Eugenia Magdziarz, born in 1926
I ran away to work in Germany
I was born in the village of Dobromierz, which belonged to the Jewish community of Przedbórz. In this village lived the parents of my mother, Michał and Rajzla Koplewicz. My original family name was Weinstein, the name to which I returned in the sixties. My father’s first name was Zelik and Mother’s, Cyrla.
In 1928, my parents returned to their native city of Łódź, where we lived until December 1939. I had four brothers and two sisters. My oldest brother, Szymek, and my sister, Małgosia, remained in the Łódź Ghetto. I have not seen them since. My oldest sister, Lola, was already married, and she and her husband escaped east to Lwów. My parents, with the four of us youngest children, went to live with my grandparents in the village of Dobromierz. My mother’s brother and sister came there with their families to also be with their parents.
In 1941, my two brothers, Heniek and Idek, died of typhus. At the beginning of 1940, persons displaced from Włocławek and Poznań, Jews and Poles, were brought to our village. Among them were many young people. At that time, we were all still friendly with each other. My grandmother was highly respected among the inhabitants of the village.
I found out from my colleagues about mass deportations of Jews to death camps. I talked over with my parents the possibility of going into hiding. I had had assurances from my friends that we would be able to secure Aryan papers. My parents did not want to hear about it. Mama said that she would not leave her parents. We supported ourselves from the sale of goods that we managed to bring from Łódź. I worked a little at gardening and harvesting.
In September 1941, my sister returned from Lwów. Beginning in September 1942, she went into hiding with the Wasiel family, millers, near Miechów. I had my last contact with her in December 1942. I searched for her immediately after the war. The children of the Wasiels told me that Lodzia had left them. The Wasiel couple themselves did not survive the war.
In May 1942, we were told about deportation to Włoszczowa and then to a camp. Boys escaped into the forest, but there, they were beaten up, robbed, and humiliated by roaming bands:Polish. They returned to the village. In September 1942, we were again informed about the liquidation of Jews from our district. Then again, I pleaded with my parents that we leave together for work in Germany. My parents had a so-called “good appearance” spoke Polish well. They were young.
Farmers from distant villages came to my father with the proposition of hiding us, but to no avail. Father did not want to place anyone in danger. At the beginning of 1942, we were driven out of the village. In one long column, we marched on foot nineteen kilometers to Włoszczowa. The head of the village, Ceceta, assigned horse-drawn carriages for the sick and elderly. It was a humane gesture on his part. I promised my friends that in the last minute, I would for sure break away from this column and make my way to their family in Częstochowa.
My friends were the two brothers, Bolek and Zygmunt Chmura. They both belonged to Peasant Battalions. Their mother received us with great kindness. They lived in Częstochowa-Raków at 28 Limanowski Street. Their entire family wanted us to stay in Częstochowa. After a day’s stay, I concluded that this was impossible. There were too many acquaintances when we first ventured out on the street.
I brought to Częstochowa my cousin, Emma Koplewicz (who now lives in Buenos Aires). Bolek brought us two copies of birth certificate forms from the parish of St. Joseph in Częstochowa. I filled out Emma’s form with the name Stanisława Rojska, and she, mine. After that, my name became Eugenia Nowak. We messed up our new birth certificates a little, and on the next day, we reported to the Arbeitsamt in Częstochowa. I got in line ahead of Emma. Some twenty people were between us. We were accepted and directed to a transit camp. Bolek had asked me to destroy these birth certificates following our arrival in Germany, once the Germans issued us their Arbeitskarte (__). We did just that.
Our new birth certificates – they didn’t want the birth certificates to look brand new.
Arbeitskarte – labor card giving the right to work.
On September 17, 1942, we were already in Wrocław in a transit camp in the Różanka district. The commander of the camp selected twenty girls from the transport and made a speech along the following lines, “You have been especially chosen, and you will work as domestic help in the best German homes.”
Emma was selected by the wife of Dr. Drant, Oberstaatsanwalt (head public prosecutor) from Wrocław, I, by her mother, Mrs. Sroka. I called my employer an old Nazi witch. The picture of Hitler hung in the bedroom over her bed. I came to hate her from the first moment on. I wanted to run away from her. I found an opportunity but did not succeed. Thus, I found myself in jail in Wrocław on Krupnicza Street. However, after a month, I was let go. I was in a cell of Polish girls. I was the youngest and very well liked. The guard who released me was very surprised that instead of being happy, I cried at being let go. In jail, my companions never suspected who I was. I prayed with them very ardently and sang beautifully all the religious songs. I got a new position with Mr. and Mrs. Zeiler on what is now Kujawska Street. My boss’s wife was a dancer and my boss, a merchant. They had four children of school age. I found their apartment extremely filthy and neglected, infested with bedbugs. After a month, their entire home shone. The Gestapo came to pick up my boss. He was arrested. I became frightened and ran away from them.
I wanted to make my way to Switzerland. Unfortunately, I was arrested in Halle as a fugitive from Wrocław. I found myself in jail in Halle an der Saale. There, I met Stefa and her mother. They had owned a faience factory. In Wrocław, a certain prostitute from their city recognized and denounced them. They did not admit to their Jewish origins. Stefa was with me in the same cell, and I tried to lie on the floor next to her every night and keep her in good spirits. They were no longer being beaten, and after some time, they were shipped to a camp in Spergau.
After two weeks, I also found myself in Spergau. Stefa was already a prisoner with responsibilities. She placed me in a cell with her mother. I gave Stefa the address of my girlfriend in Wrocław. In April 1944, I was again sent to Wrocław. The Gestapo greeted me like an old recidivist. They declared that I was crazy. I was directed to work in Bethesda Hospital in Wrocław as a hall attendant. The supervising deaconess, Sister Klara, took a great liking to me. I was the only “Pole” in that hospital.
My cousin, Emma, landed in Auschwitz-Birkenau for half a year. She had talked back to her employer. I received the news from Stefa. She and her mother were free, and they were working in Halle. In Wrocław, there was a group of us of about twenty Jewish young people. We miraculously found each other. We knew it was not prudent, but we were drawn to each other. We used to meet on our days off.
The days of siege, I spent in Wrocław. I worked on the building of barricades, at the airport, and in the tossing of furniture out of homes. After liberation, I fell ill. In June, I got married. My husband passed away in November 1983 of heart disease. My daughters left the country, the older one, Celina, in 1968. She lives in the United States. The younger one, Danuta, left in 1977. She lives in Vienna. I am again alone.
In 1946, I took an elementary school course, and in 1947, preparatory studies for higher education. In 1949, I entered the University of Wrocław for studies in Polish language and literature. In 1951, I requested academic leave. I was quite sick after delivering my second child. Old illnesses returned.
I began my professional work in 1950. I worked for thirty-five years. At the same time, in the years 1960–63, I finished a school for midwives. I needed a concrete profession because I wanted to emigrate. Unfortunately, because of my husband, it never came to pass. He was a Pole and a patriot.
I am in touch with my more distant family which survived in the Soviet Union and with my friends from Łódź. I travel throughout the world whenever I have the opportunity and possibilities. This would be all, in very great abbreviation. Some time ago, I started writing my memoirs. This was in 1968. This period, I experienced as if it were a new occupation. Maybe, someday, if I live that long, I will complete these memoirs.
Wrocław, 16 November 1992