Interviewer: Anna Szyba
Date of interview: October-November 2005
I met with Mr. Lewandowski at the Schorr Foundation on Twarda Street in Warsaw, at the heart of what once was the Jewish quarter, bustling with life. He's still very active in spite of his age, and hardly ever found at home. He's very witty and always has a joke handy. He gets serious when starting to talk about his past. He's proud of his family and of his life. Mr. Lewandowski, like many Polish Jews, does not fully appreciate the Jewish tradition and religion. He stresses his Polish identity, which he associates with education, progress, a higher social status. In his language 'assimilated' means first of all not so religious, non- traditional, progressive.
I was born on 10th September 1929 in Zamosc [a town ca. 260 km south-east of Warsaw]. I was an only child. My parents were from Zamosc, both from Father's and Mother's side. My paternal grandfather, Sanel Garfinkiel, was born in 1875 already in Zamosc, but his whole family came from Ukraine, from a place called Nezhin [ca. 130 km north-east of Kiev], it's somewhere near Chernobyl. He died in 1940 of natural causes. Grandpa was an industrialist and a landowner. He owned a brewery [Livonia] in Zamosc, had an estate in Danczypol, in the Grabowiec commune [20 km east of Zamosc], a brickyard outside Zamosc - he was a wealthy man. He used to dress the European way, didn't have a beard, didn't have payes, he did have a moustache though. His Polish was not very good, not that he had a Jewish accent, but simply a peasant's manner of speaking.
When Grandpa was younger, he devoted more time to his land than to the brewery. He simply knew more of farming; he was particularly interested in horse breeding. In pre-war Poland horse breeding was an important branch of agriculture since the army used mostly horse transport. Grandpa had a good reputation as a horse-breeder. I remember he could spend all day in the stable, shouting at the stable-boys for not grooming a horse thoroughly enough, or because the manure had not been removed. I didn't know the names of my grandparents' brothers and sisters.
I remember my great-grandmother, too, the mother of my paternal grandpa, but I don't remember her name. She wore a wig [sheitl], she was very pious and wanted me badly to be very pious, too. We lived in the same house, on the premises of the brewery in Zamosc. Every morning, as I didn't wear a kippah, she would put her hand on my head so that it would be covered, and recite the prayer in Hebrew or Yiddish. I don't recall how she spoke to me, I didn't know Yiddish so she had to use Polish I suppose, but it wasn't good Polish, that's for sure. She died in 1940 of natural causes.
We had three funerals in the course of three months that year. First Grandpa Sanel died, and then both my great-grandmothers, one after another. Those were regular funerals, Jewish, with rabbis, with the so-called Chevra. The Chevra in Zamosc was headed by a Jew called Abus Frydling. They're all buried in Zamosc, in the old Jewish cemetery, upon which a housing quarter was built in the 1950s.
Grandpa Sanel's wife, Blima Wislicka, born in 1875 as well, was killed - almost before my eyes - during the liquidation of the Izbica ghetto  in 1942. She was from Lodz, from a Jewish patrician family, sort of. They were in the textile industry, there was the Wislicki & Rozen factory, not quite like Szeibler [1820-1881, one of the biggest textile industrialists in Lodz], but a medium-sized factory. The family was Polonized, assimilated to a large degree, there were converts among them. I have a portrait of my great-grandmother at home, she's wearing something you won't see nowadays. Frills and so on. She didn't wear a wig, she had regular hair.
I don't know how my grandparents [the Garfinkiel grandparents] met. They were not very religious, they only went to the synagogue on high holidays, for example Pesach. I don't remember them going there every Saturday. I would ask the four questions over the seder supper and Grandpa would answer them. It so happened I was the only grandson for both my paternal and maternal grandparents, so on one seder I went to the first Grandpa, and on the second to the other. The food at my grandparents' house was kosher, yet nobody made a fuss if you ate something that was not. Well, on Pesach there would be no bread in the house, of course, but I know Grandpa used to have a piece of sausage every day, or some bacon, things that couldn't have been kosher by definition.
Grandpa Sanel had four sons. One died of scarlet fever at the age of eight or ten maybe, I don't know. I didn't even know his name. Matjas was the eldest son, born in 1897, then Mieczyslaw-Mendel, born in 1899, and finally Dawid, my father, born in 1908. None of them had any religious education, I don't know if they went to a cheder, but anyway they all completed public schools, non-religious, and were religiously indifferent, they were all assimilated [without any ties to religion], and as far as I remember they spoke nice Polish.
Matjas had agricultural education, not a university degree, he completed agricultural high school. He worked in farming for a short time, then switched to journalism and writing. Because he was a well-known hunting activist, he was in the editorial staff of the 'Lowca Polski' [Polish Hunter] magazine in Warsaw. In the 1930s he was sent to Canada with a group of Polish journalists to write reportages; the outcome of that trip were books by Arkady Fiedler [1894-1985, Polish journalist, writer, naturalist, and traveler], 'Ryby spiewaja w Ukajali' [The River of Singing Fish, 1935; Mr. Lewandowski actually refers to a different book by the author, Kanada pachnaca zywica (Canada Smelling of Pine) of the same year], and a less known one by my uncle - under the name Matgarf - 'Losie i lososie' [Moose and Salmons].
His wife Maria was a daughter of Abraham Sojka, one of the wealthiest men in Poland at the time. They had one daughter, Noemi, or Nina, my age, she lives in Canada, we keep in touch. It wasn't a happy marriage, they split up in 1937 and he went to Rhodesia [today Zimbabwe]. Matjas' wife was deported with Nina to Russia, to the polar bears [that is, sent into exile to Siberia]. They came back after the war and moved to Rhodesia; Uncle had them come there, even though they were divorced, and she lived there separately, working as a shop-assistant in a department store.
There used to be this 'fashion' in Poland that we should have colonies, and possible locations were debated. There was this state official, Mieczyslaw Lepecki [1897-1969, journalist and traveler], he was a writer and also Pilsudski's  aide-de-camp, and he came up with the idea that vast expanses of land could be cheaply acquired in Rhodesia, so he persuaded people to go there and settle. My uncle was among those persuaded so he moved to Rhodesia. After the divorce Matjas remarried, his second wife was an English Jewish woman, they had a son, his name is Rodes; I've never met him. He's a PE teacher, he lives in Australia nowadays.
Grandpa Sanel's second son was called Mieczyslaw, he was the greatest intellectual in the family. A lawyer, he started his legal studies at Kiev University during World War I, but graduated from Warsaw University. I have his free tramway pass from 1922 with his photo on it. He was an attorney [attorney-at-law] before the war. He had a practice in Zamosc, Tomaszow Lubelski [a town ca. 40 km south of Zamosc], and for some time also in Warsaw. During the war he was the chairman of the Jewish community council in Zamosc, the so-called Judenrat . As far as I know, he was the only Judenrat chair to survive the war. He survived in hiding on the 'Aryan side' in Warsaw [i.e. beyond the ghetto].
He had no children, even though he was married four times. I only met his third and fourth wives. His third wife, Estera, or Tusia, was killed on the 'Aryan side' in Warsaw; Irena, the fourth one, he married after the war, she died in London. After the war he lived in Zamosc, then in Warsaw for some time, and then he remarried and immigrated [to London in 1949].
The youngest was Dawid, my father, born in 1908. He completed some kind of vocational high school, somewhere near Czestochowa [ca. 250 km south-west of Warsaw]. Grandpa had him go there, wanting him to work in the brewery and at the estate, and that was how it turned out. Except that Father and Mother generally worked only in the brewery - Grandpa advanced in years. There was also a brewer employed.
The founder of Mom's side of the family was her grandfather Psachje Jungman, born sometime between 1865 and 1870, he died around 1928-1930. He lived in Zamosc, but came probably from Krasnystaw [30 km east of Zamosc]. He spoke rather fluent Polish - he traded with the Poles, he used to sell shoe leather, among other things, so he often dealt with shoemakers.
