WALK IN MY SHOES

Collected Memories of the Holocaust

EXHIBITION


 Not Now, Not Ever
by Jean Klein

KLEIN, Jean
  • born in in Kalisz, Poland, as Lipszyc, Jadzia
  • family: her father Hanoh and mother Lea, sisters Guta, Karola and brother Aron.
  • memoirs: "Not Now, Not Ever," first published in 1967 by Boxwood Press, by Jean Klein (nee Jadzia or Jadwiga Lipszyc.)
  • Sadly, Jean Klein passed away on 5 Jun 2009.

 

 

 

Home

I slumped to my knees and broke into sobs. I couldn't walk up. Now now, not ever. I wanted to remember it as I had left it five long yean ago. I was aware, in a dim faint memory, of the past. How many times I had run up those steps to join my family at meals. Now only pain existed. Sobs choked me. It seemed I could weep an ocean full.

These recollections are not complete. Many things happened between ... things which left their trace in my memory ...too many, of which I have no strength to write.

I have invented nothing.

THE RIVER PROSNA flowed gently through the city. A colorful panorama of. million flowers grew on the piazzas, in the park, in the green valleys. Dozens of peacocks took their daily walk to show off their feathers. Like a whisper, the water swished on the river banks. The streets were clean and so familiar. My dear home town, the city of Kalisz in the state of Pozen in Poland.

There were always peddlers in the streets. Peddlers buying old rags and empty bottles. Men with wooden cases of glass on their backs, looking for jobs to fix broken windows. They yelled from morning to sundown.

"Szmaty Kupuje! Buying old rags - old bottles - old rags!" And his competitor, trying to out scream him.

"I'm fixing windows! Fixing windows!"

There were big markets with hundreds of tables, covered with fresh fruits and vegetables, brought in by the farmers. Among the red radishes and rhubarb, apples, cherries, cauliflower, and cabbage, the green leaves seemed to grow on the tables.

Clucking hens and quacking ducks squawked noisy protests for being locked in their cages on market day, until a shrewd shopper would lift one out and blow its tail-feathers to see how much was fat and how much was feather.

In the main streets, the stores boasted beautiful window displays, but grocery stores were always on the side streets. They were dark and narrow shops, with no shelves or cans. The big potato sacks of flour, sugar, coffee, barley, and rice were lined up along the sides of the walls. In the back of. long wooden counter, the grocer, who was covered with a mixture of flour and sugar, weighed our quarter pound of rice in a little paper bag.

Frankel owned the big store. Your could smell his pickles and herring and sauerkraut and smoked fish for blocks. The women shoppers used to pinch every herring in the barrel to see which was the fattest. Frankel's floor was always wet with herring drippings.

Across the street, the rich people bought corned beef and salami at Radomski's. There, the draped strings of wieners in the window attracted all the school children, who came to buy a wiener with sauerkraut and mustard for ten groszys.

In Kalisz there were two synagogues and many churches, a public school, a high school, a business academy, and parochial schools.

On the noisy weekends' we could hear the trotting of the droshkys, the only transportation in the city. While the horse-and-buggies clopped along on cement streets, the whistles from the lace factories blasted a duet, and
filled the air with smoke and smell.

On Saturday, the Jewish stores closed and Kalisz quieted a little for Shabbat. The Jewish businessmen and shopkeepers and laborers paraded around in their best clothes, and little boys with sidelocks went to synagogue with their fathers.

The most silent day of the week was Sunday. Soft church bells chimed through a city whose stores, both Jewish and gentile, had closed for the day. Quiet peace. Late in the afternoon, Polish family groups and clubs sang and
polka, the mazurks, and the oberek. That day, the Poles paraded, as Jews had done the day before. Usually we could see a Pole or two, apart from the crowd, enjoying his week's pay worth of vodka in the gutter.

It was a busy life. People were rich or poor. People had everyday worries. They were families with children and hopes for them.

We were in our family: Mom, Daddy, my sisters Guta and Karola, myself and my brother, Aron.

Guta, the eldest, got respect from the rest of us. It was she, with Karola, who was a comrade, as well as a daughter, to Mom.

In the shadow of my beautiful sister, Karola, I always felt ugly. Karola was the pride of the family. Her big, black eyes were almost oriental, slanting up toward her rich black hair. By contrast, her complexion was creamy white, displaying a beautiful tiny nose that slanted up, too.

Aron was the youngest of all of us. Finally, the anticipated son. As the baby, and the only boy, Aron always got most of the attention.

And me...all covered with freckles, I had neither Karola's beauty nor Guta's maturity. After two girls, they had expected me to be a boy, so I was a disappointment there, too. Mom always said maybe for a boy I wouldn't be so bad looking. I was proud only of my hands and long, artistic fingers that later would be important so many times.

I could not dwell on my shortcomings for long, though. At the age of four, I was sent to Mrs. Krasucka's kindergarten. All the children there were from well-to-do families. We chased the hoop and played ring-around-the-roise in a room that looked like a fairy tale. The blocks and bicycles and bats and dolls were so many, that even we could never hope to have so many ourselves. Mrs. Krasucka's was the last school where boys and girls were together in my classes.

When I was five, I was sent to Hawaceles. How I remember the first day! I gripped my father's hand tightly. I was so proud to walk through the streets with him.

Everybody knew my father. He held high positions in every charity organization in Kalisz, and he was president of this private school for girls.

Father wasn't tall, but he looked distinguished because of the long, black silky beard and dark fiery eyes that seemed to hint the wisdom inside. Everyone came to Daddy for advice on family problems or business ventures. How proud I was to walk with him, or see him on the school stage, making a speech on national holidays, or watch him on the bima at schul!

At Hawaceles, school was no longer a room full of toys. Classes and hours flowed into one another with a steady, secure sameness.

The clearest memory now is a prayer we said every morning.
       I imagine that the Holy One stands
             in front of me
       He sees everything I do He hears everything I say
       And He writes it all down in a big book

Throughout my childhood, there were always prayers. There was a prayer before eating bread, drinking water, or a bedtime prayer, checked on by Daddy to make sure we hadn't forgotten. Among them all, I wonder why I remember the prayer from school.

After classes, Daddy's store was a good place. As long as I can remember, Daddy was in the leather business - soft leathers for shoes. How I loved the smell of the leather and the touch of the soft grain! There were so many colors, but I was fascinated especially by the silver and gold. I could picture perfectly the shoes of Cinderella!

The lines of shelves from the floor to the ceiling were loaded with beautiful, expensive skins. On a slow day, my friends and I used to climb up into the back shelves to play hide and seek. I wasn't allowed to bring more than one at a time, so Zosia, PoIa, Edzia and Fela took turns coming to the store and to our house.

Dear, good home. Daddy was very orthodox, and the Jewish tradition was the most important part of our family life. Most important was the Sabbath .

Although, as far as I can remember, we always had a maid, and, once a week, a laundress. Cooking for the Sabbath was Mom's department, because she was so strict about her kosher kitchen. Thursday morning Mom started the baking and cooking for the Sabbath. Smells of homemade noodles, gefilte fish, chalos with braided tops, coffee cake, blueberry tarts from leftover cookie dough melded together, spreading their warm aroma all through the house.

After racing back from school on Friday, I loved to see our table prepared for the traditional dinner. The big, white tablecloth held a bottle of red wine and a silver wine goblet for the kiddish. There were always extra chairs at our table, waiting for Daddy to surprise Mom with some special guests. Boys away from home, attending the Yeshiva, Jewish soldiers, or some poor relative joined in our Sabbath feast. Each sat, as we did, on the polished, armless,
dining room chairs. Only Father's chair, at the head of the table, had too thick, carved arms.

Since were not permitted to eat bread on Saturday, that next morning was the time for tasting all Mom's goodies - butter cakes and cookies, and sweet, rich pastries .

Saturday afternoon, Daddy came back from the synagogue and settled into his chair in the living room, still engrossed in the Talmudic studies. Like the difference in the chairs at the dinner table, there was an honor about Father's chair here, too. Though I often sat with Daddy on Saturdays, never did I dare sit alone in his chair, nor did anyone else, as a symbol of respect. Instead, I loved to climb up on Daddy's lap and beg him for a story.

Though I always interrupted his studies this way, I think he expected it, b he always had a lesson, a beautiful Bible story. I caressed his beard, enraptured by the melody of his steady Yiddish intonation. Daddy always ended his stories the same way. "Be a good girl. Always remember you are a Jew. Be proud of it. Never lie, it's just as bad as stealing. And don't offend anybody, its a crime."

In those next years, I was to remember his words often, turning them over, knowing their irony. But on those Saturdays, I just waited while he spoke them. Then he pinched my cheek and chased me out of the room with his hand.

On weekdays, after school, there were walks and dreams, thousands of dreams. I was brought up in a world of girls, and I knew that the first boy I met would be the boy I would marry.

I spend evenings near the window, looking out into the twilight. It was so much fun to watch people passing by the house. Especially boys. I watched the handsome ones and dreamed about a Prince Charming. And when I couldn't tell Mom or Daddy how I felt, I used to write poems.

There were so many things I couldn't talk to Mom about. Yet my mother was a wonderful person. Her youthful sense of humor that made her so close to Karola and Guta, often masked her worries. But then, Mom worried about everybody's business. Poor relatives and rich ones, neighbor's daughters who weren't married, or neighbors' married daughters who might not be happy - they were all Mom's concern. Like Karola and Guta, all the neighbors found a warm friend in Mom.

But in her closeness to my sisters and the rest of Kalisz, Mom's warmth seemed to exclude me. I was always jealous. I wanted her attention so much. I loved her so dearly, but there was so little time left from her busy schedule.

It was wonderful to be sick. Those were the days I was taken out of the maid's care, and had Mom all to myself. She would sit for hours by my bed and read stories to me. She would feed me every Jewish mother's best
medication - chicken broth. Maybe it was a good medication that Old European way, for the doctor seldom visited our house. She enveloped me with affection, and I was joyously happy. I loved the tenderness in her eyes and the soft touch of her hands. So I tried to stay sick for a very long time .

Life at home was sweet. How tragic it is to appreciate things only after they are gone.

I can still see clearly the beautiful clean rooms in our house. My room's creamy walls bordered a big, free space for my brother and me. The wooden sliding doors on our closets opened a regimented row of crisp, clean clothes that hung on the rack.

Our dining room was a grand place. Heavy gold drapes hung on the windows. A massive china closet held rows and rows of beautiful crystal and silver one side, and shelves of holy books and old leather volumes on the other. Though my parents' deep red mahogany furniture and my sisters' bedroom of pale water-green were exquisite, the real treasure was the delicious storage room. It was there so many memories were born.

It was a busy summer. Mom had brought cherries and grapes, pears, cucumbers, and berries in huge baskets at the market. Although she shooed me out of the storage room, I stayed long enough to snitch some of the cherries our maid was pitting. Hours later, from those great boiling kettles on the stove, came preserves to put in bottles to stack alongside the pickles and pears. And visnak, the cherry syrup that was almost the national summer drink of Poland. Always, visnak, ready to serve our guests.

How good are the times when parents do the worrying and life goes by as though nothing could destroy it - when home gives you warm shelter and parents protect you.
 
But this was the year when my life turned to horror!


We Flee

IN 1938, there was constant talk about the threat of war. Hitler spoke, and Austria was taken ...Czechoslovakia was surrounded. And here I lost track of weeks, days, months ... time was endless ... life, fearful. The sky turned red for a week, and Poles knew it was a sign of war. Gdansk was taken ... then the first bomb. And from that time on, every memory is red and ugly.

Hitler's anti-Jewish laws followed quickly. Jews must wear a star, hand in their bikes, furs, silver. Obey or be killed.

I stopped seeing my friends. People were afraid to go out. One by one, the Jewish stores closed. We met only within the safety of a neighbor's home. Desperately, we tried to plan an escape. Those were terrible nights.

Mom and my sisters were sewing heavy linen rucksacks. We packed a few things in case we got the chance to run away. Mom put a silver zloty, food money, over each button, and sewed cloth over it.

In the quiet night, we heard bullets. I crawled into Mom's bed, but I was afraid to close my eyes.

We still had beds, but we couldn't sleep; a storage room full of food and no appetite. We had no money, and no way to spend it. We watched the outside change through the windows, and listened to the sounds of boots. Coming and going. Never stopping. They were heard from the streets. The feet of the Gestapo. The footsteps destined to come for all of us.
 
And through the windows we could see groups of Jews being dragged away by the police. Mothers and sobbing children, invalids ... familiar faces ...dear, dear neighbors and relatives. We heard them plead for mercy and help. Then a cry. And after it, like an echo, the cry of a murdered child and the wail of a desperate parent ... for hours and hours.
 
Families began to separate. They talked about work camps. Parents clung to their little ones. They vowed that not even approaching death would separate them. Another night, another day. I don't know how many.

We pecked rucksacks; we waited out turn. Mom cried. I wonder how much faith in God helped. Father still sat in his favorite chair, reading the Talmud. His lips moved in continuous prayer.

"Just have faith," he said. "God will help us."

But God didn't. It was three o'clock in the morning when we heard the boots. "Juden out!" Cut like a knife into us.
 
It was the last time I saw my house. They took us into a big church, hundreds of us. Each family had a square of cement floor to live on. We shared among us the little food we had taken. We used our rucksacks for pillows and tried to sleep through the wails of the children.

After a few days, they took small groups out. We all had the same questions. Who next? To where?

Some Polish friends helped us to run away. We managed to get out to their horse and buggy, to start our journey to nowhere.

Outside the city. a German soldier stopped us. We knew he'd shoot at least one of us. Instead he smirked, snarling the Nazi prophecy: "Where do run to, Jew? 'Wherever you go, we'll get you."

Our buggy rattled against the dark silence. Above us, the great grove of stars was shelter. I sat close to Mom, shivering from the cold. I wanted to go home again.

The side roads we traveled were rough and stony. None of them offered what we left behind.

After a few days we arrived in the city of Lodz, one of the biggest industrial cities in Poland. My uncle lived there. Around the section where the Jews were concentrated, the Germans were putting up the first wires of the ghetto. The streets were crowded with thousands of Jews. They lived in stairways and basements, filthy attics ...

We were comfortable in my wealthy uncle's house. While we still had food and shelter, we couldn't believe the talk of war camps and crematoriums.
 
One morning a German soldier walked into my uncle's house. He said he needed a few girls to clean floors in the high school. He said it calmly. He picked me. It was the first time I was taken from my family.

Arriving at the school, I saw a group of girls, scared, like me. We were assigned to different rooms. I never scrubbed a floor. That didn't matter, as long as they sent me back to my family again. The floor I was assigned was near the door of a big kitchen. It was there I first understood the Jewish tragedy.

In an old wooden chair, an old Jew with a long white beard sat. Three German soldiers were cutting his beard with kitchen knives. Big pieces of beard and skin fell to the floor, and blood ran down the old man's shirt. Oh God! In such a bitter briefness of life, why should this happen? The whiteness of his face had a touch of holiness. His hands were tied to a chair and he gasped with pain. I bit my lips so hard together, that I could feel the taste of my own blood. I was aware of the soldier watching me. Automatically, my hand scrubbed the floor. This was the reason he put me so close to the kitchen! No, I won't look up! The fear drove me almost insane. Like an echo, I could hear the Jew pray, "Shma Yisrael, Adonoy elohenu, Adonoy ehod." The prayer of a dying man, "Hear 0 Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one."

I saw a drop of blood on the floor in front of me. Blood from my own lips. I was nauseated. I wiped it away, but I saw blood everywhere. The floor was an ocean of blood. Even the water in the bucket ... Shma Yisrael ... Oh, God, help me. It was cruel. We were conquered, destroyed. Like leprosy, death was spreading, and the terrible fear crept with it. The floor was washed in a few hours of work - not really hours. It had been a lifetime. I was old and empty now. I stood up. My legs were stiff, as though they did not belong to me.

"Out! Out!" screamed the German soldier, pointing to the door. I walked out, still hearing the sadistic laughter. It rained slowly outside. It washed my face, with my tears, and left a bitter taste. My body was covered with cold sweat. I could still see the mortal spasm of the old man's face, and the blood dripping down his shirt. And his half-dead lips repeated, "Shma ... " I was haunted by it. I started to run ...faster ...faster ...

My whole family was at the door, waiting for me. I pushed through them, madly, ran to the bedroom. I threw myself onto the bed, and lay there shaking and sobbing.

I don't know how much time went by. I felt Mom's hand caressing my hair. I fell into her arms. We didn't say anything. She didn't question me. Perhaps she knew, but I could not tell her. I couldn't talk.

In the night, that scene was a black nightmare. Dreams, dreams, dreams of terror. And days of fear.

We stayed in Lodz for a few weeks. Things changed from bad to worse. They took people out in trains from the ghetto, and more crowded into the city.

The hospitals were full. There weren't enough medical supplies to go around. People ran from one ghetto into another, but every ghetto was the same: hunger and despair.

For hours I walked through the ghetto streets. There was no threat of German soldiers there. They had left the ghettos completely. I was confused, broken, homesick. I had an awful desire to return to my childhood. I loved all the things I had lost, those things I hadn't known how to value. Most haunting of all, the warm, beautiful tradition of holidays in my home. And so I wandered through the streets, hating the loneliness and fearing the night. The night would cover the streets and make me look for shelter. When that came, I finally stopped walking. I crept into bed and remembered. Through the lonely night I remembered the joyous days of Passover at home and I yearned again for the feast of the Seder.

There were many people gathered at our Seder table. Our silver goblets bordered the table, surrounding the candelabra and catching its reflections. The seven candles threw a gold light on the whiteness of the cloth. The matzos were covered with a silk white cover, embroidered in gold and blue. Father wore a white vestment, the kittel, reminiscent of Aaron and his sons. It was the garment of purity and burial - to remind us in our feast that as God gives, so does he take away.

We joined in songs and prayers at Paesach - guests, strangers and family alike. As far as I can remember, there was never an empty chair at Seder.

Finally, almost at dawn, Father would close with the Jews' universal prayer, "May we all be in Jerusalem together next year."

The next day, every Jewish child in Poland wore his new Paesach shoes and clothes.

Only nights permitted dreaming about this past. In the daylight, ghetto scenes brought back reality. The past was gone. It was far away. There were no holiday celebrations at my uncle's house. The food supply was getting scarce. Besides the six of us, and my uncle's family of eight, relatives and strangers came from all over to live with us. Often we had forty at the table. The water that we boiled potatoes in was put out on the doorstep to provide a meal for a hungry stranger that might pass by. And we realized we could not all stay.

The day we left for Belchatov, Grandma came with us. Arriving in that little city, we were lucky to find a little kitchen, deserted by other Jews. The seven of us lived there during a terribly cold winter. We had no heat. The temperature used to go down below zero. The ice on the walls was three inches thick. What little coal we could buy, we had to use for cooking. But Belchatov had no ghetto, and Mommy still managed to bring some food every day.

I had my first encounter with boys in Belchatov. All my friends seemed so experienced already, but everything was new to me. I went to little parties and learned how to dance. Boys told me I was pretty. That surprised me, and I thought that all my freckles must have disappeared at once. I kept looking at myself in the mirror, thinking that maybe in spite of what Mommy said, I wasn't so bad looking for a girl, either.

When the German soldiers loaded the first train of Jews in Belchatov, we knew it was time to run again.

My parents chose Warsaw this time. Again, in the horse and buggy, we found ourselves on an empty road. Grandma had gone back to Lodz because she was too old to travel.

Daddy was covered with a wool blanket to hide his Semitic face. Mommy, who looked Irish, sat in front with the driver, in case we had German company on the road. Nights were worse than daylight. Then, every tree's shadow looked like a German soldier crouching and waiting to spring.

There were others like us on the road. We pitied the little ones who could not understand; who demanded food. We did not expect help.

It was forbidden to help a Jew. Babies were born, and clung to their mother's dry breasts. Women were dying in labor. Everybody was running. We did not know where.

The only place to go was another ghetto. We could get in there, but we couldn't get out. And between those fortress walls, we knew we would find only wrong and suffering.

I was cold and hungry. The little supply of food we had taken was gone. We huddled together to keep warm. The days on the road were an eternity. Above us, unmoving, dark clouds; and around us, the darkness of the night.

Halfway to Warsaw, we decided to rest overnight in a small town. We found out from some of the Poles that there were Jews still living there ... so we knocked at the door they showed us, and were greeted by Mrs. Tannenbaum, from Kalisz.

That night we shared with the six Tannenhaums the beds and food. I was so happy to see Paula. She was a year younger than I, and she was very pretty. She looked like a German, and later, that, along with her brightness, was to save her life. In the morning we had to leave again another remnant of the comfortable past.

It was still hours to Warsaw when he heard the trotting of horses from a German patrol. Mommy instructed our driver to turn off the road. We drove into an inconspicuous, narrow space between two pine trees, thinking that the trees would hide us. We heard the hoofs coming louder and then, more clearly, the guttural sounds of the German soldiers talking.

I had long been obsessed with the sound and feel of death. Now I grabbed at Daddy's arm with a frenzied grip. Swept into a horrid panic, I stared at the face of the German soldier who had found us.

"Juden?"

Mommy trembled, "Yes."

Then the search for money began. If they found it, we knew they would surely kill us all. As they felt our clothing for money, we prayed they would not think of searching the saddlebags. They didn't. We were allowed to go. Relieved, we picked up our scattered belongings. The German soldiers had wanted money, not lives - this time.

On the road again, it seemed only a short way to Warsaw - the day every Pole dreams of seeing. Here, in Poland's most glorious city, it was the same. Jews fled through the streets, herds like cattle lived on steps, in corners. What distinguished the famous Warsaw from so many other cities of terror? It was bigger! It just made the whole story uglier and more shameful.
 
We headed for Zimna Five, where my father's relatives, the Holtzkeners, lived. As in Lodz, they shared food and beds with us.

