It began on the second day after the Germans arrived. We were standing on line for bread near Werber's house together with many women. The Germans removed us roughly from the line. We were certain that we were being led to our execution. We were assigned different tasks and kept there till that night. At home, no one knew what had happened to us.
Every day they took us from our homes to go to work for them. This was done until the Judenrat was established. It was responsible, thereafter, for supplying a number of workers every day. The women were sent to do a variety of tasks and the men were taken for hard work.
I worked hard at these different tasks. The hardest work was at an estate in Semenow, where I operated a threshing machine at a very rapid pace. We were beaten while working. We were forced to return home late at night by way of the Monastery, frightened and hungry.
The Gentiles were given the right to select Jews for various jobs, and they shamelessly took advantage of it, selecting former friends and acquaintances. I remember that Dr. Zelermayer and two other Jews had to take a ton of coal down to the cellar of Dr. Zaplitny, a former colleague of Dr. Zelermayer. A former classmate of my brother Milo took him to the village of Boriczowka to bury a dead horse. He hadn't told him in advance where he was being taken and for what purpose. When my brother returned home that night we were overjoyed because we feared that we might not see him again.
We were subjected to scorn and humiliation by people who had just recently been our friends and neighbors.
Our situation became desperate when we were transferred to the Ghetto. There were thirty to forty of us in every apartment. We knew what the purpose of the transfer was. We had heard about what had happened in the nearby towns and cities. The transfer was effected by means of rented wagons, in which the old people, the sick, and small children rode. The rest of the people trailed along behind the wagons and carried bundles on their shoulders. The first "Action" took place several days after the transfer. Many Jews were loaded onto freight cars and taken to an unknown destination. The judenrat immediately paid two Poles to find out where they were being sent. There were rumors that they were being taken to Belzec.
Because of the terrible crowding and the filth, a typhus epidemic broke out. Dozens of people died daily, primarily from want of medicine and lack of proper treatment. One of the victims was my brother Milo. He had been ransomed from the camp with much effort. He came home with a high fever, suffering from typhus. The only one who attended to burial preparations was Nathaniel Meizer.
The following two "Actions" were carried out at Plebanowka. The graves had been prepared in advance. In those spring days when Christian women went with their children to church services dressed in white, Jewish mothers marched with their children to open graves. Not everyone was fortunate enough to die at once. The following day one German boasted that he could no longer bear the moans of the wounded, so he shot them out of mercy.
After the third "Action" the city was declared Judenrein.
It was Friday afternoon. They shot at any Jew remaining in the Ghetto. Whoever had managed to secure a hiding place earlier left the Ghetto in time. Having no way out, the rest of the residents were doomed.
I went out of the house to see what was happening in the Ghetto. I did not get a chance to return to my parents. There was shooting a short distance from where I was standing. Many fell while running. I too ran; I thought that I was still in the Ghetto. I growled like a dog out of fear. In order to take cover from the shooting, I climbed into a dovecote with feet injured from the barbed wire. From voices of people speaking near me, I understood that I was outside the Ghetto in the house of one Koszcylniak. I heard him say to his sons that they should remove the clothes from the dead. From that remark I understood his attitude to what was happening.
The shooting stopped, and I heard only the footsteps of the guards on duty. Before dawn I decided to leave my hiding place. I went through the window, and the members of the household were not awakened by me. Outside I saw dead people in their underwear around the house.
For lack of an alternative, I sought safety in a most dangerous place. I hid there for thirteen weeks, without food and in perpetual fear. I ate dirty chicken feed. No one saw or heard me. Once every two or three days I went out at night for a breath of air. I was thin as a skeleton. I weighed perhaps 30 kilograms. My teeth were loose. I was suffering from cold and hunger. I in no way resembled a human being.
I don't know where my strength to live in these conditions came from. I wanted to live to see the downfall of our cruel enemies who wanted to conquer the world by killing women and children.
After remaining there for thirteen weeks I was forced to leave my hiding place. I wandered from place to place and begged for a night's lodging. Even people who had once displayed affection toward me demanded that I leave immediately. When the first snow fell, I did not. have a roof over my head. I was hungry, shivering with cold - a skeleton in rags. At first glance one could tell that I was a Jewess.
Finally, I arrived at the home of a farm wife in Krowinka, who had been a customer in our store and who had known me since my childhood. She became frightened upon seeing me and thought me a corpse. She took me in with great fear, but she didn't have the heart to send me away. At night she moved me to the loft above the stable. I had to promise her that in case I were discovered I would say that I got there without the knowledge of the farm wife. For that reason she didn't even give me anything to cover myself with. In the meantime the cold intensified. Suffering from hunger-once a day I received a very small portion of food -and from cold, I suddenly felt stabbing pains in my side and a high fever. I did not reveal this to the farm wife, and I prayed to God that I would fall asleep and not wake up again. This seemed to be the best solution to my distress. I greatly feared being led away and executed.
The farm wife, who was Polish, was panic-stricken. The barking of the dog terrified her. One day, concerned that I might freeze to death, she told me to leave her house. So I suggested the following solution to her. If I were to freeze to death, she should place my body in a sack - after all, I didn't weigh more than 39 kilograms - and throw it into the nearby river in the evening. That way no one would know or care where I came from. My suggestion calmed her down, and I was able to stay with her until the end of the Nazi occupation.
All our relatives perished in the second "Action," the Selzer, Ginsberg, and Strasberg families in a mass grave at Plebanowka. My dear parents, my sister and my uncle (my fathees brother) were killed three days after the town was declared Judenrein, in an open grave near the barracks.
My uncle, Joseph Selzer, his wife, and their three sons were killed six weeks before the arrival of the Red Army in the village of Wigdorowka. One of the neighbors disclosed the location of their bunker to the Germans.
I was the only survivor of my entire family. My ordeal deeply affected me psychologically and ruined my health. I fell ill with typhus and pneumonia. Dr. Hindes, who was with us afterwards, was amazed that I recovered.
After the war I decided that I would establish a bond only with a man who had lived through the same events and the same experiences which I had lived through, a man with precise knowledge of the conditions and circumstances of those days which would be a subject for us to recollect until the end of time.
April 3, 1999