Great-grandpa Psachje's wife was called Sura, I remember her. She died in 1940 of natural causes, before the ghetto in Zamosc  was created. She didn't live with Grandpa [her son], I'd never been at her apartment. I know she visited grandparents on all major holidays, and for example used to have the Saturday dinner with them. I don't remember if we exchanged at least one word. She probably had big trouble with Polish. She was very religious too, as Great-grandpa Psachje was a very religious man.
Great-grandpa Psachje had seven children. Four sons and three daughters, and all of them had their own families. Three of them left the country back before the war. They went to Argentina, for economic reasons, and to Palestine. Many members of that family survived the war.
One of the seven children of Psachje was my Grandpa, he was called Nuta. He was born in 1886 or 1887, and in 1942 they took him to Belzec . He used to dress the traditional Jewish way, had a little beard, wore a gabardine and that sort of a Jewish cap. Grandpa's wife, Rajzla, was born in 1890 and was murdered in 1942 [in Belzec] as well. She came from a village in the Krasnobrod commune [27 km south of Zamosc]. She spoke Polish with a peasant's accent. She had a little store in Zamosc before the war, she sold fabrics. She was religious, like every elderly woman.
They had four children. My mother, Maria, was the eldest daughter, she was born in 1908. Uncle Izaak was second, he was born in 1911. There was also the other daughter, Rachela, nicknamed Halina, of 1917 I guess, she survived the war, she even was a runner at Zegota , in Warsaw, she had a very 'good,' 'Aryan' appearance. She also left for Argentina after the war and died there. The youngest son, my uncle Mojzesz, or Moniek, born in 1921 or 1922, was killed in 1941 in Zamosc.
Mom's parents [Grandpa Nuta and Grandma Rajzla] had an apartment downtown, on Staszica Street, a large room and a large kitchen. The room was divided by sort of a wooden wall. The kitchen was partly divided, too, because a section of it was Grandpa's leather business, as he also traded in leather. It was a small apartment for six people.
In the 1970s my cousin and Grandpa's grandson, Adam Jungman, the son of Uncle [Izaak] Jungman from Argentina, came to Poland; we went to Zamosc and he wanted to visit his grandparents' apartment very much. I walked him there and said, 'Know what, it's awkward for me to go there, you go, introduce yourself as a son of so-and-so, say you want to take a look, I'll take a walk.' He came downstairs afterwards and said, 'Heniek, who used to live here?', so I said 'Six people lived here.' 'How did they coop up here, we have a bathroom that's only a bit smaller than this whole apartment.' 'That's how you lived before the war,' I said. But I remember they always had space there.
From the time I was born until sometime in 1935 or 1936 my parents and I lived downtown, right in front of the town hall. Later we moved to a company apartment on the brewery's premises. It was a two-story building: we lived on the first floor, the grandparents - Father's parents - on the second. Because the brewery was somewhat on the outskirts I sometimes stayed the night at Mom's parents; I liked it, I always slept in Grandma's room.
I was the fruit of a puppy love, so to speak. My parents were very close to each other, my mother was a very pretty girl, a petite brunette, my father was a well-built, tall, broad-shouldered redhead. Because there were differences between their financial standings - my mother's parents were not really well-off, my father's parents were considered the more affluent Jewish class - so as far as I remember the relationship was without the parents' acceptance, and the marriage took place because I was already on the way.
Mom completed a Polish gymnasium in Zamosc with the lower standard exams and she worked hard all her life. Our apartment neighbored the office and Mom sat at the papers often as early as 5am. The reason was that the food industry before the war was in constant crisis. There was overproduction and all companies in the business were on their last legs, and my mother worked so that increasing employment could be avoided and the salary money saved. Plus you know, 'the master's eye makes the horse fat.'
My father worked less, because he was also active in public life. Father was a Jabotinist . Jabotinsky's  movement had a nationalist-fascist slant, meaning they did not believe in the possibility of gaining the Jewish statehood in Palestine through negotiations, or thanks to the mercy of the British. Jabotinists believed independence could be won by means of armed struggle with not just the Brits, but the Arab movement as well. So they looked for allies. One of those allies was Mussolini . Italians were elbowing around in the colonies and always looking for a chance to mess up the British. They felt Palestine was one such chance.
For what I know, Jews selected by Jabotinsky [members of the Revisionist Zionists Union] were admitted to the navy military school in Civitavecchia, in Italy. It was a secular organization and, as far as I remember, well developed in Zamosc. At the 3rd May  and 11th November  parades, the military units were always followed by the Jabotinists, in their uniforms. I didn't attend the demonstrations, I was a child, but my father did, he used to lead that column of the Zamosc Jabotinists. As far as I remember, no-one had beards there, or payes, they were all dressed the secular, European fashion. You can't say the organization had a particular social class prevalence. The members were both sons of the rich families and the extremely poor ones.
I remember that because there was this Palestine emigration thing, they wanted to prepare people here in Poland for working in the kibbutzim, as farmers. My father wanted to move to Palestine, too, although in the more distant future I guess. In the meantime he organized trainings for future kibbutzim members, some of them at Grandpa's estate in Danczypol.
As I was eight or nine, Father took me with him to a training like this, to a village called Kolki, between Volodymir-Volyns'kyy and Kowel [today Ukraine]. The village administrator was a Jew, he had that 'horse tooth' [underbite, malocclusion] - as he closed his mouth, a tooth stuck out. Father had his meetings all day long and I played with the kids. It was a big training for a crowd of Jewish farmers who would become kibbutzim members.
I remember an autographed portrait of Jabotinsky hanging in my father's office. Father was a member of the national executive of the Revisionist Zionists Union, I don't remember if it was on the central level, but I know he knew Jabotinsky personally. I know that when they held the last Jabotinist congress before the war, in Vienna, in 1937 I think, my father went there. I remember exactly, because as he came back from Vienna and was driving from the railway station in Zamosc to the brewery he realized he hadn't bought any presents for us, so he stopped downtown, went to a shop owner he knew who sold toys and that sort of things, and he bought me some kind of a motorbike, which I was very proud of. A couple of days later I saw he'd bought it in a shop in Zamosc.
Jabotinsky was very popular. There was this tradition that when Jabotinsky came to a town somewhere in Poland, the organization members would unharness a horse from a cab and pull the vehicle themselves, as a way of showing appreciation for their boss. Jabotinsky died in 1940 during a sea travel, he was going from England to the United States to organize a Jewish legion to fight the Germans.
You have to admit Jabotinsky's idea has been in some way realized, because Haganah  and all the other organizations in Israel actually started armed struggle, even though they consisted of people who were Jabotinsky's enemies, Ben Gurion  was the Jewish Left after all. It turned out, however, that we need to fight, that you can't gain independence with just a bunch of agreements on paper; it has to cost you some blood.
My father was religiously indifferent. For example: he didn't like it when my maternal Grandpa Nuta took me to prayers on the Jewish holidays. He couldn't really say 'no,' but he wasn't pleased, you know, so he said to me once: 'Listen, as you're in the synagogue with Grandpa, take off your cap.' It caused a great fuss, everyone was all over Grandpa: 'How have you raised your grandson!' And it was effective: Grandpa gave me a break for a few weeks, he wasn't taking me anywhere.
The synagogue I went to with Grandpa survived, it's an architectural monument nowadays , it hosts a public library. As far as I remember, Mother used to go with her mother Rajzla to the women's part of that synagogue on the Jewish New Year. I'd never seen my father in a synagogue. The food we ate at home wasn't kosher. We had a maid, a Ukrainian girl, called Anna Woloszyn, I remember she used to take me to the Orthodox church every Sunday, I loved to go there, because a male church choir sang there at service.
