Monday, April 25, 2011

Daniela and her brother are taken to Germany

If you ask my grandmother to start from the top, she insists on starting with her older brother Tadeusz. Or actually with the following anecdote.

In 1939, after the Germans had occupied Poland, it was very difficult getting enough to eat. There were two bakeries in Łódź (her home town, pronounced Wutsh) at the time. Even when getting up in the middle of the night, queuing outside both bakeries, there was no guarantee my family would get any bread. One day in October, Germans came in trucks to the food lines and took away women and men separately. The women were taken 30 kilometers outside the city, where they were left to walk home. The men, among them Tadeusz, were taken to Germany as laborers. Tadeusz didn't know where he was taken but ended up working with some other polish boys on a farm. Work was tough. They got up around two or three o'clock at night to take care of the horses and then did work on the farm until around eleven the following evening. In March the following year he decided to run away.

Around the same time, this must have been the 6th or 7th of March 1940, the Germans woke up the entire street and told us that we had 20 minutes to pack our belongings. The area was designated for the Jewish ghetto, you see. We were all moved, in the middle of the night, to a sports facility but the next day we were allowed back home. Later that month they came to us again and said we would be trapped inside the ghetto if we hadn't moved by the end of March.

We were invited to stay at the apartment of my fathers's friend. My father was very sick at the time. I had to carry him piggy back the 4 kilometers to the other apartment. (My grandmother is however known to add spice to the stories sometimes.) We stayed there for a short while until we found a place of our own. It wasn't big, some of us slept on the floor, but it worked. One night we woke up to the sound of snowballs hitting the window. We were all terrified. In the street below was my brother. He had arrived during the day and found out where we lived, but waited for the night before he dared to come. I can't tell you how happy we were to see him.

The following months my brother mostly stayed indoors. The Germans were constantly raiding for laborers. But he dared leaving home at times and one of those days, in the middle of July, he was again seized. This time they brought him to load cargo, parts to the war industry, at the train station at Frankfurt am Main.

In Poland, the Germans started kidnapping blond girls the following summer. Hitler had started a breeding program and these girls were raped to produce children for the country. (My grandmother explains the following with enormous intensity). My friend and I were stopped by a German-Polish man in the street one day, he said his job was to take girls like us. He said, "Go home! I don't want to take you but there are others who will!". We ran. You have to understand, I was beautiful back then, and I was blond with blue eyes. I didn't dare to go out for six weeks. I was hiding at home, hiding like a rat. I knew a girl in my age who disappeared. Not until the war between Germany and Russia broke out I dared going outdoors sometimes.

My brother came home for a short permission over new year's eve (this is the winter of 41-42). I told him about the kidnappings and he was concerned, so he gave me 10 D-Mark and taught me how to ask for a ticket to Frankfurt. In case I was taken and transported by train, this way I would have a chance to run off.

The Germans did take me. It must have been the second or third of May 1942. The following day they put me on a train and we travelled all day and all night. Finally we came to a stop, I woke up and looked outside. The train was in Frankfurt am Main! I managed to sneak off. At the station I was desperately looking around for other Polish people. Finally I found some Polish workers, and I asked them, do you know my brother Tadeusz? They said, "Of course we know your brother!". He wasn't there but the guys dressed me in a coat and hat and smuggled me to their office. But this is another story.

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