|My name is Stanisław Henryk Szarota, formerly Strasser. I was
born on February 21, 1911 in Rzeszów. When the war started, I was in
Przemyśl. I went to grade school and later completed high school
in Rzeszów. In 1930 I went to Krakow and became a medical student at
the Jagiellonian University. I graduated with a delay, as late as
On April 2, 1939 I got married in Krakow. My wife's name is Henryka
Szarota born Feiner; she comes from Krakow. I survived the war
together with her.
My father Dr. Fryderyk Strasser, a physician by profession, died in
Rzeszów on February 10, 1920. My mother Dorota born Stern perished
during the liquidation of the Rzeszów ghetto in 1942.
As for my siblings, I had an only sister whose name was Irena,
married name Czarniecka. Irena died during the war, shot to death
during the liquidation of the ghetto in Rzeszów. She didn't want to
give away her only child and they were killed together. Her husband
Leon Czarniecki died in Sosnowiec during the war.
Outbreak of war, years of wandering, and work as a physician in
the military hospital in Stanisławów
In August 1939 I was called up as an
ensign to the 39th infantry platoon for the second exercises of
the reserve in Przemyśl. I stayed there until September 1, that
is, until the outbreak of the war. From there I was transferred to the
reserve personnel of the 10th hospital in Przemyśl. That was
during the first days of September, after the war had broken out.
Until I was assigned I had been directed, as a liaison officer of the
depot, to the railway station in Przemyśl, where my duty was to
inform the commanding staff about the loading of the train and what
was needed to load it. I was there five to six days and when the
Germans approached, the whole depot went east. In the meantime, near
Zimna Woda, a German group attacking from the Carpathian Mountains cut
us off and everybody fled wherever he could. I got to Lwów and from
Lwów I joined a group fleeing in a large bus and went east.
I got off in Stanisławów, where I reported to a reserve
hospital. It was a military hospital whose number I don't recall. It
was located in the Trynitarska Street. I stayed in the hospital as a
physician. I came there during the first days of September. After some
time the Russian army took over the hospital and held all the
personnel as prisoners of war, until their personnel came to this
hospital. We dealt mostly with the wounded or with sick Russian
soldiers. We worked as physicians in the infirmary or in the operating
rooms — wherever we were needed. In the hospital in Stanisławów
I remained and worked as a physician for one and a half months. After
that time an adequate number of Russian physicians came and we were
Arrival to Lwów — a time of poverty and confusion
I went to Lwów where I knew I had some relatives. I had an aunt
there. I found her and stayed with her thinking that I still wanted to
cross the San river and go back home. Indeed, I went to Przemyśl,
where the border was, and where people crossed the border from the
German to the Russian side and from the Russian to the German side.
And when I received the permit and was about to cross the border,
somebody brought me a message from Hanka (my wife). It turned out that
Hanka was on the way, crossing the border to the Russian side. This
being so, I returned to Lwów and indeed, after a few days Hanka came.
It was at the end of November 1939. The Lwów period was a time of
poverty, of constant confusion, of waiting for the aid of the western
countries, of constant faith that [the war] is already ending, that
Africans had been already sighted on the other side of the Carpathian
Mountains, most likely from Senegal 1 — a period of unending and new tales.
People went from one café to another or met at friends' houses. It
was a time of playing cards, listening to gossip, a time when actually
nobody knew anything and when we were actually nothing, let's say —
a gang. Everybody tried to do something for himself . . . Trading . .
. I also tried to trade. Twice I didn't succeed. Once I was told that
somewhere there was a demand for sausage and I went to Stanisławów,
just where I used to be in the hospital. I brought a whole suitcase of
this sausage, jeopardizing my life, and it turned out that there was
already plenty of sausage everywhere. I had to sell my sausage for
free, because it began to smell. The same happened with cigarettes. I
brought a suitcase of cigarettes and just then a transport of
cigarettes came from Russia.
Together with us in the apartment lived a Russian major from Kiev
or from the Kierski region, a very nice elderly gentleman who was
trying to present Russia to us as it really was and what a power it
was — and we were laughing at this power . . . That was what
all that Russian power looked like at that time . . . Beautiful
paper monuments were being erected . . . and we got to hate the
But after a certain time everything began to get organized a bit.