We didn't stay long. Those streets were soon cut out of the ghetto. Then we spent nights on stairways and landings. In the meantime, the first bricks were being laid for the Warsaw ghetto wall.

My parents went out to look for a room to sleep in. It was a daily search, while we children sat on the steps, watching the few rags our proud family had left.

The day Mommy finally found a room, we gathered up our clothes and pushed through the swarms of lost people to a tiny room on the third floor of. big building. Other families lived in each of the other rooms, and the six of us completed the filled rooms.

Dragging ourselves up the stairs, we passed the toilet that a hundred of us would share. It was right next to our room, and the smell wasn't very subtle, but our new home was a haven for a while.

There were three cots without any pillows or blankets. Between two of them was a little card table. There was no place for a chair, so we sat on the cots in the daytime. Opposite the corner where we piled our belongings, was a little coal stove, in case we found some food.

We slept in pairs. That wasn't as bad as trying to sleep on an empty stomach. I wondered how, with no dinner on the table, Daddy managed to find raisins to boil and then bless. He never once failed to say Kiddish over the Friday raisin-water.

In the morning, sore from our trip and from the cot, still hungry, I went out to look for some food in the streets. Outside, I watched children running through the dead bodies, looking for their parents among the rest in the gutters. I walked with them until, when night came and the scene had wrung out enough grief, I climbed the stairs to be with my family.

As in Kalisz, I wrote more scraps of paper about my people, the brilliant and talented, awaiting burial. Then I lay down on the cot beside my mother. My stomach hurt. I kept dozing off, but the cry of the ghetto did not permit a peaceful sleep. It was a tortured sleep - a sleep afraid of death.

The situation in the ghetto did not change. Those walls, guarded by the Storm Troops, the SS, grew higher and higher. Half-starved people layout under the sky in snow or rain. Their open wounds bled into the cracks in the street. Filth spread disease - boils, other things. Starvation. I hated being hungry, yet I could not bear to watch my people starve. Many days, water was the substitute for food. A slice of bread, cut into six pieces, was a meal. For hours we stood near the ghetto kitchens to get a plate of soup. But the soup made us hungrier. It was just like water.

Close to death, full of faith, they still clung to God. They merged into groups in attics and cellars to utter prayers. But, though the fear of death did not make them lose faith, the burden of poverty, growing heavier, began to loosen the bond to God; my people seemed to change.

Scenes of my childhood became a fantasy. In the darkness of Warsaw, the feast of lights as I had known it was very unreal. Chanuka was the retelling of the happiness in the holy temple in Jerusalem. We used to light the polished menorah in memory of the restoration of that temple, when the oil had burned not one night, but eight. The miracle of light had allowed the temple to be restored. At home in Kalisz, we used to sit around the table. spinning the draydle, and collecting the prize groszys.

But there was to be no miracle of light here in Warsaw, and the only spinning seemed to be the mad circles of desperate souls, clinging to prayers and memories. The prayers gave them a moment of ease, until the bare truth of the streets, light again with morning, stabbed them with reality.

Again, we had to separate because there wasn't enough food. Each of us went to a different relative, but we promised Father that we would all be together again on Friday nights. It was the first time we hadn't seen our parents from Friday to Friday.

The people I lived with were very kind to me. Daddy's cousin was a professor at the music conservatory. She taught me to love music, supplied me with books, and became my tutor in Latin. I became filled with a restlessness, yearning to achieve something in life. For hours I sat, absorbed in books, inspired by beautiful words and sentences. But my life was hopeless, such a terrible waster. There seemed to be nothing left.

Those Fridays that we rushed home to Mommy and Daddy were unhappy attempts to welcome the Sabbath. Weakly, Daddy blessed the raisin water and set it down on the little table, covered with a turned sheet. The plates in front of us were usually empty, except those days when we managed to bring a piece of bread or some soup to Mommy and Daddy. We watched them shrink steadily away.

When relatives could not feed us anymore, we were sent to join our parents again. Living as part of a family once more, I felt those years of normal happenings far away, almost impossible. I wondered how life could ever be like that again. How it would feel to sleep in a real bed ... to eat, and be satisfied, to listen to music instead of shrieks ....and to feel spring awaken, blooming with the first flowers, to be young and loved, and to feel like the whole world belonged to me. Instead, I saw horror, destruction, and hunger, and love presented in dirt and ugliness.

Now Jews looked at each other with dislike and distrust, and with fear. We were all so frightfully confused regarding time and place. We were hungry and tired, and we were caught. The only creatures having fun were the rats nibbling on the dead bodies and, outside the walls, the Nazi beasts, filling their bellies on everything that had belonged to us. .
But they could not take away our minds and learning. Beggars did not merely stand on the corners to wait for a handout. They sang and danced, read poetry aloud to get a crust of bread. An opera star sang an aria from Tosca on the same corner as a little child who chanted "Mayn yidishe mammele.". A native Warsaw brought out his piano to the corner, to play his beloved Beethoven. A young girl practiced her dancing lessons to earn her meal.

A child - unforgettable face - a child, not asking for toys, but for bread, "Mama, I'm hungry." But there was no place for Mama to find food for her baby. Thousands of children, thousands of mothers ...and the blood of those innocents etched itself into the ground, where no spring flowers or grass could cover it. At night, we who survived the day could still hear the cry, feel the pain. The sore message whined, we shall not forget.

Meanwhile, the web of bodies strewn through the streets grew more intricate. An old newspaper was the sign of a body underneath. Little children held on to their mothers' hands ... hands which had already lost hold of life.
 
We often dreamed of climbing over the wall. That was both foolish and futile. Once again, our street was cut out of the ghetto, and we moved to another street, inside the shrinking prison of a home.

Moving now wasn't so hard. Many of our clothes had been exchanged for food, so we had little to carry. We found a deserted kitchen with two big beds. We were warmer now. We slept three in a bed. We scrubbed the dusty floor and the beds, trying to clean away reminders of the family before us.

Washing my shred of clothing in the little sink, I swished what was left of a blouse around in circles of water. There was so little of it compared to the size of the sink, and I could remember how the loads of wash had swum in the giant laundry tubs back home.

 •

In Kalisz, laundry started on Sunday night. Mommy always soaked clothes the night before in tubs like great round bathtubs. From the scrubby-smelling brown cakes of soap, she cut slices to lay in the tub with the clothes. Monday morning, the girl who helped Mommy scrubbed sudsy thins and sheets on the rubbing board. The lather bobbed around on top of the water in the tubs. Then Mommy put our clothes back in to boil. While the girl scrubbed everything up and down on the board again, the vats poured clean, steamy smells in the room. Clean, sudsy smells of bleach and soap, mixed with freshly-boiled starch. After everything was rinsed, it was dunked in the vats again, to soak up the bluing. Once the wash dried, we took it to one of the cellars where somebody owned a mangle. I loved that part best.

In a corner of the room, a pile of wooden rolls looked like giant rolling pins. At the machine, I loved to watch the crispy white linen go over then under the roll ...then over again.



And over and over again I heard Daddy at prayer. Even here in the ghetto he found his holy books to read. He set a little table aside, and sat there, studying the Talmud. His back was bent, and his face had a yellow pallor. His eyes closed now and then, from a weakness that could not be wished away. I hung up the few rags, and walked out of the room. I could not watch my father like that.

I had to walk ...walk through the streets again. And their ugly story told me that I would not live, that my dreams would never be realized. And if I died now, what had I gotten from life? I was old in my youth. The only pattern I could see in life was suffering. I didn't have the chance to get knowledge, or ever to capture the beauty of life. Oh God! Why must I die? But what was life now? I looked around the streets. Normal life erased, the Nazi success was clear.

They paid no attention to sick call now ...the sick just lay in the street. As our lives dragged to a close, we gathered around in groups ...to do nothing, to go nowhere.


In The Ghetto, Nobility

IT WAS in one of those groups that I met Henio Clar. From the first minutes when we became acquainted, we started to be bound by a great friendship. We could not know, after a goodnight kiss, who would be lucky enough to have a tomorrow. And so we lived in dread and dream ... life was so rapidly stilled.

The day after I met Henio, I began to look at him as a young man, and not as another figure, a faceless shadow in the ghetto. He was tall - very tall and strong, it seemed. I laughed inside at the silver-blond hair that kept falling down into his blue eyes, and at the sure way he tossed it back again .

Most important, I knew, Henio was gallant ... still here, in this inhuman crevice of the world, Henio kept the manners, the politeness of home ...and in a way, perhaps, he kept home still alive. He asked me to meet him again.

Walking through the snow-covered streets, we saw the moon lend an extra whiteness to the world. The streets showed no signs of life. Above us, stars glittered ...perhaps something was still the same.

Henio held my hand in his. There was so much to talk about ...together, we were so wrapped in our thoughts of life and school and normalcy, that we saw nothing around us, until the ghetto wall stood right in front of us. With a pang of silent panic, a return of the old hopelessness, we turned to walk back along the street. We knew that every walk here must be short.
 
Walking back to our kitchen-home, I found Henio lost in thoughts again. Then suddenly, he stopped short, clasped both my hands and said, "Jadzia, as long as either one of us is alive, let us remember each other by these stars." He pointed to the big dipper and whispered, "As long as you live, when you see it, say my name, Jadzia. And wherever I am, I will speak yours. Don't think it silly, Jadzia, for we must know that something is eternal, that something will remain to show that we have lived. Our stars can do that for us."



To this day, when I see the big dipper, I see Henio's handsome face, and I say his name, and I know that something is eternal.


But if Henio spoke of hope and eternity, it was only that much harder to live among my family now. I cannot forget the mixture of pain and love in Mommy's eyes. Where Henio's were the blue of beauty and idealistic youth, hers were the faded blue from which the happy past had been wrung. Mommy had shrunk to the size of a child ... the mother who had nursed me tenderly through childhood, the one who gave me life and shared it with me, now, gradually, hopelessly faded away. I needed her urgently, but she had grown so far away. In her eyes, I saw pity and love and fear. Every time we talked to her or kissed her she broke into tears. I preferred to sit on the filthy steps of the building than to be with my family.

There on the steps I wrote black poems, of death and hate and tragedy. I wrote about destruction and loneliness and freedom. Bitterly I described the nearness of death. The hours of writing relieved me a little.
 
Existing through the day, waiting for night's silence, only to have it broken with cries and prayers of people dying without a fight ...watching the babies cling to their parents, mothers who could only pity, could not apologize for letting their baby be taken. Tortured beings, writhing not with death, but with the fear of it, moving their lips in steady, silent words ...words were a refuge, if only because they were familiar, because they were the same as they had always been. Condemned we were, condemned and sure. Not a chance! No place to run.

After I poured out everything onto a scrap of paper, I could go up again to live a few more hours with them, to wait a little longer.

One night when Daddy came home after being away the whole day, he seemed to have a great deal more than usual on his mind. Oh, how can I tell what he was thinking ...how much more or less than the day before ...
except that his eyes told more that evening. Mommy came in a little after him, to announce that she couldn't find anything for dinner. Daddy looked at her as if to say, "You know what we must do," yet as if to a child that might not understand. He told us to sit down around the table.
 
My sister Guta had always been on the chubby side, but now I could see the boniness of a frame beneath her clothes. Our baby, Aron, who had always been saved the first bite of food, had not grown normally in Warsaw. He was twelve. He looked like nine.

Daddy's beard was graying now ... and Mommy had shrunken from her bustling size sixteen to fit into my little dresses.
 
We all sat silent. It took a while before Daddy started to talk.
 
"I went to see a good friend of mine today, the rabbi of Pablanic. We talked for a long time. He advised us to separate. It won't be easy."

I looked at mother. Tears streamed down her face. Her eyes looked grey now, filled with sadness. "Henoh, we're not separating now?" she pleaded.

"Yes, Lea," Daddy said, "We must. You and Guta will go to Czestochowa, and after a month, Jadzia will follow."

We had never seen Mommy and Daddy argue. Always before, such, things had been said in privacy, never in front of the children. Now Mommy's voice was loud and bitter, defiant, "Henoh, I'm not going! I have not the strength to leave my children. We have lived together, and if we die, it shall be together! Where is thy God, Henoh? How can you read the holy books now? How is He enjoying the ghetto streets? And your children being hungry? Your prayers will get us nowhere, God has cursed his children and his rabbis! Henoh, you are a fool!"
 
We sobbed, Daddy's face turned white. His lips continued to move in prayer, silently. We saw him as a broken, tired old man. After a while, he spoke again, as to a child.

"The rabbi is a wise man, Lea. It shall be as he says." Daddy reasoned and Mommy wept for days and days.

"If this will save your children, Lea, will you not try?"

Finally Mommy had to give in. The day was set. There were many in Warsaw who knew Daddy from the old days. They were willing to help. We made arrangements quietly, nervously.
 
It was another morning in timelessness, except that we had not had any sleep the night before. Mommy had lain close to us, with her bony arms around both Guta and me. She hadn't cried. It seemed she had cried all her tears already ...Now Karola, Daddy, Aron and I stood at the window to watch them creep away before the sun rose. Quickly, they were swallowed up in the ghetto mob, but we stayed at the window for hours, until the sun's glints skipped on the roofs of Warsaw. The light glanced occasionally on a frozen body in the street.

And now the kitchen was so big and so empty.
 
It was a long time before we got news of them again. The sun had risen when I walked out into the street. I wondered if any of us really had a chance to be restored again to life. Everything around me portended death. Every passage was a passage to death. I watched the children poking through trash cans for some scrap of food, while in the same world Hitler and the German soldiers laughed it up in their mania for ruling the world. I squeezed through the crowd, trying to soak in every brick, every face from the life before ...

And again I returned to Henio, to share a secret hope ...a longing for peace and freedom. Perhaps, since I had lost Mommy and Guta in the hoards of half-dead around us, my longing for love and affection now made me turn more to Henio. I needed love and affection. I would settle for friendship. For here, where my honorable, innocent people stood condemned, I found little love, few comrades. How can we be friends as we tear each other away from a piece of bread? And so, Henio, who was still so much alive in our dead world, became my dear confidant.
 
Typhus

Through those days we talked little of Mommy and Guta. With no word yet of their safety, we held the questions and doubts inside. But when at last the news of their arrival in Czestochowa came, it was blackened by a tragedy closer to us in Warsaw. Daddy now lay groaning on the cot, his head hot and wet with sweat.

For a day and night I sat at Daddy's bed, putting cold compresses on his head, while Karola was out looking for a doctor. The morning of the next day, Karola led a doctor into the room.

We both held our breath as he examined Daddy. But the diagnosis was quick and painful. Typhus.
.
"We have to report him," he said quietly. "If not, you both will get it." We couldn't report him. A typhus victim was not permitted to live, to spread the epidemic.

Karola pleaded, "Please. Forget you have been here. The hospitals are filled with people. They can't give him the care that we will. Let him have us near him."

The young man stared at the wall. Mechanically he pronounced, "Keep everything spotless. Keep sponging his body."

He gave us a bottle of aspirin, the only medication he had left. Then he turned away. We watched the doorknob turn behind him.

Now we boarded the door. The Nazis were looking for sick Jews. The covered windows would leave only a little air space, we knew. And the kitchen was pitch black.

The next day, Karola went out again, this time for food. I stayed with Daddy. His temperature went up to 104°. His body was covered with a red rash. He talked about God. He was delirious. He recited verses from the Bible and from the holy books, and called to Mommy - I did all I could ...nothing. I wiped the sweat off his face ...and hoped.

Karola showed up in the evening with a plate of soup and a slice of bread. After we fed him, we took turns sitting with him through the night. Fourteen days and nights we sat and watched.

Then I got it. The room was a blur, the white face, the white pillow, the same ...my Head ...so heavy ...agh! They have no pain ...the dead in the street are safe! No pain ...no heat ...I am the tragedy, the misfortune! Pity me, not the bodies there! Sing to me ...sing to me, Mommy. Hold me, yes, rock me, Mom. Please, a drink of water ...and Joseph in his coat of many colors was hated by his brothers. Hated, hated! Germans! SS! ...Out, Juden! Everywhere you go, we will get you! Juden. Juden! ...Shma, Israel Adonoy elochenu ... Hear Oh Israel! Hear! Where is your God? Fool. Fool! If it will save your children ...children ...Mommy ...some soup ...tea ...Save me Mommy!

I sobbed. I writhed. I couldn't scream. They were outside. I lay still to listen for Karola. Any sound to fill the silence and dark. So I heard Henio outside.

"How are you? Jadzia? Are you there?"

I looked to the slat-crossed windows.

 "Jadzia?"

I would not look. I would stare at the ceiling instead. But there, in the dark above me, the stars blazed in wild formations.

"Karola, take the Big Dipper away. Cover it, Karola. It hurts my eyes."
 
"Jadzia?"

The nights were more peaceful. Karola lay between our beds, mine and Daddy's, exhausted from caring for both of us. She could not know the comfort her beautiful tender face brought us ...and how much it brought us back to health. After days of hysteria and pain, I got out of bed.

Daddy had been nursed to what for him was almost health ...he was a little man, leaning on a cane. Only a youngster, I did not spend time convalescing. Now I visited the other sickbeds in our neighborhood.

The neighbors paid me a meal a day, but I usually managed to steal a little more for Daddy and Karola. What was it Daddy had said? "Never lie. It's as bad as stealing. "Oh, Daddy, how bad is stealing? I was glad he never asked where the food came from. Then I would have had to lie, too. ] stole food from another human being who was just as sick, as desperate ...and brought it to the man who would not have eaten had be known.

For the first time in weeks, Daddy put on his talis. He struggled up the stairs to the attic, where some of the old Jews had gathered for Kol Nidre. Karola and I sat, faintly stirred, by the chanting upstairs. The empty kitchen rung with the sound of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Throughout the world every Jew would fast, and ask forgiveness for his sins, and for his neighbor's sins. We fasted, too. But it was a fast that had existed for months. We, too, atoned - for only one thing, we were Juden.

. And because we were Juden we still carried the beautiful, shattered pieces of the past. We remembered Mommy lighting the stately yahrzeit candle to honor our dead. As it lit a little circle of the room, we children used to line up before Daddy to receive his blessing for the New Year. Then we prayed together, so trustingly, "May we be written in the Book of Life."


Escape

It
must have been a few days after Yom Kippur that we started to talk about my escape. Now I was to join Mommy and Guta in Czestochowa.

I was afraid to leave my father and my sister and brother, not even sure I would see Guta and Mommy again. As much as I hated Warsaw and the wire and the wall, where was I running to? Into a bullet or a furnace? Into another filthy camp? And so I held on to the last glimpse of what was real and known. I walked again, out with people. I was sorry for them, and for myself. I stared at the half-bare trees, where a few brown leaves hung to the branches, just before they crumbled into nothingness. I closed my eyes, trying to force the memories of white winters and cold, sharp air; and the protection of wool caps and scarves and kitchen stoves, and springs waking up to buds and leaves and branches spread to the sky ... and summers' birds coming back to join us under the pine trees, among the lilacs and daisies and poppies, pecking for food in the green carpet of grass ... I shuddered to look around me. We decayed like the leaves. Like the broken branches, we were cheated out of spring.

How stupid and childish my reminiscing! In slavery, I dreamed about freedom. Living among the dead, I thought about life. I worshipped food because my stomach scraped and growled in me. Futile, wasted dreams. What then should I dream about now? About the beautiful past that is dead? About the ugly, real future that I know will be? Those two need no one to dream about them, because they have been or will be anyway. Have I said there is no hope? No, there is none. Except me. I am hope. Oh, God! Let me live. Let me love and be loved. Give us hope we have lost, give us freedom. Answer my prayers, ease the pain, dry the tears ... the tears. Let me live, God or German.

I stared at the walls and saw the swastikas that weren't there. I closed my eyes, hoping that when I opened them the swastikas and the walls would have disappeared ...

It was hard to say good-bye to people. I met Henio at the usual place. Tears threatened to spill over, down my face. I tried to keep them back. I did not want to say good-bye. I was so fond of my handsome idealist ... and I had thought, really thought it could be forever. Now I cried, I let the tears come as he kissed me and kissed me ... we wanted so much, so little ... Now, here. Stars are eternal, dear Henio, but not love, or life.

Hours went by fast. I packed my rags in the rucksack. And I sat there on the cot to look at what I would leave behind. Father, shrunken, pale, washed of life ... the beautiful beard and hair gone now, killed by typhus. His eyes stared into the past and the future together. Moses and Aaron, Abraham; Goering and Hitler, deserts and mountains, Egyptian bond slaves and tired old nomads, beggars on corners in animal ghettos, and faintly, far away, but surely there in my father's eyes, faith and piety, prayer, obedience, trust ...

Beautiful Karola sat in the corner of the room, fixing some of the clothes. Her cheeks had sunk into the sad shadow of her face.

Even Aron came, from another relative’s to say good-bye: Our dear baby. Daddy stretched out his hand, and placed it on Aron's head to commemorate one day amid the rest.

"Our Aron, today you become Bar Mitzvah. Everybody celebrates this day with a feast. How little I can give you. But you are a man. May God give you life."

We sat in the kitchen, saying nothing. What could we say? What prom­ise?

It was the longest night of my life. I held tightly to Karola. It was almost dawn when I fell asleep.

Daddy called me ... it was time to go. Karola wasn't there. She had left me when I feel asleep, because she could not say good-bye. No good-bye to my own Karola. She left her best dress on the cot for me.

Daddy was too weak to walk with me. We hired a rickshaw. And I left for freedom. Freedom! No, I could not know what would be. Only that there would be no more home. No more kitchen or walls or broken cots or scraps of bread together.

Daddy held on to me. His grip was so tight it almost hurt.

"Please, Daddy. Don't let me go. I'm afraid. You know they are going to kill me."

"Shhh, baby." He drew me close to him. "Nobody’s going to kill you. In a couple of days you'll be with Guta and Mommy." I looked around me. I looked at the cadaverous faces. I looked at my father. His holy face seemed to be transparent. He didn't look at me. I knew he couldn't promise. He was crying. His sobs, muffled, were a counter-rhythm to my heart beats. It was this same man who had come home, not long ago, beaming with pride, elected the president of the Jewish Federation in Kalisz. The man who had led a city, now cried like a child.

