Shoah Testimony
Compiled by Martin Davis © 2016
would be shelter in the city of Łódź. They accomplished this by hiding during the day and walking all night. She wrote, "I am not able to describe the dangers and difficulties on the way. I was thinking that this was a very bad time for me, but this was nothing compared to what was to come later." After the air attacks were over her family went back to see what had become of their home. When they got there they found that the entire village had been burned to ashes. They had nothing left; only the clothes they wore. Next, they went to the nearby city of Zelów, where they remained for about a month. There they slept on the floor, stood all day in line to buy some bread, and many times came home without anything. From there they went to the town of Praszka, where my grandfather’s family lived. In Praszka, the Germans rounded up all the Jews, and sent the young people to a labour camp a few miles from the town. They put all the elderly people in an open barn, where they died from hunger and exposure to the cold. My mother used to leave the labour camp at night and go to see her parents. She wasn't supposed to leave the camp, but she knew that her parents were hungry, and she was able to go to the farmers to buy a couple of potatoes for them. She paid for the potatoes with a pair of stockings or other clothing that she got from her friends. Sometimes she could save a piece of bread for them from her food. One time she found that her mother was sick. She went to the head of the camp and asked him to let her go to see her mother. She pleaded with him, but he told her he couldn't give her a pass, and she would have to go on her own responsibility. So, she went. She wrote, "While I was there in her arms, and feeling very happy again, a member of the Gestapo came for an inspection. He caught me. My mother and I were in bed when the man came in. I looked at my mother and saw the pain in her eyes as he came near. He asked me why I was there. I told him that I came to see my sick mother. He picked up a bucket of water and threw it over us. Then he told me to be in his office in a few minutes.” “My father and my Uncle spoke very good German. They went with me. I was very nervous, and frightened. The man took my hand to see if I had a fever. He told me to stop being nervous and slapped me in the face in my father's presence. My father could do nothing. Then he told me to go back to the camp.” My mother saw her parents for the last time in 1942. She told me that the last thing her mother said to her was, "How will I live without you?" She never got over the loss of her parents. After my father died I moved her to Birmingham from Atlanta (Georgia). She used to tell me that every night she would look at her parent's pictures and cry for them. When I used to ask what happened to her parents and her brother and sisters she simply said they were sent to Auschwitz and killed there. It was very difficult to get her to say anything about what happened to them. It wasn't until the last years of her life that I even heard their names. She just could not cope with it. When I knew I was going to tell this story I decided to try and find out what happened to my grandparents and my mother's brother and sisters, but I haven't been able to find their names on any lists. There were so many people that the Germans killed without leaving any trace of them. My research leads me to believe that they may have been sent to Chelmno Extermination Camp,which was the first place where the Germans used Zyclone B to gas the people. Anyone that the Germans did not feel could work for them and therefore were of no use and they disposed of. After my mother was separated from her parents she was sent to the Łódź Ghetto. I remember her telling me about being in a line and the German's were asking people if they had an occupation. If you didn't have an occupation you were sent in one direction. If you did have an occupation you were sent in another direction. My mother was just seventeen. She didn't know what to do. But someone in line told her she would be better off if she knew how to do some sort of job. They asked her if she could sew, and she said yes, so when she was asked, she told the Germans that she was a seamstress. That saved her life. In the ghetto, my mother met up with her oldest brother, Monola. She was so happy to see him. She asked him about their parents, but he knew nothing about them. He had been sent there from another camp. She wrote that they worked for the Germans very hard, with very little to eat. Food was rationed and they stood in line to get a little soup, which consisted on potato peelings and water. I did some research on the Łódź ghetto. It was the only ghetto that became a German commercial business. At its peak, this ghetto made $100,000 per day for the Germans. The Germans had free labour, and were supposed to pay the Jews in food. But, the amount of food was less than minimal and many times most of it was already spoiled when it arrived at the ghetto. I read that the German's first plan was to slowly starve the Jews to death. My mother and her brother spent almost two years in the Łódź ghetto, living in the same room. Then the German's started to empty the ghetto. My mother wrote that one day they rounded up all the older men and sent them away. The second day they rounded up the older women. The next day they took the pregnant women. After that they took all the little children and the babies from the mother's arms. She said, "They threw them into trucks like they were little animals. Their crying and screaming was heart breaking, but the mother's could not do anything”. Every day there was a different order, and she and her brother knew that their time would come soon. I was able to find the Łódź ghetto data base, and it showed that my Uncle was transported from the ghetto to Auschwitz on August 3, 1943. My mother was sent with him. At Auschwitz they saw corpses hanging from the fences for miles along the streets, and again, in Auschwitz, they separated the pregnant women, putting them into the section from which the first group was to be taken to the crematorium. The next on the list were the children. The third