Henryk Ryszard Gantz, born in 1932
I was born in Warsaw. My father, Stanisław Gantz, worked as an official in the Bank of Commerce. My mother, Halina, maiden name Hertz, took care of the administration of the apartment building which was owned by my grandparents at 22 Grażyna Street. My grandfather, Mieczysław, was a physician in the Berson-Bauman Hospital, and that is precisely where we lived.
In 1938, I entered the first year of elementary school on the Sixth of August Street in Warsaw. During the siege of the capital in 1939, my mother and I were in our home, which was partially bombed, but we continued living there until the fall of 1940. Father joined the army as a volunteer (Category D). He was inducted in Łuck (?) after which he was taken prisoner by the Russians who transferred him to the Germans, since he was a private. He was briefly detained in a Stalag (prisoner-92 Henryn Ryszard Gantz, born in 1932 of-war camp) in Austria from which he was let go in 1940 because of his origins. Thus, he returned home. In 1939-40, I attended the second grade at the school on Chocimska Street in Warsaw.
“transferred him to the Germans” – the Russians, who occupied the eastern half of Poland from 1939 to 1941 sometimes kept the Polish officers they captured but turned over enlisted men to the Germans.
From November 1940 on, my parents and I lived in the ghetto in the second annex at 78 Leszno Street (in the third was a factory, probably Schultz’s). In the ghetto, I completed the programs for the third and fourth grades in private study groups. I used to go to “get some fresh air” in a little garden next to the Roman Catholic Church on Leszno Street. My grandfather, Michał Hertz, died in the ghetto in April 1941 (he lived on Sienna Street), and he was buried in Warsaw in the cemetery in Powązki. At that time, it was still possible to secure consent for such a burial. During “actions,” we used to hide. At the beginning of one of them, my grandmother (my father’s mother) declared that she had had enough, went out onto the stairway and into the yard, and never returned.
My parents worked, but I don’t know where. In June 1942, I went, together with them, in a column of workers (in the middle of the column) past the guard post to work. When we got to the place, I was told to hide somewhere. I was picked up from there by Mrs. Stefania Wortman, and she took me to my mother’s cousin, Zofia Hertz, at Plac Inwalidów in the Żoliborz district where I spent about a month.
Then, under the name of Ryszard Klemens Szymański, I was taken to the orphanage of the Sisters of the Family of Mary in Białołęka Dworska in the district of Płudy. I was there several months, after which my mother (posing as my aunt) picked me up from there because of the excessive care the sisters were giving me (attracting attention). She placed me in the institution of the Michaelite Fathers in Struga near Warsaw where I stayed until the summer of 1944. There, I finished the fifth and sixth grades of elementary school.
All of July through September 1944, I spent in Milanówek with Mr. and Mrs. Dobrzański, where my parents also wound up after leaving Warsaw and escaping from Pruszków (_) (Mother as Ewa Ziemska, my aunt, father as Władysław Jan Matusiak, her fiancé).
“escaping from Pruszków” – after Warsaw Uprising by the general population of Warsaw against the Germans August 1, 1944, the Germans dispersed masses of people from Warsaw to the countryside, many to camps in the nearby town of Pruszków.
The construction company, Johannes Kellner Bauunternehmen, in which my father worked before the Warsaw Uprising, gathered up its workers and took them to Germany to organize a Bauzug (a mobile railroad repair depot). We lived, in succession, in Welzow on Lausitz near Cottbus (now Chociebuż in Dolne Łużyce), in Breslau (Wrocław), in Gräfenrode-Ort (in Thuringia);, in Wernigerode, and Halberstadt (Harz), where we were liberated by the English on April 10, 1945.
After liberation, we managed to reach Belgium, because my mother was born there, in 1908. In Belgium, I spent the first few months in the home of “Joint” (_) in Esch-en-Refail in the province of Namur. Then, my parents found work and an apartment, and we began living together as a family in Brussels. I first went to a vocational school and then to the Schaerbeek high school.
Joint – this was a home run by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
In 1950, I returned to Poland. In 1951, I passed my exam to graduate high school, and, in 1958, I graduated from Warsaw Polytechnic. Since that time, I have lived and worked in Warsaw.
Warsaw, December 10, 1992