When we got to the wall, I started to plead again.

"Daddy, no. Don't make me go."

Slowly, he spoke, "Child, you have always obeyed me, and you shall do so now."

A lot of people had helped put up money so I could get out. Maybe it was because my father had always been the one to lend money or help. Maybe it was because we were just like them—only with mazl.

The rickshaw jolted to a stop. I had hoped it would go on and on. Father put his trembling hand on my head and blessed me in Hebrew. His lips were almost blue. His voice was quiet.

     "Whatever happens, be a good girl."

     There was no story this time, no climbing into his lap, though I longed to do that again.

     "Have pride. Remember, you are Henoh Lipzyc's daughter. And when you get to Czestochowa, tell your mother I love her and that we will soon be together."

A Polish woman was waiting outside with a horse and buggy. I watched Daddy's rickshaw rattle back down the street. I strained to watch it till the last moment, to bring it back. I could not. I would never see him again.

The road stretched out before us. Infinity. The wind blew in my face. It blew hard, but it did not blow away fear. I wanted to cry, but I wasn't allowed. By virtue of false papers, I was not a Jew. Then why should I cry? That is for Jews.

The droszka stopped. I was terrified. The Polish woman did the talking. She told them I was a mute. I watched their hands ... always their hands, to see if they would pull out guns. They didn't. The horses started to clop down the road again. I tried to cover my terror, to hide it, to forget it. But those happy moments had gone by so fast and this trip was so long. Every moment of suffering is an hour; an hour, a day. Days can be weeks. A year ... ah, a year is a lifetime.

I forced myself to think about something. My room, my bed ... no, it is too cold here. I will think about food. No, I have one slice of bread to last two days. Maybe songs. Yes, sing, Jadzia. Sing every little song you know. Sing so you drown out the hoofs, so you don't look at your shaking hands, so you won't listen for the Gestapo.

There were twenty-five of us in the girls' club. We sang and danced, we learned about Jewish literature and history. Esther was our advisor. Esther ... how did she look? Always radiant, smiling with her clear, intelligent eyes. Her curly blond hair had always bounced and shone atop her happy face.

Again the buggy came to a stop. This time it was not a German patrol, but Poles. Their faces were wild, perverted. They asked the woman if it was a Jew she was saving.

"It's a Jew you're hiding?"

So that is the way the world turns. You can watch for the bloody Gestapo knife, you can hide or run from it, but when the knife stabs you in the back, and when it says in lily-white letters, "Poles," then how could you know you were supposed to run?

They asked for papers. She gave them money. They let us go. Now I didn't have to pretend to be mute. I couldn't talk. I whispered, "How long?"

There was no answer. I curled up in the corner of the seat, and our wagon kept rolling along on the stony country road.

Now there was no family to cuddle me when I was cold. Alone, I hummed again, to stop the sound of the road. This time, not the happy sounds of little girls in Kalisz, but the lament of a Warsaw poet:

Where shall I go?

Every door is closed

Where shall I go

Everywhere is a guard

Without a home, without a home

Where shall I go? Where shall I go?

-Anon.

Tears streamed down my cheeks. My teeth chattered. I wanted to doze off to death. "Mazl tsu lebn, un mazl tsu shtarbon." Lucky to live and lucky to die.

Everything that had happened went around in my head, and I strained to hear German voices - or Poles. Finally. I shut my eyes, surrendering to the road and sleep. 

I opened my eyes to see lights gleaming in the little houses along the road. I was jealous of those people and their cozy, warm homes. I could almost see the fires on the kitchen stoves and smell the fresh coffee. I tried to keep my home alive in the muddled images that swam in my head.

My home is so far away ... I can hardly remember. My room, my books, little friends and parents together ... Sabbath candle, Mommy's prayer ... a flame that was steady, sure... I want to be home.

The woman bent over me.

"We are here. This is Czestochowa. It's dark. Nobody will see you. It's only three blocks. Walk close to the buildings."

I could not walk into the emptiness. I shook and sobbed. I pleaded with her to wait at the wires. She couldn't.

"Poles aren't allowed to walk at this time of the night, dear." She kissed  my head.

"Good luck, kid," she said, and climbed into the buggy.

I didn't walk, didn't creep along beside the houses. I ran the three blocks, raced into the building. I sat panting on the steps inside. Wait, wait ... take a breath ... then I can run up the stairs to them.

I heard the boots outside. Soldiers' boots, German voices. "Verfluchten Juden." A short, hopeless gasp of a cry ... a soft, groveling plea ... shuffling. Then night again, and silence.

Under the steps, I was sick, dizzy. I wanted the spaces between the planks to close up, fold me in. Outside, the squeak of boots was drowned out by my pulse, thumping, pounding in my throat. I knew everyone could hear it, and that was why they were coming. Coming - for me! No, God, not now. Let me see Mommy and Guta again.

The boots went away, down the street to somebody else. I sat, numb. It was a long time before I could think again. Crawling out, I tried to straighten up. But my legs buckled. I grabbed at the first stair, and crawled up on my hands and knees. Reaching the landing, I knocked on the bottom of the door. Nothing. I tried to knock harder.

"Who's there?"

"Mommy!"

The door opened. I got to my feet long enough to fall into her arms. Mommy's arms. The door closed behind. Again, a little security.

BUT HOW LONG?

I LOOKED at Mommy. How grey she was. Her cheeks were sinking. Her beautiful blue eyes were grey, too.

Guta crawled out of bed. Her hair, hanging in disorder, cheeks wet. We were a family again -
almost.

We sat on the bed, me between them.

"Tell me, baby, how was it there?"

How could I tell her the truth about Warsaw and typhus and hunger? She was so fragile. So I lied. I looked away, "We were fine."

But she knew, she knew.

"What did Daddy say when you left?"

"He told me to tell you he loves you, and that we will soon be together."

Where?"

It wasn't until dawn that I looked around the room. It was a medium­-sized kitchen, but only a corner belonged to us. There was a small, almost rotten partition, put up in our corner, to give us the privacy to undress in the morning. Six other families took turns using the stove. The coals in the stove and the heat of all the people in one room made it smelly, steamy, hot.

Most of them were from Czestochowa originally, so they still had sheets and jewelry to exchange through the wires for food. The smell of those six other dinners on the stove, while we waited ... Sometimes they offered us a plate of soup. But when they didn't, Mommy stood by the pot to watch. When another woman left her pot to get some salt for the soup, Mommy dipped her cup in to get us dinner. I remember still, the picture of Mommy, always carrying a cup of water to pour back into the pot to make sure her cupful would not be missed.

How many were lucky enough to steal a dinner? How many were even protected by crowed, hot corners of a room? Outside, they were shadows - ­frail and grey. Just another ghetto.

We waited for news from Warsaw. None came until much later.

In all our time at Czestochowa, never once did a Pole throw bread or a bag of barley in to us, but they threw the news of Warsaw into our faces fast enough. The Jews in Warsaw were rebelling. Thousands of dead lay in the streets. The Germans had set the buildings on tire. And, surrounded by flames, Jews were throwing their handmade grenades.

Days flew, and with them, our hopes. We knew what to expect as the final chapter in Warsaw.

Like we did everyday, one afternoon, Mommy, Guta and I stood in line for a plate of soup. Hundreds stood with us in front of the ghetto kitchen. The next thing I knew, Mommy was lying at my feet. Her body was still. Her face, no longer grey, had turned a cadaverous white. I fell to my knees beside her, shaking her body, and crying, "Mommy!" She didn't hear.

"Oh, please, God, don't take her away now. She is all we have left."

A crowd gathered around us. Somebody poured cold water over her. She came to. They brought her soup, laying it before her. She didn't touch it. Mommy was not hungry - she was dying away. Dying away with Daddy, Karola, and Aron among the mobs in Warsaw. And with those three, part of her life was ripped away as surely as if they had torn out her heart.

As long as we didn't see it, we could choose not to believe it. We could still hope for our dear ones in Warsaw. But through the nights, I thought constantly of Karola and the care she had given me and Daddy. God only knows if she got it when I left. Who would take care of her? I was haunted, each night, with a  dream of Warsaw in flames - and through the flames, Karola’s beautiful face. What was worse, I could not share my fears with Mommy and Guta. I had never told them. So I lived alone in Hell.

There were short reprieves - gatherings in the huge backyard. When we didn't want to think about the fact that there was no food, or that thirty other people in the room were becoming more and more like animals, we sat out in the yard. It was a city ... where young people fell in love, where old people grieved, and everyone dreamed. The yard was a city where time knew no rules. In the period of a month, a girl could be married, a pregnant widow, and an orphan.

It was in the yard that I made a few friends again. Henrio and Natka, and Aba, and I sat in an old buggy to sing the old songs - Russian songs and Hebrew songs and songs we had sung as little children and lullabies from home. And sometimes we hardly sang at all after a few words. We cried the rest.

I saw Zosia in Czestochowa, too. How good to see someone who knew me as anything but a beggar! Her little round cheeks were still clear and pink, and her eyes still large and green. She took me home with her, and from then on, her mother was always ready for me with something to eat. She never knew how grateful I was, for I was too proud to go there often.

Meanwhile, we knew the fights in Warsaw were coming to an end. And the streets in Czestochowa, too, now started to be bloodied. To the German soldiers, pulling the trigger was a game. Having Jewish girls and throwing them into the streets afterward was, after all, exactly what one does with a used plaything.

We had grown sick from German soldiers's stares. We trembled when they spoke. We didn't cry when they hit us. Now, we know ourselves as humiliated, disgraced creatures - still trying to keep pride and faith, desire, knowledge - but hopeless. With what human feeling was left, we shared the last slices of bread. With the needs of children, we looked for warmth and softness, reassurance, in an hour of love. With faith that comes not from wisdom, but from desperation, we prayed for a miracle. Prayers get answered sometimes. Ours didn't. There were no miracles.

There was a night I shall remember as long as I live. The Germans gave the order that next morning, every Jew was to stand outside in a line. We didn't sleep. We packed what we had ... a change of clothes, a tin can for water, some food. Mothers packed babies, or gave them sleeping pills. Grandparents took grandchildren, hoping the parent could stay alive without them. Not that we knew where we were going - but rumors were spreading about work camps for young people and crematoriums for the old and the babies.

Mommy sat close to us all night. We kissed her face and hands, and wondered and prayed and wept. We wanted the night to last forever. It would not. We heard the sound of people crowding into the streets.

Mommy took out a piece of red paper and rubbed it on my cheeks to make me look healthy. She stuffed hankies in my brassiere, because I still looked like a little girl. She wanted me to look grown up at fourteen. I kissed her hands and hair, and I clung to her. It was time to go. Mommy looked at us both. Her lips trembled as she spoke.

"Let's not stay together," she said. "Maybe we'll have a better chance. And, my daughters, if you are left alive, don't fight. You are the only ones who will be left."

Guta and I had always fought, and Mommy had called us the Cat and Dog. Now she said gently, "Promise - if I am taken away, you will not run after me." We promised. We cried, we kissed, embraced again. Then we walked out to the others.

The crowd in the streets was beyond number. As far as I could see, it was a swarm of men, women, and children. The sick and crippled were in wheelchairs. Many fainted from fear.

We heard German voices everywhere. There was no way of disobeying them. We were surrounded by machine guns.

We got into the lines. I looked around me at swollen bodies left to feed the rats, and at the bodies just as decayed standing besides me. Somebody had gouged out our insides already, and now they wanted to do us a favor and murder us all. Yet, bitter as I was, I knew that as long as my eyes could open, I would hold onto my life. Horrible as the stories of crematoriums and gas­ showers were, I would not believe them. As long as I still breathed I could hope that I would be saved. And I knew that every Jew in the line believed it would be he.

From far down the line, the Germans came closer. Recht to death and links to life. Recht would be fast death. It meant joining the group of old ones at the far end of the street. Links meant to join the young people, who were being grouped in the middle of the piazza. As the Gestapo arbitrarily dealt out death, the sounds of life went on around me. Next to me, a baby pulled at her mother's arm. The mother looked straight ahead to nothing. Then, suddenly, quietly, as if she had been awakened from a dream, she picked up the little girl. She held the child to her and hummed, "Vu aheen zohl ikh geyn." Where shall I go ... She was transfixed with fear. Her face was wet. The child put her head on her mother's shoulders and with tiny hands, petted her mommy’s face.

"Don't cry, Mama. Don't be afraid. Wherever you go, I'll go with you." I looked at my Mommy’s grey hair ahead of us. There were about ten between her and Guta, about eight more between Guta and me. Thousands of children and thousands of mothers.

Meanwhile, the German patrols searched the houses. They brought out the babies that had been left behind. Now their mothers ran to claim them!

But who was I to condemn? Hadn't I left my mother? And she was my life.

Right to death, left to life. Right and left. The hand pushed Mommy right. I knew it would be. Mommy, not even forty years old, looked like an old woman. She went to join the others. I bit my fingers so I wouldn't  scream. I didn't see the mobs around me, just Guta. Left and right, Right and left, and right and left, and right and left. Left! Yes, she's sent to life.

It happened so quickly now. I looked at his ugly face. His black suit. His swastika. Left. If he hadn't pushed me, I don't think I could have moved. I turned back, shrieked, "Mama!" I started to run. Out to the right. To mommy. Guta grabbed my hand. With her other hand, she covered my mouth. Together, we followed Mommy's small figure with our eyes, as she disappeared among the others. She didn't look back. We never saw her again.

It was months afterwards when we found out how those taken from Czestochowa had been burned in the crematorium in Treblinka. Another part of me, gone.

We stood there for hours. No longer left and right ... now 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 to death. One, life. Nine to death and one to life. Nine to death and one ... like cattle we were led to slaughter. If an old man walked too slowly, a bullet left him behind his family.

And every baby, every shrieking mama, every wailing sister and brother and every shout and boot-step pounded in my head. Shots and sobs, nine to death and ... Mommy! Stay, oh ...Ieft! Right! One and nine and one ...

And now the Juden stood in crowds or still in lines to wait their turn. Once people, now beings. No more families, no more homes. Not even tears, only emptiness.

A mama carrying two babies in her arms, and with two little ones pulling at her skirt, marched out to the right. Behind them, the father, provider, protector, defender, trailed along, almost as if he, too, clung to Mom's skirt.

"Schneller! Juden, schneller!" We were pushed, chased, into a big building. The rooms were completely empty. We lay on the floors, so close to each other there was hardly space between the bodies. I struggled to find my blessings, as I knew Mommy and Daddy would have wanted. At least Guta was beside me. We were together, a shred of a family.

After an hour, bread and water were passed around. We didn't eat. I kept thinking about Mommy, all alone. Among them all, alone and small, as were we all ... small and defeated. For not one, the chance to learn. For not one, the time to teach and give. Each child, each man, could have built a country, a world. Instead, each was a threat, an enemy. No matter. We had been conquered by the brave ones. Heroes with guns against women and children. Heroes with tanks over bare-handed beggars. Oh, glorious victory!

With nightfall, I continued to see Mommy - her busy figure in the kitchen, her elegant appearance on the street, her tender eyes bent over my sick bed. The love and joys of daily life were dead forever. I cried tears that seemed endless. How much more could we endure? Yet how could the rest, supposedly people, keep on living in the middle of it all? How did a German sleep after a butchery day? What defense did Goering, Hitler, and Eichmann have for themselves?                          
How did they expect to pay for minds and bodies? I closed my eyes and saw the fields of Poland - yellow corn fields, and the glare of the sun on daisies and violets, and big cherry trees ... I wondered if the flowers and trees were still blooming in the blood-watered ground and in the smoke from the crematoriums.

As the days and nights passed without any markers to tell them apart, we made friends with the girls around us. Lucia, from Krakow, slept near me. Together, we lay silent on the floors, waiting for our rations. The potatoes were not peeled. We ate them anyway. We were hungry.

After a few days, Lucia received a note from the other building. We learned from it that there were Jewish men still alive, being held in that place.

She started to get notes regularly, tied to rocks and thrown over the fence between the two buildings. She read the letters to us aloud. Her husband was alive, and living with two other men. They were Lolek Grudman and Izio Abramson.

Lolek was Izio's brother-in-law, she told us. He was, she said, kind and good, and Izio, from Czestochowa, was brilliant and handsome.

After a while she stopped talking about Lolek, and concentrated on Izio ­- how personable, witty, what a mind! As soon as we got out of the building, she told me, she must certainly introduce us.

Good time to think about boys. I still could not forget Mommy - how did she die? Or was she still alive? For a married woman, Lucia sounded so foolish.

Now Germans organized Jewish police to keep order. They told us to pack our things. We moved out again, this time to the poorest section of the ghetto, where they had just put up fresh wires. They opened the gates, and in one rush, we trampled over each other, clawing and scratching our way in, to get a place to stay. Like madmen, we grabbed at the scraps of clothing the other Jews had left behind. We snatched at moldy crusts and picked the floors clean.

We were all young, and we had been granted a reprieve. Now most lost their ethics, didn't give a damn about morality. They bound each other, not with love, but with the name: Jew. Every one that was left belonged to the rest. They wanted to live.

In those hideous hours, they lived the lives of the condemned. They did not care, because they would never have to look life in the face again.

They made love-making an instrument of grabbing all life in at one time. They had love when everything else had been taken away. Now they consumed each other bitterly. But love consumed in frenzy had the quality of despair.

With no beds to lie on, only a dirty floor, forty people grappled with each other, reassuring themselves that they were still alive. There were no partitions, no curtains to dress or undress behind. Sleeping against each other at night, we were forced upon each other in the daylight, too.

Sometimes we were able to drag a cot down from empty bunkers and apartments. We took turns then, sleeping on the beds, sometimes in threes, usually in pairs.

The ghetto kitchen opened again. We stood in lines for hours, waiting to fill our tin cans. We sipped the soup right there in the lines, hoping that if there were some left, we'd get second helpings.

Around us, the streets were filthy and narrow, the buildings just wooden shacks. There wasn't much hope of finding food or furniture or clothing here, because the Germans had picked it clean before they took us in.

Now, here in Czestochowa, there were no longer old people or children. Jewish babies, threats and burdens to society, no longer lived in the dirty streets. But at night, even now, we could hear occasionally the wail of an abandoned infant, stuffed into a cupboard or into a hole in the wall. They had been trained not to cry. How they had been trained! But now they cried for mama and for food, and for somebody to keep the promise and take them home again.

At Czestochowa there was no wall, as there had been in Warsaw. Not high wires as in Lodz. Here, we were corralled behind a mesh fence not more than three feet high. It made a mockery of the ghetto and fools of us. Here where the young, strong ones lived, the Gestapo did not even need a wall or a wire. Here, where fiery idealists and philosophers might exist, minds were hollow of hope. Yes, we could climb over the fence, and we could run, but where could we go? To the black streets, the black corpses, the black Poles, or the black Nazis?

Now another order. Every hidden child must be at the piazza the next morning. If not, the ghetto would be searched and every baby would die the next day anyway.

We lined up along the fence. Grey drizzle seeped into the ground and us. We watched the last Jewish children being taken away.

Most of them were lifted into the wooden carts by strangers. They squinted in the daylight after having been pulled out of basements and crannies. They stared silently at the few German guards. Hungry and worn, they were old men and women inside the frames of children.

From the bunkers, a few mothers crawled out to their babies - less because they were ordered to do it than because their children were sick and hungry. These skeletons of women felt needed.

The wagons were filled, ready. Then out of the building, one woman strode toward the cart. The Germans knew her, Doctor Horovitz, the head of the infirmary. She climbed into the pile of little bodies, beside her daughter. Triumphantly, she stared ahead, into the faces of the guards.

We saw them move toward her, talking in quietly gruff voices. They ordered her back to the infirmary, back to life and work. The sick needed her. The Gestapo needed a doctor for the Jews. Hushed, we watched the only one of us offered a chance. She understood, closing her eyes on the lines of haggard faces, the piled up old children, the persuasive men in the uniforms. At that moment she seemed to hold all the wisdom and courage we thought had died. She spoke quietly, "Rather than living without my child, I shall die with her."

The wheels began to turn, creaking against the wagons. Slowly, then faster, the funeral procession rolled down the street. Among the babies, one woman, proudly straight.

I looked at the blur of faces around me. The broken figures began to scatter. They stared at the emptiness around us. They kept disappearing into the buildings ... the only way to get away from the void. Guta and I walked back to the building.           .            .

I was glad I wasn't a child or an old one. Yet I envied the babies their innocence. They understood nothing. Impossible; they understood every­thing around them and mirrored it back in their frightened little eyes. They knew, and now I learned from them ... that the only lucky ones had died in their beds ... or maybe the ones who had never been born.

I held on to Guta. Cold sweat had formed on my neck. She dragged me upstairs with her, to our room. We crawled onto the cot to try to sleep away the wooden carts and faceless babies. Sleep was our opium now, as scarce as any drug. Just as I had clung to Mommy, now I clung to Guta. I prayed for our lives long into the evening. And later, while the others sighed and snored as they slept, I listened to the outside. Nothing. Now I wanted to hear a cry, a wail from the walls and the basements. Even frenzied little steps, running and run after - but there were none. None caught, none chased. Even the drizzle of the morning had deserted Czestochowa. There were no more dripping sounds on the windows. Only silence, hollow nothing. A great dark crater. No, a tomb.

And out of the sick shall He bring forth the strong, and out of misery shall come fulfillment, and out of death, life.

Izio

IT WAS the next day that I saw Lucia in the street. Comically, she still remembered her promise about the young man, her husband's friend. I found she was serious about having me meet him. She took me home and introduced me to her husband, and to Lolek Grudman. I was impressed. Lolek was a handsome man, still dressed in his fine clothes from Czestochowa. He smiled broadly. "Is this the girl you spoke about?"