We couldn't walk around doing nothing. Everybody, more or less, tried
to get a job. I reported to the Health Office and they sent me to such
a small town, located some 10 kilometers from the San river called
Krakowiec. The director of that district health division was the local
physician, Dr. Berger. Dr. Berger directed me to an even smaller town,
located some 8 kilometers from Krakowiec, which had a beautiful
name — Wielkie Oczy 2
(a name found only in "The Flood" 3). So Dr. Berger
suggested that I go to Wielkie Oczy, where a one-person policlinic —
one physician, one nurse, and one orderly — was supposed to be. And
I indeed took charge of this immediately. In the meantime Hanka worked
in Lwów and signed up for a special pharmacy course.
Jewish character of the town of Wielkie Oczy (until the outbreak
of World War II)
The town of Wielkie Oczy had 1,100 inhabitants, of which 700 were
Jews. The rest were Poles and Ukrainians. Since in the town there was
such a preponderance of Jews, every Pole and every Ukrainian spoke
"perfect" Yiddish. They were always in contact with each
other. A very poor small town. A small town consisting of small
tailors, small shopkeepers, such shopkeepers who were starving before
the war. For instance: If you went to such shop and wanted to buy a
box of matches, the shop keeper excused himself, went to the neighbor,
took two boxes of matches and sold you one. I hadn't seen this town
before the war. A town that lived basically on [money from] America.
There was no family there that didn't have somebody in America who
would send them money. Apart from that, everybody had a tiny garden or
a tiny land plot which he ploughed and had a little bit of vegetables.
These were Jewish-peasants. Apart from them, there were also Jews who
sold horses and cattle and Jews who were middlemen in various
transactions. But all of them were really extremely poor.
In the town there was one physician, a Jew whose name was Dr.
Grünseit, whom I hadn't met since he died in the meantime. Dr.
Grünseit was the district physician, and he was very afraid of
getting sick. When, for instance, he was called to a typhus case, he
didn't approach the patient, but performed his examination while
standing at the door. Despite his caution, he died of typhus. His
wife, who wasn't a physician, took over his practice. She was,
however, a very gifted woman and she treated everybody in the whole
district. She treated them very successfully, by the way. She
delivered women of children. She did everything. She treated the sick
in the whole region.
Such was the situation of the Jews in the small town of Wielkie
Oczy until the outbreak of World War II.
Situation of Jews in the neighboring villages and towns until the
outbreak of World War II
Jews lived in all the small and larger towns and villages nearby
until the outbreak of the war. Krakowiec was the largest center. It
was a larger town. I don't recall how large it was but it was probably
three times as large as Wielkie Oczy. Of course the percentage of the
Jewish population wasn't as large there as in Wielkie Oczy. There were
two physicians, there was a pharmacy (in Wielkie Oczy and in other
small towns nearby there was not a single pharmacy) and there were
some offices. As for other villages, Jews lived in every one of them,
even in the smallest one. I remember only one village named Kobylnica.
Other names escaped my memory. Jews lived in each village. They were
the poorest people in the whole region. Living permanently in a larger
town, I hadn't encountered such poverty before. Of course, within
those villages there were richer and poorer people, but actually all
of them were poor.
In Krakowiec there was one synagogue, an old synagogue, there was a
mikvah, there was a Jewish community and a bakery. There was no
Jewish school. Most likely there was a cheder, because there
was only a Polish school. There was also a baker in whose bakery
people baked matzos. I remember once — each inhabitant would come
with his own flour to that baker and baked matzos in his bakery.
Taking over the medical practice in Wielkie Oczy as the only
physician in the whole region
I took over the medical practice from Dr. Grünseit's wife who,
although very respected and esteemed, didn't have high qualifications.
I took over the position from her and got her small house. She left, I
think for Lwów. She had two children. I don't know what happened to
First of all, I would like to describe
life in this small town, the background and the changed conditions in
which I started my practice as the only physician in the whole region.
Life . . . changes . . ., which started when the Russians came — it
was something unexpected. Something about which the local Jews thought
as they did about the Messiah. People came and liberated them. Those
Soviets liberated them. Raised their position. Gave them something —
a status which they never before had. The Jews received the Russians
with enthusiasm. Perhaps not so much the older ones, who were more
reasonable, but the youth who created the komsomol 4 and then blew off
steam in this komsomol. Unfortunately, in this komsomol
there was only one gentile. and the rest — Jews. Let's say that this
was a characteristic feature of a race, more of a southern race, that
can exaggerate everything. And something started that was very
unpleasant . . . For instance, the komsomol group drove
around the district, toppled over roadside shrines and broke them into
pieces (see the comentary).