Religious holidays were treated just like nowadays: I'm a non-believer after all, nonobservant, but we all gather as a family on Christmas. Father was a non-believer, there was always bread in the house, and I remember once during Pesach, when it's forbidden to eat bread, I helped myself to a slice and went to play outside. Father really gave me hell back then, you know, because the others saw me eating bread, and he respected their observing the rule.
From the visits at Grandma and Grandpa I remember the dishes. I sometimes had dinner at my maternal grandparents'. I still recall it, the chulent above all. I've had chulent a few times after the war on different occasions; maybe I did idealize the taste of that pre-war chulent, but everything I've eaten since, even in Israel, was not even in the same league. I also remember kugel, it was sort of a bun, and chicken broth, THE Jewish dinner dish. Another dish was what's now called the 'Jewish caviar,' a salad made of poultry liver, onion, and egg.
My parents spoke Polish at home, they switched to Yiddish only when they didn't want me to understand. They knew Yiddish, of course, Yiddish was spoken at both Grandpa Nuta's and Sanel's. I only learned to speak Yiddish during the war, as I was working at the German commandant's office with a group of Jewish workers. I can't write, I can't read in Yiddish, but as I compare it today, I'm one of the very few in the Warsaw community who understand Yiddish. Well, anyway, I don't need to put on the headphones when I'm at the Jewish Theater.
I used to see Zamosc as a beautiful, bustling city. The surroundings of Mickiewicza Square, the main [Great Market Square] and the adjoining streets of the Old Town, the Zamosc city park, one of the most beautiful parks in Poland, they were always full of people.
I remember sometime in the 1960s or 1970s I was on a business trip in the Zamosc area and had to spend a night in a hotel. And so I took a walk downtown. Deserted streets, not a person in sight. The town had a lot less inhabitants than before the war; 32,000-33,000 people lived in pre-war Zamosc, including about 14,000 Jews [Editor's note: in 1939 there were 12,000 Jews in Zamosc], very few Ukrainians, some German families, the rest were Polish families. It was a very pleasant town.
We had a military parade every year; Zamosc had a big garrison, in two barracks: the Pilsudski barracks and the Lukasinski barracks. I remember there were parades each year on 3rd May and 11th November, it was always fun for the children.
I remember the ceremonies after Pilsudski's death, they lasted several days. They transmitted it all on the radio, the burial Mass, transporting the body from Warsaw to Krakow, and later there was a newsreel devoted entirely to Pilsudski's death, I remember going to the cinema with Moniek, my youngest uncle [my mother's brother], it was overcrowded, we had to stand, I didn't see too much.
I know some of Mother's side of the family had Communist sympathies. Uncle Izaak was somewhat involved in Communism, he spent some time in prison, in Warsaw, there was also mother's cousin Jozek Jungman, who lived in Lublin, and the police were after him so he came to Grandpa and Grandma Jungman, to Zamosc, for a few days.
A story comes to my mind: there was a rabbi in Zamosc, one I would now call a patriot-rabbi. Each 3rd May and 11th November he held a service for the motherland. Jozek Jungman conspired with some other young Communists and they entered the synagogue during a service with two pigeons, with a banner attached to their tails saying 'Away with the government', or something to that effect, anti-State anyway, and then let the birds out inside. The banner unfurled and the caption was to be seen, there was a great stir of course, the service was interrupted; as far as I know nobody was proven guilty, so Jozek Jungman got away with it.
I went to elementary school in Nowa Osada [a Zamosc suburb, founded in the 19th century], where I lived. It was a Polish elementary school. I don't recall there being a Jewish elementary school in Zamosc, there were cheders, for the little children. There was also a Jewish gymnasium, one of the very few; that uncle of mine, Izaak Jungman, completed a Jewish gymnasium. Because we lived on the outskirts, there were some Ukrainians in the neighborhood, and so the classes were mixed, Polish, Jewish, and Ukrainian. [In pre-war Poland the Ukrainian national minority dwelled mostly in the villages].
As for the school's quality, well, obviously many of the Jewish children had trouble with the Polish language since they didn't use it at home, they had that accent, and had trouble writing. Village children, not necessarily Ukrainians, but the Polish ones as well found it hard to express themselves, or to spell. There were very few white-collar children at the school, so I was one of the best as far as Polish was concerned, I spoke well and could write rather well, too. I was even elected the class president.
There were no 'Jews' and 'Poles' at school. The divide was a religious one. You'd say Jews, Catholics, and the Orthodox or Ruthenians. As we played soccer during the breaks, it was Jews versus Catholics. I don't know the origins of that, the divide dated back to the distant times when the nationality issues were not so clearly defined, and people were identified based on their denomination. For example, the Treaty of Versailles determined the Curzon Line [a 1920 projected demarcation between Poland and Soviet Russia] based not on the ethnic criterion, but the religious records. The Orthodox or Uniates were Ruthenians, the Catholics were Poles.
I'm not saying there was no anti-Semitism, but it occurred in the older grades, in gymnasium. Among these 10-, 11-, 12-year-old brats there was no such thing. Everyone attended religion classes, either Catholic or Jewish. We had a female teacher. I don't remember a thing of these classes. Maybe it's because my parents didn't really urge me to learn religion that hard.
As for the friendships, neighborhood was everything. I mean, if someone lived nearby, you hung out with him. I had some buddies living downtown, their parents were friends of my parents. They were mostly Jewish, but that was downtown, and I didn't go downtown much, once a week maybe, because it was quite a distance. I played with the Polish children on a daily basis, they lived two houses down the street, we played palant and kitschka [Editor's note: tipcat, sometimes simply called kitschka. Palant is also a different children's game, similar to cricket]. Palant [Editor's note: also called palestra] was a long wooden bat, perhaps a meter long, and kitschka was a 20 cm piece of wood. You put the kitschka on the ground, dug a little hole for the palant to be put underneath it, and then threw the kitschka in the air [and quickly hit it again]. The point was to send the kitschka flying as far as possible.
Where I lived, in Nowa Osada, in the brewery's surroundings, there were roughly 50 per cent Jews and 50 per cent Poles. I didn't have contact with the orthodox Jews, as they didn't really speak any Polish and kept to themselves. Their outfits were very dignified, the beards, the payes.
I remember a story: I was on a train with my mother, going from Zamosc to Lwow. And in Rawa Ruska [60 km north-west of Lwow, presently Ukraine], well, if you know Israel, if you've seen Mea Shearim [an ultra orthodox quarter of Jerusalem] - Rawa Ruska looked exactly like Mea Shearim. Anyway, a Jew walked into the compartment in Rawa Ruska, carrying a huge scarf, which he then wrapped a bottle of water with, put the whole thing on his seat and sat on it. I burst out laughing. Mother took me out to the aisle and told me he was a very religious Jew. It was Sabbath and Jews are not allowed to travel on Sabbath, unless they travel on water, since a sea journey could last more than a week. So he traveled on water, without breaching the religious law. I found it very funny, but that's what the tradition was.
I also remember another story: we still lived downtown, I must've been five or so, I had a big argument with my parents, I don't remember what about. I started to call them 'Jews.' I was being really rude, really anti-Semitic. I guess I'd overheard 'You Jew!' somewhere in the street and just caught on. When I calmed down, Mother started to explain to me it's bad to say such things, and that they were Jews, and that I was a Jew, too. And because I liked my uncles so much, both from Mother's and Father's side, I asked her if Uncle Mietek was a Jew, and if Uncle Iciu was a Jew, and was relieved to hear that they were. And I was an anti-Semite no more.
In 1937 or 1938 I was in the Stanislawow region [today Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine] with Mom and we were riding in a horse cab with some married couple to Yaremcha [ca. 200 km south of Lwow, Ukraine] I think, as we came across a group of people walking down the road, university students, young people, with staves, and they started to threaten the cabman . We were not hurt in any way, but Mother wanted to report it to the police anyway, which she eventually didn't.
