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.