Lucia made some reply, but I looked at the other young man. From very far away, I heard Lucia saying, "This is ... It I knew - Izio. His eyes were large and brown, his lashes thick and long. His skin was very fair, and he smiled a smile that warmed everything around me, showing his white, regular teeth. I held out my hand, and he covered mine in his. I could feel the rhythm in my chest, in my throat, beat faster, thumping a flood of warmth into my face. He leaned toward me. Softly, he said, "Finally, I have found you."

After that, we saw each other every spare moment. He wasn't the beast of a man that we saw on the corners in ghettos. Amid the ugliness, Izio was gently protective. He still had dreams and tears. Others had watched me before, but now I knew the expression in the other's eyes, now I understood tender, unspoken words. I knew Izio loved me, too.

I started to believe that our broken lives could be restored again. I felt in me the dreams of freedom again, growing brighter and brighter. A scar in me seemed to be healing, and I hardly felt pain any more. Love, Izio's was sunshine in the dark world. I knew that never could be taken away again.

Izio kept telling me, as we walked through the streets in Czestochowa, that I was the most beautiful girl in the world. His eyes were so sincere, his words so sure, that he made me almost believe him. He made jokes about little things that we both had left, and so once again I laughed. He seemed to find a part of me that I didn't know, a part that was still alive ...and he made it grow until I was no longer dead and empty inside.

At first Izio took me to meet all of his friends, and I introduced him to mine. Usually we found them lying on cots necking. Angry and rebellious, they were getting back at life. Izio and I knew we did not fit in, because we still had life. Gradually, we stopped seeing them, and built a world around ourselves.

Sitting on the steps, Izio sang to me. Sometimes love songs or sad songs of wandering, but usually silly, funny songs ...complete with motions and funny faces.

I'm Avramala, the real tough guy!
I'm Avramala, the leader of the toughest!
I'm Avramala, whatever I do is done for sure! I'm Avramala, the real tough guy!

And there on the steps, Avramala sat snarling at me! We both collapsed with laughter.

While we spent days singing on the steps, the whole ghetto seemed to come alive again. The Jewish policemen organized us to sign up for jobs. Now, working, we smuggled in everything we could from the outside. Women came back from work wearing five blouses and sheets and pillow­cases for food or money. Now we didn't stand in lines at the kitchen; we had food and clothing in our own rooms. Coffee and meat and fruit poured into the Czestochowa ghetto.

But we knew where the food that we wolfed down came from. We were warm and full now on what we gathered from the dead.

While the men worked in factories, most of the women cleaned the big ghetto. We had been told it was safer to work than to stay in the ghetto during the daytime. So Guta and I signed up with the rest.

We were led in groups to buildings to sort clothes. We walked into a kitchen where, not long ago, life existed. On the table, an unfinished dinner sat, rotted after two weeks. In another room, we saw an opened Bible, with a yarmalka left to mark the place, a wedding gown on a bed, unworn ...albums of family pictures, locks of blond hair in a hanky, saved from a child's first haircut.

We trampled over each other, pulling for a dress for ourselves. We sorted shirts, slacks, underwear - clothes which had once belonged to our own. Tripping over children's toys, we stared into empty cradles ...lifting a pillow, we uncovered an old woman dead in her bed, her eyes still wide open with horror. Lucky to die at home ...

Once on a cleaning job, we walked into a little apartment that looked, from the clothing, like it belonged to a newly-married couple. Everything was new and orderly, everything placed neatly in the drawers. There were three of us there, going through the closets. We heard a creak in the door. Frozen, we watched a square in the door rise slowly. Then, from under the plank, a ghostly white face. We couldn't tell how the woman was. Her eyes were wild, her hair tangled in knots, and standing out from her head in clumps. She was covered with dust. Spider webs made nets all over her hair and body.

"Please don't kill me," she croaked.

While the other girl stood guard at the door, Guta and I pulled her out, practically carrying her to a chair. We gave her a little bowl of water, and watched while she gulped most of it, spilling the rest all over herself.

She told us her story. When they heard the steps of the Gestapo her husband had told her to hide. In a little bag, he had put a few scraps of food and left it with her. He promised to come back. She told us she hadn't eaten for days, because she was afraid to come out. Now, when she heard the sound above her again, she told us, she had decided to give up.

When we promised to take her with us she calmed down a little. We combed her hair, as she sat passively, like a little child. In the afternoon, four left the little apartment instead of three.

Guta stood behind us, to catch her if she fell, while the other girl and I walked on either side. Another life saved ...for now.

The evenings were ours - mine and Izio's. He waited for me every evening, under the slope of a little crooked roof down the street. Waited, with him arms held out to me as I ran to him.

Then we walked, back to my room. It wasn't so small now. It didn't stifle breath or hope anymore. Now, even the streets were not so ugly; at least I could look away to something more handsome, a promise.

We wandered between the buildings. watching the moon rise. It was bright and yellow against the dark. We were part of the dark, but we could still see the round of light and it frightened us because it lit up ourselves and what we were.

Everything had meant nothing before. Hundreds of white water lilies had bloomed, sprinkled about in green ponds in Kalisz. Opening, softly, they had caught some of the rain that poured into the green, making it deeper and greener, sometimes bluer. Quiet little whirlpools circled the drops where they splashed, then washed into each other. I hadn't seen them.

Now a clump of scorched grass between two buildings was lush and green. Every rotten tree with a few leaves, still alive, was beautiful. A daisy, wilted, but existing where hardly one other grew, was a thing of awe.

Together we saw them now, trees and grass, occasionally a flower ...and they awoke some kind of longing in both of us. Some nights we talked for hours about them, and everything else that was gone. And sometimes we just looked, and walked. Just to the wires.

"Izio! Imagine if those wires were taken away! Do you know ...I would run, run for miles and miles ...just to have the feeling of running without being stopped. Then I would eat. I would eat everything I couldn't have all this time. And then for hours and hours I would stay in a bathtub of hot, soapy water. And then I would sleep for two days in a real bed with clean sheets and pillows."

I looked at Izio. "What would you do if you were free?"

He took my hands in his. His eyes shone with dreams. "Do you know what I would do? I would marry you. And we would have six children and a real home in some far away country. Maybe we would go to America."

A shot interrupted him. One some other street, another Jew crumpled. As did our dreams, again.

It wasn't easy to separate. Through the night I lay awake, repeating Izio's words. ''This is different, Jadzia. We aren't like the rest of them. We love each other, and we belong together. Why must we fight ourselves, when all we have is each other?"

I turned my face to the pillow. I could not change now. In Warsaw, in the big ghetto here, dozens of times I'd been stopped on the street, asked to give myself for a piece of bread. Why should I tell myself it was different now?

But I knew it was. I knew I wanted Izio's arms around me, his soft kiss forever. Good night at the door wasn't enough. Through all his gentle talk, I wanted to be persuaded, wanted to love him before we both were murdered with the rest. Another time I would have waited, would have reasoned. Now, who was here to reprimand? Who even cared except us?

"Be a good girl, Jadzu. Never lie, it's worse than stealing ...be proud you're a Jew."

Jew! I would lie as I have stolen, if I could escape that name, Jew! Where are you, Father, that you still bind me to those words? Do you even know now, what is good? I am good, I am. But I want life and love, a little for myself before they take everything away.

In the morning, pale little lights lit the ghetto windows, as we prepared to go to work. Each person, among the rest, seemed alone. They stood in groups, silently hoping to resist the coming of the day. At night, all the terror and loneliness seemed to be protected by the dark. Now the sun rippled across the wrinkled clothing. Failing to warm us, it exposed our hollowness. Pain, suspended a little at night, reappeared with the sun.

Some were not hollow. They were beautiful and young. And though it was a disgrace to intermarry, and though the Jews were dirty, their women were still good to go to bed with. One of the soft young ones, the Tannenbaum girl, had been taken way several days ago. How we watched the SS car pull up, bringing her back. As she stepped out, the driver climbed out too. Grabbing her arm, he threw her against the wall. Through her shredded dress we could see dazzling white flesh. In her eyes, fear ...and pride. She glared at the German, burning terror and hate into him. Then he laughed. And shot.

I could never really forget the street beatings and the murders, but running back to Izio, I could share the hellish fear they threw into me. As he listened, time flew ...until soon we had talked about everything: homes, families, childhood and school, about Lolek's wife - Izio's sister, Regina ­who had been cremated with the baby in Treblinka.
lzio spoke for hours about his father and mother. I knew every spot of their apartment, every piece of furniture, the smell of his mother's vegetable soup and where she kept the candy hidden. And I felt a part of it and him.

I poured out my story of Warsaw, finally getting rid of everything that had been bottled up inside. Finally, I could tell it all to someone who could understand, and who wanted to share it.

That was it. lzio wanted to share everything with me. And so again, the gentle proposal. As he had asked fifty times before, he asked now, "Jadzia, let's get married. I love you so much. Let's make our lives worth something while we still can. Only death can separate us, but that could come tomorrow."

I tried to smile a wise smile, and ran my fingers through his hair. "I do love you, Izio, but I still have a sister. Guta and I can't separate now."

It was true, that much. As desperately as I wanted to be with lzio, I couldn't just walk out on Guta.

"We'll all live together," he cried.

We both knew that was impossible. Men on one street, women on another, married couples on a third. That was the German order, and anything else would have been stupid to try. Still, how long were we supposed to be satisfied with seeing each other a few hours in the evening? That, too, was impossible.

I looked at lzio. He was a little boy, disappointed because he had been overruled and unhappy because he didn't know how to change the unchangeable. He was a man, mature and protective, offering to make a child his wife. Now he had decided.

"We'll talk to Guta tonight."

It was a Sunday evening, because we hadn't worked that afternoon. Izio made me wait on the steps outside while he went up to talk to Guta. He stayed there a long time, while I fought with myself. I loved lzio, but I was afraid. Afraid to leave Guta alone, and afraid of marriage and sex. I loved my sister, I needed her. I didn't want to rip up the last shred of my family. But I loved Izio so much, and I wanted to be with him every minute. Guta wouldn't take that away from me, even though I would be leaving her with nothing.

From the door, Guta called down to me. They had finished talking. I climbed up slowly, looking at my feet until I reached the landing. Raising my head, I met Guta's tired, sad eyes .

"Jadzia ... It she started quietly. "Guta, please, understand. We ..."

"Jadzia, you are young. You don't understand how important you are to a person. When you are needed and loved, you must be there."

I was relieved that she had decided for me. Guta and I would stay together always.

"Jadzia, lzio has told me how much he loved you. And ...he has said something else. If you will not marry him, he says he will kill himself."

"Izio!"

"He is young, and so he says dramatic things. But, Jadzia, I believe him. You are very much in love. Marry him, Jadzia, and be happy."

I threw my arms around her, and kissed her face through our tears. Then I ran into the room where Izio was waiting for me.
 
That same evening we went to tell Lolek about our plans. Grinning and laughing like children, we ran into his room.

"Lolek," Izio announced, "We're getting married!" he beamed, waiting for the hearty Congratulations.

Lolek looked at Izio, then at me, then back to Izio. He started to speak, talking to the wall behind us.

"Izio, Jadzia ...do you understand that you are both children? Do you know what it means to be married - not just sharing sadness or happiness with each other, but worry, torment, hours of anguish and caring about someone else's life more than your own. It is not a case of wanting to live. You must live for her, and she must live above all. Do you know the fear that you will bring a child into the world, so that it, too, can live in dirty, crowded cellars without food for a week? What can you promise that baby, or each other? After this war, you will both still be young. Then, you will ask yourselves why you threw away education and travel and beauty for what seemed like happiness. Love is powerful, yes. But in this wired-in world it heals much less than it wounds."

It was as if he spoke, not to us, but to himself, about his wife and child, already gone.

lzio said quietly, "We've made up our minds." He took my hand and we turned to leave.

Lolek called after us. We looked back. "When you need me, I'll be here."

Running again, we raced over to one of the houses down the block, where one of the rabbis lived. He promised to marry us the next Sunday. And finally, the senseless procedure of getting German permission to marry and move into the other street.

Those next few days at work seemed endless. Now that the big ghetto was clean, we all had different jobs. Like sorting potatoes. The good ones for the Germans, and the rotten ones for the camps. And while I sorted, I watched the passers-by. I watched them, envious. Jealous because they were free and I wasn't. The good ...and the rotten...

Those busy streets, beyond the big ghettos, were full of Polish children going to school. Children, just my age.

The buggies rattled by, and I remembered summers in Lisy, Opatuwki or Winiary. The buggies rolled by. Now I was an orphan, and the parents were gone. Now I was a nomad, and there was no home. Now I would be a married woman, never a child. Yet, like a child, I was frightened, unsure, lonely. Mechanically I judged the good and the rotten, moving my lips very slowly.

"Oh God, you have taken away everything you ever gave me. Now you have given me love, and someone to share it. Please don't take him away too. And if one of us has to die, make it me, me! Or if he must die, let me die with him. Oh, please, just this one person in the whole world, just this time, God, don't take everything away."

I had never prayed to die before. Not for Karola and Daddy and Aron, not even for Mother. Now I demanded God and Nazis to leave lzio alone.

Yet, walking home in the afternoon, I was afraid that something had happened. Every day I tried to prepare myself to hear that they had killed him. In the lines, I watched the machine guns and rifles, steering us toward the little ghetto, and I counted ... our, nine, twelve, fifteen, to catch the one who tried to run. To shoot him down, and ten more at random, for an example. In Izio's group did someone try? Ten more for an example.

I wished I didn't love anybody.

And then at last, back in the ghetto, all those days when he did come back, he took me up in his arms, and we kissed and cried like children. Together again, we clung to each other and walked again and dreamed. In those moments, we did not care if our castles had no foundations. And if they existed only in the air, that was all right. For we were more a part of that world than this.

Now everyone around us seemed to be a part of our happiness. Natka, who lived in my room, loaned me the pink negligee she had found when we cleaned the big ghetto. From somewhere, Guta was collecting meat and bones for soup, and fruits, and stacking them under the beds and on the window sills. I giggled, delighted, as I watched the stacks get too high to fit under her bed. The girl downstairs offered her white silk blouse and a veil she had stolen from one of the houses, and somebody brought us a bottle of wine. Izio and I were dreaming, doubting if it were all real. Every hour brought us closer to each other, yet any hour, any minute could smash it all.

So we longed, impatient with the festivities.

Sunday morning, I sat among all the girls. And while they chattered, I sat completely dressed, and quietly terrified. I was not sure we were going to make it alive to the canopy. And if we did, how long would we be together? An hour? A day? It does not matter. Nothing mattered except that I will be Mrs. Izio Abramson, and that we will be happy this hour, this day!

Late in the afternoon, Guta and Natka walked with me to the rabbi's house. His room was tiny, bare of furniture. But all around the room, our friends, our family, stood to watch lzio and me. Zosia and her sister Ruth, and Mr. Singer, those three to remind me of Kalisz and happy days. And Katka and Henoh, who had lived through these days with us. Lucia, and her husband, beaming on us both - proud to be the successful matchmakers. Guta tried to smile. She was the proud mama, who was losing the bride. And the real mommy and father ...would not be here, would never come. Even friends were too much like strangers to Mommy, Karola, Aron and Daddy.

I walked to the canopy. I was lonely. Outside, the dead streets refused to acknowledge the life that would be mine. Probably they were right, I twisted the hanky in my fingers. No one could know the fear, the wanting to throw away reason and live on feelings. I was wrong. One knew. Izio's tender eyes smiled down at me, reassured me. There was someone who cared. Beside him now, close to him, I grasped his hand, reaching out and finding security.

Calm, I watched the rabbi and listened to his words. The room was still and even this man in the white talis spoke in a whisper. Little, and yellowed by malnutrition, he faded into the pallor of the corner, lighted partially by a shabbas candle. And he spoke the same words he would have used in Kalisz or in Krakow before the Third Reich. He still wore the talis, raised the canopy, blessed the wine, He, too, had run, but he had preserved these, clung to them. As Lolek clung to the memory of his wife, as I clung to Izio, so he clung to the traditions. Daddy had, and so had the frightened little men with the long beards. We all held on to something, and we squeezed out of it life and promises to feed ourselves. We all hung on, only some chose something more real than others.

Lolek stepped forward with our wedding present, two rings. Izio slid the band onto my finger, took me in his arms. I burst into tears. Around me, I heard the others weeping. They wept because, through it all, they were still people.
Afterwards, at Lucia's house, we celebrated with a wedding feast. Guta and the other girls had prepared the soup and meat, and lined them up in huge platefuls on a long wooden table. I think everyone in Czestochowa must have pitched in a dish or two. And while everyone else stuffed himself, Izio and I wished they'd all hurry and finish so we could be alone.

Unlike the typical Jewish weddings, there was nothing left to wrap up and take home. So, as soon as the food dwindled, our guests started for the door. lzio and I left, now, too, heading for the little room his friends had given us for the night.

He walked out into the black night, and the wind was blowing wildly in our faces. But our hearts were at peace. We were happy. We stopped in front of a worn little shack. Izio pushed the door open. I looked at him instead of the room inside. Then he picked me up.

"Here we are, Jadzia. Mrs. Abramson, may I present ... our home!"

Grinning, and striding into the room, he kicked the door shut behind him. I tried to take in everything in one broad sweep - against the walls, about ten cots had been stripped and abandoned. One, under the far window, was freshly made with clean white sheets and a pillow case. Izio Jet me down gently, leaving his arm around my waist, then pulling me close to him. For a while, we stood, clasped together. His tears ran down my cheeks, and his lips pressed themselves to mine over and over again. The rabbi's words sounded in me, always the same, yet each time more faint. I had been bruised, now I was healed. I had been empty, now I was so full that I spoke and breathed love. Izio, too, was full, yet he cried. We were still afraid.

The moments of passion pushed away horror. They burned pain away. We loved, at least, determined to ignore death.

Our married life was so strange. I wasn't the wife who waited at home, watching at the window until her husband came home for the evening meal. We both worked. And we never knew which would wait at the window for the other, who might not come home that night.

I waited at the gate, to be led to work with Guta, while Izio was sent with a group of men to carry bricks. Guta had moved into another room with Dorka, a girl who was one of Izio's friends. Izio and I moved in with Lucia and her husband.

Our room was too small for two couples, but there were two real beds, two chairs and a little table that took up too much room. Up against the wall, under an old dish cupboard, we shoved a stool, with an enamel basin on top. That way, in the mornings and evenings we took turns washing, opening the cupboard doors into a makeshift shower closet.

We were getting used to being nameless Jews in the daytime, and Mr. and Mrs. Izio Abramson in the evenings. Maybe the garbage and people-smells of the streets made our hours together more precious than if we had lived in a normal world. Then we two were the only important human beings in the world.

I usually waited for Izio at the gate, anxious to see that he was safe, and to spend every minute I could with him. This afternoon had been no different. I spotted him in the lines, and traced his figure coming closer to where I was. At the gate, I threw myself at him and laughed hysterically, laughed to be alive! Then we hurried across the street to scrub off the dirt and drink a little soup. I almost skipped into a knot of people who were huddled in the middle of the street. The women, and seven of the men were crying. The others bit their lips, or held their heads in their hands. Izio asked the young men near the outside of the group who it had been.

"Lolek Grudman - sent to
Skarżysko death camp."

"Izio," I stammered, "'That's where they have one of the crematoriums?"

He didn't nod. He put his arm over my shoulder, and started toward our room again.

We were not immune. I knew that now, and most of the day I was practically insane. "When I go home tonight, he will not be there. I will never see him again. No, I will see his head in the· crowd when they march to the gate and he will talk toward me, and I'll wave, he'll turn in at the gate, and I'll run to him and throw out my arms! Then, before I can touch him, they will shoot him in the back! Or, we will walk up the stairs to our home, and we will think we are safe another night. Then, while I sleep beside him, they will march in and order him into the street ...then they will butt away his flesh, bit by bit ...but I will not watch. I will beat them and tear them too ...and then I will run into their knives! And laugh. Oh, how I will laugh!"

But all those days, thought the lines were always shorter than the day before, Izio came back. And since so many were taken, now there were empty rooms and extra beds in most of the buildings. So Izio and I moved out of Lucia's room and into our own. We had one bed, one chair, and a little coal stove.

I was excited about having our own room until I realized that everybody had to go through our room to get to their own. lzio laughed because I was embarrassed to have someone barge in on the way to get a drink of water, right when I was kissing my husband. I insisted at least that we hang a sheet over the window at night, since the bed was in front of the window.

Though I did not want the rest of the world to share my life that intimately, Guta was always welcome to come for supper. Now that she was the only other one alive from either Izio's or my family, she was the dearest person in Poland. She traded some of her clothes for food, and Izio still managed to buy a few things, so the three of us had a least some dinner every night. And we had warmth, even a little hope. Not the wild, sweet dreams I had before, but still the quiet strong will.

Married Life

THEN THEY took me. Ten of us, including Guta, were pulled out of the lines the next morning. They led us in the opposite direction of the others. After a half an hour, they stopped us in front of a railroad station. I grabbed Guta's arm. The trains ...they pushed us into the building, watching us through the glass panels.
 
A strikingly handsome young German stepped out of the other room, where the Gestapo had some sort of office. His skin was absolutely white, 'his hair coal black, his muscular body drawn up into an inhuman rigidness. He barked, "Around you are potato sacks. Here are your knives. Peel the potatoes. I will be back." The door slammed behind him.

I cut into the first potato skin, almost afraid to move the knife down the lumpy surface. I took a deep breath, assuring myself I was still alive, and cut more firmly into the brown skin. On one of those knobs, the curly band of peeling snapped, and I jerked the knife away. I started into another bank of peeling, getting my thumb in the way. Now blood started to seep from both of the cuts. I watched the red spread itself. in blotches on the yellow-white potatoes. I pressed my lips together hard, peeled another strip and then another. It didn't really matter if they all got bloodied,
The young German burst into the room again, glanced at one or two of us and grunted, "Faster." Then louder, "Faster!" I peeled faster, looking away from, the potatoes and staring out through the glass panels. From some distance away, I could hear the sounds of the trains.