And I remember people picketing a Jewish store a couple of times. There was this self-taught painter in Zamosc, very talented supposedly, his name was Szum, and he organized those pickets. The picketing took place a few times a year, there were no brawls, just some boys, Endek  paramilitaries, stood in front of the Jewish stores and wouldn't let the Poles in. They had these slogans, 'Don't shop at a Jew,' 'Poles buy Polish stuff from Poles, let that be your motto.' My parents subscribed to a Jewish magazine in Polish, 'Nasz Przeglad' , and in 1937 or 1938 there was some brawl at the Lwow Polytechnic , a Jewish student got killed. I remember his photo on the magazine cover, and an account of the events.
Of course you heard about Hitlerism from the table talks. My parents would discuss it, especially at the time of the Zbaszyn incident, in 1938, when Hitler deported to Poland all the Jews with Polish citizenship living in Germany and the Polish authorities wouldn't admit them, and so they spent a couple of days waiting in Zbaszyn . There were demonstrations, parliamentary interpellations as to why they were being held at the border.
Oh and I remember the table discussions about a possible Bolshevik invasion . I didn't even know who those Bolsheviks were. I know that at the time of the German annexation of Austria , or Mussolini's attack on Albania [annexation of Albania by Italy, April 1939], or even prior to that on Abyssinia [the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, 1935-1936], it was all discussed a lot at home.
For the summer I always went to Grandpa Sanel's estate in Danczypol. In later years, apart from that, I was in Yaremcha once with Mother, then in Skole [ca. 100 km south of Lwow, today Ukraine], also with her, and finally in 1939, just before the war, at the Betar  summer camp in Hrebenow outside Skole [10 km south of Skol]. The camp ended on 25th or maybe 26th August 1939.
The boys and girls at the camp were generally from the Lwow region, there were just the four of us from Zamosc: me, Jurek Goldwag, the other boy [Marek Perczuk], and Romcia [or Romka, diminutive for Romana Inlender] I think, I'm not sure. The camp was organized by Betar, some Jewish university students had stayed there before and left the tents; the boys slept in the tents, they were quite big - I don't remember exactly, but eight beds each I think. There was also a house, a villa, the canteen was there, and also the girls stayed at the building.
We had some organized activities, and the reveille everyday. We used to sing the Hatikvah , although nobody knew the song, just a few of us actually sang and the rest just pretended and lip-synched. I didn't know it, either. We also sang Polish songs, we had physical education lessons, lots of outings. I remember we went to see the Hungarian border. There were evening gatherings and campfires, one or another of the campers would recite something. We from Zamosc were the youngest participants. I've never met any of my friends from the camp again, I don't know who's made it through the war. As for us from Zamosc, that Jurek survived, and also Joram Golan; Romka was killed, and Marek was killed as well.
We went back to Zamosc via Lwow. We stayed with our friend's family for the night. We left by train, and I remember the Lwow railway station, the atmosphere was already very tense, people were leaving, arriving. I'll never forget one sight, a very dignified rabbi stood there with all his family, dressed so elegant; I used to see Jews in gabardines every day, but as we stood there I kept staring at him, he looked like some sort of a saint. Then we took the train to Zamosc. We were already on the outskirts of Zamosc when we saw an ammunition depot not far from the station, I remember the military vehicles being loaded with crates of ammunition, you could smell the war in the air. I remember it was on Friday the war broke out, 1st September .
In the spring of 1939 part of the Danczypol estate was to be transferred to the Landless Fund. The Land Bestowal Act was in force in pre-war times, establishing that every now and then a part of the big estates would be transferred to the Landless Fund. We went to Hrubieszow [50 km east of Zamosc] - me, Uncle Mietek [short for Mieczyslaw], my father, and a certified land-surveyor from Zamosc, Mr. Piotr Pawel Lucht. They dealt with all the official business in Hrubieszow and then we went to have lunch. They ordered a glass of wine each and water for me, I stood up and proposed a toast 'to Hitler's death.' That Lucht guy went: 'Bravo, my boy, well done!' When the war broke out and the Germans marched in, Lucht signed the Volksliste and became a Volksdeutscher , and he was no longer Piotr Pawel Lucht but rather Peter Paul Lucht, and he wore a badge with a 'Hakenkreuz' [German for swastika]. I always crossed the street when I saw him ahead.
Zamosc was bombed on the sixth day of war and the next day Mother and I - Father was in the army - and some other members of our family got on a wagon and went to Danczypol. A well-known Polish poet Wlodzimierz Slobodnik [1900-1991, poet, satirist], a Jew, was in Zamosc at that time and he went along with us. We rode on two wagons, and I was on the one with Slobodnik. You could hear the German planes all the time, dropping bombs somewhere far away. Each time he heard the humming above, he jumped off the wagon and ran to lie down in a ditch. Some witty soul told me to make an 'oooooo' sound, and every time I did Slobodnik jumped off the wagon and ran for cover.
So we were in Danczypol, and Father's unit was stationed somewhere east of the river Bug, he was a corporal in the artillery. I remember it when the Russians entered, on 17th September , and how Mother and the others commented on Molotov's  speech, which was very anti-Polish.
One day, around 22nd or 23rd September, we heard a cannonade, the shelling of the surrounding area lasted about an hour, and then they marched in, the Bolshevik [here derogatory for Soviet] army for all I knew. And so they came, a cavalry troop; we were all in the manor house, in the hall, and they came in, I still remember the commander saying 'Kapitalisty' [Russian for capitalists]. The Ukrainian servants were also in the house, the Soviets sat for a while and leaving, that officer said to the servants, 'It's going to be your turn now to live in these chambers.'
And they went to Grabowiec. That was the place they had been shelling, Grabowiec, a small Jewish town. Some two hours later someone came in running to my Mother to tell her that among the killed Polish soldiers was Captain Wislicki [Henryk Wislicki, Grandma Blima's brother]. Mom took the chaise [a sort of small horse carriage] and we went to Grabowiec. I didn't see the corpse, I was still a child. Mom arranged all the different funeral issues, as he had converted [to the Catholic faith].
The Germans withdrew, the Bolsheviks entered, and we went back to Zamosc. There was already a militia keeping order, mostly the Jewish and Ukrainian youth, the dregs of Zamosc, very few Poles. The Bolsheviks stayed in Zamosc for another ten days or so, after that those agreements [Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact]  took place and they withdrew. At that time most of the Jews fled from Zamosc, following the Russians .
Mother's brothers and sister, Rozia, Moniek, and Izaak, left for Lwow, most of my schoolmates left, too [at the end of September 1939 about 5,000 out of 13,000 Jews living in Zamosc left the city with the Russian army]. My father's brother Mieczyslaw stayed in Zamosc, and we stayed as well, for all sorts of reasons: there was the brewery, the estate, no-one knew what was going to happen in the Soviet Union, besides, my parents were not Communists. They didn't trust the Soviets, and most of the people who fled had left-wing sympathies and believed Hitler would try to carry out his most terrible plans. My parents were being a bit naive perhaps as far as this was concerned.
Father returned to Zamosc on 24th, maybe 25th September; when the Bolsheviks entered, his commander disbanded the regiment and everyone tried to get back home on his own. The brewery was still in my parents' hands at the time, we didn't live in it anymore, though, it would have been dangerous. We lived downtown, in a building belonging to Uncle Mieczyslaw.
When the Germans took Zamosc over for the second time, this time bringing their administration with them, they immediately set up the Jewish community council - the Judenrat. The mayor of Zamosc suggested candidates for the Judenrat, the Germans wanted it to represent all the social classes. The big capitalists, the middle class, the intellectuals, the merchants, the craftsmen. When I read through the list after the war and recalled each person's profession, I had to admit they'd been successful in achieving the goal. The council was set up right away, sometime in October, and my uncle [Mieczyslaw Garfinkiel] was appointed the chair; my father was also a member, his initial task was to create a charity kitchen, and afterwards a Jewish police force . [Editor's note: Dawid Garfinkiel was the chief of the Jewish police in Zamosc until May 1942].
