Rose's Story

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

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Part XIV

We come back, and this SS man is holding the coat, and he says, “You forgot your coat!” And with that lining on the outside, the same way, he hands it to my aunt. That’s it. We took the coat and we started to walk. I said, “Aunt, I have to sit down.” Because I couldn’t STAND IT!! I was SHAKING, like THIS! And there was a little park there and we sat down. You forgot your coat! My God! I thought they were going to shoot us!

So I said to my Aunt, “Let’s run away, let’s run away!”

“No! We’re not running anywhere. Because, if we run, we have nowhere to go, they will know we’re Jews. But if we go back to the Convent as if nothing happened, we have a chance.”

She was right, and she was very brave. We came back to the Convent, and the Mother Superior came right away and said, “What happened? Why did you have to go to the headquarters, to the Gestapo?”

My aunt was very wise. She didn’t deny. She didn’t say, “Nothing.” No. She said, “They thought we were Jews. Evidently, somebody has the same name, or stole our passports, I don’t know what. But they thought we were Jews. Of course we’re not Jews. Some dumb Jew has our papers, so therefore they let us go, because they realized we’re not Jews.”

So she said, “Oh…now I know.” But she knew in advance why, because she was told by the Gestapo man why he came. I mean, she was the Mother Superior. But every after that, the phone rang, and he was asking if we were there, and what we were doing. Because there was no phone in every room, but there was a phone in the foyer. So I remember her answering the phone, one of the nuns, and saying, yes, they’re still here. No they didn’t run off. Yes, they seem ok. They’re normal. They never took us again.

So it was the first and last time we were there. But it was a terrible, terrible experience.

Now, in February or March of 1945, the doorbell was ringing like crazy. One of the nuns opened the door. And there stands, my cousin, Sammy Silberberg, with the uniform of a concentration camp. You know how they have those pajamas from concentration camps? And two other concentration camp guys. And he says he wants to talk to Maria.

And the nun didn’t know what it was. She didn’t know it was concentration camp (uniform). And my aunt sees this, and she was motioning like, ‘go away.’ But she said in Polish, “come back at night.”

What happened was, that they were on a death march. You know the Germans, towards the end of the war, were marching these people to death. From one camp to another, into inner Germany. And he knew that we were in a Convent. And how did he know?

Because when we were still with the Polish woman, the reason we later found out that we were even discovered by the SS [in the coup]—why were we discovered by the SS? Nobody even knew we were there. Because this woman, Dudwauka, who used to threaten Mrs. Cicha, we realized that something had to be done about her, because every day she was threatening to call the Germans. So it was smartly done. They took one of the girls, who didn’t look too Jewish, and they said, “Take a lot of money and knock at night at her door. Say ‘Here’s some money, let me stay two hours. I’m Jewish, let me stay for two hours and I’ll leave.’” And they did it. She opened the door, took the money (she was very greedy) and let her stay. But she ran off very shortly, because she knew that she’d take an axe and kill her. And we told her, “when you leave, make sure she doesn’t follow you,” because she had to come back right next door. After that, this woman never threatened Mrs. Cicha. She felt already, hey I’m traife, I’m not playing games.

So we said, “How did they find us?” The story was, that my uncle, who was the brother of my father, was in a concentration camp. He knew a German guard, who seemed to be on the level. And he said, “When you go back to Poland, (because he was going back on vacation), go to this woman, Mrs. Cicha, (whom he knew from before the war), and there is my wife. Just tell her I’m OK.” Nothing else. So, the man went, he came, and he said, “your husband is OK.” So we knew about the husband, and the son, Sammy, the young boy. So my aunt [note: this is not Aunt Sara] wrote a Jewish letter and told him to give it to her husband.

On the way back, the guard forgot his ID. Once he didn’t have his ID, he was searched on the train, and they found a Jewish letter. Now, the guard was not Jewish. Maybe they punished him for this. But they weren’t going to kill him for forgetting his ID. But the Jewish letter? What is this?