They behaved plus catholique que le pape 5 — entirely unnecessarily. For
this I turned against them — I admit that. I had been trying to take
a middle-of-the-way stance, not to get involved at all. Since I was,
however, the only physician in the town, I had to come, for instance,
when there were disagreements and I had to come to meetings. I treated
everybody in the whole region. I treated Jews and non-Jews. I treated
also all Russians staying in this area. When I visited Russians, I
tried to arrange things so that Hanka called me after 15 minutes with
the excuse that a patient came to see me. I didn't want to get
involved with the Russians. They were very nice, I admit, but despite
that I didn't want to get closer to them. Those Russians in the town
were newcomers. Most of them were soldiers. It was a whole group, a
so-called Russian chastina, staying temporarily in this small
town. They were soldiers, mostly Ukrainians. Among them there were
quite a lot of Russian Jews, very nice, very pleasant —
unfortunately they were brought up in such a way that they didn't
answer when we asked them why is it actually that Germans joined
Russians [sic] here instead of fighting them. They would reply —
"Wait!". But they were really very decent people.
Commentary on the Szarota Narrative
Szarota’s testimony, that Jewish kosmosol youth in
Wielkie Oczy had desecrated Christian roadside shrines has
been published elsewhere, most notably in War Through
Children's Eyes: The Soviet Occupation of Poland and the
Deportations, 1939-1941, Irena Grudzinska-Gross (Editor),
Jan Tomasz Gross (Editor), Hoover Institution Press, 1981) and
in Polish as W czterdziestym nas Matko na Sybir zeslali -
Polska a Rosja 1939-42 (London: Aneks, 1983).
other publications and Internet sites have cited the Gross
publications as a source. However, there seems to be no firm
evidence to support Dr. Szarota’s statement and he himself
does not claim to have witnessed such desecrations.
attempts to corroborate Dr. Szarota’s statement, other
sources including various Christians and Jews, some alive and
living in Wielkie Oczy at the time, either deny or cannot
confirm that such events ever took place:
- A longtime parish priest of the
town, Father Josef Kluz, serving during the years
1969-2001, categorically states: "I did not find any
papers or notes [in local church records] that komsomol
youth destroyed the roadside shrines. On what basis was it
written by this man [Szarota]?" (Letter from Father
Kluz to David Majus, dated February 25, 2003.)
- David Majus, a contributor to this
web site, the author of the definitive work on Wielkie Oczy (Krzysztof Dawid
Majus, in Polish, Tel Aviv 2002) and a frequent visitor to
the town reports that such acts are not remembered by the
older citizens of Wielkie Oczy and surrounding villages,
including Stefan Stawarski who was a sacristan at the
Catholic church in Wielkie Oczy during the period
1939-1941. In April 2001 Mr. Majus interviewed Mr.
Stawarski and asked him about the specific events alleged
by Dr. Szarota. Mr. Stawarski did not confirm
that such desecrations took place.
While the events of the period are
replete with stories of shifting loyalties and acts of revenge
in Poland under the Nazi and Soviet occupations, it is
difficult to say why Szarota wrote what he did some 25 years
after the desecrations were supposed to have taken place.
We may never know whether such acts did in fact occur. To
say for certain on the testimony of one man that these events
did occur is not a sound basis for determining the truth of
what did or did not happen during those times, in that place.
Since the above was written, another
source of the desecration of religious structures has come to
Michaylo Kozak in his book Minule
i shohodennia Kobylnic’ Voloskoyi i Ruskoyik (The
Past and the Present of Kobylnica Woloska and Kobylnica Ruska)
in Ukranian (Przemysl, 2007). The cover page
informs that the book was printed in Przemysl (south-eastern
Poland) in 2006 but title page
informs that it was printed in 2006. The correct year is
believed to be 2007.
Of note is this sentence from the
memory of a Ukrainian woman Maria Baran, who lived in
Kobylnica near Wielkie Oczy at the time: "In 1940 there
were among us some black sheep who destroyed roadside crosses
and broke glass in the [Ukrainian] church." (page 206)
Elsewhere in the book, we find a list
of Ukrainian victims of German occupation (1941-1944). Among
those listed is "1. Vasik Ivan - also for the reason that
he broke church windows." He was executed June 29, 1941.