The ghetto was not yet established, the Jews, however, were being expelled from all the better apartments. We were expelled, too, we moved to Lwowska Street, on the premises of the future ghetto. They began to pick people for drying up the swamps outside Zamosc, for some cleaning works. The Judenrat was to provide people for those tasks, and many volunteered, because the council gave them food in exchange. The Germans started to take away the Jewish stores. They put contributions on the communities, meaning they announced the community had to collect a certain amount of money, and the council divided that sum according to wealth.
Foodstuffs shortages began, there was no more tea for example, no imported goods. The Bug river was the borderline, there was a ford crossing near Rawa Ruska; it was an illegal crossing, but lots of people were using it, commuting between Lwow and Zamosc. They carried sugar there, bringing tea in exchange. I wasn't doing anything at that time, because the school was closed. There was this professor from the gymnasium in Zamosc, Professor Szumer, he taught us, the children, German; Mother gave me some textbooks to read and used to test what progress I'd made.
They introduced the armbands  as early as 1940, although at first for the 13-year-olds and older; I began to wear one in 1942. It was supposed to be a yellow patch initially, but they gave us the blue David stars.
In the spring of 1941 people were gradually expelled from downtown and moved to the Nowa Osada suburb, where the ghetto was to be situated. [All Jews from Zamosc were to be moved to Nowa Osada by 1st May 1941]. We had already lived there before. Of course the living conditions were worse this time, because we were placed in the apartment of a Mr. Robinson, a pharmacist. We were given one big room. There was the charity kitchen, people still had some supplies left, the black market was functioning, the craftsmen worked as before. You could still think it was all going to be bearable.
The ghetto wasn't established until after the attack on the Soviet Union, in the fall of 1941 . As half of the Zamosc Jews had left with the Russians there was plenty of space, and so Jews from the territories annexed to the Reich started to be deported to Zamosc. That included Wloclawek and the surrounding area [ca. 150 km north-west of Warsaw], but also the Czech and German Jews began to flow in. They were secular intellectuals, not one of them spoke a word in Yiddish, they felt really alien among us. And quite so, it was a different culture, a different civilization, they knew German well.
Just before the invasion on the Soviet Union the Germans started to construct a network of field airstrips outside Zamosc, and all the back- breaking works were assigned to the Jews from Zamosc, while the Czech and German Jews were given administration tasks. Lots of totally Germanized Jews came, ones who learned about their Jewishness from Hitler. Among them was a World War I air force captain, decorated with every single medal possible, and they made him the chief of the Jewish police. His name was Hoffman [Editor's note: Mr. Lewandowski is referring to Alwin Lippmann, a high ranking German officer, during World War I a pilot in the famous Manfred 'The Red Baron' von Richthofen's squadron]. He had the typical appearance of a German officer. He was killed later on. There were also doctors, and the health administration posts at the Judenrat were given to the German doctors, or the Czech ones. In those early times they believed they were of a higher category than the locals.
Th ere were more and more [German and Czech Jews] coming. The first arrivals took place before there were any transports to the gas chambers, but not the later ones. I remember the first transport of the Jews from Theresienstadt , already after the first deportation action. The first action, to Belzec, was in April 1942. We tried to explain to those Jews, that they came here and the same journey awaits them, but they would say, 'No, you'll maybe go, we're going to be left here.' I'll never forget my Mother explaining to a Czech or German Jewish woman what this whole gas thing was, and the boy of my age who was with her said, 'Mama, das ist ein Quatsch!' [German for 'Mom, that's nonsense!']. They simply wouldn't believe it.
There were four massive deportations in Zamosc. I remember them all. The first took place on 12th April 1942 I think, I'd reached the official age [of 13] on 10th April and a job at the German commandant's office had been arranged for me. Now, that gave you two advantages: documents that could prevent you from being expelled after a round-up, and the meals they served there. You could work as a bootblack, a runner, or chop wood.
There was another deportation in June and yet another in August. I remember very well the August transport, because my maternal grandpa, Nuta, went to Belzec. [Editor's note: The first deportation from Zamosc took place on 11th April 1942, the second one on 24th May the third one on 11th August, and the fourth one at the beginning of September. The final liquidation of the Zamosc ghetto took place in October 1942.]
Back before that, at the turn of 1941, Moniek, Mother's youngest brother, was killed. After Lwow and Ukraine had been taken by the Germans [as a result of the German-Soviet war in June 1941] Mom's brothers and sister returned, Uncle Izaak, however, immediately left for some place in the Krasnobrod area. Aunt Rozia and Uncle Moniek stayed in Zamosc.
As the deportations began, everyone tried to figure something out. Aunt Rozia had a 'good' appearance. A schoolmate of her from Zamosc looked a bit alike and she gave her her ID [in the name Halina Nowosadowicz], and so Rozia left for Warsaw; she later assumed the name Halina Skalska and sent the ID back to her schoolmate. 'Halina' worked for Zegota, she was a runner there.
Moniek was a young, handsome boy, popular with the girls. He was arrested by the Gestapo. It was said they sent him to Majdanek , but as it later turned out they did him in at the Rotunda in Zamosc. [At the Rotunda in the fall of 1941, the Gestapo shot about 30 people who had escaped in 1939 and returned to Zamosc in 1941.] That was the first victim in our family, even before the deportations, and the second one was Grandpa Nuta in August.
When Belzec [death camp] was created, everyone knew what was going to happen, but people were fooling themselves the Germans were not planning a total annihilation, that they would keep those useful for them, those working, those in the productive age. Sometime in September 1942, after the fourth expulsion, a 'J-Karte' was introduced, a 'Judenkarte' [German for 'Jewish card']. It was made of cardboard, it said the issuing authority was the police and security commandant of the Lublin district, and that the Jew so-and-so was essential for the German economy. Everyone fought to get the card, you even had to get it illegally.
But at the end of September 1942 the deportation was ordered anyway. All the Jews were herded into the market square, and only a few were released, some craftsmen - tailors, shoemakers - who worked, and so they were released but not free to go home; a building was prepared for them to live in. Just before setting off some Judenrat members were released [along with their families], they told us to go home and wait for further instructions. The rest was sent on foot to Izbica. It's 21 kilometers away, and everyone had their best clothes on.
A friend of mine, Romka Inlender, was among them, and she had a new pair of boots that were grazing her legs as she walked, so she left the column to take them off, and they shot her. Her mother went after her, and they shot the mother, too. On that way from Zamosc to Izbica more or less 70 people got killed.
We stayed in Zamosc for another four or five days, and one afternoon a Gestapo man came and told us all to get moving, we were to go to the Gestapo headquarters. So they put us all on two wagons. Nobody knew why. Someone said we would be going to Izbica. We got to the Gestapo just before the night. They transported us to Izbica the next day.
The Jews no longer hoped Izbica is here to stay, that it was going to be the ghetto for the southern part of the Lublin region. Those who had Polish friends and a chance to get a phony ID, started to look for a way out. My uncle [Mieczyslaw] already had his documents and he left for Warsaw one day with his wife, and we stayed, waiting for ours - the hideout in Warsaw was ready.
It was then that the deportations and liquidation of the Izbica ghetto took place [4th November, 1942]. Everyone ran for their lives. There was a grove in the middle of a clearing, and we ran there, Grandma Blima, Father's mother, was with us but she was an elderly woman - she simply couldn't run anymore. It was a meadow where cattle used to graze. There was a cabin of sorts, a shelter for the herdsmen, the size of a privy. And Father put his mother in there. He still didn't believe it was the liquidation of the ghetto, he thought we'll take her with us on our way back. Father went one way, and Mother, Grandma Rajzla, and I went the other.
