Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

The Beginning and the End
Jacob Wolhendler
b. Zawiercie, Poland, 1913

The first of September, 1938, was a Saturday. The Germans started the war against Poland very early in the morning. All day long we heard bombs from planes around our town, Zawiercie. We were scared that the Germans might be near our town. Toward evening, at the end of the Sabbath, the men started to leave town to run away from the Germans, heading northeast. My father and I joined the running people. We walked all night until we reached, on Sunday morning, a small town called Szczekocing, about 40 kilometers away.

The Germans reached Szczekocing on Sunday afternoon. We were hiding in a small house. Toward evening the soldiers burst into the house and ordered all outside. On the way out from the house, I was near my father. Suddenly my father fell on the ground; he had been shot by one of the soldiers. I fell on him and saw the blood bursting out from my father's body. He was dead in the next few minutes. I had to leave him there, and I started to run away, worrying that I would be killed too.

I hid in the nearby forest; it was a long night. Toward morning I met other Jews who had hidden in the forest all night. On Thursday morning I left, heading back home; I reached Zawiercie the same evening.

When I came into the house my mother immediately asked me where my father was. I said, “I don't know.” I did not want to tell her what happened to Father right away. We went to sleep. Early in the morning my mother woke me and started to ask me where Father was. I could not keep it a secret anymore and told her what had happened. My mother threw herself on the floor and cried all day that Friday. Toward evening our Jewish neighbors came in to make a Minyan. My brother and I said the first Kaddish for our father.

And so did the Germans start to break up our family. The rest of my family— my mother, brother, and three sisters perished in Auschwitz in October 1943.

I ran away from the train that took the whole Jewish town to Auschwitz. I worked on a German farm to the end of the war, posing as a Polish citizen of the Catholic faith.

I am Jacob Wolhendler, son of Ephraim and Sarah, brother of my sisters, Chana, Jochened, and Hinda, and brother of Eliezer. We were a family of seven people very close to one another, and I am the only survivor to say Kaddish after them, who are in heaven.

-33-

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Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xiii
  • Timeline of the Holocaust xv
  • Map of Concentration Camps in Europe xxviii
  • Preface xxix
  • Introduction xxxiii
  • I - Snapshots: Jewish Life Before the Holocaust 1
  • Snapshots 2
  • War Arrives in Lithuania 3
  • A German Family 7
  • Betrayal 11
  • Parting 13
  • II - The Destruction of a Society 15
  • Herr B. 17
  • A Kristallnacht Journey 18
  • An Action Against the Jews 20
  • Leaving Germany, Leaving Home 24
  • Escape to England 26
  • The Best-Laid Plans 28
  • A Life-Defining Impression 30
  • The Harbinger of What? 32
  • The Beginning and the End 33
  • A Family Gone, One by One 34
  • The Abandonment of Mielec 36
  • A Shtetl's Life is Ended 37
  • What Ever Happened to the Jews of Skudvil? 40
  • III - Ruthlessness as a System 43
  • In the Dark 45
  • Theresienstadt 47
  • Dachau 50
  • Auschwitz, 1944 55
  • The Tenth Woman on Block Ten 56
  • The Means to Survive 58
  • The Gypsies 60
  • Nazi Murderers 61
  • How Many Made It? 63
  • The Law in Lithuania 64
  • Horrors of War 70
  • IV - The Lottery of Death and Life 81
  • German Roulette 83
  • My Sister Rieke 84
  • A Definition of Survival 86
  • An Unforgettable Passover Seder 89
  • Trying to Go Home 90
  • Bar Mitzvah Boy 93
  • The Skull with the Golden Braid 95
  • The Concentration Camp Lottery 96
  • The Girl with Wooden Shoes 101
  • The Wagon 102
  • The Child 103
  • V - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 105
  • In Constant Terror 107
  • Posing as a Christian 114
  • I Choose Life 116
  • Lost Families 119
  • Beyond Memory 121
  • A Hidden Child in Greece 123
  • VI - The Sustaining Power of Family Love 143
  • The Promise 144
  • A Mother's Courage 147
  • Miracles 151
  • A Dream of Milk 155
  • In Praise of Manual Labor 156
  • A Son in Deed 158
  • The Psychologist 162
  • VII - The Virtuous and the Vicious 163
  • A Narrow Escaper 165
  • The Kindness of Strangers 168
  • A Saintly Person 170
  • The Convent in Marseilles 173
  • Among the Righteous 176
  • The Killing Hunger 179
  • Captain Zimmer 180
  • The Volunteer Group 181
  • Mazel 182
  • The Farmer Kowarski 185
  • A Surprise Package 187
  • VIII - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 189
  • Lithuanian Friends 191
  • Unsung Heroes 199
  • Friend or Enemy? 202
  • Resist in Everything! 208
  • IX - Emergence into Light 225
  • The Golden Chain of Judaism 227
  • Flight to Freedom 236
  • The Last Hiding Place 243
  • One Day War, the Next Day Not 245
  • The Long Road After Liberation 247
  • On the Way to Health 249
  • An Ending and a Beginning 252
  • The Tiny Flame 254
  • X - The Aftermath: Remembering 257
  • The Aftermath 258
  • The Barber 260
  • Kaleidoscope: Salonika, Greece, 1945 261
  • The Sewing Basket 263
  • Children from the Camps Going to England 265
  • The Chief of the Gestapo 268
  • Herr Schluemper 270
  • The Miracle 272
  • To Bear Witness About the Holocaust 274
  • It Shall Not Be Forgotten nor Forgiven! 276
  • Addendum - Seen with My Own Eyes: Stories by American Liberators 279
  • The Photograph 281
  • Germany, 1945: View from a Tank 283
  • Gusen: A Nurse's Tale 286
  • A Letter from Dachau 288
  • I Saw Buchenwald 291
  • Re-Entry 296
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Photographs of Liberator-Authors 336
  • Author Index 342
  • Story Index 343
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