Oral History: Ghetto

Name: Hank Brodt 

Date of Birth: December 1, 1925

Place of Birth: Boryslaw, Poland

Subject: Ghetto life

Hank was born in 1925 in Boryslaw, Poland. When the Germans invaded, his family was rounded up and imprisoned in the Boryslaw ghetto until 1944 when he was deported to Plaszow.  Here he discusses life in the ghetto:  

Transcript

H: You have to understand that the houses in Boryslaw, in Poland weren’t huge houses like you’re talking about. You’ve got maybe two rooms, a kitchen and there might’ve been three maybe four people sleeping. Could you imagine the people who survived all of a sudden put in there? There might’ve been ten people in there. I got there and another action came in, more people got killed. I had a sister. My sister lived on the gentile side. She worked with her husband in the hospital. I don’t know if the people there knew of her or not, I don’t know. She lived there. As the ghetto was getting smaller and smaller and smaller, they made, established a forced labor camp. Forced labor camp was located on the outskirts of Boryslaw. From the center of town to that camp was approximately five kilometers. From there the specialists and people used to have to go from that camp escorted by the Ukrainian police to their place of work. They left around six or seven o’clock in the morning and then at night, they brought them back. I lived on the gentile side for quite some time, not on the gentile side but in a ghetto. Not everybody was forced to go into ghetto. People who didn’t find anywhere to live in ghetto, they went to that forced labor camp and they stayed there. They had a kitchen, a community kitchen which their meals were prepared. They gave them bread and gave them soup. They had bunk beds where they slept and every morning they used to go out. You could still bring some rations from outside. In the evening they brought in some ration for the people who couldn’t go out. This was going on in 19… the beginning… end of 1943. The ghetto was completely liquidated. 

I: During this time it’s your late teens? Is that right?

H: What?

I: Your late teens? Your own age?

H: Yeah.

I: About this time?

H: ’43. Something like 17.

I: Do you remember any particular acts of kindness by anyone during this time?

H: Kindness from whom?

I: Anyone.

H: You had some people, Polish people that they knew as a neighbor. Kindness? No. If you had something to sell they might’ve bartered something, kindness not. They used to have hiding Jewish people, they would pay for it. Then, as we go on I will bring it up. There lived kindness? No. Then as the ghettos were getting smaller, everybody was forced to go to that forced labor camp. Another action came, fourth and fifth, when people was taken and sent away. Nobody actually was executed… a mound of people on premises. What I mean by premises, the town of Boryslaw. There might’ve been some individual they killed or something like that. Yes. Then came the liquidation time, this was the sixth action we called it. My sister was taken away that time. But prior to that, my sister gave birth to a baby girl. I knew of it. She called me up one time. She called me up and made me come to see her. So I came to see and I took her to hide her in my place in the ghetto, but she didn’t like it. So she went back where she was before. While she had the baby while I was in forced labor camp I had a pass that I could go to town to buy some, pharmacy. We had two camp commanders, to bring their rations to them. I had the freedom to go in and out. I remember there was time a time when people where caught hidden in a gentile sight. They were brought to the German police station and the forced labor camp had the job to send some food for them. I was the one to deliver that food. I was going back and forth. I might’ve made in a day close to ten kilometers back and forth. One time I walked in and I had the German’s ration and I had to the store, to the German store a delicatessen or a butcher store to pick up some ration there, some ham whatever it was. I was walking in there was a lady, a Polish lady from town. She knew me, but I didn’t know her. In the meantime my sister was killed. Then I found out from that lady before my sister was killed, mother’s intuition, two weeks before she was killed she took the baby put it in a trunk and left it at an orphanage house. Then the story goes or so the lady told me, yes the baby was found in a suitcase, picked up by a lady from suburbs in Boryslaw. This was April the 12th ’44 when I walked in there. She said given the name Adela Brumska. Adela is a name, but Brumska has significant meaning. Brumma, gate in Polish is brumma. So the name meant Adela Brumska you know? A B. I when I figured this out, somebody walked in. I cannot talk. I cannot figure out more about it. Who’s the people who took her. Nothing. I figured I will come tomorrow and I will find out more about it. However, tomorrow never came to have freedom. We were surrounded in 1944 in Boryslaw and taken away to Plaszow the concentration camp. We arrived in Plaszow on Aril the 13th.