Rose's Story

My mother, Rose Silberberg Skier, tells the miraculous story of how she survived the Holocaust

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Part VI

Rose Silberberg-Skier: I remember that my father said, “In case you cannot leave, here is a piece of paper with an address. There is another bunker in the ghetto. It’s in an attic, with the entrance hidden by a chandelier. Try to get there and hide. And when the ghetto is dissolved, try to escape and go back to the Polish woman.”

So we went to that bunker. That place had about 16 people there. There was a ladder there, on the side, and she (aunt Sara) was knocking. And he gave her, I think, a sign how to do it. Because nobody was in that apartment. And they opened the chandelier and we just went up.

Debbi Portnoy: Can you describe how the chandelier opened?

RS: It came down. They had it in such a way that from upstairs they would lower the chandelier. And you could go in, and then they would take it up again and evidently hook it up inside. I would imagine. 100% I am not sure. This is how I remember the chandelier opened up. And we went in.

And it was Hell on Earth in that place. It was so Hellish. It was so hot. It was an attic and it was summer. It was terrible. And there was no water. They had stored some water, but basically they were counting on rain, which normally it rained, but it did not rain. It was a drought. Very little food. The food was mainly dried beans. And I remember that they had bread which was so moldy it was blue.

And that was it. Because actually it was made in such a way, just to wait out until the ghetto was dissolved, say 2 or 3 days. And then, get out of there. So we stayed there, and somehow the ghetto was still going on, it wasn’t dissolved completely.

Actually, the people were deported, but they had about 800 people, Jews, who worked as commandos under the SS. They used to go from house to house, and pack up everything that the Jews had left behind, and these things were being shipped to Germany. It was looting, plain and simple. Furniture, bedding, clothes, you name it. Household goods. And these 800 Jews, as long as they had this work, they were safe. They knew that eventually they would be the last ones, but they would go also.

So they used to pass our place, and we used to hear (because we couldn’t see anything) but we used to hear them pass, and the Germans shouting, and the dogs and all that. But they never caught us because they weren’t looking for us. We were inside a house.

I remember, suddenly a couple came in, also like this, out of the blue. With a baby. The woman had long reddish hair; it went really up to her waist. A very pretty woman with green, green eyes. The man was dark haired. She was 24; he was 26. And the baby was blond and blue-eyed, like a little doll. She was eight months old. She was cute as a button. But the mother had no milk, and the baby started to cry bitterly. Cry and cry. And she used to rock that baby and rock that baby. There was nothing you could do. That baby was so hungry. And there was no milk. And they waited, they said maybe it’s going to rain and she could have some water. Nothing doing. And that baby cried and cried.

And finally—I wasn’t privy to it, they discussed these things privately, in a corner—they decided that the baby has to be brought down, because if the SS come with the commandos all around, they’re going to hear the baby cry, they will say where is this crying coming from…they will look for us.

So they implored the father to bring the baby into the garden. As soon as it rains, then she’ll start to drink, she’ll have milk for the baby, then we’ll bring the baby back, then maybe we’ll escape from this place, etc.

Very reluctantly, he brought the baby down. He put the baby in the garden, he came upstairs, and he drilled a hole in the wall of that attic, in the side. It was like a lookout. All day long he sat at the hole, watching that baby. The baby was crying. On and off, because sometimes it went to sleep. It was dehydrated.

For three days this baby cried like that. Suddenly, the crying stopped. So he ran down to see what happened. The baby was dead. This man came, he went berserk when he came up. And he was saying, “What did I do! And what did you make me do? My baby was killed!!”

So we weren’t sure if that baby had died of “natural causes” or hunger, or whether it was slashed, because the SS used to come through and slash kids like that. Whatever it was, he said, “I don’t want to live in this world anymore! I want to give myself up!” And he said, “I’m not going to be able to live with myself, what I did to my baby! She died all alone!”

So his wife, her name was Frieda, said, “What are you going to accomplish? Don’t give yourself up! What is done is done! You can’t help it now!”

He said, “I don’t want to live and I’m giving myself UP!” And he lowered the chandelier and he jumped out. And he ran.

Now, evidently he was followed, or spotted. Somebody saw him coming out of that house. Probably an SS man. Because 4 weeks had gone by already, and the ghetto was dissolved for 4 weeks. Where did this man come from? He had to be hiding somewhere. I know that he would never go and deliberately denounce us.

After a few hours, we heard noises downstairs. And they opened the chandelier just slightly to see, and a man was running there, back and forth, and then the SS came. We heard screeeaaaming… "Jews!! Open the chandelier and come out! We know you are in there! Do it now or we are going to shoot you all!!”

And we opened the chandelier and there were dogs, and those dogs were barking. It was horrifying. And when they opened the chandelier, I remember that I went to the opening, and as I looked down, I saw an SS man pointing a gun, right at my eyes.



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