Wacek Kornblum’s family photo

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  • Photo taken in:
    Warsaw
    Year when photo was taken:
    1933
    Country name at time of photo:
    Poland
    Country name today:
    Poland

That’s me, my mom Lonia, my little brother Borus and dad - Szlomo Kornblum. This is, so to say, our official photoraphy. April 1933. So Borus is one year old here and I’m 7. 

My mother died in Paris when I was only a few months old. Some time around 1929 Dad got married the second time, to Lonia Mileband and I used to call her my mom. I knew Lonia wasn't my mom, but I didn't feel it. Mom was a very smart woman. But from the time perspective, I realize I didn't experience true motherly love. I was a bit browbeaten, always very shy. I know that Mother's niece, Estusia, who stayed with us, used to pick on me a bit. When I protested, Dad got upset, he was drinking a glass of tea with milk. He didn't finish, threw the glass over the porch. Mom didn't say anything.

In our house we spoke Polish with Mom, Jewish with dad. Parents spoke usually Jewish to each other. Mom was from Bundist circles, but I can't say she was an activist. It was rather a group of friends, well-wishers of Bund. My brother Borus was born in 1932. Borus derives from Ber -Dov in Hebrew, which means a bear. Now he uses also his Polish name Wladek, or Wladzio - Wladyslaw. 

My dad was anti-religious. Never in my life did I go to a service in a synagogue, not even on Yom Kippur. There were holidays present in our life, because there were generally holidays in the Jewish world: Rudele closed her store, Dad didn't work, the shop was closed. And we went to visit the family. 

I need to say that Dad was by nature a very good person .Very sincere, warm-hearted, very sensitive, and - it stuck with me since I was very young - he always helped people.  He used to help other artists, kept giving to Aunt Chawcia, organized bread delivery for Jewish writers in the ghetto. In the later period in the ghetto, when there was horrible poverty, and children wandered about on streets and died on sidewalks, they used to also beg. A young boy used to come to Niska where we lived and shout: 'A stikele broyt', 'A piece of bread'!. And Father once brought him upstairs, fed him, found a flat box with a string that he could hang on his neck, and I don't know how, but bought him a box of candy to sell. And he came by a couple times, and finally he came once and said he'd eaten all the candy.

One day an order came to our shop, that whoever has a pass must go to Majzelsa Street - according to Wladek (Borus) it was on 27th August 1942. It turned out there would be a selection there.

They set us all up in a square. Mom was a terrible coward, was always afraid of something. Dad wasn't with us there, he was in his shop on Nalewki. And Mom with Estusia stood at the back. And I stood in the first row. Two Germans stood before us. Two people from the shop management stood beside them with pieces of paper in their hands - they had lists. And they would call out a name and that person would run across to the other side of the street and a new block of people would form there. Who were staying in the ghetto to keep working in the shop. At some point I realized they read the same names twice, because they called and nobody would come up, I realized they wanted to save some people this way. And after some name there was such a moment of silence, and I jumped ahead to that other group. When they finished the selection, all those 'chosen ones' were pushed to a backyard of some building, they opened the gate, the police surrounded us, people ran up to those policemen, because they knew that among the detained were their relatives who didn't make the selection. I had some money on me, because we all had some money then just in case, I got a hold of one and said: 'Listen, there is my mom and a cousin, take this money and give it to them'. And I gave him all I had, I'm certain he didn't pass it to them. I didn't know where to go, I went to Nalewki to the apartment near Dad's shop.

Now I think my parents knew something was about to happen with that selection, because Borus didn't go to Ogrodowa then. He usually went with Mom to the shop. He slept in the apartment on Nalewki. In 'our' apartment there were still beds and bed linens, before we went to Ogrodowa with Mom and Estusia on that unfortunate day, they decided that he Borus would stay and we covered him with the bed linens in the bed. I remember Dad was worried he wouldn't be able to breathe.

I went back, the door was locked, the key was taken away so I couldn't get open and inside, I sat on the stairs and waited, maybe they'll open. Dad learnt earlier Mom and Estusia were taken away. Uncle tried to get something in motion, some policeman apparently went to Umschlagplatz. Too late. Dad came back, I told him how it was, we opened the door, uncovered my brother and he started to scream: 'where's Mom', but he understood. He was in despair. We went back to Niska, to the bunker. There were only: Dad, Wladek, and me. And I remember how Dad just sat alone and cried.

When we wanted to escape from ghetto. there was a problem with Borus who had a very dark complexion. I don't know if he looked like a Jew as a child, but he surely stood out. And Dad also knew he had to save both his children, he knew he didn't have a lot of time. He was afraid that if I left first, he'd loose touch with Feld, Borus wouldn't leave. (Jehuda Feld used to come visit Dad from the Aryan side. He had something to do with the Bund underground)

It was easier to send me away at the last moment because of my looks. That's why Borus was to go first. Dad talked to Feld and Feld found on Gilarska Street, in Praga, a railway man, Polish, his name was Duriasz, who agreed to take in a Jewish boy from the ghetto, for money. It was the beginning of December 1942. We said our goodbyes and Dad took him to the gate and Feld moved him. On the Aryan side a woman was waiting for him, probably that Duriasz's wife. Duriasz, of course, was getting money only for some time, later he wasn't, but he was a very decent man, as opposed to his second wife. And Borus sat there in a shed and lived out his own, huge, story.

I remained in the ghetto with Dad until 1943. Then he gave me the money to pay the escape for me and my girlfriend. I never saw him again,

Interview details

Interviewee: Wacek Kornblum
Interviewer:
Anna Szyba
Month of interview:
December
Year of interview:
2005
Warsaw, Poland

KEY PERSON

Wacek Kornblum
Jewish name:
Izaak
Year of birth:
1926
City of birth:
Paris
Country name at time of birth:
France
Occupation
after WW II:
Official

Other Person

Szlomo Kornblum
Year of birth:
1894
City of birth:
Powazki near Warsaw
Country name at time of birth:
Russia
Year of death:
1943
City of death:
Warsaw
Country of death:
Poland
Died where:
Ghetto liquidation
Occupation
before WW II:
Writer

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