b. Boryslaw, Poland, 1925
The Germans herded the Jews of Boryslaw, my native town, from the ghetto into the forced labor camps—the next step in the degradation of the Jews. I was put into a small camp in Truskawiec, a town near Boryslaw.
We were a small group of people who worked in the nearby rotary oil rigs. I worked as a roughneck—a job that under normal conditions requires a robust grownup man, not an undernourished teenager. This type of work was then, and still is today, difficult, dirty, and often dangerous.
One afternoon, while in the Boryslaw camp for treatment of an injury I sustained at work, I decided to look for Mr. Carl Unter. He was the former director of the Jewish Orphanage in Drohobycz, where I had lived from 1936 until the outbreak of war. All my family having been “deported, ” I did not have anyone living in the Boryslaw camp, and to see Director Unter seemed somehow appropriate. This may have been because while I lived in the orphanage he was to me and some others of us, I guess, a father figure.
I found Mr. Unter sitting on a crude bunk in the communal quarters in what used to be a machine shop. The anticipated pleasure of seeing him, however, turned to sadness, for I found him a much changed person from the one I knew before the war. Though we both lived in much diminished circumstances, the life style of Director Unter was proportionally much more reduced than mine. His life style before the war had appeared to me, an orphan from a poor household, splendid. Therefore, his descent into the hell of the labor camp looked to be much deeper than mine.
Mr. Unter recognized me, greeted me warmly, invited me to sit on the bunk opposite his, and we began to talk. Initially, I felt awkward sitting across from the director and talking to him as if we were equals. After some time, I no longer remembered that before the war, when I lived in the orphanage, the few conversations between us were short and one sided: he talked and I listened.
Now, however, he treated me as if I were a grownup while I continued to show him the same measure of respect I always did. To me he was the director; the Nazis could not diminish his stature in my eyes. Though not physically imposing, his demeanor was that of a gentleman. His blue eyes still had the keen look I well remembered, and he was as neatly dressed as possible under