Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview
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The Means to Survive
Ruth Weitz
b. Podhoritzin, Poland, 1929

Hitler's troops came to my village in Poland in the fall of 1941. Before that, retreating Russian soldiers had warned the villagers to flee with them to Russia. Unfortunately, many Jews did not believe the Russians and refused to leave Poland.

My father was a cattle broker who owned a farm; we lived comfortably. We, too, stayed in Poland.

The German troops moved swiftly. They forced all able-bodied Jews to work laying asphalt for the highways and sent them to live in concentration camps. My younger sister Rhoda, my younger brother Harold, and I were sent to concentration camps. Since I was older than the other two, I was sent to a different camp. Our parents were able to bribe the German soldiers with money and remain on their farm. In March of 1943, our parents were shot dead by drunken German soldiers.

Hoping to escape from the concentration camp, I had sewed coins inside the waistband of my dress before going there. Within the hem of my dress I sewed my mother's engagement ring, and I secured a gold chain inside my long braid of brown hair. I knew the consequences were death if I were caught, but I wanted to be prepared.

In the camp, I learned to use the money to advantage. It was known throughout the camp that certain soldiers could be bribed. Occasionally, when temperatures soared into the high nineties, some of the Jews, including me, would give solders money for a cup of water.

One day while I was laying asphalt for the highway, a German soldier approached me on a bicycle. He had been a friend of my father's before the war and was working for the Polish underground. He told me he had overheard the Germans saying they had no more use for the Jews and planned to execute everyone in both camps in a few days.

I quickly went to one of the soldiers who accepted bribes and offered him money so that I could visit with my sister and brother. He accepted the bribe but warned me to return to the camp before 6:00 A.M. the following morning so that I could continue working on the highway. A soldier escorted me on foot to the other camp, and I was able to warn my sister and brother.

When the opportunity for escape came, approximately two hundred out of

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Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust
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