The main reason for his execution was his cooperation with the
Soviet administration (1939-1941). (page 194)
So here history apparently has served
up the very name of one of the destroyers of the roadside
Unrelated, but another interesting
bit of information that illustrates how the Nazis played off
one ethnic group against another is noted here "8:
Senik Michaylo (from Kobylnica Ruska) killed by Germans for
the reason that a Jew Itzik killed a German soldier on June,
23, 1941" — the day after
the German invasion. (page 194)
I wasn't paid for every visit. Health care was nationalized; I was
getting a salary. I treated sick people in the whole region, that is
in the vicinity of Krakowiec and in the entire region of Wielkie Oczy.
To describe this region graphically, it was shaped like a triangle.
The only pharmacy from where I got medications was located in
Krakowiec. Hanka made easier things, such as ointments, after she
completed a pharmacy course in Lwów. At first I lived alone in
Wielkie Oczy. Hanka studied in Lwów. After a certain time I brought
her to Wielkie Oczy. The Health Office needed a bookkeeper. I went by
train to Lwów to bring her and on the train I taught her the
[Cyrillic] alphabet. She didn't know any Russian, and she had to be
able to write at least a few words in this language. So I taught her
the alphabet on the train and she came to Wielkie Oczy ready to use
the alphabet. And she got the position. After a short time a Russian
manager of the Health Office came. She was a young woman, a Russian,
who was a nurse before the war and also during the war she was a nurse
in the military. It was she who was the Health Office manager. Later
we got another manager, who came from Pskov, if I'm not mistaken —
and this way a normal life in the town began.
Outbreak of the German-Russian war and the order to take over
health care in the whole region
When the German-Russian war broke out we were in Wielkie Oczy.
Building of fortifications on the border along the San river and
digging of trenches had started a while earlier, some two-three months
before the war broke out. Digging trenches was a very unpleasant
matter for me. People came to me for medical certificates stating that
they were unable to work for health reasons. I, however, was
constrained by the party and they didn't let me give sick leave
certificates to anybody, unless somebody was really on their last
legs. Old and young people, but mostly young ones, dug trenches.
Digging the trenches was compulsory. Every small town and every
village had to supply a certain number of people every day to dig
After that, on June 22, 1941, the German-Russian war broke out. We
didn't know anything about it. First, one day in the morning, around 4
A.M., a Russian car drove up to my house and somebody knocked on my
window and called — "we brought a sick woman". I dressed
quickly and went with them to the policlinic which was some 300 m away
from my house and then they brought a dead woman out of the car. I
asked about the circumstances — how it happened . . . They
didn't want to answer anything and they left me with this dead woman.
In the meantime we began to hear the sounds of gunfire. I was bound by
Russian regulations, so I absolutely tried to get a connection with
the prosecutor to find out what I was supposed to do with the corpse
of this woman. Finally I was connected with the prosecutor, and he
told me, "Naplevat'! Voyna est'!" 6 That was the first
official announcement about the outbreak of the war that I received.
In the meantime I was ordered to stay in this small town, because
there was no other physician there. It was an order from the party,
the order to take over the whole health care in the entire region and
possibly also to assist military units. I was in charge of the region
of Krakowiec and Wielkie Oczy. In the meantime a panic started.
Komsomol members flee together with the Russians. Our chastina,
the military unit, begins to dig trenches. I sent somebody to the
pharmacy in Krakowiec to bring as many medications as possible. In the
meantime I went to the so-called cooperative, because I had no more
materials for dressing wounds. We took a piece of linen and begin
making dressing material out of it. After three or four hours the
first wounded started to arrive. I received these wounded and dressed
their wounds non-stop until the night, until about 1 A.M. I alone had
around 250 of these wounded. I don't recall what I was actually doing;
I was as if in a trance. I was all covered with blood and did nothing
else but dress wounds of one wounded after another. Two or three young
men helped me. In the meantime we found out that it was already time
to flee. They let me know that the best thing was to flee to the
church. In the church there were large basements. We were told that
the Germans were already entering the town . . . The parish
priest in this church was a personal friend of mine, Father Murdza.
Murdza attended the same high school in Rzeszów as I did only 30
years earlier. We got to this basement in the morning and on the way
we heard somewhere in the backyard machine-gun shots. At the same time
we found out that the Germans had already taken the whole town . .