The trains ...rushing across the silent earth ...rushing to end thousand of lives ...to bring their bodies to the warmth of the earth ...the trains ...big monsters.

They stopped right in front of our windows to shovel off the dead. Before the war they had carried animals. Now their windows were wired to keep the Jews in. And on the wires, strings hung down, each one attached to a tin can for water. And the tin cans clanked against the wires and against each other.

Inside the cars, the Jews were packed in, standing straight up, and breathing in the stuff they had breathed put in a minute before. From them
.
"Water, water ..."

"Please, my baby's dying .. "

"Water ..."

All along the platform, full water buckets were lined up in front of the train. A platoon of the Gestapo stationed itself in front of them, until the shrieks and pleas drove even them to dip out a few cups of water and carry them over the wired windows. The desperate little skeletons all grabbed for the cups at once, clawing at the wires, while drops dripped off the cup, and staring while the Nazis poured the water into the street. Then the dry little mouths and cracked faces shrieked again, in the same tune as the clanking of the tin cans.

Then the iron bars on the doors were lifted slightly, leaving an open slit at the bottom. Through it, one by one, the rotten bodies fell out into cardboard cartons next to the train. Usually they rolled out in mechanical procession. The Germans were mechanical. Occasionally, though, there was a break in the line, then what looked like shuffling inside the train. Someone wouldn't let go of his mother, probably ...then some sounds, and a quick shove through the slot. One of the other Jews had been wise, and helped to tear it from the sentimental one ...after all, they had to have room to stand and breathe.

And hours after the train pulled away, I could still hear the shuffling and groaning, and the unearthly cries. Now I had seen the trip Mommy had taken.

Three hours later another train came, and another ...The same wild little skeletons, and the same cries. We weren't allowed to leave the room, of course. We peeled potatoes.

At night we tramped back to the ghetto, to different fears. And I, to lzio again, to hide in his arms.

At night, when I tossed on the bed, I heard the ugly, tortured sounds from the trains. I heard the voices. And I saw the faces, shrieking as they vanished. And I listened to the real night that was still, except for the heavy footfalls of the Gestapo boots. I listened until daybreak, when the sun threw a pale light on the ghetto walls. I watched all those walking dead, bringing the streets to life.

Izio sensed the dread in me now. He understood the nightmares and the sobs after work, and he watched the blisters blowing up all over my hands, and the cuts starting to heal and breaking open again. So he talked about other things.

"Jadzia, I'm the happiest Jew that ever lived. I have you. Most people live a lifetime without knowing the love that we have. Let's count every week a year, Jadzia. Maybe we can celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary that way."

Enchanted, I believed him. That was what I wanted too, because somehow I was sure that our weeks were more important than anyone else's years, anyway.

But listening to dreams was like listening to a fairy tale. I wanted to hear more and more of the pretty words. From them I tried to soak out all the whimsical happiness.

"You know, Izio, someday I'm going to be a good wife. I'm going to bear you six children, and clean the house spotless, and then every free hour I will write. I'm going to write a book, you know ... about you Izio, about us together, and ... all about this. Now you tell me. What will you do?"

It was a familiar game. He smiled indulgently, the way you smile at a little child. "I'd love you."

"That's all? Just love me? Oh, Izio, tell me what else!"

"I'll think about that when I'm free."

I was disappointed. His eyes didn't shine anymore when he talked about later. Now, like a little boy, he put his head on my shoulder and fell asleep. Now I was the old one, watching over him, smoothing his hair until I slept.

In the morning, Guta and I left again for the train station. Behind the glass panels again, we peeled without watching. With our eyes shut, we knew we wouldn't have to look at the lines of cars, the mad faces, the bony hands poked through the cages. But we still heard everything. The whistle, from a mile away, pierced into the air around us. Then just rumbling wheels ... another jab of the whistle, two more in a little spurt of sound, then clatter ... the roar started to break up into horrible, recognizable sounds. Now the train didn't thunder, it was the metal wheels grinding into the track, grunting under the load of thousands of wailing shadows ... and the tin cans clanked on the wires, sometimes they swung back and forth across grating on the mesh. I flung two potatoes into the water bucket besides me, and splashed, plunking into the wet, settling to the bottom. For a second, their sound drowned out a scream or a clank, while the train let off a chorus of wails and croaking or whatever the Jews could force out of cracked mouths whose saliva had gone dry.

"Faster!"

Say it again! We couldn't peel any faster if we tried, but maybe you'll drown out the yelps for mercy!

Then the creaking wheels again, and the whistle ... the steam breathing sound of the engine, the last audible calls, the clawing at the wires ... melting into just a roar, a very impersonal roar.

I opened my eyes again and stared into an empty picture of cement and track. I heard the door from the office open again and close. The young German walked across the floor. Several feet away from me he stopped and pointed. "You." He moved his finger toward the door.

I walked into the office, sank into the chair he pointed to, and waited for some sort of offer. He grinned, watched to see my reaction, then started to talk. His voice was smoother than I ever thought German could sound. He looked me over as he spoke in that friendly, confidential tone. I knew what to expect.

"I've been watching you for several days now. How old are you?"

"Eighteen," I whispered what I hoped would be a convincing lie. Fifteen would have sounded ridiculous.
 
"Have you ever played the piano?"

 "No."

"Do you have a husband?"

"No."

"Well, your hands are too beautiful to peel potatoes. In fact, you don't even look like a Jew. From now on, you will work here in the office."

I nodded.

"Later on, I'll take you to my house. You can help my wife." He pointed to the broom in the corner, and pulled out a rag from one of the desk drawers. I took it from him, and started toward the file cabinets.

While I dusted the spotless furniture, rubbing over the shine that was already there, I felt his eyes following me around the room. Over again to the cabinets, then the empty chair ... polishing, rubbing the same spots ... staring at the rag and the shiny wood ... aware of the man watching.

Those evenings I never told Izio about my new job. I remembered the Tannenbaum girl. I knew Izio was jealous anyway. If anything happened, why should he have to know? For the first time, I tried to hide something from Izio, and it knotted everything up inside me.

After a few days, the German seemed to change. He didn't smile. He still stared, following me around the room with his eyes. But the eyes no longer coaxed, and the smooth words disappeared. Now he was cold, sharp, his eyes flashed spite. For two days he didn't bring me lunch.

The next afternoon, before lunch time, I started to dust his books for the fourth time since I came. He was sitting at the desk, ruffling through some papers. I heard the rattling stop. Dead silence. I breathed in and out deliberately, slowly forgetting to move the dust rag. I waited, gradually moving from fear to panic.

"Come here."

I pivoted slowly into a three-quarter turn, and faced him from the side of the desk.

He got up from the chair, and leaned over into my face.

"Never lie to a German," he growled whacking my face with the back of his hand. When you go back, he won't be there."

I backed towards the door, looking straight into his face. He turned his back.

Peeling the brown skins again, faster than before, I tried to gauge the time till evening. He could have lied. They were all spiteful. There would have been no way to know about Izio unless someone had told him. And even desperate, jealous Jews would not have told. Logic wasn't much comfort, and I hated the Nazi more for lying.
 
When they led us home that evening. I thought our line must have been first until I saw my friends at the gate. Then Izio must be late. They all talked at once, and I couldn't understand anything for a few minutes. Then, "Izio's gone!"

Twenty men had been pulled out of the line on the way home. Now they were in the three-story house right outside the wires, ready to be sent to crematoriums when the next train came in.

Every knot that had been twisted inside me for a week snapped. All the nightmares and shouts and bullets exploded in me, billowing out into a hot frenzy. It was like a cauldron had been boiling in me with the top lid on, and all of a sudden everything poured out, blowing off the lid, and letting off steam and hot liquid in geysers. I grabbed onto the fence, and dug my hands into the wires. I hung there shrieking to him, collapsing to the ground with my hands still tearing at the fence. The weight of my body pulled my arms down, while the wires slashed into my fingers.

They must have pulled me away from the fence and given me something from the infirmary. I remember very little of that except that when I woke up, I was ready to try the wall. There weren't as many Nazi's out patrolling in the night, and I didn't see what difference it would make if they sent one more away on the train.

I hadn't realized that Guta wasn't with me. Now she came into the room softly.

"Jadzia, come with me."

"No, Guta. I'm staying here. It doesn't matter now."

"Come."

I couldn't tell her I was going over the wall. I didn't want her to come with me.

"Guta, why? Where?"

"To the other side. Izio's free."

She grabbed my hand, pushing me in front of her to the door. Then she took the lead, and together we crept down the stairs. As we went, she whispered the instructions.

"It's a space between the roof and the ceiling. You have to lie flat, and you're not allowed to talk. You must not even whisper in the daytime. Somebody will bring food up at night."

I hardly listened to the words. I kept saying to myself, "He's alive. He's alive and I will be there with him."

I walked so fast that she could hardly keep up with me. Across the back yards, through the streets on our side of the fence to the last two-story building before the wires. Two men were holding a ladder up to a hole in the outside wall, where some planks had been knocked out.

Clambering up the ladder, I squeezed through the dark little slit between the roof and the floor. Seeing the shoulders and hair all covered with hay, I didn't even look at his face. I crawled up to him threw my arms around him, and kissed his face, wetting it with tears. With his hand, he lifted up my chin, and wiped the tears with two fingers. Then he put the fingers over my lips.

"Shh, baby. Every married couple is entitled to this." "Izio, why do you make me laugh now?"

"After all, you wouldn't want to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary without having a honeymoon?"

In the daytime, we lay stiff. We didn't dare whisper. We just listened to the sounds ... boots, once in a while voices or rifles. In the evenings, when the patrollers thinned out, we talked a little and kissed.

Somebody pushed a bowl of water and food for the next day through the hole after it got dark. While the others slept, they emptied the bucket we used for a toilet.

Izio and I looked out from the straw pile. Sometimes we didn't say anything for hours. No more dreams.

For a week we lay there, waiting and listening. As the nights and days dragged on into each other we finally admitted there was nothing to wait for.

"Izio, you know this is the end." He covered my mouth.

"Jadzia, if something happens to me, you must promise that you won't try ..."

"I will not promise! I promised Mommy, not again! Please, Izio, when you are gone, my life will be gone. Enough despair. It's enough." I promised Izio nothing. I promised myself that nothing would ever separate us, and resigned myself to wait.

It must have been early in the morning that we heard the shuffling outside. It was still dark, but they had brought food hours ago. The ladder clanked against the outside wall. I shot a look at Izio. Then ...

"Jadzia, you can come out!" It was Guta. "Come down, it's safe."

Confused, we pulled ourselves out of the hiding place and down the ladder.

Guta and two men I didn't know were waiting for us at the bottom.

 "Come down, we have a place for you to stay."

We followed them to one of the houses in the middle of the ghetto. There were four other couples in our room, but they had prepared a clean bed for us, and cleared a corner of the room.

Until then, we hadn't had time to ask how we'd been saved. Guta ex­plained that she'd gotten help from the underground. They were building a tunnel, but she couldn't tell us where or who. The boy who was the leader came from Kalisz, their headquarters was in the building where we'd been hiding and he had set up our escape, but the Germans found him and killed him the night before we got out. Now that they knew about the headquar­ters, it wasn't safe to be in our hole.

We talked until morning, when we left for work again. Guta had signed us up for the ammunition factory, Hasak.

The Jewish police lined us up in six lines. The men went first, hundreds, and behind them, hundreds of women. Every Jew who could still walk was in those lines. We already knew that staying in the ghetto during the day was asking to be killed, but there had always been the same danger even at work. Now we felt if there was one place they needed hands it was at Hasak. If we could just get to work every day, we might be able to stay alive.

I watched the lines of heads in front of me. "Dear Izio, it's good that you're so tall! I can see your head above the others."

We walked past the last signs of the city ... past houses and the stores, out into a bare place where there seemed to be nothing. In the city, along the road, the Poles had stopped in little bunches to stare as we went by. Out here near the factory, there was no one around to stare. Just blank dustiness.

There were about a dozen separate buildings. Most of them brick, a few glass paneling. Inside, we found them to be huge open halls. Each one had a hundred and fifty machines, all pounding and hammering at once and giving off oily smells. The oil smells caught themselves up with the burning coal and steaming fumes from acid kettles while wheels ripping iron sheets moulded the shells.

Outside, groups of Poles were building barracks some distance from the factory.

Guta and I were assigned to measure shells and pack them in cases. We worked in an assembly line: check, measure, weigh, polish, pack, twenty-three of us and two Poles. In our room, three other lines checked, measured, weighed, polished, packed. Ninety-one of us and six of them. Again we found a market of exchange, pillows for sugar, sheets for zlotys. Now Guta and I were on the other end ... instead of bringing the clothes and linen back from the big ghetto, we took it from the others and traded with the Poles.

But we were getting too comfortable. The next day, when we were on the way to work, one of the Nazis boomed at us to stop.

"Whoever is smuggling anything from the ghetto to sell to the Poles, drop it now. From now on, any Jew caught with goods under his clothes will be dealt with. He swung his whip in through the air, and listened to the whistle it made.

From the lines of workers around him on the piazza, clothes and bed linen started to drop. Women pulled towels and sheets out from under their blouses, and the men unwrapped the extra clothes from around their waists. We dropped the things in piles that kept building for several minutes.

Over in the other part of the line, I watched Izio drop a few pieces.

The Nazi started around the circle, glaring the faces, watching for a guilty one. He cracked his whip on his boots. The leather on leather smacked a satisfied smack, almost as satisfied as the German's grin. He stopped in front of me.
 
"You!"

He reached out his hand, and ripped the clothes off the girl next to me. She stood there, shivering in her slip, not daring to look at the mound of blouses and pillow cases at her feet. She lifted up her slip and pulled out another skirt, a dress. She unwound the sheet from around her legs, and dropped it with the rest. Then she took a step back. The German snickered, and grabbed at her brassiere, ripping it off. A baby's dress fell out, and landed in the heap.

Then the whistle of leather in the air, and the snap as it went through flesh. A red welt swelled into a streak down her back. Another snap, then again. The slashes puffed in crosshatching and turned blue from the cold. She crouched over, covering her face with both arms so the whip couldn't get at it. And howled and groaned into the whistling air ... then fell still.

"Schneller! Back to the lines!"

She reached out for her dress beside her on the ground. The black boot shot out, clamped itself on the rag.

"Schneller!"

She dragged herself up to a half-standing crouch, and took her place beside me in the line. We started back to the ghetto. The lines were slow, and a freezing wind was make most of us cold. We weren't allowed to talk, we just moved. "Schneller." I unbuttoned my sweater, and handed it back behind my skirt. The guard saw it, threw me a dirty look. But he didn't stop us again.

She hadn't cried when they beat her, but now I could hear quiet crying sounds beside me. "Thanks," she managed.

We tramped along the open road now, and it was no longer dry ground, but open waters. Waves splashed us, washing away nostalgia and drowning us in doom of bloody days. Occasionally we hit a rock, a swinging tin cup, a beating in the street, or twenty men pulled from the line and sent to be cremated, but the rocks were sharper than the sea for only a minute. They were, after all, only sign posts of our hopelessness. For there was no end to the sea, no dry place among the waves, and there was always hope that a rock might sink our wired-in boat for good so that we would not have to keep afloat anymore.

Now that we couldn't sell clothes and linen from the big ghetto, little Czestochowa started to disintegrate. We ate only the bread and soup from the big kitchen. It was winter, and the hospital was filled with Jews who stood out in the lines too long. The rest of us waited for morning and work, wondering whether they'd take us to a train station or the factory. But as long as we weren't lying sick in our rooms when the Germans made the daily rounds, there was still time.

A Baby ... Almost

ONE MORNING I did wake up sick. I was dizzy and down in my stomach everything was turning inside-out. I pulled myself up off the pillow, and everything started to spin around me. My head was heavy and I wanted to fall back onto the cot again, but I dressed for work.

At Hasak, all the buildings took the lunch break at the same time. Izio and I managed to meet then in his building, behind one of the generators or a stack of cartons. That afternoon I just looked at the grey pool in the plate.

"Eat it, Jadzia. I don't want you to save it for me." The black potato eyes floating in the grey turned my stomach.

"I can't, Izio."

That evening I stumbled back in the lines, exhausted. I knew I had to see a doctor, but I was terrified of being found sick, and of what he might tell me.

I told Izio one evening that I had to see a friend, that I'd be back soon. He wasn't easy to convince. He insisted on coming with me. Finally, I got away.

I walked into the street, pushed through the groups. I was afraid. I ran. At the infirmary I signed my name at the little wooden table near the door and moved into the room. It was wide and empty, and the light from the gas lamp on the table made the room a kind of grayish yellow. The walls and floors made a kind of sickly hole where the scared ones like me crawled in and around me, shriveling little bodies sat on steps, crates, on the floor.

Everything twisted itself around in my mind. Without thinking, I paced around the boxes and the old men sitting on the floor. I walked in a circle past each one, then around past them all again. It wasn't that I thought about them at all. I hardly looked at them, but I would not stand and watch the door.

They called my name. Into the other room, questions, more questions, examination, a question, dates? I don't know how long, or when, please. I just don't remember. "But you're barely a child."
 
"No, I'm not." I started to cry, and brought the certificate out of my pocket.

"You're pregnant. You have to get rid of it as soon as you can."

Another question, then an answer. I ran out of the office, into the streets, I kept running, until I had to rest against the side of a building. Then I walked, anywhere, time to think. How can I tell him?

Happy news for the expectant father. "Your wife's almost sure to be sent to a crematorium soon. As soon as they find her like that."

I got to our room. Pushing the door open, I tried to look away. Izio was sitting at our table. His eyes were full of questions. 1 walked to the window, turned my back to him. Oh, if only I could be protected still by the tender, understanding eyes, the soft, wise face ... but I could not look at him now and watch his eyes soak up pain and his face twist when he understood.

"Izio, I have something to tell you."

"Well, baby, you always have something to tell me."

"No, Izio, don't joke. I'm serious."

"Jadzia, you're always serious." I pictured him smiling behind me. "This is different, Izio."

"Everything you say is different, baby."

"Stop it. I'm going to have a baby, Izio."

The room was absolutely silent. I waited for him to reassure me, to comfort me.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

Then I heard a little choke, and muffled sound. Then he broke into sobs. I turned to see him, his face buried in his arms, his slender body heaving as he cried ... he didn't try to control it, and the table wobbled on its uneven legs from the force of his weight. I threw my arms around him and covered his neck and face with kisses. I held his head to my breast and felt the tears coming wet through my blouse.

"Please, Izio, don't cry. Not now. Remember when we lay under the roof, you were the one who said we were entitled to have a honeymoon. You said we should count weeks as years. I'm a woman. You don't want me to be married twenty-five years without a baby."

It wasn't much of a joke. I wanted to be done with it soon. But time didn't run that way, and I knew there would be more days of routine until we could raise enough money for the abortion.

The hours of work were terribly long now. I had time to think about everyone who had been taken, about how they had died ... Aron, Daddy, Karola burning in Warsaw, and Mommy brought to ashes at Treblinka, Lolek ... who knows where ... and Henoh ... maybe dead, maybe still ... afloat.

I ran my fingers over the shell ... who would this one kill? The dead steel felt cold in my hand. It was a part of Deutschland uber alles ... helping them to the final victory, packing their shells and dusting their crates, and measuring so there would be no mistake.

And I was sick of the dirty business of staying alive ... sick of the Gestapo and sick of hearing trains ... I hated so totally that it was squeezing out all the other feelings in me. I hated the Nazis, I hated them and everything they had done to me ...for ripping my family away, and for stealing all my hopes, for making me give up this life in my womb ...I hated them and wished with all my might they would be cursed with walls and wires and hunger someday. But all the hating and wishing didn't change anything ...not the pain and pity in Izio's eyes, not my own fear.

It was a long way back to the ghetto. Every day it was longer, and every night in the room a tired struggle for a way.
 
In our basement Lolek had hidden a box of money, but Lolek might still be alive. The money wasn't ours. Our wedding rings might bring enough money, but neither of us could give them up.

We pulled the sheets off the bed the next morning, and wrapped them, with some extra clothes around us. We were both skinny now, so they wouldn't notice the extra bulk, we thought.

At work, the German orders and the grinding machines mixed in the terrible tumult inside my head. The steel banged onto the floor ... another netful, into the acid ... spattering ... then the hollow clank of steel against iron stands and the buzz-rip of the wheels ... "Schneller! Juden, Schneller!" spit of the acid onto the floor clank, buzz-rip ... check, measure, weigh, polish ... drip "Schneller! spit ... pack ... check, measure ... "Schneller."

Oh, please make this day go fast. As soon as we had lined up out on the piazza, the men's lines started to fill in. I caught a look at Izio's face among them. He smiled. He had the money. I tried to smile back, to show him I was happy. I wasn't and I couldn't smile. Instead, I felt tears welling up in my eyes, and I tried to hold them back.

On the way home, I whispered out the whole story to Guta. She promised that she would be with me.

That night I lay close to Izio, wanting him to talk to me, to tell me everything would be all right. I wanted to be alive, I wanted him to tell me I would live. But he was afraid, too, and I realized now that he felt guilty. "Its my fault ... it's my fault ... my fault ... I'm sorry, baby ... its all my fault."

I didn't understand. "It's what we both wanted, Izio." Out he cried, still, and now I tried to comfort him. I couldn't soothe the guilt, but I understood his fear too well. A little door off the waiting room, the man inside in a hurry, the SS checking ...

It was just light when Izio, Guta and I started for the infirmary. We didn't talk much. We'd said just about everything.
 
I kissed Izio at the door, and walked into the little room. The nurse had to help my unbutton my clothes. She helped me up onto the table.

I knew there had been enough money to get ether. So they would kill that pain ... the one deep down where life was growing, the one in my bowels when they scraped it all out. But they wouldn't still the hurt and shame of killing my baby - my baby that was alive, because we loved, because in the middle of this filthy world a man and I had found something pure and good. And now I let them rip it out, so we could keep on living in the dirty world.

