Rose's Story

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

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Part VII

Rose Silberberg-Skier: I was so petrified, so scared…that I fell asleep, standing up like that, in a trance. And he was screaming—I could hear the screams—but I just slept. And my aunt was shaking me. She said, “Wake up! Wake up! He’s going to SHOOT us!” So finally I woke up, and we went down.

And when we went down, they took us to an assembly place. It was formerly a hospital, within the ghetto. It was a ghetto in the ghetto. It was by itself. Overlooking the railroad tracks. He took us there.

And I remember, on the way, there was one SS man, his name was Donenberg. He hated that mother of the baby something vicious. He had a whip, and he whipped her so much it was unbelievable. And she said to him, “Let me go…will you let me go?” I don’t know—she was out of her mind by that time. And the more she talked, the more he whipped her.

He finally brought us all into that hospital. He put us on the 3rd floor. And when we got there, there were other people there who evidently also had been hiding and were caught. And they told us that every Wednesday, a van would come, sometimes buses, and take everyone to Auschwitz.

So this was Sunday. They said, in three days they’re going to come for us. Now, when we looked out from that window, since it was right next to the railroad tracks, we could see the Christian side of town. But there was nothing we could do since it was totally surrounded. That hospital was totally surrounded by SS, and the ghetto. So this is now the hospital inside, outside on every floor, and in the yard, and also on the tracks. I mean we were just totally surrounded.

But my aunt said to me like this: “Do you want to live?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “If you want to live, you must escape, because if you don’t, you’ll go to Auschwitz and you are a kid. You’ll die.”

Debbi Portnoy: How did they know for sure you’ll die? Did they know at this point?

RS: At this point there were rumors already coming through that people were dying. So she knew it. But she knew also that some people went to work. She was an able bodied woman. But children? No. So that’s why she talked to me like this.

So I said, “How can I escape?”

She said, “You’ll try your best. Try to jump around like a kid does from floor to floor. See if you can get down to the main floor.”

And then, she showed me there were weeds, very high weeds there, right outside the building. “See if you can just jump into the weeds, and stay like that. And little by little, in those weeds, start to get away from this building. Maybe it will take you a long time. Try to get out of the ghetto. If you can see at any point that there are no SS on the tracks, go on the other side.

“I have 35 pfennings (which was like cents) and there is a streetcar going on the Christian side. Once you hit the other side, there’s a streetcar. It’s 35 pfennings. I’ll give it to you. It’s exact. Get on it and go 5 stops. Get off.”
And she started to describe for me, from there, how to go to the Polish woman’s house.

Of course, I didn’t know what the house looked like from the front. But I remembered that she used to do alterations, and she didn’t have a bell. She did have a bell, but it never rang. She did it on purpose so that we had time to hide. And people used to call out, “Mrs. Cicha, I have alterations, open up!” Then she would open up, let them in. By that time, we were already in the chicken coop hiding.

So my aunt said, “When you go there, just scream out, ‘Mrs. Cicha, I have alterations,’ and she’ll open up for you.

Now this was the plan. Now the idea how to go down, this was another story. And we had 3 days to do it. So I started to skip and hop and do this, and the 35 cents I was holding on. And each time I started the SS man would say, “UP! Upstairs! What are you doing here! Go up again!” And it was no dice.

But one Jewish Policeman, his name was Feder, saw me doing this. And he realized that if I’m trying so hard, and my aunt is trying so hard to let me escape, I must have somewhere to go. I must have a hiding place. Because what’s the use of escaping? A little child going nowhere?

So he approached my aunt, and he said, “Look. I have a feeling that you have a hiding place on the Christian side. If you do, if you let me know where it is, I have a wife and I’d like to escape with my wife to a hiding place. I will let your niece somehow go. I will talk to the SS man, and I will make it so that his attention will be diverted, and she can skip back and forth until she can go down and hide in the weeds.”

Now this was a very iffy situation. First of all, in that bunker, already my other uncles were there. My other uncles had escaped there. We knew that they were there. Secondly, what if he was a traitor, and he would just betray the bunker? She was scared. She didn’t know the man. But somehow, he sounded so sincere that she thought she would take a chance.
So she said alright, and she gave him the name of the woman and the address. She really had palpitations when she did that. And he said, “I’ll let you escape too.” Because she also had to escape.

And he did. How he did it, I don’t know. But I remember when he said, “Move,” I moved. And I went fast as can be. And the SS were here and there and he was taking me by the hand as if he were leading me somewhere, as if under the SS auspices. And I jumped into the weeds, and I was in the weeds.

Now the SS were all around. They were on the tracks. They could really see the weeds. But I was so skinny, after those four weeks of eating practically nothing, that I was just covered by the weeds, like a rabbit. And they didn’t see me.

Now my aunt also told me something else. She said, “Listen, first of all, go like a mile approximately, then there is a little bridge. If there are no SS on the bridge, cross over. And when you go on the other side, start picking flowers, and you have to have flowers to cover the dirt. Because this was Sunday, and the dirt was such from the weeds and everything, that I would arouse suspicion. Because this was a Catholic country. On Sunday, all children were clean and going to Church. Nobody was running around, dirty, filthy like this, a kid alone someplace on a streetcar. Nobody. They would know that it’s a Jew.

So she told me what to do. She didn’t give me a time limit, but within reason. Pick flowers, get on the streetcar, go. So I was in those weeds, and I saw that I was a little further off, I said to myself, “I’ll cross the tracks. I’ll try.”
And I was about to go into the ravine which would lead me up. Some Polish teenage kids came with a dog, and screamed, “A JEW is ESCAPING from the GHETTO!!”



Post a Comment

<< Home