. The Soviets evacuated all the wounded they could, leaving some
German army enters Wielkie Oczy
I know and I saw it that the first person to enter the presbytery
with a machine gun was a parish priest from Salzburg. He immediately
undressed and went to our Farther Murdza for confession.
Now we . . . were staying in the basement of the church for a
while, actually until the end of the day. Next day in the morning we
gradually left. I went home. On the way we encountered German troops
that arrived to the town. The soldiers wash themselves very nicely,
the way they are accustomed to do.
I come home and have nothing to eat at home. Then people started to
reciprocate, because all the time I tried to behave relatively
neutrally and properly. They began to arrive one after another, my
patients, Jews and non-Jews, and they brought me food.
The first moment — it was the moment when the German soldiers
entered. Jews were not harassed. I was immediately called for a press
conference, since war correspondents were in the first group. They
asked me in German what my impressions were, what was the Soviet
power, etc. At that time I didn't think much about that power and I
thought that war would end within three months. I had an impression
that the Germans thought the same.
Arrival of administrative units. Wearing armbands becomes
compulsory, the Judenrat 7 is established; beating and plundering
of Jewish property by the Ukrainian police
Slowly, the administrative units start entering the town.
Appropriate authorities issued a decree to wear armbands and to form
the Judenrat. Forming a ghetto was impossible here; the town
was too small for a ghetto. Besides, there was no Jewish police or a
Jewish neighborhood here; the town was too small for a Jewish
neighborhood to form. Jews remained in their houses.
A Ukrainian police force, however, was immediately formed. These
police immediately showed what they were capable of. Beating and
looting began. Jews were beaten on every occasion, but not at all when
they were working. There was namely no work here. Houses were being
searched. In such cases Jews were beaten and Jewish property looted.
Every father whose son was a komsomol member was made
responsible for his sins.
We wore white armbands with a blue star. At the beginning the
armbands were supposed to be white, without any sign. Later, after a
certain time, they had to be worn with a star. I'm still a physician
and as such I remain with the Jews from Wielkie Oczy.
Sending to labor camps
Shortly afterwards the period of sending Jews to labor camps
starts. There was no reason for the sending. Quite simply, the Judenrat
received an order to send a certain number of people. I don't recall
the name of the camp where they were sent to. People were put on horse
carts and driven on horse carts to Jaworów. Jaworów was a larger
center. Jews from other villages and towns were sent there. From there
they were taken out by trains — it was said that they were going to
labor camps. Of course everybody tried to avoid being sent to forced
labor and then the American money, hidden for a rainy day,
emerged into the light. With this money people tried to bribe the Judenrat
I don't remember the names of the Judenrat members. I
remember the name of only one — his name was Feiner. This helped me
a bit, since my wife was born Feiner, and so he treated me better. We
even claimed we were his relatives. That wasn't a flattering
relationship, because Feiner was a horse thief before the war and also
had a mill; in any case, he didn't have a good reputation. Besides, it
was his own business whether he was a horse thief before the war or
not. I didn't know that. I don't recall the name of other Judenrat
People started sending parcels to labor camps. The first fugitives
from one of these camps began to appear; they talked about the
treatment there. I don't recall the name of the camp. It was a very
small camp, one of really small camps. Nobody knew — that's my
impression — how that camp was exactly called.
And then — let's call it — wegetowanie, the
hand-to-mouth existence of the Jews, began: Although in the past Jews
were the majority in this town, they now had to go underground and
hide. Apart from that, there was hunger.
Hunger in the town; hunger whose victims were mainly Jews
And then hunger came. It was in the spring of 1942. At first the
vicinity of Wielkie Oczy, and the town itself, was designated for
tomato growing in an agricultural program. It was forbidden to sow
rye, or actually only a very small area was left for rye and wheat.
Tomatoes didn't grow at all, and there was no rye either. Then the
farmers started going to Lwów and buying whatever they saw. They
brought pianos, they brought all kinds of clothes and furs. Everything
to trade for food. They went so far with their buying that before the
next harvest time they had nothing to eat.
The whole town lived actually only on milk and grass boiled in
milk. The whole population of the town was starving. On the one hand,
the peasants went too far buying things. On the other hand, the
previous year didn't bring a good harvest, since there were those
tomatoes that didn't work out — and so hunger was in the town. Only
in few houses did people bake bread. We knew that, since one could see
the smoke from the chimney and one could smell that bread was being
baked. But that was happening in a only a few homes. The rest of the
population really suffered from hunger. Of course, Jews suffered more
than anybody else.