The disinfectant smell hung heavy over the room, except right around the table. Here the bleachy sheet smell was stronger. A nurse took some instruments out of a steamy pot, and laid them on the table next to me. I wouldn't look at the shiny, sharp points ... I turned away to watch the windows, draped with sheets. They shut out most of the light from outside, so most of the room was light morning grey. Over in the corner I could make out a few steel cabinets and a gas stove. There were two other tables, but this was the only one with a light - a wide, white one, hung on some wire from the ceiling.

The doctor, in white, slammed the door behind him, and walked over to a sink behind the stove. I watched him rub lather into his hands and face. He made some remarks to the nurse. I wanted him to talk to me. To say anything, ask my name, notice I was fifteen, but he was a busy man. There was a line outside, and none of them had time to wait for conversation.

I wished they would hurry before the German patrol came to pick up the sick. I watched the eyes of the face that was covered with a white mask. Her hand jerked out suddenly, clamping ether-soaked cotton over my nose and mouth. I choked into the cotton.

"Count."

"Jeden, dwa, trzy, cztery ... " I wanted to use my hands. I wanted to push the smelly cotton away. But my arms were tied down to the table. "Piec, cziesc, siedem .... "I'm falling, Mommy ... help, Mommy, I'm falling ... deeper into a black nothing ... Izio, stop me! Help me ... Izio ..."
 
I opened my eyes. I couldn't see clearly, but I felt a hand clasping mine. My mouth was dry and bitter.

"Please, some water."

Someone brought a glass up to my mouth. I looked down into the water, sipped a little from the top. I tried to see everything without the blur ... lines of beds. That was all. I tried to remember. My eyes closed again, exhausted from the effort.

I felt a searing pain in my waist, then lower, another and another, then all around me.

"Help, please!" I opened my eyes on Izio, bent over me. "Please don't leave me."

His hand tightened its grip over mine. "I never will, baby." Guta was behind him, crying. From out of the darkness, I was not alone.

After two hours, I had to give up the bed to somebody else. Guta and Izio helped me out, and supported me between them. I was losing a lot of blood, and we had to find a bed for me for the next couple of days. But the Germans checked every room in the ghetto every day and they never missed anybody.

We decided on trying the basement under our room. It was really a square opening under the bed, with enough room for a half-size cot. Izio propped a chair between the two floors, so he and Guta could get down to me from our room. They could check on me after work, but they both refused to go. We argued and reasoned, and I was close to tears again.

"Why should we risk all three of us when you two can do nothing for me here? We could never all stay quiet down there, and they'd find us right away and kill us all." Izio insisted he would not leave and Guta pleaded with us to let her stay. In the morning though, she agreed to go, reassured a little because Izio would be with me.

The basement was damp. Broken cobwebs hung down from the corners and spread themselves along the boards of the floor above. Rats scratched across the floor through the dirt and into another hole on the other side of the wall. The fat, dark shapes chased under the cot, partially hidden by the color of the floor. It was the same wet brown-grey.
 
In one corner lay a pile of rotten potatoes, stored once for the winter. Now they were decaying, spreading their sour smell all through the damp. A few streaks of light and some air came through the cracks between the bricks, where the mortar had fallen out.

We lay close to each other on the narrow cot. Now, as we heard them lining up outside we didn't move or whisper. Then we heard them move out. Quiet.
 
In the empty building, the few boots in the streets, then in the other rooms, sounded like platoons of hundreds. Then the door to our room banged open. They had not missed it. Heavy boots above us. We grabbed each other. Even the rats stopped. The only things that moved were the cobwebs, waving under the heaviness on the floor. The door slammed shut. Still.

The wet, brown days passed, two of them, broken only by the sound of Guta, home from work, and the night hours in the room upstairs.
 
After that I went to work again with the rest. I was weak and still bleeding, but I knew eventually Izio and I would be killed in the hole.

Nothing was the same anymore. We changed. We grew older, sadder. We didn't love anymore like two happy kids. We didn't build any castles. Instead of talking about the future, we spoke only about what had been before. For the first time, Izio told me how dear Lolek had been to him ... how good he had been to Izio's sister, Regina, and how devoted to their little girl. And about how close Lolek had been to Izio's family, another son. Izio's parents had been so proud of Lolek, the intelligent, successful young man. Until the day we were married, Lolek and Izio had been inseparable, confiding in one another, holding on to each other as the last of a family: "I'm going to write a letter to him at Skarzysko, Jadzia. One of the Poles at work said he could get it over there, I want Lolek to know about everything ... about us and what happened ... about how right he was, and how wrong."

I saw that letter the next day, lying open on the table.

Dear Lolek,

It may be that I am much older now than when I first confided that I was in love. Then I chose not to listen to what you said. Now I understand it was true. I have been more afraid for Jadzia than for myself all these days. Yet I think you knew that fear once yourself. We almost did bring another life into our world, yet we killed it to save ourselves. Somehow, I think you know what pain we feel for that.

Lolek, you must know that we had beautiful hours, scraps of days together. After the hours in the factory, she gave me love and warmth, a home. She shared my wild dreams long after everyone else had given up. And when we both stopped hoping, she shared minutes and hours for what they were.

Today is bad. We don't know if we have a tomorrow. But, Lolek, if I had lived a normal man's life, it could not have been more full than my days with Jadzia. If there is such a thing in this world, she has been my happiness.

Love, Izio

I walked out to the others. The sun had a special brightness this morning. I felt a little strength. I was full now, where I had been empty a long time.
 
Separation

AT HASAK, that day, they didn't lead us into the factory. They marched us into an empty hall, standing us against the walls. One of the guards stepped out into the middle of the floor. "You are not going back to the ghetto."

Days ... maybe years ...knowing it would come eventually ... watching trains, sure that we would be on them one day ... listening to the cups rattle and the wheels grind or watching the train to death as we stood with the ones saved ... we had not been fooled by the delay. But now, we were the death group, and now we wanted to live more fiercely than ever before.

"The ghetto was burned down this morning. If you hid some other Juden there, they burned with it. From now on, this is your concentration camp. We're building barracks now. Until they are ready, you'll sleep in the empty halls, women and men separate."

All those days when there had been rumors of the camp, we'd worn extra clothes, taken what we had to work. Today there hadn't been any rumors.

"At five tomorrow morning, and every morning from now on, you will line up in the back court to be counted. Your Jewish policemen will help."

Counted ...like the children sent to "special jobs," like the trains sent to "work camps," like the lines waiting for "showers" and "volunteers" for office work ... that's how we would be counted. Half of you will work night shift, half day shift. The patrollers will be watching you. Disobey them and you will be killed. The same goes for anyone who tries to get out."

No more corner to ourselves ... hot even the nights now ... Izio, maybe we will see each other sometimes.

"You can go."

The circle, around the walls, broke up slowly. Some of the women just stood where they were. Most of us moved towards the door. In the crowd, a few cried for sick husbands, or old mothers, left behind. Most followed the line to work.

In the machine room we Saw huge steel kettles steaming in the middle of the floor. They sat on wooden platforms with wheels. Later on we found out the steaming stuff was coffee. It was black and bitter, and there was something sour-stale about the way it smelled, like boiled garbage water. It was breakfast.

Now it didn't matter how long the workday lasted. We didn't have to walk back to anywhere or go anywhere at night.

But the midday siren did matter. At least for today, Izio and I could still meet at the old place at lunch time. I grabbed the bread they gave me and ran to the other building.

But for minutes we both sat there on boxes, gnawing at the bread and saying nothing. We hardly had a chance to collect all the words we wanted to say ...and before we said much of anything, the siren screamed again.

The hours at work dragged by, confused, I tried to think out what had happened, tried to imagine what would come next. Now I couldn't trust the routine fears I had learned in the ghetto. I wouldn't know where to find the openings in the floor. I wouldn't know where the boot steps would be or when. I was sunk with the rest, in a place where I did not know what to fear.

At the moment that the siren started to blast, three giant doors swung open, and the Jewish policemen shouted, "Line up!" We shuffled into file.

"This way to your sleeping quarters!"

Led to a huge hall, we saw from the doorway rows of double bunks lined up against the walls. Tearing into the room we raced to the bunks, grabbing onto the frames to claim them. In one of the corners, a mob was tearing at the pile of blankets and pillows, and the rest of us pulled at whatever they got, trying to rip away something for ourselves. Straw and dust from the mattresses fell all over the floor and us, and dirt billowed up from the cots and floor, making the air grey and heavy. Guta and I hung onto the same frame. It was newly-cut and yellow, and still splintery. Around us, the ones who didn't get bunks were dragging straw sacks off a stack near the blankets, and pulling them over near the bunks.

That night I lay awake next to Guta. I kissed Izio. Maybe, when they build the barracks, we'll have a chance to be together again.

The siren authorized morning. Like the sounds of the factory, it ruled us. In its wake, pounding metal and grinding and spatter hardly sounded at all. For the siren registered days as days, and broke the morning from the afternoon, and signaled night. And the siren recognized Sunday from the rest, and didn't blow that one morning in the week.

One Sunday the women who were alone washed clothes and hung them over the sills to dry. But the rest of us were allowed to see our husbands or brothers in the other barracks. Usually Izio came to our hall, though. He and Guta and I sat on our bunk, the lower one, and talked ...about who slept beside us and was it really a camp and the trains pulled in for an hour today and did you see who was on them ...
 
Next to death it hurt to talk about death, and talking about life was insane. So we talked some more about the coffee and the bunks and the steel and the shells and the siren ... and about being hungry.

We were hungrier now than ever in the ghetto. There, there had always been a way to get something extra. We had traded our clothing and we had bought a few things outright. But now we couldn't trade and we couldn't buy. and we couldn't even steal anymore.

At lunchtime, we argued over the black bread. Izio said I wasn't well yet.He looked pale to me.

"You're a woman. I'm stronger than you."

"You work harder than we do. Eat it."

Just as we sat around the table in Warsaw, and argued over the bread. Usually we each chewed on our own slice as we walked back to work.
 
After two days, Izio decided we had to exchange our wedding rings for food. I didn't mind giving it up now. I would give up anything so that we would not be so hungry. I slipped the band off my finger ... just hours ago we had been married.

The certificate was already gone, buried in the rubble and ashes of the ghetto, now the rings, too ... they were only signs for everyone else. We didn't need any reminders. But when you lose your wedding ring, you lose your luck ...
No matter, nothing to lose.

There were more Germans over us now. They were civilians. Healthy Germans were sent to the front, so that left the murderers, homosexuals, sadists, drug addicts, and convicts to run the camps. Their lurid achievements qualified them for Hitler's helpers. Human beasts, they cracked the whip and grinned when it snapped flesh. They grinned when the Jew winced, then the lackey bled.

But we are not lackeys. We are not beasts or criminals, no matter how long you beat and how many you kill. We are not cannibals and wild men until you drive and drive, and even then we shall remain proud. Even then we shall be more human than the guards and the whipcrackers. We are men and women, and if that is not sacred to you, it is to us as long as we continue to exist. You may starve us and humiliate us, you may wipe us out on the earth, but you shall never have your victory, German. For you shall never destroy our honor. And you shall never wipe out good.

In the part of the factory where I worked with Guta, two German women were in charge. We called them Carrot and Parsnip, mostly for watchwords when we saw them coming. They were both about six feet tall, both long and skinny. These faces were stone, flat and rigid. They always wore black, to show that their husbands had been killed in battle.
 
A Polish girl, about nineteen, worked with them. Her name was Irka. Without any reason, she took pleasure in beating the Jews, and watching the question and hate in their faces. Raised among us, she knew who to hurt. Picking out one of the older women, Irka made it a point to walk by her in the factory and spit in her face. And she spoke our language. That was the most dangerous thing. Speaking Polish, she was the shrewdest spy in camp. Irka enjoyed herself. She always smiled.

There was a Jewish woman among them, her name was Irka, too. She was in charge of the office, and a small section of the factory. Most of the women despised her, probably because her work was easier than ours. But I never saw her hit one of the women, and I can't believe she would have spied. She was like the rest of us, looking for a way.

When the German women had a day off, the men took over their jobs at the factory. They were less complex. There were outright animals. Their faces were brutal and cold, but their eyes were hot with insanity. They used the whips better than the women did. We did everything they told us. But they beat us just the same.

On one of those days when the men were overseeing the factory, I was called out of the assembly line.

"You, the Jew with the long fingers."

He pointed to another machine under the window across the hall. It was one of four small ones in a row on one table, and there were about forty others along that side of the room. All the tables were filled but this one.

Two men carried over a crate of shells that had been taken out of the acid bath. They were left over from the front, so the rust had to be taken off before they were sent out again.

I pressed the button under my table and watched the metal brush start to vibrate. I pushed one of the shells over the brush and heard the bussing when the wire scraped out the rust. I had to hold the shell with both hands to keep it from being jerked away by the force of the bristles. The shell got hot quickly, then starting from the inside, spreading out to the surface, and burning my hands. I took the shell off for a minute, then when it cooled a little, pushed it back on for another polishing. Every shell went through the brushing four or five times, and they never cooled much after the first brushing.

The machine table was only about two feet off the floor, at my knees, so I bent down over the machine to hold the shell on. After a few hours, I didn't bother to straighten up between shells, and after a few days I couldn't. All the while, I breathed in the hot rust, seared from the shells. I could feel it, like a grainy powder, up in my nose, all over my tongue, and down in my throat. It was hard and grisly, and it tasted sharp. I could feel it cutting into my gums and above my nostrils.

The sound of the powerful whistle was again in the air. I straightened out my aching body, with half stiff fingers, grabbed the slice of bread. It was only a few minutes to the hiding place. Like sunshine from the darkness was Izio's smile. We fell into each others arms, grateful for the half an hour so-called ours. Five minutes was enough to eat the slice of bread. Izio's hands were soothing my sore fingers with gentle caresses.
 
"Jadzia, have I ever told you, you have the most beautiful hands I have ever seen?"

"Yes, Izio, you told me many times." I looked up at his face, his eyes were moist with tears. I put my head on his lap not to see the sadness they showed.

"Jadzia," his voice was trembling, "I would give my life to get you out of here."

I threw my arms around his neck. "What foolishness, your life is my life, it won't be any good to go on without you. Please, Izio, we do have hopes. They need hands for work, maybe we have a chance. Let's not give up, not now. Maybe when things get organized, they will give us more food. The war must come to an end you know." I didn't believe myself what I said. I knew Izio didn't, but there was no time for long conversation. A loud whistle, a kiss, a brief embrace and then rush back to work, like anything else being late wasn't tolerated. A few days went by, the same routine - unbearable hunger, and one wonderful luxury, hot showers after work. I wasn't the first one to take the shower, but the rumor got around, no gas, real running water.

At the door of the shower room while I was waiting my turn to go in, a German placed a few cases of soap right near my feet. The soap was grey and on every piece were the letters "JF." "It's made of Juden fats," said the German with a big, ugly grin on his face. We thought it was a joke. The inside of the shower room was steaming hot. Wooden benches were placed along the sides of the walls. At a wooden table were two Jewish girls passing out stiff white towels. Our hair was checked for nits or lice. If they found any, a hair cut close to the skin would follow. In the center of the shower room was a large stone square partitioned with a wooden fence above it were twenty-five showers. The water felt good after a day of hard labor, but not even here were we given privacy. Many times groups of German soldiers would stand around and watch us. The showers were a pleasant surprise, but we knew many other things were in store for us and not so pleasant. There wasn't time for me to run out to see Izio during lunch time, when I saw his tall figure next to me. In brief words he told me about being transferred to the night shift.

Twenty men were picked from the group in which Izio worked. The Jewish attendant had to made sure they were in good health, and had college educations. Twelve midnight was the time when the night shift was entitled to a half an hour's rest. I crawled down from my cot and went into the factory. The lights burned my eyes after the darkness of the sleeping quarters. Izio told me how he pleaded with the Jewish attendant to keep him on the day shift, but was asked to give him money. Now we could see each other twice. Izio would get up in the day time and come to see me on my lunch hour; this did not last long. It was two days later when I heard Irka's voice. "How handsome he is for a Jew, who is he?" She looked at Izio. "You are coming here too often, my, oh my, what a handsome Jew you are." She walked away. I pleaded with Izio not to come to see my any more. I feared this Polish spy more than the Germans, we all did. It seemed that all our dreams and hopes were dying away. We were still lucky we could see each other and we were alive.

One particular day I went to Izio's dormitory during lunch time. He wasn't feeling well, his face was burning with a temperature. When I kissed his hot flushed face, he kept assuring me that it was just a little cold, but no Jew would dare stay away from work just as long as he could walk. The factory whistle cut through the air like a knife. I promised to see him at twelve. How long this day was, it seemed endless. The worry about his health was torturous. The pain shut inside me was whining like an imprisoned inmate after work. I felt a scaring loneliness. I lay on my cot in the darkness of the night, hoping the whistle would come sooner. I knew there was little I could do to help him get better, but still I wanted to be near him. No, I was not divine, I felt the pain, and I longed for life for both of us.
Impatiently I walked out in the night, I crept unnoticed into our usual meeting place and breathlessly waited for Izio to come. How good it was to see him beside me. His face was pale and the brown eyes seemed enormously big in his sunken cheeks. It seemed like the freshness of his youth was gone, but the smile was there, the smile I loved so much, and the tenderness when he looked at me, the want and the burning desire. So little time! "How do you feel, Izio?" So many questions, so many answers, and the disappointed look of a little boy when it was time to go. "I love you, Izio, don't ever forget it." "I love you too," and tears, more tears, no end to them. Love was torture, love in the arms of death. No, I could not endure the look in his eyes. "I love you, Izio." I ran out.

In the barracks once more, I didn't bother to take my clothes off. I was so cold. I just had time to warm my feet under the rough blanket, when a German voice through the loud speaker froze the blood in me. The message was brief and well understood.

"Every Jew in a half hour's time will stand in front of the factory near his department. Don't take anything with you. Every Jew after the half hour found in the dormitory will be shot."

All lights were lit, their yellow reflections focused on the groups of  frightened people made them look more dead than alive. In a period of a few minutes we were dressed. Holding on to a friend or cot partner, we started pushing through the doors. I held on to my sister's hand. The night air was freezing and made me shiver from the cold. We were all assembled now. We knew the fear, the familiar scene, understood well what was going to be next. I could see the group of men with whom Izio worked at the far end. I looked for his dear face, but couldn't see it. I felt numb. The SS was coming closer. I could hear Guta's voice, "Stand straight." I felt her hand pinching my ghostly white cheeks, but the Germans weren't interested in the young girls. They were taking men and women in their thirties. Those intelligent men and Jewish police and some young ones whom the Germans felt shouldn't be around to tell what was done to them. The German passed us by. We were safe! I grabbed Guta's hand.

"I know they have taken Izio." She shushed me to be quiet and told me I was crazy. But I knew it. I could feel the tragedy, my mouth parted in a gasp for air. The grief was so deep. I looked around with despair and bitterness. The order was given to go back to the dormitories. We trampled over each other in order to get there fast. I passed by Izio's Jewish attendant. "Where is he?" I asked. He didn't look at me, but I did not need an answer. I knew it. "You killed him, and the thought of it shall never give you peace." I stood and could not move; everybody was gone, except Guta. I felt the stillness of the night. I looked at her small figure beside me. "Please, Guta, let me go with him, I can't go on living like this." Her lips were trembling. "I will go with you, Jadzia, I don't want to be left alone."

We started crawling back beside the buildings. Every time we saw a German guard, we lay flat still and breathless until his footsteps quieted down. The building to which Izio and the others were taken was at the far end of the factory, right near the outside gate. I kept thinking what I would do when I would get there, but I couldn't think coherently. I felt a terrible tumult in my head. Yes, I shall plead for his life. I shall offer mine instead of his, or we will go together, and make an end to this suffering. Hours went by, our hands and knees were sore from the gravel, but we were getting closer, only a few more steps. When we stood up there were no German guards. The doors were open, the place deserted. In the right hand corner lay a pile of uniforms worn by the Jewish police, mixed with a few dresses, pants, shoes, scraps of clothing. I looked at Guta, but there was nothing we could say to each other, nothing we could do. She was pleading in a soft voice, "Let's go back, maybe they took him to work." Guta followed behind like a shadow. I didn't cry. "I am dead," I said, "I shall exist because this is my destiny. I am dead, I have no fears, no tears. I am a ghost of once a life. I shall not fear death." I head Guta sobbing. I kept silent. No, I couldn't bring the pain to her for she has a right to live. I took her hand, and we walked slowly back to the dormitory. There were only a couple of hours to dawn.

"Let's lie down, Guta, I shall try again tomorrow. Maybe he is still alive." The night wasn't silent, cries were heard from every cot and corner, but my eyes were dry. I sadly recalled a scene in a kitchen in the Warsaw Ghetto, when Mother put her hand on father's shoulder. In a suffering voice she asked, "Henoh, what gives you so much faith and strength to pray? Don't you see the dead?" He looked up from his holy books. How clearly I remember his answer. "They are dying for Kiddush Ha Shem." (Dying in the name of the Lord.) I wish I had his faith, But I did not and could not pray. We did not want to die for any reason.

I did not care how long the night lasted, but like anything else in life it came to an end. The first glimpse of daybreak finally came through the windows. We went back to the factory, but I didn't take my usual seat beside the machine. Instead I approached the German woman, but I didn't fear her. I no longer feared the Germans nor death. She looked at me in surprise, for no Jew had ever approached her. I started talked in perfect German.

"You are a woman, you do have a heart under your black dress. You lost your man, please help me get back mine." I waited for her hand to strike me, but it didn't. I wonder what brought tears to her eyes, was it my childish face full of suffering, or the memory of her own loss? "Wait here," she said and walked out. I sat near a table, my head resting on my arms, but I couldn't cry. I felt a terrible heaviness in my heart. I don't know how much time went by until I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up into the eyes of the German overseer. I hoped for good news. I heard a softness never heard before in her voice. "I wanted to help," she said. "It's too late, he is dead." I remained motionless. Her words stuck a mortal pain in my heart. Time no longer mattered, no one to go to, no one to care.
 
