didn't know, what I should do, I didn't have anything to do . . . I left to find work. For 8 weeks, in a variety of different ways, I earned enough to take care of myself. I didn't want to be taken care of by strangers. Constantly, I would return home with a longing feeling; that maybe someone was waiting there for me, maybe someone would return. Meanwhile, an orphanage was formed in Zakopane, I decided that I would dedicate myself to work with the children, hoping to fill the void in my life. I've been working with the children for a year now, and with them going forth in the world, so that maybe somewhere in our native land I would find peace. They threw us from place to place, maybe finally we will find some place to call our own, where we can live peacefully . . . freely . . . not ridiculed . . . not tormented . . . somewhere where I can look forward to a happier future, children, that will be raised under my care.
  • David Boder: [In German] I didn't understand you fully at one point. Where did your daughter stay?
  • Lina Stumachin: The children were [unintelligible] Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: The children were taken away?
  • Lina Stumachin: That's right. We worked.
  • David Boder: Speak up!
  • Lina Stumachin: We worked in, er, at
  • David Boder: In a factory?
  • Lina Stumachin: No, work.
  • David Boder: What sort of work?
  • Lina Stumachin: Nothing. We worked in the German barracks.
  • David Boder: Aha, yes.
  • Lina Stumachin: What did you do in the barracks?
  • David Boder: All sorts of work?
  • David Boder: Cleaning?
  • Lina Stumachin: Cleaning, housework, work in the fields.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Lina Stumachin: We now.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now.
  • Lina Stumachin: Yes we were at work. When we returned home in the evening, we found that our apartment was empty.
  • David Boder: Oh. Un.
  • Lina Stumachin: And we didn't know where the children were, where they were staying, what had become of them.
  • David Boder: What were people saying?
  • Lina Stumachin: They said that the children [had been taken away] to Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Yes, but what then? Did the police come to take the children away?
  • Lina Stumachin: No.
  • David Boder: What happened, then?
  • Lina Stumachin: I can only tell you that in Polish.
  • David Boder: Yes, please tell me.
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] And when we returned home . . .
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Who do you mean by "you"?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] My husband and I.
  • David Boder: [In German] [unintelligible]
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] We were both forced to work . . .
  • David Boder: [In German] Aha.
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] . . . away from the ghetto. When we returned home, it turned out that the children were taken away. We were told that the children were told to pack their suitcases . . .
  • David Boder: The children?
  • Lina Stumachin: . . . the children, pack their suitcases and write the addresses of where their parents are, so they could take them to their parents.
  • David Boder: [In German] [unintelligible]
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] . . . and they loaded them into cars and took them away, and to this day we don't know what happened to them.
  • David Boder: . . . with them, the children?
  • Lina Stumachin: . . . with the children, what happened with those children.
  • David Boder: [In German] [unintelligible]
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] . . . I had one. But there were a lot of children, in truth, in the ghetto there were a lot of children, when they took us away. It was a city of children, because they took all the adults to work, and later, they moved the children to a camp . . . eh . . . they moved all the adults to the camps, and the children stayed in the ghetto, there was a kind of "kinderhin" [crèche] formed there.
  • David Boder: [In English] There was a "kinderhin" in the ghetto?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In German] Yes.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] . . . But my child wasn't in the "kinderhin", my child was at home, in my apartment, where I used to live.
  • David Boder: [In German] [unintelligible]
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] They put them onto trucks and took them away.
  • David Boder: [In German] [unintelligible]
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] And I worked at the camp with my husband . . . and . . . they sent us to Germany to perform forced labor, because they were thinking that the end of the war was near . . . so . . . they started to close the camps in Poland.
  • David Boder: [In German] Aha.
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] . . . and they started to move people from camps in Poland to camps in Germany.
  • David Boder: [In German] Aha.
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] . . . That's how my husband worked. Later, after a year, I found out that he was working in a factory in . . . Pionki, in an ammunition factory.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Yes.
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] . . . and I stayed in Plaszow. And after, after a year they took us all to Stettin.
  • David Boder: [In German] Ah, what are you going to do now, what do you want to do now?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] My desires are not specific, but I would most like to stay, in fact, with the children going forward, because the loneliness is horrible, at least this fills the emptiness, the children's' voices, and you forget, in this work, that you once had your own home, your own family, that you once had your own child.
  • David Boder: [In German] And you want to go to Palestine?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] Yes. I would go with these children that are here, to Palestine, so that we could live together.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] And what do you think about Palestine [unintelligible]?
  • David Boder: [In German] Palestine would also take all the children?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] It would be my wish that we all stay together, because this is a kind of adopted family now. And I even have hope, that these months, that we are together, have tied us together, that all of us will try to stay together, that they will strive to form a kind of family with each other. These children are also lonely; they also lost their parents and have a desire to have someone close to them. So I would like to stay with them.
  • David Boder: [In German] Ah, how old is the youngest child now?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] The youngest child here is three years old. We took them before our departure from Zakopane. There were five of them who were three years old. They are developing nicely, they are very smart and sweet.
  • David Boder: [In German] And, er, are these the children that you call Bobolaki?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] Yes. Those are the youngest, those Bobolaki, which we took from the Convent Boboli, in Zakopane.
  • David Boder: [In German] Aha. Er. Who told you that the children were there?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] Our director found out about this, someone told her that there were five Jewish children, who were saved in Warsaw from a fire.
  • David Boder: And who saved them . . . [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: [German] Would you like . . .
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] Supposedly, some policeman pulled them out of there and took them to the convent.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Why the police did [unintelligible] to them?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] We, we don't know all the details. Maybe the director . . .
  • David Boder: [In German] What then?
  • Lina Stumachin: [In Polish] Maybe the director . . .
  • David Boder: [In German] What does that mean?
  • Lina Stumachin: The people, they were bad.
  • David Boder: Aha, I mean the police officers. People say that the police officers were not the best of human beings.
  • Lina Stumachin: Not all, but some. But some were kind.
  • David Boder: What did you do? Did you take the children out and go away?
  • Lina Stumachin: They were taken into this convent.
  • David Boder: Taken in. But you alleged.
  • David Boder: Ms. Stumachin, I do so hope that everything will now start to improve. Thank you very much. I am sorry that my understanding of Polish is not very good.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 118 . . . at 29 min, the report of Ms. Lina Stumachin, 36 years old, a tattoo number: 26569. She spoke in Polish.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription (German) : S. Peters, P. Gaensicke
  • Transcription (Polish) : M. Holiday, I. Laskawiec
  • Engish Translation (German) : S. Peters, P. Gaensicke
  • English Translation (Polish) : M. Holiday, I. Laskawiec