Continuation of medical practice in the town based on individual
I still treated patients. I treated everybody, Jews and non-Jews.
During the Russian times I was getting a salary for my work. During
the German times there was no money and I started getting fees. I
received fees in the form of food. I would get a chicken, here I would
get eggs, there some rye or wheat; it depended on who had what. And if
somebody didn't have anything I treated him for free.
Deportation of all Jews from Wielkie Oczy — Judenrein 8
It was the month of June, the year 1942. One day the SS
came to the town, and together with them the "black police"
— these were Ukrainians who wore black uniforms — and the director
of the whole district, a so-called Landrat. It started with
their taking some hostages, including me, and then they started
driving all the Jews to the town square, for deportation. From there
all the Jews went to Jaworów, and from Jaworów to the Janowska
[camp]. In the meantime I was released. Apart from me there were also
a few other hostages; they were mostly citizens who were better known
in the town. They were also deported, together with other Jews, to
Jaworów. The whole small town was emptied, [and became] what was
called Judenrein, except for two Jews, that is me and Hanka (my
Until the day of the deportation the German military police would
sometimes come to the town, but very rarely and in passing. The town
was situated very much off the beaten path, there was no highway there
leading to larger centers, so that actually only sometimes somebody
would come in passing.
The only larger edifice that was there was a distillery — spiritzavod
where a very dear friend of mine, an engineer named Urban, worked. At
that time he used another name, I don't recall his surname. In Russian
times, and later in German times, he was our friend and we went with
him through the most difficult times. He survived the war and is now
professor at the university in Wroclaw.
Permission to leave in town the only physician, a Jew, and to
allow him to have a medical practice for the whole district
Actually Hanka was going to be deported too. As it happened
however, the Landrat with his female friend came to me and
started checking what my policlinic looked like. He then asked Hanka,
"Du Jüdin, wer macht hier Ordnung?" 11 And
Hanka replied, "Ich!". Then the Landrat took a
white glove and started wiping the furniture in the infirmary,
checking if there was any dust on it. Luckily, as it happened, there
was no dust. In view of that he said, "You will stay here and
help the Dr. — he stays here!". At that moment it was the end
of my stay as a Jew in Wielkie Oczy. I was told to take off the
armband, since there was no need anymore to wear it. There were, quite
simply, no more Jews. I was told to take off the armband by the head
of the township council, a Ukrainian. Also the police told me to take
off the armband, since there were no more Jews in Wielkie Oczy and
none in the whole district. All were taken through Jaworów to the
Janowska [camp]. That was May 1942. From June 1942 on I lived actually
very comfortably. I was getting the same rations as the Poles and
there were times when I would completely forget what was going on in
the world. There was no news from the war, there were no newspapers,
only sometimes some news reached Wielkie Oczy. It was mostly peasants
who brought all kinds of news. During the whole time I didn't go
anywhere, only to those villages in the district where I treated my
Escape from Wielkie Oczy with help of the head of the township
council, a Ukrainian
One day the head of the township council (the same who told me to
take off my armband) came to our house and told us that he received
the order to bring me and Hanka to the police. A Ukrainian physician
was supposed to arrive next day and therefore I wasn't needed anymore.
In was in September 1942, thus after six months. The order was for the
Ukrainian police to bring me to the Janowska [camp]. The head of the
township council said also, "Now the Germans are already near
Stalingrad, the devil will take everything sooner or later. If you
want, I can either hide you or give you an official letter from me and
horses, and you flee from here!"
We listened to him and in the night we fled to Jarosław. In
Jarosław we boarded the train and went — where to? We didn't
actually know where we were going to. The only document I had with me
was the letter from the head of the township stating that Dr.
Stanisław Strasser and his wife travel to their relatives in
Krakow. This was the only document I had with me. I had nothing else,
since there was actually nothing in Wielkie Oczy.
The rest of the reminiscences of Dr. Szarota (Strasser)
describing his vicissitudes through the end of the war are not
included here, since they contain no further reference to Wielkie Oczy.
Dr. and Mrs. Szarota survived the war and emigrated to Australia.