The Poles know what had happened this tragic night. They told the story at lunch time. Every word I heard was agony. From them I learned of the inhuman scene. In the dimness of the moon, stood a group of a hundred young men and a few women. In front of them was the deeper darkness of the partly dug graves, growing deeper and deeper by their own hands. There was no place to turn. At their backs were machine guns and the Gestapo, on their bodies not a stitch of clothes. Not everyone was lucky to get a bullet to end his life, but it didn't matter to the Germans whether they buried them half alive. The Poles coming to work could hear the cries from under the ground. How terrible was my tragedy? First Dad, Karola, Aron, Mom and now Izio, my first love, the man to whom I belonged. The man I could never forget. The sense of imprisonment wasn't unbearable any more. My mind stopped completed to dwell on the past and now the hope of the future hung in suspense, but always through the sleepless nights, I could hear Izio utter words of love, and feel his arms around me.

My heart was weeping blood, but my eyes were dry of tears. I didn't have the strength to return to this valueless life, and I felt sure I would die soon. There was no one to bury the loneliness. Days went by, every step in back of me made feel still and breathless - that's him. A song brought tears and memories back, a hand on my shoulder, a shiver. I looked at faces to see a resemblance, listened to voices hoping to hear familiar words. I was like a shell, empty, without a care. There were no longer weeks to be counted, nor days, nor nights; just a shadow, a face, words of love still remembered, and dreams about the dear past. Home and family, how far away, how long ago. Now only unbearable pain, with no cure, no healing. How could I live if only death is my rescue? I felt life draining out of my slowly. I was desperate, but there were thousands of others building up their hopes because life in camp was being organized.

We were split into two groups, taking turns one week night shift and the other week day. This gave the doctors and nurses a chance to hide the sick from the German patrols. The cots in the back of the dormitories were always occupied by patients.

It was a week now after Izio's death. He would have celebrated his twenty-second birthday if he were alive. Not far away from where I operated a machine, worked a girl who was brought back by a German a few minutes before the others were shot. I often noticed her eyes looking in my direction, but I wasn't anxious to talk to her; I knew enough. One day while walking back after work to the dormitory she approached me. We stood near the entrance. With a faint voice she began, "I stood next to Izio, when we were ordered to dig the graves." I wanted to ask her questions, but I couldn't make a sound. I stared at her lips. I wanted to hear more, relieved by her words striking at the pain in my heart. Hearing her repeat Izio's last words brought him so much to life. Each word became engraved in my mind.

"I loved Jadzia very much, and I hope with my life I can save hers. No man could help loving her. I hope the dreams we could not fulfill will come true for her." For the first time since his death, the tears were streaming down my cheeks, bringing relief.

"What else did Izio say?"

"You see, Jadzia, at this time the German called my name, because I was trained to work on this particular machine, and this is what saved my life. I put the shovel down near Izio's feet. I looked up at his face. 'Tell her I love her,' he said. 'For the sake of my love, tell her to go on living.'"

I walked away from her, and through the long night my tears were mixed with the dust of the dirty straw, and I knew the deep wound in my heart would never close again. When the morning siren brought us back to work, I was bothered by a persistent dizziness, caused by hunger, a sleepless night.

I could hear Izio's last words over and over again. "Tell her I love her, to go on living, tell her I love her," and the words were mixed with the noise of machines and the squeaking of iron. I could hear them louder and louder despite the "schneller and schneller" loud voice of the German. "I love you, Jadzia." I kept working like an automate, obeying German orders. His sacred words gave me strength to go on.

Typhoid Fever  

In the long hours there was so much time to think and the horrors kept coming back. What have I seen? Bloody executions, ghettos. I have listened to terrifying stories of crematoriums. Days were lengthened into years. No longer a child, so completely dependent on parents, so alone, a widow child struggling for life. I felt the weight of the horrible human calamity on my young shoulders. At this tender age, I have seen violence, suffering, and hunger. I have seen half rotten bodies left in the streets to feed the rats, and now Izio's death, left upon my life a scar so deep and painful. How many years went by? No calendars to make the time. Neither the powerful noises of machines, nor cruel German voices could kill the memories of the past ­ the good Jewish spirit - but we were still grateful for little things. We were still able to go to sleep and get up to work again. This night it was an effort to go back to the factory, since it was a month after the abortion. Biting my lips from pain, I hardly made it to the factory. The hours of work seemed endless, anxiously I awaited the siren so that I could go to the infirmary. While everyone else was eating the slice of bread, I walked out in the dark of the night. The infirmary was located in a small side building, The room was almost bare. Beside one wall was a leather cot with a pillow and a little white cabinet with medications. I felt so dizzy that the room was for a moment a blur. I felt someone's hand supporting me. I opened my eyes. A young doctor in a white uniform started at me with a startled look, as if he had just seen a ghost.

"What is your name?" He asked.

"Mrs. Abramson."

"What's the trouble? You know how dangerous it is to be here?"

"I am in terrible pain, caused by abortion." I felt so dizzy I almost fell. His firm hand caught me in time.

"Is it so bad?"

"Yes, I am losing a lot of blood." I could see the pity in his eyes.

"Please let me stay, I am no afraid. My husband is dead, nothing else matters." He tried to reason with me.

"The German patrol has been here a few times at night, you can't take a chance." I started to cry.

"I am Dr. Winter," I heard him say again, "Lie down I will give you some tablets to ease the pain. In case of German company you can leave through the back door. I will watch."

Relieved I lay down on the cot. I closed my eyes, but could not stop the tears. After a while the tablets eased the pain. I opened my eyes and saw Dr. Winter sitting right next to me. His big black eyes were sad and full of concern. He asked how I felt. "You are so young. You are still a child."

"No, I'm not young. I am over fifteen. I am not a child. Jewish children do not exist any more."

"Do you want to talk about it?" He asked. I turned away to the wall; the tears were choking me.

"No, there is nothing to talk about. I just want to be left alone." I was sorry I didn't mean to be so rude. We both were silent. The night went by peaceful. I didn't turn back, but I knew Dr. Winter was there and I was grateful for it. Dawn was breaking. We heard the first Jewish workers returning to the dormitories.

"It's time to go back," said Dr. Winter. I stood up and stretched out my hand. I felt his warm hand clasped over mine.

"Thank you, doctor." I walked slowly to the door.

"Mrs. Abramson," I heard him call my name. I looked back, his voice was so kind. "Any time, if I can help, I'll be glad to."

"Thanks again, doctor." Followed by his eyes I left. From this day on I often needed and got Dr. Winter's kind help.
 
It was just a week after we met. I was the first typhoid case in the concentration camp of Hasak. I was not covered with a rash as in the Warsaw Ghetto when I came down with typhus, but the high temperature was burning my body, and even a small drop of water would bring diarrhea. My cot was pushed down to the far end of the dormitory to separate me from the others. Guta was forced to go to work with the others, and I was left under the care of Dr. Winter. For a few days I was almost unconscious from pain and weakness. I was grateful for his gentle hand on my forehead or when he took my pulse. I would swallow the bitter tablets he placed in my mouth, for he fought for my life when I cared so little. In those long, agonizing hours, I would see Izio's face and utter his name. I hoped for death, but instead my strength started coming back. My temperature returned to normal. The little food that Dr. Winter managed to get for me helped me to recuperate. He spoke so little but his care was tender. Dr. Winter brought me a winter coat when I was able to go back to work with the others. I realized then the feelings Dr. Winter had for me. Many times I was called Mrs. Winter and many times heard the same words. "You look just like Dr. Winter's wife." I realized now I was to him a dear memory, a resemblance to a beloved face.

In this hell of a prison his kindness meant so much. In this accursed camp, still existed friendship and love between the Jews. There were many cases of typhoid now. My sister Guta came down with it. There was so little medication and even with the great efforts of Jewish doctors to help, the number of deaths was great. Many were dying and new Jews were brought in. New faces, new people brought by trains for a few hours. Some were left to stay with us and others went to unknown destinies. We walked between them, and we looked for a relative, a neighbor. A brother would fall in the arms of a found sister believed dead, and then the terrible separation began again. I saw Esther once in one of the groups. She was the leader from the girl's club from Kalisz. Her face, which I recalled as always so happy, was no sad, almost drained of life. Her big blue eyes reflected the pain inside. It was a happy reunion, but so short, only an hour. A slammed door on the train and I watched her disappear between the others.

The trains were coming more often, but the people were not let out. We would run alongside the trains, looking for familiar faces, but not too many could be seen through the small barred windows. We would call out names of cities. One would try to outscream the other - Kalisz, Krakow, Lvov ­each one of us hoping for some response. After a short time our voices would mix with the rattle on the trains. A cry, waving of hands.

After a few days, no more trains were seen with Jews. The trains on the factory premises were now used for ammunitions.

We were give the barracks for our new homes. With our little bundles we still owned, we tramped over each other to grab a bunk and a spot we thought was the best. It was the first Sunday, the day of rest, when I had a chance to see our new surroundings. The barracks were made from rough wood. They all looked the same, except three of them. One was used as a hospital. It was surrounded by a wire fence. One was an infirmary, and one had washing facilities and toilets. The bunks were three-tiered. Each tier held twelve people. A double three-tiered bunk supplied sleeping space for seventy-two people. Each barrack had ten bunks. I really don't know how many barrack we had, but seven hundred and twenty people made it very crowded. We were surrounded by a ten-foot high fence which we were told was wired. It was guarded by a German soldier.

On one side we could see the factory buildings, on the other the fields and mills. It was a bright Sunday morning. I stood a few feet away from the fence, looking far to the horizon. They sky was so blue where the heavens and earth met, it made the grass look more blue than green. No building was seen, just miles of grass and hills, and beyond those hills life and freedom, hopes and families. By mirage I would not see the wires, for a moment carried away. Then, with a sudden pang in my heart, I would see it in front of me looking higher and higher, sharper and sharper, and I could not dwell about life because death was so near. I looked around at the thousands of Jews walking hand in hand between the barracks, lost in conversation. With thousands of them around me I felt alone. I slipped back to the barrack and I felt as though I were closed in a cage. I lay on the smelly straw listening to the stillness - not a cry of a child or a bird's song, not even a rat running through. If they tried to exist here, they would be starved out. No escape, no valley to the civilized world. How true were the words of a Lithuanian poet, that came to my mind:

Litvo my country
You are like health
How to praise you
The one shall only know who lost you.

A poem was written by an exile, I praised the past, feeling myself an exile from life.
 
We lived a life that was hard to get used to. We never spoke about ghettos or relatives. With the weakness of our bodies, we were afraid we would go insane. We kept on living from hour to hour, day to day. We spoke about the past. Some still had hopes for a future. We became philosophers of life. We appreciated little things. We saw beauty in nature - an extreme of great wonder. The sun on cold days was welcomed with thanks, the warm radiance more dear than a hot stove at home in winter. We weren't lucky to see sunshine at five o'clock in the morning, when we were ordered outside, to assembly and be counted. The summers weren't so bad, but the mornings of winter were treacherous. Our faces exposed to the cold, looked grey, and drained of blood and life. The temperature at five in the morning would be twenty or thirty below zero. Our half-torn clothes were not sufficient to protect us from the bitter cold and it took two hours every morning to be counted. We kept stomping our feet so that our wooden shoes wouldn't freeze to the icy ground - but we were alive. Looking at the trains beside the fence, rushing away with ammunition, listening to the sharp rattle that kept reminding us that we were the lucky ones. The work from day to day was getting harder, or maybe we were weaker, but we still preferred to stay at the factory rather than in the barracks. The snow swirling wildly against the wooden barracks gave us little warmth. The frost-flowered windows made us shiver, not sleep. The factory was warm, but the powerful lights made the Jewish workers look all the more pitiful. Each face told a story of a bitter tragedy in this hellish camp. Nothing brought happiness. The nearness of Spring made lire more sad. The warm sun gradually melted the snow. Every blade of grass outside of the camp was coming to life, and we felt half decayed, and close to death. The spring sky became brighter, but not our prospects.

The years were rolling by from springs to summers, from summers to winters. The cold was unbearable, the heat was suffocating, and the hunger within me never ceased. It was not only the hunger of the body, but the hunger for love and knowledge, normal life and freedom. The fear of the people was worse than the physical hardships, and the little food scarcely sufficient to keep us alive.

Yes, life had wronged me. I spoke to no one about Izio. I kept remembering a glance, words, moments vividly renewed. My whole life so terribly entangled in the web of hatred. With the faith of my childhood, I began to pray again. Many others kept living in the Jewish faith of centuries old. There were no prayer shawls or prayer books, but evening after evening groups of men would gather in the barracks for the mincha and maarev prayer. We could see them close to the barrack windows watching for the Germans.

Prayers didn't help, they didn't change our lives. Things were changing from bad to worse. Even the few hours of rest were torturous. We shared our cots with bed bugs. In thousands they kept crawling over the wood and straw. We covered our faces with scraps of cloth for protection. They kept sucking at our necks and every spot of the body they could get to. We kept shoveling them off, throwing them to the ground, but they kept coming back in enormous numbers. This wasn't the only discomfort. Every day had something new in store for us. One morning we found one of the inmates shot at the door of the toilet. After this incident we would not leave the barracks at night. We used to urinate in cans that we found in the rubbish. After a few weeks the smell in the barracks was unbearable, especially in the summer, mixed with heat and perspiring bodies. Many nights we would pace in the barracks and then weary, went to work. Many of us were ill, but kept silent because of fear. Some couldn't get up. The hospital was always filled; and the lack of food didn't help the inmates to recuperate. We kept hoping they would give us more food since they needed us to work, but this was only a dream like many others. We did get three packs of cigarettes a week. The tobacco was black, the taste bitter. Some men would give half of their bread for a pack of cigarettes. I kept smoking mine, for the bitter taste helped to kill the hunger. The dust from the ammunition mixed with the bitter cigarette smoke settled in my chest. I developed a persistent cough. After weeks of coughing the pain never left my chest and my body was burning with high temperature. I was making regular visits to the infirmary, where Dr. Winter kept injecting calcium into my veins. Blood was taken from my veins and injected into my sides. My arms were swollen from the needles, but the cough and fever hung on. Many mornings, when I didn't have strength to get up, Guta would find someone from the night shift to stand in the line instead of me to be counted. Even a mild wind would give me the chills, and the work was a terrible effort. I was confined to the hospital I dreaded so much. I fought back my tears when I said good-bye to Guta at the hospital gate. It was like walking into a chilled tomb. The hospital consisted of two big rooms. The beds were so close together that I could feel the breathing of the patient next to me, but the bed was clean and comfortable. This was the only luxury I knew in many years, a real bed. Mine was in a far corner. Through the window across the room, I could see people coming and going from work. This helped pass the time, because most of the patients were too sick to talk to me. The few doctors and nurses were to busy. I lay for hours starting at the window, holding the pillow tight over my ears in order not to hear the shrieks and moans of the sick. Visitors were not allowed. How anxiously I waited for the hour when Guta would stand near the gate until dark. We could not talk to each other, still the feeling of not being alone was great, someone to wait and to care. The number of dead in the hospital was enormous. I would shut my eyes tightly every time the stretchers were brought in, in order not to see the cadaver's face.

How lucky I felt after ten days to be released, walking out from there alive. The rest gave me extra strength, but my temperature was over 100 and the cough. was something with which I had to learn to live. The calcium shots that Dr. Winter kept giving me were saving my life. With great gratitude, I looked at the man who helped me in those torturous years, yet somehow never could I find the words to show my appreciation. The things I would love to tell him remained unsaid, but I included him in my silent prayers, hoping the Lord would save him and let him continue to help others. Praying brought relief.

A Friend and A Child

I WAS grateful for having my sister, and still felt a terrible loneliness. To kill the loneliness I started to join groups of other prisoners outside the barracks on Sundays. A boy from Czestochowa became a dear friend of mine. I felt safe in his company, safe from propositions and talk of love, because of his shyness. I spoke to him of Izio. He was a silent listener. After a few weeks I asked him to make a little charm for me, and to engrave two dates on it. One side was the date of my wedding and on the other side, the date of Izio's death. His work was making machine parts from stainless steel and that is why he could make this charm for me. On one of our walks he placed the charm in my hand. I strung a black shoelace through the charm and hung it on my neck. Like a touch of death I felt the cold steel on my chest, this charm bearing two unforgettable dates. No, time did not heal the pain after Izio's death. Now, years having gone by, the hope of survival was stronger. I kept thinking about him, and dreaded the future I was to face alone, the future all the others so hopefully awaited. I confided my thoughts to my new companion. With his intelligence I knew how well he understood my feelings and fears. I awaited anxiously for Sundays, the days we spent together. I knew I meant more to him than just a friend. I felt sorry for him, and in the slightest change of conversation I would find an excuse to go back to the barracks. My heart was still so full with love for the man I so tragically lost. I did not want to forget. Like an echo I could still hear his first words. "Finally, I found you." And the last ones of love and his wish for me to live.

One of those days when I was deeply engrossed in thought, a wonderful thing happened. We shared with joy the rumor of a child being hidden in the barracks. This particular hot evening when most of the people were out, I saw a little boy standing in front of me. I did not dare move, fearing it was an illusion. His hair was blond, his eyes big with an adult look. His complexion was so white, a face never exposed to the sun or outside air. I opened my mouth, I wanted to say something, but I was speechless. I stared at the child as if I had never seen one before. His voice broke the silence. "Please tell me a story." His voice was like a song. How long had it been since I heard a child speak? I pulled him close to me and covered his face with kisses. "Yes, darling, I shall tell you a story." I placed him on my lap. I was overjoyed at holding a Jewish child close to me.

"How old are you?" His blue eyes stared at me. "Three, four, I don't really know," was the child's answer. He looked around straining his ears for the sound of German boots. I put my arms around him to make him feel secure.

"Let's see, what story should I tell you?" He put his head on my shoulder.

"Any story," he said in a whisper. I whispered too.

"Once upon a time there were many little Jewish boys and girls, just as little as you."

"Where are they?"

"I don't know, some day we will find out. I was once a little girl, with toys to play with, candies to eat."

"What are candies?" The tears were streaming down my cheeks. How do you explain candies to a little boy, the taste of which I myself have forgotten? "Candies are sweet, darling. Someday you shall have many of them."

"Will I play someday?"

"Oh yes, precious, you will." How eager he was to talk and to learn.

"You mean the Germans won't look for me?"

"No, baby, they will be all gone."

"Will they be dead like my daddy?"

I was so engrossed with the child and the story that I did not notice his mother standing in front of us. She grabbed the child from me. Pressed him close to her breast. For a moment I couldn't speak. Yes, we all looked starved, but the woman in front of me was a living skeleton. One could tell she never ate, for the little food she got she gave to the child. I stood up and put my hand on her shoulder. "Please let me play with him."

"No, you can't, she stepped back, "he is not allowed to leave the bunk."

"I'll come to him, please? I swear to God I shall not tell a soul," With a faint smile she agreed. From that day on the child filled many monotonous hours with joy.

In this accused camp, not even a bird would descend to the ground, because there were no crumbs to be picked up. They would not stand on the barrack roofs, because of the roughness of the wood, but we had a child. A child who looked so bewildered, how could he survive? After all those years, when life and death were drawn so close, how did he manage to live? We all had a childhood to remember, but this little boy would never know what it meant to be a child. His bunk was on the third tier. All the hours that his mother had to leave for work, he lay flat under the straw sack waiting for her return. The only hours when he could sit up and talk were the hours in the stillness of the night. The child brought a change in my life. My heart so clenched with bitterness seemed easier now. Before retiring I would whisper, "Shma Israel," the prayer I grew up with. I prayed to God to take us from this tyranny to freedom for the sake of this child and others still alive. During the restless nights, when my eyes could not close to sleep I would climb up to the little boy's bunk. I told him stories about things which I myself dreamed, the days of my childhood. I would watch the fear disappear from his eyes while listening to dreams so cruelly denied to him. We all still had dreams. Small groups of inmates sat around the barracks, talking about literature and music. Some would rehearse ballet steps. A few would recite poems. Half decayed we clung to things from normal life. We kept as clean as circumstances would permit. The barracks were spotless, and the few rags we owned were washed every Sunday. We waited patiently in the lines for the daily plate of soup and slice of bread without a complaint. We took care of each other devotedly. Everyone of us had a friend, a substitute for a family. We were all people with yesterday's grief and tomorrow's fear. From this odious hate of the Germans we learned a lesson. We learned the importance of love, and the urgent fight against prejudice and hatred. We hoped, if given another chance, to seek a country with equal civil rights for every citizen. Many of us died, but the ones remaining kept hoping. We knew so little of what was happening outside the camp. We prayed for German defeat, while listening to them bragging of their victories.

The End of the War

SEPARATED by the high wires until the last minute, we didn't know our rescuers were around the corner. We were so very amazed at the changes in camp and the tension of the German behavior. Our work was doubled. SS were brought into camp and we were ordered to work on Sundays. The counting in the morning would begin at four instead of at five o'clock. Jewish police were brought in from Krakow. They were dressed like the Gestapo, only the band on their arms bore a Jewish Star instead of a swastika. We were ordered to rise when they passed by us. They beat the women violently if a bunk in the barracks was left in disorder. We were told that in a period of two weeks our camp would be turned from a work camp into a fornichtung camp. The trains beside the fence started passing by with Jewish people again. The scenes were horrifying. They were not Jews we saw years ago, healthy and well dressed pleading for water. Now their faces were not recognizable. Their voices were so weak, some of them just managing to move their lips. Night and day this procession of trains passed in front of our eyes, as reminders of what once were people.