At night we heard a train arriving at the station to take the people to Belzec; it turned out the transport headed to Sobibor , not Belzec. All the Jews from Zamosc had been killed in Belzec, and the last transport went to Sobibor. And so we went back to Izbica the following morning, still not knowing if it was a liquidation. We saw a couple of Jewish policemen hanging around, some other people, not a German in sight. We got in the building we lived in and saw Father in tears, because he went to take Grandma back and saw somebody had shot her.
Seeing how things were, my parents decided to go to Warsaw. There were six of us: my parents, Grandma, me, and Mr. Rozen, a friend of my parents. We decided to walk apart from each other, so that if one of us got caught it wouldn't cause us all to be killed, but still close enough to see the others. We were supposed to meet at the railway station in Krasnystaw, in the house of a railway worker, whom Grandma knew. We got on a train and got as far Rejowiec, when I saw my mother and Grandma being escorted by two 'Bahnschützer' [German for 'railway guards'] to the guardhouse. We saw them being arrested. And so we kept on our way to Warsaw - Father and I in one compartment, Mr. Rozen in the next.
We got off the train at the Dworzec Glowny station in Warsaw; it used to be where the Warszawa Srodmiescie station is located today. Father had the address of a hotel on Widok Street, where they in turn had the address of the place my mother's sister, Rachela, stayed at. We stepped out on the platform and saw at least ten people from the Zamosc ghetto had been on the same train. One of them, a very pushy gentleman, didn't know Warsaw at all and started to shout to my father, 'Where's Zlota Street?' Father wanted to leave him behind, he was afraid we'd get caught, because the man had a Jewish appearance. We started to walk away fast, he ran after us and, forgetting himself, shouted, 'Garfinkel, where's Zlota Street?'
The Warsaw police probably knew there were going to be some Jews on that train, they had some operatives at the station, some navy-blue policemen , anyway - they caught us all that day. The precinct was just opposite the station, on the other side of Jerozolimskie Avenue. They dragged us all there. The navy-blue policemen were questioning us: 'We're going to take you to the ghetto' . It was already after the main July-August deportation action , of course, but several tens of thousands of people still lived in the Warsaw ghetto. We started to speak with the policemen to make them let us free, and in the afternoon they eventually agreed, letting us go in groups of two or three every couple of minutes, without informing the Germans.
A characteristic thing: when we discussed with the policemen why they were persecuting us, one of them said, 'And what have your people done to our soldiers in the East in 1940, 1941?' . Apparently, it was an already widespread rumor that many Jews had collaborated with the Soviet authorities on the occupied territories over the Bug river. It was partly true, naturally, but that behavior wasn't as prevailing as the rumor in the General Government had it.
[Soon after that] Halina Skalska, or Rachela, contacted Rejowiec via the Home Army  to find out what had happened with Mom and Grandma. A 'Bahnschützer' named Lenart said he can arrange their release - for a price. She contacted him by phone, and then wrote him I think. Someone from the Home Army warned her he was not a man to be trusted, but Halina wanted to save her mother and sister. She was to meet him on neutral ground to give him the money. Meanwhile, she was told they were already dead, they had been shot. The bastard not only had murdered them, but he also wanted to make some money off it. They were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Rejowiec, the exact spot is unknown. After the war I've bumped that guy off with a friend of mine.
Right after the arrival in Warsaw I got a birth certificate in the name Czeslaw Waclaw Lewandowski. After a short stay with Mr. and Ms. Janowski Halina found us a new hideout, on Jerozolimskie Avenue, and so me, Father, and two more people from Zamosc were transported there, each one separately. I was ill with measles at that time; the man who was supposed to take me to the apartment said we were going to go by tram, in the 'Nur für Deutsche' [German for 'For Germans only'] compartment - he had a Nazi pin on his lapel. He was the future Attorney General, Professor Marian Rybicki [1915-1987, state official, politician]. He was a member of the Home Army and Zegota. It was thanks to the Home Army and Zegota that we later had a permanent hideout, on Krzyckiego Street; I lived there, with some breaks, until the Warsaw uprising .
In the meantime Mrs. Wolska [owner of the apartment] took in another lodger, Mr. Edward Lewandowski. He looked hundred per cent 'Aryan,' he shared the room with me. I was afraid, I didn't know how to explain to him my staying at home all the time. He had a regular job. It turned out he was a Jew as well. He came from Lubien near Wloclawek, his real name was Burak. His brother was in a Jewish labor camp in Piotrkow Trybunalski, and his sister, a pretty blonde, stayed outside Warsaw with a Polish family. Edward Lewandowski was arrested one day, they put him in the Pawiak prison  and later shot him. They didn't recognize him as a Jew.
I remember the ghetto uprising . There were inscriptions on the walls, and songs like this: 'One ax, one hoe, nail, stiletto/Jews with courage fight in the ghetto.' [Editor's note: 'One ax, one hoe' was a popular anti- Nazi song of the war years, a 'singable newsreel,' with new lines being added to comment on the most recent events.] You have to admit the ghetto uprising increased the respect for Jews by an order of magnitude, even for those hiding on the 'Aryan side.' It was a tragic event, no doubt. From where I lived on Krzyckiego Street you could see the glow of the blazes.
One night, 12th September, or maybe 13th, 1943, there was a massive Soviet air raid on Warsaw, they dropped lots of bombs, a few people were breaking away from the ghetto; lots of bombs fell on our neighborhood, but they also dropped leaflets signed by Wanda Wasilewska . I saw one, it read: 'Dear Polish brothers, Stalin declared that Poland is to be independent.'
And so I made it to the Warsaw uprising, it broke out on 1st August, I felt an absolutely free man by then. My whole involvement in the uprising was that on the second day of it the commander of my outpost sent a messenger on Sucha Street, presently Krzewickiego Street, with a report. That guy was from a different part of the city, he didn't know where Sucha Street was, plus two people were needed for the assignment, so that in case one got shot, the other would deliver the message. We reached our goal, Sucha Street, but there were no headquarters there. My comrade told me to destroy the document and we went back to Krzyckiego Street.
On 8th August the RONA [Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Narodnaya Armiya, Russian National Liberation Army, a Waffen-SS division consisting of Red Army deserters, commanded by SS-General Major Mieczyslaw Kaminski] came. They stormed, taking over all the buildings on Krzyckiego Street, drove the people out on the street and set fire to the houses. They herded everyone on Raszynska Street and then to the so-called Zieleniak square [a groceries market], at the end of Grojecka Street.
Some terrible, tragic events took place at the Zieleniak: the RONA soldiers hung around and pulled the young women out of the crowd, there were many rapes; somehow we made it through the night and the next morning some high ranking officer appeared, it turned out to be Kaminski himself. A group of men went up to him to complain about the behavior of his subordinates. Apparently, it was effective, because their conduct was later quite acceptable. [Editor's note: Actually the scale of RONA's ongoing atrocities against civilians shocked the German commanders; the unit was withdrawn from the battle and its commander, Kaminski, court-martialed and shot - for the looting, not for the murders and rapes.]
In the afternoon the evacuation of civilians was ordered, we went to Szczesliwice, where they put us on a commuter train and transported us to Pruszkow . In Pruszkow they told us to get off and herded us to a former rail yard, we were all crammed into a huge hall; they gave us something to drink but no food, we sat there all night. The Poles from the Red Cross and the RGO [Rada Glowna Opiekuncza, Central Custodiary Council, a charity organization active during WWI and WWII] told us there was going to be a selection, some would be taken to Germany, some would stay here. But even they didn't know anything for sure, because that transit camp had just been created and there was no established practice regarding the treatment of the Warsaw civilians.
