The Jewish Home | AUGUST 8, 2019 The Jewish Home | OCTOBER 29, 2015
Forced labor in Plaszow
Goeth on horseback in Plaszow
Josef became an activist after the war
“Jews had lived there for centuries. We were Polish citizens, protected by Polish law. In our wildest dreams we never imagined being deported
“I knew my life was over. I said Shema Yisrael and blacked out.” to factories of death. When the Nazi oppression began, no one defended us. Most Poles followed Nazi orders, some even helped to round up Jews.”
In 1939, when Jews were forced to relinquish all their possessions, Josef’s uncle sold his textile business to a non-Jew in exchange for a hiding place. That arrangement lasted a short time, Josef recalls. “When the man feared being discovered, he took my uncle and his entire family out to a field and murdered them.” At age 13, Josef vowed: “If I survive, I will go back to find that man and give payback.” (After the war, Josef could no longer remember the man’s name.) As the Nazis tightened their grip, Josef and 15,000 other Jews were herded to a flooded field where they were forced to sit all night, cold and hungry, in waist-high water. The elderly were pulled to the side and shot dead. The next morning, 95% of those Jews – including Josef’s mother and brothers – were taken to the Belzec
Josef on the day he caught Amon Goeth
Goeth on trial for war crimes
camp for immediate extermination. A remnant of 800 Jews was sent to slave labor, Josef and his father among them.
“After a while,” Josef recalls, “Ludolf came. Instead of speaking, he made barking noises like a dog, which I understood meant to shine his boots.” Josef was then led to a garden and given the daily task of feeding the Kommandant’s rabbits and chickens. This gave Josef access to animal food, far better than he was eating in the camp. “I was happy to see carrots for the rabbits,” he says, “and I was the first ‘rabbit’ to be fed!” In the evenings, Ludolf would throw parties at the villa for SS officers. “They threw out a lot of food, which I ate,” Josef says. He also smuggled food into the camp, risking his life to feed dozens of other prisoners. At the villa, a lieutenant named Otto Striegel enjoyed mistreating Josef. “He’d order me to stand in
Carrots and Shoeshines Throughout the years, Josef was transferred from concentration camp to concentration camp. He recalls one incident at Melk, a subcamp of Mauthausen: “Because I’m short, I was always in the front row for morning inspections. One day, the camp Kommandant, Julius Ludolf, stopped right in front of me. Without thinking, I saluted, clopped my wooden shoes together, and said in German: ‘Sir! I will shine your boots to shine like the sun!’” The next thing he knew, Josef was being led by an officer outside the camp to Ludolf’s magnificent villa atop a hill.
Five Towns Jewish Home - 8-8-19