We could not understand the sudden change and the trains rushing again. We looked at each other with searching eyes. We felt like a heavy cloud hung over us and at any moment it would come down and swallow us. Then it happened, empty trains stood beside the gates. Groups of men and women from our camp were led to them to fill them up. We stood broken with grief. Faces we were accustomed to for years, kept disappearing behind the barred train windows. It felt again like families torn to shreds, with bundles on their backs, a blanket, a can, silently obedient under German guns. Again like cattle led to where? Guta and I were still working, but many parts of the factory were closed. Some barracks were completely empty, the hospital doors were wide open with not a soul in it. Once again there were painful good-byes. In one of the groups I said good-bye to my dear friend from Czestochowa, his first and last kiss on my lips. "Good-bye, Jadzia, I hope to see you again."

With heavy steps I went back to the barracks and knew this was the end. All night we lay awake too frightened to close our eyes. Our bundles were beside us, more than we owned the day before. We got some of the things left behind by others. We didn't talk, not even in a whisper. The beat of our hearts was loud, and frightened; we awaited our destiny. The morning was silent. The factory siren we heard for so many years was dead. Not a German screamed, there was no counting.

One by one we left the barracks, and stood still beside the fence. We did not see the trains we feared so much, only piles of German uniforms and boots. From the pile of the black clothing, the white swastikas stood out like streaks of snow on a black mountain. There were not many left to see it, perhaps a hundred.

The barrack gates were wide open, but we were afraid to go through them. One by one, we sat down on our bundles, limp, half famished, without strength or care. The day went slowly. The stillness around us was broken by passing planes and the sound of machine guns. We huddled together too frightened to move. Small groups of men would disappear, but the women sat there, waiting, not knowing for what.

The day was coming to an end. From the distance we saw flames, they looked like lava in the darkness, and seemed to come closer and closer. "We have to go," said one of the girls, "if not, we will get burned alive." "Please let's stay," pleaded another. "Better to get burned than caught again by the Germans. They must be hiding everywhere." "It doesn't make sense," we heard a voice behind us. "They didn't show up for the day. They must be fighting in the city, let's go in the other direction.:" We argued for an hour. Finally we decided to leave. Guta and I picked up our bundles and left with the others. When we passed through the gate every step seemed so heavy and insecure, like passing over a ditch. We stopped, surrounded by the darkness of the night. Which way should we go? We chose to go to the left, toward the forest, not to the city. In front of us we saw miles of woods, so inviting to give us shelter. Where would this patch lead after the night ended?

We walked slowly holding on to each other. Before us was a wide road, but not a house nor a sight of people who once lived here. With heavy hearts, we kept walking, not a word passing between us, for we were afraid to be heard. The clapping of our wooden sandals was the only noise in the night. I kept thinking about Izio. The words he once asked. "What would you do if you were free?" "Oh Izio! I dreamt of running, now I have no strength, and your strong arms cannot support me, they are closed in death." I have to stop thinking, I cannot give in to my emotions - afraid to lose my senses. Not now! Maybe this is the way to freedom. You want me to go on living. Here I am, Izio, alive, and soon, real soon will I know that I'm free! It was painful to think about freedom, without Izio, but Guta's hand closed in mine and made this agony easier. No, I was not alone, not many were lucky to have a sister, but maybe soon we would find someone alive.

The trees were thinning out, we walked through empty fields exposed to the sky. So dark and cold, still on the way to where? Our feet were slowing down. We walked for hours. The sky was as dark as our thoughts, not a star sparkling, not a spark of hope. Our ears strained for sounds of feet. Our tortured hearts beat fearfully. Our eyes searched for a way to where? After so many hours of running, there was not a sign of a German. A wave of emotion spread through us. Maybe we are free! The wooden straps of our sandals kept cutting deeper and deeper into our flesh. Drop after drop the blood was soaking into the ground, making the way to freedom.

Suddenly we saw a group approaching us. We could not run back and the open fields gave no shelter. We stood motionless, terrified, and some just dropped to the ground. The steps were coming closer and closer. "Hey you," someone asked in Polish, "Who are you?" To hear our native tongue brought great relief, but we were still too frightened to answer. We stared in front of us, looking at a group of men coming closer and closer, Their clothes were shabby, just as bad as ours. One of them spoke. "We are Poles, we broke out of prison, we are going to Czestochowa, the Russians are there." "No", we screamed. "We are coming from there, we walked all night." "You have to go back, the city you are headed for is still occupied by the Germans." They left us to make our own decision and walked away. Some of our group started sobbing, and decided to stay where they were. We threw the rest of our belongings away, since we had no strength to carry them. I looked at the group with me. It was about half the size I started with. Some had dropped dead, a few just lay too exhausted to move. A few others went back to camp. We looked at each other as though we were seeing ourselves for the first time. "Let's go," said one. We looked back at the road from which we had just come, not sure that we could make it again.

I heard a gasp, a sob, I looked down at Guta. She sat numb, crying on the ground. "Lets go," I pleaded with her. She looked at me with the eyes of a lost child. "Where to? I'm not going. What difference does it make where I die?" With the little strength left in me, I pulled her up. "You're not giving up, now I supported her body and dragged her along with me. Everything around us seemed suspended. The far away noise of bullets would break through the silence. Every crevice in a tree seemed to hide a German's gun. After hours and hours, the grey sky was getting lighter with the beginning of a new day. We were coming closer and closer to the city where we had been imprisoned for four long years.

The city was filled with songs and screams of thousands of people celebrating the end of the war. I tried to remain sane in the epidemic of madness. I couldn't share their joy. I started looking at the store windows with their display of clothing and lingerie. The rags on me were so shabby, I wanted to run, to hide from the eyes, but where should I go. One a nearby corner, a group of other survivors joined us. We were told that just a block away was a big building deserted by the Germans, occupied by other survivors, a home to give us shelter. Our feet were slowing down, we wanted to run but a block seemed miles away. I looked at the row of buildings giving home to other families. I was homeless - the air of freedom cut into my lungs with pain. How much I yearned for my home - for the familiar rooms, a warm kitchen, stove and a real meal. How long ago, how far away and how remote the possibility of seeing it again.

I wished Izio could be near to rejoice in this homecoming, and I could almost see Mommy and the rest of the family waiting on the threshold of my home. I did not want to think differently. They have to be there. We came to a big grey building and with the impulse of happiness, I dashed up the stairs looking for a room, toying with the idea of going home again. The thought brought a spark to my lonely life - the thought of seeing my people. Most of the rooms in the building were occupied, but we found a two-room apartment on the fourth floor. The kitchen was empty with only a little stove in it. The other room had three big beds with bedding. These were the only things in the apartment since the Poles had not had time to take them out.
 
There were four of us occupying the room - my sister, two other girls and myself. I took off my sandals and crawled into bed. Guta lay close to me. We cuddled together to keep warm. It was a restless sleep, interrupted by dreams and the pain in the pit of my stomach from thirty-eight hours without food. This was how the night passed. The running of feet outside awakened me. I looked around the bare room, not knowing for a minute where I was. All of a sudden, I heard very loud crying on the stairs. I grabbed Guta's hand. "Please get up, something terrible happened." We ran out of the room. The stairway was filled with every survivor who occupied the building.

After a while, we found out about the terrible tragedy on the second day of our freedom. One of the boys went down to the basement for some potatoes and a mine placed there by a German tore him to pieces. Another man was shot to death by a bullet from a window. A German soldier, before he shot himself, fired a bullet through the window, killing a Jew from our camp, who was one of many passersby. I choked with hatred for the Germans, for destroying lives and even on this day of liberation, still continuing their murderous deeds. This was freedom?

The Russian Soldiers

We were free and insecure; we were free and hungry, but life must go on, no matter how much worse it was, or how dim were the prospects; life must go on, no matter how tough was the struggle for existence. With all the terrible things that had happened, we had to worry how to get a bite of food and to go on surviving. I walked out into the night, the stars were glittering over the city, fully and steadily. Right above me I could see the Big Dipper. I wondered where Henio was now. I did not need any stars to remind me of Izio. I wondered where Dr. Winter was. I kept looking at the stars - they seemed almost unreal. Under the bright sharpness of the stars, I stood alone, trying to brush away the past and wondering what the future would bring. The tears were streaming down my face; I kept wiping them off with the back of my hand. Freedom - the dream was fulfilled. The air, after the smelly odor of camp, was filled with the fragrance of flowers. I kept breathing it in, deeper and deeper, and I opened my heart and eyes to the few crumbs life offered. Around me, people were screaming and singing. Polish women were embraced by Russian soldiers, the same women who two days ago slept with the Germans. Now again they were contributing their bodies to the new heroes. The drunks sang loudly, filling their stomachs with vodka. Drunkenness in Poland was always a way to celebrate a holiday. Now they were sharing the strong liquor with the Russian soldiers. With bleary faces and blood-shot eyes, some of them lay exhausted in the gutters in a peaceful sleep.
 
At a nearby corner, a drunken voice roared the Polish National Anthem. A group of Russian soldiers were coming close to me. "Hey, Dziewushka," the voice brought me back to reality. Terrified, I ran into the building, dashed up the steps to my room and wondered if people are really free and in what part of the world. I lay hungry and restless, recalling every single thought of the war years, every single promise and dream, I hung onto memories of my marriage and wondered when the hunger and fear would end.

Many of the survivors were going back to their home towns. This made staying in the building less safe. Even a locked door wasn't enough to protect us from the Russian soldiers. This quiet evening four of us sat around the table making plans for the future. Suddenly loud Russian boots were heard all over the building, like once the boots of the Gestapo, now not spreading fear of death, but to some of us death would not be bad. We looked at each other with questioning eyes - where to go? But there was no place of safety; not even age mattered. Women of 16 or 60, it was all the same to a Russian drunk. A woman was a woman. The sound of the boots was coming closer. The door of our room flung open. The room was filled with soldiers. Some had bottles of vodka, other, yards of silk and colorful babuskas. Many stripes on their sleeves showed they had high positions in the Russian army. One of them pushed our little table to the door. He sat on a chair placing his legs high on a table with two bottles of vodka in front of him, and we knew any escape would be impossible. As hard as we fought, the soldiers pulled the girls to the beds; two strong hands grabbed my shoulders with all my strength I tried to push him away. His red face and bloodshot eyes got closer and closer to my face. I tried to push my head to one side. The smell of vodka on his breath was nauseating. I felt his hot lips behind my ears and his hands ripping my clothes to shreds. The screams of the girls and the strong grip of the soldier's arm around my waist - everything happened so fast. I was terrified. I knew that if I could make one more step I would be near the window. With all my might I bent my body. I felt cold glass behind me. His naked belly against my body was pressing closer and his lips were searching for mine. I let my lips come close to his to distract him and with my elbow I broke the window. The crashing glass made him stop the struggle for my body. I fell to my knees and with the strength of a crazed animal I screamed, "Help, help!" The fallen glass brought the attention of a few people. The soldiers, realizing what happened, holding on to their trousers ran out of the room, leaving behind the bottles and goods, with which they would pay for a night of fun.

Exhausted we straightened up the room. The cut in my elbow was painful, as were the bruised bodies of my friends. We were lucky they did not get us - not this time. Not a word passed between us. What was there to say? We pushed our beds against the door and went to sleep. From that night on, we escaped from terror only to face another, and the terrifying dreams about the Germans were added to the fear of the Russians.

Once again, frightened and insecure, we asked the same question over and over again, "Where shall we go?"

But fear had no end. The Russian orgies made us stay in. The ones who were not killed by the Germans were now raped by the Russians. We would not dare go out in the day time. In the darkness of the night, we took turns stealing potatoes in the others' backyards. We were free - and we were prisoners. I wanted to run into the night air and gulp it. I wanted to feel my sore feet on the cement streets; feel the wind pushing against my body, roaming through the streets without wires or fences. A gush of feelings overflowed my heart thinking some joys might come in this unexpected destiny of life, but we could not build too many hopes and dreams while hearing the Russians' drunken voices outside the doors.

We had to do something to change this life. We registered in the Office for Survivors and received a loaf of bread a week. We sold the bedding to get some decent clothes. How greatly relieved I felt when I threw in the rubbish can the few scraps of clothing I had worn for five long years and the coat painted with a big red cross on the back. I looked in the mirror for the first time after the war. I was so surprised to see myself so grown up - only my legs were out of proportion - swollen from malnutrition but it did not matter. I could hear a voice in my saying "I'm alive and free." Now, dressing like other people, we could make plans for our future. Guta and one of our roommates left for Lodz, the big industrial city, hoping maybe we could get work there, and be safer from the Russian soldiers, and I was supposed to follow. Guta's departure left a void almost unbearable. I was hoping we would always be together, but this newly attained freedom brought more loneliness and doubts and always the same question - to where would all this lead?

As the days slipped by, I anxiously awaited news from Lodz and I made plans to see my home town once more. I hoped to have money soon for the train fare. The very active life in the building did not interest me. Couples were getting married. Some of the girls were making plans to go to Russia with soldiers. I feared the Russians. I disliked their behavior and ignorance. Like wild animals, they were running through the streets. Even in Poland, not the richest land in Europe, everything they bought or stole, they did not know how to use. They drank cologne, instead of vodka machines to grind coffee were brought back to the stores because they could not hear any music. Even a flushing toilet was a great innovation. After all those years of prison, I could not learn to love my liberators, and I hoped to get away from them as soon as I could. And those little plans for the future kept me so busy. Every day I checked the list of survivors at the registration office, but very few of them were back. My joy of freedom began to evaporate little by little. Getting food was more difficult from day to day. When our rooms were bare and had nothing in them for sale, we would search in the rooms of the big ghetto. Not much was to be found there, but every little thing helped to buy a little bread. One day, while in the ghetto, in desperate search for something to sell, I decided to see the apartment Izio and his family had lived in. With a palpitation in my heart, I walked up the steps. I stood near the closed door for a few minutes, not being able to walk in. I shut my eyes tight and tried to picture once more every corner he spoke about. I could hear the voices of the other girls coming closer. Not wanting anybody to share this moment with me, I pushed the door open. The chills went through my body. The rooms were cold and empty. I could feel a dampness in the air. The cobwebs were hanging down from the ceilings and walls in this place so long ago deserted. A little wooden table in the kitchen corner was the only furniture left. I ran out like a mad woman, and ran for blocks and blocks. I tried to forget this apartment and all the ghetto homes like chilled tombs, so cold and neglected. All these rooms were once called homes, filled with prayers and songs, voices of love and affection. People were staring at me. I started walking slowly. I felt old, so very old, without any strength to go on living. The burden on my shoulders was too heavy and the mental turmoil too confusing. Those days the only relief was the four walls of my rooms, and the bed to sleep on, but even this was not easy. My hungry stomach did not permit a peaceful sleep, and the nightmares were full of bloody slaughters and German hatred and to this was added the hatred of the Poles.

The most depressing of all was the search for families and neighbors. The continued stories about crematoriums and the naked truth of the German cruelties came to life. The days did not make things easier. The Poles, walking by in their elegant Jewish clothes, showed terrible hate for the few Jews who did return and ask for the belongings, which they had left with Polish families. Some of them were sent to Russian prisons as spies without
a court hearing. After a long struggle for life in concentration camps, they were now sent to Siberia as political prisoners. The war with the Jews did not end, but went on. It was not safe to walk in the streets. Small groups of survivors were smuggling themselves over the borders to seek another country and peace. Some of them, enchanted by the Russian propaganda, were crossing the Iron Curtain to see happiness in the land of the impossible. One thing we were sure of - the country we were born in and loved as our own would never give us a home. The people we loved and hoped to see after the war were never coming back. The freedom we dreamed about for so many years was not to be attained in Poland. I had a few zlotys left, and instead of buying food, I decided to see my home as soon as possible to make sure that if I left Poland, I would leave no one behind for whom I cared.

Home

ONE THING I knew for sure, I could not count on anybody to help me. I was not a child any more. As soon as possible, I would start to get an education, but the thought of getting food would interrupt the plans, I thought freedom meant a home and food. I was homeless and hungry; maybe someday things would change - some day, how far was this day? Looking around me and facing some ruined houses, so dark, staring back at me, I knew the day was far away. It would take a long time until the lifeless, empty homes would be rebuilt and filled with life again. So this was the beginning of a new life - the whole world in front of me and no place to go. It was too late to continue where I had left off. I was a child then now I was a woman. What had I learned? I learned to be thankful for life; learned to live from day to day; but it was an effort to be grateful when life was a desperation. I ran into the open arms of freedom and did not feel the embrace.

If I were not so alone; if I could only talk to someone - someone who would care and love me. I felt a lump in my throat. I kept back the tears - I did not want anybody to see them. No, I could not endure this freedom and this loneliness - the realization of all the people we longed for being dead make this freedom an agony. Pain constricted my heart. Oh, God, please give me strength. And I crept to bed in the darkness of the room to shed tears. This life was a bleeding stab to my heart, and I kept thinking over and over again, I had to go away. Next day, I sold the bed and I slept on the floor.

With the train ticket in my pocket, I stood near the door looking around for the last time at the empty room that had given me my first shelter after the war. I left it with a heavy heart, I walked through the crowd of people of Czestochowa, knowing I would never come back.

It was a short walk to the railroad station; people were rushing towards the platform carrying suitcases and parcels. The loud speakers was dearly announcing the departing trains, so here I was among the crowds of people, going home again. They were all strangers, not a familiar face.

"Czestochowa - Kalisz train leaving in ten minutes on Track 2." It stood right in front of me. My legs felt paralyzed, I could hardly move. Yes, remembering the trains in Czestochowa - all of a sudden, like blinders slipped from my eyes, I saw the uncertainty of freedom and knew that fear would always accompany me. The unspeakable fear gushed upon me - now it could never be the same. It was a fulfillment of a dark desire so far from happiness - I walked into the train and sank into a seat. I was filled with the most hopeless sense of finality. The wail of the train started to move. I looked at the trees, the fields covered with a green carpet of grass - I had a feeling of wonder like a child seeing things for the first time. The air of freedom was intoxicating. I could feel the vibration of the tracks, look at the yellow corn fields, so far and so close. I looked at the small farm buildings and families working together in the fields and the scene caused a pain the sore spot - where am I going? Who is waiting for me at the threshold of my home? The feeling of loneliness worked so strongly in me, every moment the pain grew deeper. I was sorry I started the trip - I wondered if I really wanted to go there again. My mouth was dry, the beat of my heart so heavy. I made an effort to think. The train was rushing noisily on the tracks and the sound was agonizing. Every squeak or rattle seemed like the plea for water. I closed my eyes with horror and fear. I covered my cars with both hands to kill the cling and the clang of the train's iron. Once again before. me I could see the faces of Jews behind the barred train windows. I could hear again their cries and pleas. I sat motionless, like dead. I could not move. I felt a terrible emptiness in me. Was this freedom and life? Will those torturous years follow beyond any tight against them?

Now the open land looked like a graveyard and the buildings like tombstones. I trembled in panic, the hours were dragging into eternity. I looked at the people around me. I felt an alien among them. Even the language they spoke seemed so strange to me and their anti-Jewish jokes so revolting. Yes, I was afraid of them. With determination I tried to sit erect. I did not want to be recognized. I tried to smile to cover my terror and hunger. Those people were going home to visit relatives - where was I going? What's left of the pride of birth and wealth of home, once mine? My body was soaked in cold sweat. I was afraid of being a Jew among thousands of hating Poles, afraid of the dark and afraid of the day, afraid, although free of prison, a prisoner of fear. I tried to drive the fear away. I was weary. I tried to think about the past, to recall my childhood, but it became faded. Desperately, I wanted to remember days and moments, but they would not come. I wanted to be a child again, to brush away the war years, but it was impossible. They were so deeply engraved and hard in memory, never to be forgotten. Those anti-Semitic jokes of the Poles did not make it easier. The country I once loved so much closed it arms forever, and I hoped to leave it as soon as I could.

With a startled look, I realized the nearness of my home town and I needed so desperately to talk to some one about the feelings and fears, but who would understand? The train came to a sudden stop. With aching body, a little bundle in my hand, I stood on the train steps, I stood and looked at the place I had left so many years ago. I stepped slowly down; I felt a burning in my brain. How unreal were the surroundings. I started walking; the past slid by my eyes. Familiar streets, homes, stores; familiar and so strange. The dark clouds in the sky hung over me. I walked faster and faster. Like ghostly shadows, people from my past returned in my memories. I stared around; with tenderness and agony, my past was reborn again.

With all the people passing me by, with the noises of the day, the streets seemed to me motionless beyond life. The streets once so dear to me I saw with a look of pain. Bewildered I kept walking, avoiding the street I had lived on. No, not yet, I shall see it later. I passed by the synagogue. I looked at the shut doors, broken windows, the sacred words engraved in gold, half erased by German knives. How well I still remembered the gleam of hundreds of lights on a holy Sabbath, glittering through the windows. How awfully empty now, was this house of God. With a tender look, I gazed around me. Once upon a time these streets were full with Jewish life; everything was still now after our great loss. I walked on. The soft wind brushed against me and I felt breathless from pain. Finally, I stood in front of my home. I slumped to my knees and broke into sobs. I would not walk up - now now, not ever. I want to remember it as I had left it five long years ago. I was aware, in a dim, faint memory of the past, how many times I had run up those steps to join my family at meals; now only pain existed; sobs choked me. It seemed I could weep an ocean full.


About the Author ...

She met her husband in Czestochowa after the war. They left Poland and traveled from country to country. Finally, they arrived in Italy and were married in Venice. The Synagogue of Venice, Mrs. Klein says, was opened for the first time since World War II for their wedding and, she says, "We found that every Jew in Venice came to honor us with music and dancing." They lived in Italy four and a half years, during which time their older son, Mike, was born; he is now 18. A second son, Larry, was born in Pittsburgh; his is 11 years old.

Mrs. Klein is a member of B'nai B'rith and Pioneer Women and does volunteer work for the American Red Cross. She speaks several languages which she finds useful in her Red Cross work at Aspinwall Veterans' Hospital, where there is always some patient eager to speak in his native tongue.

 


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