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Holocaust survivor Jerry Koenig

The survival of Jerry Koenig

 

Hiding in Kosow- Lacki

 

 

Warsaw Ghetto

Jerry Koenig
Survivor Jerry Koenig delivers a speech about his time in the ghetto

The situation in the Warsaw ghetto was truly horrendous – food, water and sanitary conditions were non-existent. You couldn’t wash, people were hungry and very susceptible to disease because of their weakened condition. It is amazing what happens to people when they’re deprived of basic needs.

For my brother and me there was no school and the only entertainment was taking a walk. It was unbelievable the number of dead people you saw in the streets. When we came home, after a walk it was mandatory that we took off our clothing to search for lice, because they were the ones carrying typhus and typhoid fever.

The only way you could survive was by supplementing your diet with things brought through the black market. But you can imagine that if the sellers were risking their lives to obtain these things, then the price is going to be extremely high. So it was no secret in the family that eventually our financial resources would run out and we would face the same situation as others

One of my family’s important assets was a farm – large by Polish standards – near the little town of Kosow. Dad became friendly with a local family, the Zylberman family, also farmers. When we were in the Warsaw Ghetto, Dad and Mrs Zylberman corresponded with each other.

Mr Zylberman was saying, “I don’t understand why things are so bad because things are normal here.” His suggestion was that we should try to escape and go to their house, live with them and maybe help with the farm chores.

There was a street-car that actually traversed the ghetto area. The rules were that when it entered the ghetto area, all the passengers had to get off. While it travelled through the ghetto you could get on the street car if you had the fare, but as it was leaving the ghetto, everyone would get off and the streetcar would exit.

Trainstation at Kosow-Lacki
The train station at Kosow-Lacki

There was a man who had the right contacts and by bribing him we got on the streetcar. At the right time, the arm-bands identifying us as Jews came off, everybody looked the other way and we were on the other side.

We reached the little town of Kosow partly by walking and partly by train. When we arrived, we found that Mr Zylberman had not exaggerated – it was a very pleasant surprise for us because things were absolutely normal there. We didn’t know it at the time but a tiny Polish village nearby, by the name of Treblinka, had been selected as a death camp.

While we were living with the Zylberman’s and helping them with their farm chores and maintaining a semblance of a normal kind of life, the letters and postcards we had been receiving from our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in the Warsaw Ghetto all of a sudden stopped coming.

Then we started receiving people who had jumped off transport trains who were telling us a tale of horror, that the transports from Warsaw were going to this camp of Treblinka.

Another sign was that some bodies were burned in the fields and if the wind blew in the right direction the odour from this horrendous place was just unbelievable.

Read more here: www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/koening.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2012



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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