were the old men and women. She wrote, "At that time I was separated from my brother. Nobody can imagine our sorrow as we spoke those last words together. My brother said, 'I will never forget you. I took care of you until now, and I hope I will not lose you. May God be with you, and take care of you, and may we live to see each other again'." She wrote, "The German's took us to a big house, and took away our clothes, giving us rags to wear. You could see even naked women around. You could see all nationalities, you could hear many languages. It really looked like a terrible mad house. You could see skeletons walking, and people falling dead like flies. A few minutes before I had been talking to some of those lying in the streets. We were always hungry with nothing to eat." As for her living conditions, five people ate from one plate. The strongest one got the food. The rest had nothing. They slept on cement floors. One girl sitting between the knees of the girl behind her, and resting on the body of the one behind. That girl, in turn served as the human bed for the girl in front of her. Their day started at 4.00 a.m. They got no more rest. Any one who did not show up was beaten with a whip. Every day they lined up for inspection. If you were sick, or something was wrong with you, you were pulled out of line and sent to your death. My mother told me that once she was pulled out, but when the guard turned away someone pulled her back, and luckily he didn't notice. I don't think she even knew who it was that saved her. One of the guards that she never forgot was a German woman with red hair, with a long whip in her hand, with which she could reach the first one in the line. She treated them terribly, never showing any mercy. Years later when my parents went to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel, she saw this woman's picture in one of the photographs on display. My father told me she cried out when she saw her. My mother remained in Auschwitz until 16 August 1944. Then she was sent to the gas chamber. She said the German's took them to a very large place. It looked to her like a dark city. They stayed there a day and a night. They couldn't hear any sign of life. There were women wearing black who walked around them. It gave them the feeling that death was near. They could smell the bones from the people who went before them to the Gas Chamber. They didn't want to believe that death was so near, and they tried to keep each other from thinking of the horrible things that were happening. Then an order was received for a group of women to be sent to work in a munitions factory in Germany. My mother was in a group of five hundred women whose lives were spared. Later, she heard that they had actually sent the wrong group of women. While she worked in the Krupp factory, in Berlin, she never saw the light of day. The women were taken to work in the dark hours of the morning and left when it was dark at night. She said the area that the factory was in was bombed every Saturday night by the allies. They had to rebuild the barracks she lived in every time they were bombed. While working at the factory my mother cut her finger on a machine. She was too afraid to let anyone know. When it became badly infected she was somehow able to secretly see a doctor who amputated the top half of her finger for some pieces of bread which she was able to hide away. As for food, they were given a piece of bread which had to last them for a week, and they had soup which was made from potato peels. They were constantly counted to make sure no one had escaped. A German couple was in charge of her group of women and she said this couple was very kind to them, and did what they could for the women. In April of 1945 an order came to send her group to the Ravensbrück [Women’s Concentration Camp].The German couple refused to leave them and actually went with them. At Ravensbrück, if you did something wrong you were sent to the SS and you were killed either by hanging or shooting. She said the guards would throw an apple up in the air and catch it over and over so that the prisoners could see that he had food and they did not. My mother stayed in the camp for only a few days before she and the women in her group were evacuated by the Swedish Red Cross. On the way to Sweden the Red Cross Trucks that they were riding in had bombs dropped around them. They had to stop often and run out of the trucks. She told me that the driver tried to show the planes that there was a red cross on the top of the truck, but that did not stop the bombing. The Russian Army was moving in, and it was their planes. One of the drivers was killed and one of two sisters also died, but they made it to Sweden and freedom. Esther Levy - Birmingham, Alabama (2010)
My mother, Tobi Komornik-Gerson was born on 27 June 1925 in the shtetl of Stertzev (Szczerców) in Poland. Her father's name was Ephraim Komornik, and her mother was Esther Choda Komornik. Together, they owned and operated a clothing store. My mother had two sisters, Chaya and Gitle and two brothers, Monela, and Avram Yoseph, Her oldest brother, Monela, lived in nearby Łask. He had a wife and son, whose name was Jacob. My mother and her brother, Monela were the only members of her family to survive the Holocaust. It was very difficult for my mother to speak about her experiences during the Holocaust. However, she did write some things down. I can remember my mother telling me some things when I was a child, and I have done some research as well. In September of 1939, when my mother was fourteen years old, her village was destroyed in the first day of German bombings. Her family travelled on foot for a week to reach what they hoped
Tobi (Taubi) Kormornik-Gerson in Szczerców in 1939 - when she was about 14 years old. This important photograph was taken within months of the start of World War 2 and is the only photograph to show Szczerców before its destruction that is currently avail
Tobi (Taubi) Kormornik-Gerson in Szczerców in 1939 - when she was about 14 years old. This important photograph was taken within months of the start of World War 2 and is the only photograph to show Szczerców before its destruction that is currently available.