Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

The Long Road after Liberation
Jack Sittsamer
b. Mielec, Poland, 1924

Going back and forth to work every day on the train, we could see the flowers starting to grow and the trees blooming. People spoke about how good it would be to be liberated.

When we came back to camp on May 4th, just like every other day, we got our portion of soup and went to sleep. The next morning, there was no 5:00 A.M. reveille. I heard people saying “Look out, look out the windows.” I looked out and there were no guards or machine guns; the guard towers were empty. There weren't any guards at the main gate, either.

Even so, everybody stayed inside because we suspected that the Germans were up to something. Finally at about 10:00A.M., a jeep and four American soldiers pulled inside the camp and informed us that we were free. Liberated!

Few people left that day. The majority were too weak to walk. The second day, more people left. They felt stronger because they were fed better. Finally, on the third day, I left with a friend from Mielec.

We didn't go through the main gate; we tunneled underneath the double fence to the outside. I didn't believe I could safely leave through the gate.

The nearest city was Linz, Austria, about twenty miles away. We hitchhiked, we walked, we rested. This short distance took us three days.

In Linz, we walked around still wearing our concentration camp clothes. Suddenly, sirens sounded. An Austrian woman opened her door and told us to come inside. There was a curfew; no one was allowed out after 5:00P.M.

It was a Mrs. Weber who took us in. She called her neighbors over, one of whom was a barber. He took us out to the backyard, shaved our long hair off and burned our clothes. Then we took our first hot shower with real soap in many, many years.

Mrs. Weber gave us new underwear and nice clothes. These things had belonged to her two sons who died while fighting in the German army.

She showed us the bedroom where we would sleep. It had two beds in it, but we slept on the floor because we weren't used to sleeping in a bed. In three months, she nursed me back from my weight of seventy-five pounds to about eighty-five pounds.

Feeling stronger, I decided to travel, to try to locate my brother. In Italy, I found someone who told me that there was a man in Germany who had been

-247-

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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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