Henryka Szarota (born Feiner)
My name is Henryka Szarota, born Feiner. I was born 29 June 1912 in
Krakow, where I attended grade school and graduated from high school.
When the war broke out I was in Krakow. My father, Izydor Feiner, died
of natural causes in the Krakow ghetto. It was on the day before the
expulsion to Płaszów and the liquidation of the ghetto, in March
of 1943. My father died of heart attack. My mother, Maria Feiner, born
Silberbach, perished in Stutthof.
As for siblings, I had one sister and three brothers. My sister
Bronisława (married name Gelbwacks) perished together with my
mother in Stutthof. After the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto they
were both sent to the camp in Płaszów, where my mother worked
for Madricz and my sister worked first in a hospital and then in
another place which I don't recall anymore. They were both displaced
from Płaszów, via Auschwitz, to Stutthof, where they were both
shot to death together with a group of women who came from the
Madricz's [factory] in Płaszów. The group consisted of about
1,000 women. They were all shot to death at the seaside.
My brothers survived the war in Russia. Here are their names: Leon,
Teodor, and Józef. I brought them to Australia, where they are now.
Making medications and supplying them to patients
At the time when my husband started working in Wielkie Oczy as
physician, I went to Lwów and signed for a pharmacy course, lasting a
few months. After the completion of the course I returned to Wielkie
Oczy. There was no pharmacy in Wielkie Oczy or in the whole region, or
in all the villages and small towns in the vicinity as far as
Krakowiec. My husband was the only physician in this whole region and
I was the only pharmacist who supplied medication in the region. I
made the medications in our laboratory. The medications weren't
complicated [to make]. I made various ointments used in skin diseases;
apart from this I prepared modest medications, made of modest
components, bought most often in Krakowiec.
My husband treated people in the whole region and after his visit I
supplied medications to the patients, most often bringing them on
foot, because most often I had no way to get to the given village or
town. Wielkie Oczy were located 20 km from Jaworów, and Jaworów was
50 km from Lwów. I visited Jaworów very often and brought
medications to that town. I also visited Krakowiec very often, which
was 8 km from Wielkie Oczy. I used to go with medications to
Krakowiec and to the neighboring villages, most often on foot. There
was almost no possibility to get there by any other means. Sometimes
it happened that I went with some urgent medication to Jaworów on
foot. I did that in summer and in winter for almost 18 months.
The only pharmacy and the only hospital within 30 km
The only pharmacy in the whole region, within at least 30 km, was
located in Krakowiec, The owner and the manager of the pharmacy was a
Jew. Unfortunately I don't recall his name. His son helped the owner
in his work. This was the only pharmacy to which people from the whole
region came. In the region there was also the only hospital, located
in the town of Budzyn, a distance of 8 km from Wielkie Oczy. It was a
hospital for people suffering from infectious diseases. About going to
the hospital, people would say that they were going "to Budzyń".
At the time, when we lived in Wielkie Oczy there were epidemics of
meningitis and typhus in the district. My husband often went "to
Budzyń" and treated people who were there. After each of his
visits I would go to the hospital on foot and brought the medication
needed for the patients. There was no other hospital for patients with
infectious diseases in the whole region.
1. There were about 100,000 African
soldiers from the French colonies in the French army, many of them
2. "Wielkie Oczy" means
"Large Eyes" in Polish.
3. "The Flood" (Pol. "Potop")
— The title of a historical novel by the Polish writer and Nobel
Prize laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz; it is one of the most popular
4. komsomol — Russian: short
for Kommunisticheskiy Soyuz Molodiozhď, Communist Union of
Youth, an organization that served as the youth wing of the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union.
5. plus catholique que le pape
(Fr.) — "more Catholic than the Pope".
6. "Naplevat'! Voyna est'"
(Rus.) — "Who cares! There is war!"
7. Judenrat (Ger.) — Jewish
Council, an administrative body that the German authorities required
Jews to form in each Jewish community in the General Government (part
of the Nazi-occupied territory of Poland).
8. judenrein (Ger.) —
"clean of Jews".
9. SS — Schutzstaffel (Ger.)
"Protective Squadron", colloq. "Storm Troopers".
The SS was an instrument of terror during the Holocaust. [cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzstaffel,
10. spirit-zavod (Rus.) —
11. "Du Jüdin, wer macht hier
Ordnung?", "Ich!" (Ger.) — "You,
Jewess, who cleans here?", "I do!"