After some time they told us to get moving and led us to the train. They loaded us into the cars and the train pulled out. There were lots of locals standing along the tracks, throwing us food, fruits. The train halted every few kilometers to let the military transports going to the eastern front pass. We didn't see where we were going, but after a few hours travel we reached Lowicz [80 km west of Warsaw]; it's less than 60 kilometers from Pruszkow to Lowicz, but there were so many stops.
Lots of wagons awaited at the Lowicz station, many Germans, but also the Red Cross workers and, as it turned out, people from the surrounding villages who were to host the expelled Warsaw citizens. We stood alongside the cars, while the farmers were walking up and down the train and picking. You know, they were looking for people who could be of any help. I was a young boy, physically fit, and so a farmer asked me right away if I knew the farm work. I said my Grandpa had some land, and that my aunt was with me. 'Then bring her, too.' And so Mrs. Wolska and I went with this farmer. Everyone from Krzyckiego Street ended up there, in Rozyce, or Stara Wies [10 km east of Lowicz] - a village with two names. It was a good place to be.
I have to stress it: for me it was the most pleasant time during the occupation. First of all, what all the other people from Warsaw had just lost at that time, I had already lost in 1942: my family and my property. No-one in the village knew of my Jewish identity - I'd all but forgotten I was a Jew. Everybody, even the potential anti-Semites, had their own trouble in mind, and they weren't nosy about other people.
I attended the church. It used to look like that: the boys would hang around in front of the church, waiting for all the girls to show up, and then go in last, and after the service they'd be first to go outside to see all the girls again, leaving. It was sort of a tradition before the war, I guess it's still like that in the country. I led a normal life, anyway.
The Polish Red Cross organized the relocation of the refugees very effectively. To give an example: my aunt, Halina [Rachela], was brought to Sochaczew [25 km east of Lowicz] after the fall of the uprising, and after a couple of days she found out where I lived and contacted me. And so I went on foot to Sochaczew a few times. It was 15-16 kilometers in one direction, about 30 there and back, but I was young, I'd set out in the morning and come back in the evening, not a bit of a problem.
Time passed slowly and it was the turn of 1944, you could hear the cannonade, see the German units fleeing in panic, and two days later the Red Army marched in; I went to Sochaczew right away and Halina and I agreed I'd come back to Sochaczew in two or three days and we'd set off to Zamosc.
As I came back to Rozyce, it turned out some Russians stayed with my host. I noticed they addressed one of them 'Moyseyevich.' In Russian you use a person's first name and his or her father's name with the '-ich' ending. I figured out Moyseyevich meant Moses [son]. One of the soldiers, the commander's aide-de-camp, asked if anybody spoke German. I told him I did. He started to speak to me, but I heard he was speaking Yiddish rather than German; I winked to go outside, and told him I was a 'yevrey' [Russian for Jew]. He gave me a hug, said he was a 'yevrey' from Moldova, and that the commander is 'tozhe yevrey' [Russian for 'Jewish as well'].
Two days later I thanked my hosts for their hospitality and left. All the Warsaw citizens were heading for Sochaczew, because it was said the army will provide transport from Sochaczew to Warsaw. As we arrived in Warsaw we went to the Praga quarter right away and started to ask around about the Jewish Council  there, we were told it was somewhere on Jagiellonska Street; we went there, they gave us something to eat and some money, and we left for Zamosc. It was January. In a week we got on foot as far as Lublin.
From Lublin we took a train to Rejowiec, and then had to wait for a train to Zamosc. It was night, the station building was crowded with people, winter, and I suddenly heard someone's voice and said to Halina, 'Listen, I think it's my father.' And it was him alright, with Wanda [whose place he hid at after moving from Mrs. Wolska]. During the uprising my father had been transported to Warka [about 50 km south of Warsaw], and he was going to Zamosc via Warsaw just like us. He went to the house on Krzyckiego Street in Warsaw where I'd lived and they told him the Germans had shot everybody. Fearing the worst, he kept on walking to Zamosc. In 1942 I lost my mother in Rejowiec, and in 1945 I found my father there.
And so we returned to Zamosc, Uncle Izaak [my mother's brother] was already there, he worked in the municipality. Father took over the brewery. I was 16 at the time. I started to think about school. I felt bad in Zamosc, walking the streets; none of my friends survived, the few who were in Russia were not to return until later, and back then, in 1945, there was no- one around.
I wanted to become politically active, but didn't want to stay in Zamosc, I didn't get along well with my father, which was my fault. He lived with Wanda, and I was angry at him for finding someone so quickly. I only understood years later my reproaches had been unfair - he was only 37, he was a young man. One factor might have been the rumor I heard, that he'd been fooling around with that Wanda woman back before the war. Never mind. She did help him survive the war.
I decided to leave the house in the end, moved to Lublin and became a member of the Fighting Youth Union . I stayed with Halina for some time, she was finishing her studies at the Lublin Polytechnic, she was 27. Her second husband, Stach Rozen, lost his wife and daughter in Majdanek and he desperately wanted a daughter, eventually they adopted a girl and she got her first name after Stach's daughter - Ania, Anita. Halina and Stach left in 1948. They moved to Argentina, because some of the pre-war emigrants from the family were still there, so they had a starting point. Anita didn't even know she was an adopted child. She's coming to Poland for a longer stay next year. That Anita is pretty, very pretty, I like her very much.
At the turn of 1956 Uncle Izaak moved to Argentina as well. He was a confirmed bachelor, he didn't get married until 1952 I think, when he was about 40. His wife still lives in Argentina, she's Jewish, from Poland, her name's Zosia. They have a son and a daughter. Adam was born in 1953, he has two daughters, he works in Ukraine and visits Poland sometimes. Ewa was born in 1957, she's very pretty, she used to be a model in Argentina for quite some time. She's married, has two sons.
I started an evening school in Lublin. I completed four grades of elementary school before the war. Here you completed two grades in one year, I finished the third and the fourth and passed the lower standard exams. I went to the gymnasium ran by the Workers Universities Society in the Staszic Gymnasium building, on Raclawickie Avenue in Lublin.
I worked in the youth movement, we were creating sort of a paramilitary self-defense force; I completed a non-commissioned officer's course, I was an instructor for some time, and later the chairman of the Municipal Board of the Fighting Youth Union in Lublin. At the end of 1947, after passing my exams, I decided to move to Warsaw, to work in the National Board of the Union and to study on.
I became a student of the Political Science Academy. The course lasted three years, I got my under-graduate degree there and then they transferred me to Zielona Gora, I was made the deputy district commandant of the Sluzba Polsce organization [Duty to Poland, a paramilitary youth organization founded in January 1948, under political control of the Fighting Youth Union]. In 1951 I was transferred back to the Warsaw branch of Sluzba Polsce, and in 1952 SP spun off a new organization, the Village Sports Clubs Association. I was there, I've brought the association into being, I'd worked there for 15 years, until 1967, when I started to work for Gromada [a hotel operator and tourist agency]; in Gromada I spent 25 years short one month.
In 1954, the National Youth Olympics were held in Lublin to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the People's Republic of Poland. I was one of the organizers. There weren't so many referees in Lublin, so a group of additional track and field referees was sent in from Warsaw, including two women referees. I didn't even notice them, I didn't have time, but a colleague, who was taking care of the track and field events, said to me over dinner, 'Listen, there are these two cute referees from Warsaw, let's have them come over.' And so we had the dinner together, and that's how I met my wife.
She was born in 1933 in Chylice, near Warsaw [35 km south]. She was called Maria, her maiden name was Anusik, we called her Lusia. We met in September and got married in February 1955. In 1956 our son, Ryszard, was born, and in 1957 a daughter, Jolanta.
