The German occupation of Lodz was three months old.Enough
time to see what it will mean to live under the German boot.
The Jews lived in fear. Our Jewish Community Councilmen, over
30 of the most prominent men, were just taken by the Germans
and shot. There has been forced labor by captured Jews,
there were beatings. The main street of the city, that cuts the
town in half was forbidden for Jews to walk or even cross. All
Jews were to wear a yellow armband. If caught without it, the
punishment was a bullet in the head.
I have lived at that time in my sisters apartment. One night
a couple of
German officers came and just threw me out . Fortunately
there still was the family home where I could live with my mother.
My Father and my older sister were on a business trip in the
USA. As the war became imminent they sent a visa and ship ticket
to New York for my mother. However,the war started before the
boat came into a polish harbor, and my mother was stranded in
Lodz with her papers.
At one point some Germans started doing business with people
who had a Polish travel passport. They would stamp it with a
renewal and and a visa through Germany and charge
a large amount of money for that. Then you had to stand in line,
in the street, which for us Jews was quite risky. I went,stood
in line and obtained such extensions for both my mother
During those three months, some of my friends left Lodz going
East toward the Russian Army, not necessarily to join the army,
but to get out from under the Germans. That was never my plan..
Knowing that the Polish Army is being reorganized in France,
a country I knew well, my dream was to be able to travel there,
to fight on, to crush the Germans and come back to Lodz as the
victorious young Polish Officer.
Before that could be accomplished I had to figure where can I
go. I could not try to get a French visa, there were no French
consulates, the war was on. Still I had to be able to show a
possible investigator where I was going. At that time I was working
in a bank.We had opened the doors of the bank during the occupation,
but the work we were able to do was minimal.
One of the men working there with me, we shall call him Wladek,
knew about my plans. He had similar papers and wanted to go with
me. Wladek knew the consul of Greece in Lodz. We visited his
friend. After our solemn promise that we shall never go to Greece
with his visa, and again a substantial amount of money, we became
two proud possessors of Greek visas.
Thus we were ready to roll.My mother left a week before me, trying
to reach Italy, and with her US visa, eventually reach this country.
There were a few miracles, she did, and joined my family in Rockville
Wladek and I got to the train, still wearing the yellow arm bands,
bought tickets to Trieste in Italy, got into a compartment. We
took off our overcoats and hanged them up so as to make our yellow
The train started moving towards a completely unknown, frightful
chapter of my life.Several hours went by. We were almost at the
former Polish-German border station. It was completely dark.
All of Germany was under orders to put out the lights , they
feared the air raids that never happened.
Suddenly, the door to the compartment opened and two quite burly
and frightening German Gendarmes appeared." Your papers
gentlemen". I was the spokesman, just the two of us in the
compartment, I held out to them our passports, with my fingers
holding them so that only the German extension showed.
" But you must have a visa to travel through Germany"
he said "Oh, no" I replied" Lodz has been
integrated into the German Reich, so we do not need visas".
We had those visas, ,several pages of the passport later,but
they were expired. If he would just turn the pages of the passport,
he would know, that I lied, and he would know that our visa through
Germany was not valid I do not think that he would have been
very pleased finding it out. But he stamped our extension of
the passport with an entry stamp. I quickly pulled the passports
from his hands and reached for a box of chocolates that I had
with me. Then in a very calm voice I asked whether he knew what
our connections were from Vienna to the Italian border. They
didnt know, and they left.
Several stations later, still as dark as in an Arabian night,
still only the two of us in the compartment, we hear the sound
of boots on the stations platform.
The door opens....."Here they are"....
The two Gendarmes are back. I was sure that my life was over,
I assure you ,I was scared plenty.One of them sat down on the
bench took out what we found out was a flashlight, turned
it on his lap, where a train schedule was resting. They came
to tell us about the train connection. They have found out that
we have about two hours waiting time in Breslau.
" Have you any money" they asked, " we have the
food stamps you have the money, why dont we dine
together. As my Grandma would say, we needed that like a"loch
in kopf".but we could not refuse.So about an hour later
we found ourselves entering a restaurant in Germany, with two
Gendarmes walking and raising their arm " Heil Hitler"
and the two Jewish boys, very scared,not knowing what to do.
The meal was not the best time Ive ever had, but finally
it ended, they took us back to the train station, and we rolled
Finally the Vienna station.
We asked about our connection to the Italian border. The train
has just left. The next one is only tomorrow morning. One of
my former girl friends married a man from Vienna and they moved
to live in Argentina. She was always telling me, what wonderful
people her future husbands parents were and if I ever get
to Vienna, I should visit them. Well, that was a good thing
to do. I had that address, we got into a cab and went to visit
They received us with exceptional hospitality, the Gentleman
a lawyer before the war, active in the Jewish Community, looked
at our papers and shook his head." the Italians will not
let you in" he said. You must have a proof that you can
leave Italy to get a transit visa , to get in. How do we get
that????" As you dont have a valid visa through Germany,
you are here illegally.
I will place you in a small hotel where they will not ask too
many questions, then we will visit the Italian Ship line. They
will wire your mother who is still in Genoa, and who has enough
dollars to pay for those tickets to Pireus"
My mother who left a week before me, also visited the Levys and
they contacted through some channels my Father, who send her
the money. I needed $60 to save two lives. $60 were there. My
Mother paid it into the Line and they gave me a receipt for it.
With that in hand we should be able to get into Italy, contact
the French consulate and volunteer for the Army.
On the train again. This time, near Christmas, the train was
full of Italians who were returning home for the Holidays. Finally
the border. Again a German comes in "Your papers,please".
We were told by Mr. Levy not to tell the Italians that we are
Jewish. Wladeks name was Goldman. The German turns to him
" are you Jewish" he says no. Raus,(get out) shouts
He takes us off the train and leads us to a small station office.
Now the interrogation. Where are you going, why, why did you
say you are not Jewish, we seem to be in hot water.
In the dark, in one corner sits a man in a rain coat, his hat
down on his eyes, a regular James Bond. He turns to us: "
Do you have tickets to go to Pireus" Of course, I say,proudly
brandishing the precious receipt for $60, " well, he laughs,
let them go, the Italians are not going to let them in, theyll
be back here tomorrow".
The train already starts rolling as we run for it. In few minutes
we are out of the German hands. I say to Wladek,listen if anything
happens and they make trouble we jump the train.
Well nothing happened, we arrive at Trieste still alive, sent
a wire to my Dad and a week later we are again on the train to