Given the other thread about the deporations to Germany and Austria I thought I would post the segment in my father's memoir that talks about the train trip to Germany.
The German propaganda machine put out information which flatly stated impossibility for anyone ever
return back home. This statements effected many people. The Starzewski family probably was the most
convinced of it. To capture the moment of despair of many people like Starzewskis, Germans a string of
box cars in the railroad station and at announced that in order to prevent starvation in the city, they will
provide food for anyone in need at the station and in these box cars. In no time the cars were filled with
people. In few days an additional announcement was made that this train will be taken to Germany. The
fear of angry Ukrainians, lack of housings and food, lack of time to evaluate the announcement
combined with a promises of work. Very few people
had the time to evaluate their decision. The
authorities acted quickly, not allowing for possible change of mind and sent the train on the way the very
night, with cars locked.
To Tony and Kostek, in the little time they had on hand, the decision whether to leave their country
became a wrenching moment. Each one in his own way felt an agonizing pain. Tony, being a strong
patriot, hesitated the most. After all, he is the head of the family and he must think of their welfare – this
is his duty. To stay in town where Germans may deliberately cause hardship it is frightening thought.
After all, by now everyone understood the nature of their enemy character – no respect for human life.
However, leaving his beloved country, the home of his ancestors for what many have sacrificed their
lives, especially emigrating to the country of Poland's enemy, amounted to betrayal of clan's honor, and
that bothered him a lot. It was hard
for him to separate these two and powerful feelings. Eventually,
being a devoted family man, the survival of his family had to come first.
Kostek, on the other hand, had less of a problem of uprooting homestead, for in Poland he was kicked
around a lot and the thought of escaping it was often on his mind. However, going to a foreign country as
a slave was not exactly what he hoped for either. In addition the concern for his parents especially for his
mother caused him to wary also. He looked at each of his parents eyes for some confirmation of his
thoughts, but to read expressions on their faces was not enough. He needed to hear something, but
nothing was forthcoming, both were preoccupied with their own thoughts. Looking at his mother and the
way she held her daughters, all he could deduce outwardly that she was concerned greatly for her
children. It was obvious she could not tel him anything this way. And yet, he knew
instinctively that she
was not her normal self, and that there was a lot on her mind. Father did not say a word, but in his eyes
and face he could see anger mixed with fear. At one instance looking at Tony, he though he heard his
father say, "I will return some day." Then, as if his father understood his son's concern, turn to him and
"Kostek, if you want to, you can stay in Poland. I am sure the partisans will help you to cope without
"No dad, I am staying close to the family," Kostek answered quickly, so as not to leave any doubt in
Tony's mind. In this fashion both confirmed each other's resolve.
THE JURNEY TO GERMANY
At the start, the train did not go in the direction of Germany, that is West. In fact, it started out in the
direction of the Russian front, East. As the train rolled on, with soldiers escorting it, and before it
reached the first processing camp, it had to stop many times in the dense
forests because some partisans
were attacking it. The German army had to fight their way through. During the second encounter with
partisans of unknown affiliation, the doors were opened wide, probably let attackers know that the train
is filled with native people, and not German soldiers. Few single men took advantage of the commotion
and escaped from the train.
The people in the cars lost sense of direction and did not know which way they were headed or even in
what part of the country they were at any moment. Many different guesses were made by many different
persons, but in reality no one really knew because they were traveling by night. By the daybreak, the train
finally arrived at some camp – no one knew even the location of it. After a meager meal, the medical
examination started. It was not much of an examination and it was conducted in a very fast pace. Since
all the people had disrobe and paraded in front of
German officers, it became obvious to Kostek that this
process was not for medical reasons but rather a search for Jews. He became even more convinced of it
when he observed that fewer people were sent back to the trains then there were at the start. By the early
afternoon The Starzewski family found themselves on the train again, and with the car doors only
partially open, the journey continued.
In the boxcar, the Starzewskis were in, there were many families packed with their many meager
belongings. Most of them were strangers to each other. To Kostek's surprise, however, during the first
daylight, he noticed Romek's family in the opposite end of the car. Meeting people they knew made
somewhat easier on both families. The conversation between them even soothed the anxiety between
them, but most of all it lessened their doubt and guilt as to the decision of accepting the German offer.
Early in the morning, at daybreak,
the train stopped. A German soldier stuck his head into the wagon
screaming in a loud voice, "Aus steigen!" No one understood the meaning of these words at first. Then,
following the soldier came someone with a translation: "Disembark! Every one disembark! Go to the
In the barracks the breakfast was waiting, a bowl o soup and two slices of bread. It was not much of a
breakfast and there was not mush to the soup either. In fact it became a source of humor floating around.
It started with a teacher who claimed to be an English teacher in a special school. "This soup reminds
me of a joke in one of the beginning lessons," he announced. "It goes like this: A traveler In London,
went to a restaurant for a meal. It was a rainy day. Waiter brought soup first. Being a friendly person, he
started a conversation and remarked about the weather. 'It looks like rain.' said the waiter. 'It taste like it
too,' the guest
replied." without even lifting a head. Many other jokes and comments began to fly even
though everyone was hungry.
After the meager meal, all people were put through a medical examination again. Every one had to
disrobe, and parade in front of a group of Germans. Instantly it became known the reason for it. They
were looking once more for Jewish people. In fact the so called medical screening was repeated several
times before the German border, and each time fewer of the immigrants remained. There were many
retained after each search; so much so that the length of the train after became much shorter. Were all of
the retained Jewish or were there other reason for the screening? It became a puzzle.
What part of Poland all this took place no one knew and there was no one there to ask. It had to be along
the eastern Polish border, because the train was traveling slow in this pairs. However, later and at night
the train picked
up a very high speed and by morning all found themselves in Germany.