My mother-in-law was Polish, a simple village woman, her husband worked in a mill, he was killed in Mauthausen . She was left with two daughters, Jadwiga, my age, and Lusia. They lived outside Warsaw, in Chylice, in pretty hard conditions, both girls worked and studied in Warsaw. I didn't keep it a secret from Lusia I was a Jew, a few months earlier my future sister-in-law, Jadwiga, had married a Jew as well. Both sisters were Catholics, but my wife hardly ever went to church. We did celebrate all the Catholic holidays, though.
These were both civil marriages and no-one had any complaints, but with the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland celebrations  my mother-in-law started to insist on baptizing the children. Okay, they were baptized; I didn't attend the ceremony, I was on a business trip. I didn't object. My father was hostile towards religion, and I'm not religious either, but I'm tolerant, I do go to church at least twice a year, to attend the services for my wife and my mother-in-law. My father was more aggressive in these matters, I'm rather passive.
My son is a construction engineer, he works at the Municipal Road Department, in the road building section, and he also works as the district road inspector in Piaseczno. He's got a wife and two girls, Agnieszka, 18 years old, and Joanna, 15 years old. They live in Warsaw.
My daughter lives in Chylice, she took over her Grandma's - my mother-in- law's - house, she's remodeled it. She graduated from the Central School of Planning and Statistics, nowadays the Warsaw School of Economics. She worked in the tourist business for a long time, for Orbis [travel agency, founded in Lwow in 1920], she was a guide, and later worked at a bank, she still does. She's single.
I've told my children about the war, I've written my memoirs especially for them, so that they know the life's dark side, so to speak. My son is very religious [Catholic], he sometimes even gets angry at me for telling all this to my granddaughters. I always say, 'Remember, it's better that they learn certain things from me or you, than from some "kind heart" on the street.' My daughter's more interested in that story. She keeps in touch with our family in Argentina. First of all, she's met them personally, and secondly, there's no language barrier as she speaks Spanish fluently.
My elder granddaughter [Agnieszka] is interested [in Jewish culture], she even goes to the Jewish Theater to see all those special events, sometimes with me, sometimes on her own, my younger granddaughter [Joanna] is still too young.
I've never hidden [my identity], well, neither did I write 'Caution, Jew!' on my forehead. A friend of mine told me once I did a wise thing keeping the false name, so that you can't tell I'm a Jew. That way people get to know me first and only afterwards find out I'm a Jew. I think it did the trick a couple of times.
My father took over the brewery and managed it for a few years. After the nationalization he applied to immigrate to Israel but they weren't giving permissions anymore, he didn't leave until after October 1956 , when it became legal again. He left with Wanda, but she broke up with him and later returned to Poland. Wanda was Polish, yet she settled in [in Israel] better than he did. He had big trouble with the Hebrew language, the alphabet.
In Israel my father was not politically active anymore, I know he met with Begin , who was not Prime Minister yet, but the opposition leader, although everyone knew he would take the power eventually. Father was angry with Begin, he didn't like that the ever so secular party was so amicable towards the religious [Jews]. Begin explained to him that they needed the American money, and that the American Jews would donate it only if the party was religious. And so my father ended up not joining the party, he was a blue-collar worker, a night guard at the Haifa harbor; later he had some health problems, he had the Buerger disease in one leg, then also in the other, and so he retired and lived off his disability pension.
I went to see Father in 1967, it was my first trip to Israel. I stayed for more than a month. I went through Greece on my way there and through Italy on the way back, so I did some sightseeing. Father lived outside Haifa at the time, in Kiriat Yam, a lot of Jews from the African and Asian countries lived there. The living conditions were rather harsh.
I've seen my father twice more, on neutral ground, in Romania [in 1967 Poland broke the diplomatic relations with Israel]  - first time in 1969, and then in 1983, on his 75th birthday. I wanted him to meet my son, I wanted my daughter to come, too, but she couldn't, she was the Orbis [Polish tourist operator] resident in Spain, but my son came. I worked for Gromada at that time, I could arrange a foreign trip for me and my son. He's met his Grandpa. I remember when we met for the second time, it was also our last time, in Constanta [Romania], I told him I'd been wrong holding it against him that he'd married Wanda. Although they were already divorced, I could feel he'd really hoped to hear such a statement from me, we hadn't spoken about it before but it had always been there between us.
In 1968  I was the deputy manager of the Dom Chlopa Hotel and was responsible for its remodeling. It was a good thing, because I was working 18-20 hours a day during the March events. Of course I knew something was going to happen, but the crew liked me, they saw my commitment with the remodeling. There were all those party meetings those days, and the party secretary came up to me and said, 'Mr. Director, there's going to be a party meeting, on that and that day, you know what gives.'
Lots of friends would come up and say, 'Heniek, take it easy, they're doing this campaign, it's going to be over in no time, it'll be quiet again.' A friend, a former Home Army soldier, said, 'Heniek [from Henryk], it's just what they did to us, they had a problem with the Home Army but they don't anymore, and it's alright now.' [Editor's note: The Home Army soldiers were persecuted by the Communist authorities after the war, about 5,000 of them were sentenced to death or many years in prison.]
All of my Jewish friends or remote relatives who had still been in Poland at that time emigrated. Only my brother-in-law and his wife stayed. My children were still very small, but my wife told me many years later she had to bring our son's birth certificate to school, he went to elementary at that time, he was eleven.
I don't regret staying in Poland. March 1968 was the last chance for me to emigrate. I was 40. If they'd fire me then, I would've gone perhaps, I even had some family abroad. I had an uncle [Mieczyslaw] in London, my other uncle [Matjas] lived in Africa, the third one lived in Argentina with his wife [Halina and Izaak]. But I felt bound with the country. I knew Poland well, I worked in tourism, there was no part of Poland I didn't know, I was in love with the country.
I retired when I was 63, I could have stayed a bit longer, but some people started to plot against me, and my wife was already in bad shape, so she needed me in the house. I retired in 1992 and she died in 1993. I remarried in December 1996.
My second wife, Maryla, birth name Kelber, is Jewish, she was born in 1942. She was adopted by a Polish family and she got her name from them: Przytula. She's from Tarnopol [today Ukraine, 250 km east of the Polish border]. She's an art historian. We've met thanks to the [Maksymilian] Kolbe Foundation, because it organized package holidays in Germany for the former concentration camps inmates, they organized the first vacation for the Children of the Holocaust  in 1996 and that's where we've met.
She was divorced. Her husband was Polish, they have a daughter. They split up, he was killed in a car accident in Warsaw three years ago. Her daughter lives in France, she has two sons, naughty little urchins, but actually good boys. She's a high school teacher, she teaches French, she's got a degree in French philology from Wroclaw University. I was afraid there were going to be conflicts [in the family] when I remarried after my wife's death, but I was wrong. My [second] wife settled in nicely, she gets along with my granddaughters.
I've never been a member of any Jewish organization until my retirement. I didn't want to be a fictitious member, and I didn't have the time. Only after I'd retired did I join the Children of the Holocaust; I didn't even know such an association existed, I came to join the Jewish veterans organization  that was being formed. I try to be as active as I can. After becoming a member of the Children of the Holocaust, I've organized two trips to Israel, in 1994 and 1998.
I speak Yiddish a little, sometimes I meet with a couple of others and we tell jokes, or we do exactly what my parents used to before the war: there's Professor Poznanska who speaks Yiddish very well, and when we wanted to discuss something just between us, we used Yiddish and no-one could understand a word.
As for other languages, I'm not really good at learning them. For example, I swotted up English many times, to no particular effect. I don't speak German well, but I can communicate. I was in Germany this year, I had a few meetings with young Germans, and I asked for an interpreter, just in case. Sometimes I needed him, sometimes not. I speak Russian rather well, and I've caught on some Ukrainian while on a post in Ukraine.
I'm a happy man today, I've got a nice pension, I'm married, I've had some health problems this year, but I'm still doing alright, I have a great family. I'd like to say one thing - I've had a tough life, but my old age is quite pleasant indeed.