“Well, I did a stupid thing, I went there, there’s a Jewish woman there.” He never saw anybody else except my aunt. So when they came to get us, they thought they were coming for one Jewish woman. They got 17 Jews there that time, with my sister.

So what happened was, my cousin knew that someplace we were in a Convent. [See Comments] He came and my aunt at night snuck him in and two other guys, snuck him into a loft. There was the spare hay for the horses. And they were there for 3 months, hiding. My aunt used to bring food, stealing from the pigs. I used to be the lookout. Used to help with the water, and take out the pail (because you had to empty the pail).

But what happened is, the Polish workers used to go in the morning to take some hay, they used to take these hay forks and just stab. Now, if you are hiding there, if they would hit you, they would kill you! Because they didn’t know anybody was there. And if they did, for sure they would kill you, the Polish workers. Either way.

One of the boys, and his name was Moshe Ganger, said, “I cannot stand this anymore. I will not stay here. I’m going out, I’m going to go to the employment office, and say I want to work for the war effort, I’m a Polish man, and that’s it.”

My aunt said, “You look Jewish! You don’t look Polish. Brown eyes, brown hair, forget it!”

No, he wants to go. So we said, “If they catch you, if you give us up, then we’re all going to perish.”

He said, “No, don’t worry.” So he decided he’s going. So my aunt said, “I’ll follow you at a distance, because I want to know what’s going to happen to you.” Like Moses and Miriam. And we followed together.

This man goes into a factory to volunteer to work for the Germans. A half hour later we see SS. SS are coming into the factory and out he goes with the SS. Into the same Gestapo headquarters that we had been questioned in.

DP: So you were there watching this?

RS: Watching, but like a block away. Oh my God! My aunt said oh my God. If they torture him, for sure he’s going to give us away. He’s going to tell them everything, because you cannot withstand the torture.

Well, he was gone like that for hours on end. And we were standing, and we didn’t know what to do. But my aunt said, “We have to wait. We have to see if he comes out at all.”

Sure enough, maybe six hours have gone by, he comes out, with the SS, and he shows us like everything is fine. And what happened was, we looked at his face from far away, but we could see that he had not been tortured. He was not beaten up. He looked normal. So what took him so long?

After the war, my aunt said, “What happened to you?”

He said, “If I tell you, will you believe me? You will not believe me. This is what happened: When I got there, they said, ‘He’s a Jew,’ and they took me to Gestapo headquarters. But one SS man said, ‘let’s see if he’s circumcised.’ So one said, ‘yes’ and one said ‘no.’ So now, they wouldn’t kill a Christian just for the hell of it, so they said they had to call a doctor. And he will be the one to judge. But the doctor was busy a whole day in his office, and by the time the doctor finally decided to come, the day was gone, but he came. And he looked, and he said, ‘this man is not circumcised. So take him to work.’” So he went to work. If I tell you that he was circumcised, he came from Chassidim! And his son lives today in Kiryat Arba, he has five children!

But it was like a miracle. The doctor said, and this is it. But meantime, we lost years off our lives just looking, watching for him.



  • At Tuesday, March 08, 2005 5:04:00 PM, Blogger Mark Skier said…

    Note: The exact story of how Sammy found out about the Convent was not in the interview. I did discuss this with my mother, who gave me the explanation, but she is not clear on all of the details. I will attempt to get more detail from one of my cousins

  • At Thursday, March 17, 2005 6:09:00 AM, Blogger Mark Skier said…

    My cousin Sammy Silberberg writes:

    "The answer to your question is quite simple. I was with my father in the concentration camp of Blechhammer and in January of 1944 while we were marched from the
    industrial complex to the camp compound I saw this woman
    who I immediately recognized as being my mother walking on the side of the road in the deep snow. I was in the middle of a row of five inmates (which was the way we were marched to and from the industrial complex) I nudged the guy next to me with my elbow telling him this is my mother.
    He told me to shut up and apparently my mother was able
    to sneak in a piece of paper with an address in my fathers'
    contingent and that is how we were able to maintain contact. The rest is history. I have written an essay under the title of "Surviving the Death march" which depicts our ordeal during that event."


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