A Polish survivor describes forced labor in Mlawa
Rabbi Baruch G., born in Mlawa, Poland in 1923, was the oldest of three children in an observant and loving family. He has fond memories of Jewish holidays: receiving nuts from his grandmother for grinding matzot into matzoh meal at Passover; the spiritual nature of the Seders; the warmth of extended family visits. During the summer recess from his religious studies in Warsaw, Poland was invaded and Mlawa was one of the first towns occupied. Anti-Jewish restrictions were enacted, a Judenrat was formed, and forced labor was imposed. His father disappeared for one month, after which he was never the same vibrant and dynamic man. The first time Baruch was forced to work on Saturday was traumatic, as was the first time he was beaten.
"I will never forget the first time I was beaten up and that really got to me, not so much the, not so much the, the pain from the beating, but the mental anguish. Instead of telling me how to put bricks together, had to be placed a certain way in order for them to be stacked up, he simply went over and beat me for it, without [my] knowing why. I couldn't even cry. When I came home, this is when I burst out crying. Animal! And I was, I was conscientious. I had to go to work. I knew one thing. I had to do the best I can - [it was] forced labor. But why? I mean, what right? What? It was incomprehensible to me."
Baruch feels that in retrospect, these were not such terrible times. They were hungry and frightened, but the family was together. The family was deported to Lubartow in 1940. Baruch was smuggled back that summer, and arranged for his mother and brother to be as well. He never saw his father or sister again. The three lived under difficult ghetto conditions until they were deported to Auschwitz in November 1942. His mother and brother were immediately gassed and he was assigned to a bricklayer's school. In January 1945, Baruch was transported to Buchenwald, then Ohrdruf, Crawinkel and back to Buchenwald. He was put on a train on April 10th, and liberated three weeks later, but in such a debilitated condition that he has no memory of it.
Baruch describes his loneliness and sense of worthlessness during the time spent in displaced persons camps in Italy. He emigrated to the United States, married, and had a son. He discusses the scars with which he is left, particularly the lack of an extended family and some difficulties in dealing with his son. He reflects upon his religious beliefs and his hope that people will learn from his experience and others like it, so that history will not be repeated.
Rabbi Baruch G. Holocaust Testimony (HVT-295). Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.
The length of the complete testimony is 1 hour, 53 minutes. A catalog record is available for this testimony in Orbis, the Yale University Library online public access catalog. Please see the Catalog and research guide section of this site for more information.