Malwina Wollek, born in 1933
I kept thinking about bread
I was born in Drohobycz (at present in the Ukraine). I survived the period of German occupation together with my parents in Drohobycz. From 1941 until 1943, I was in the local ghetto there with my mother Chaja, née Roth, and my father, Benjamin Beck. Towards the end of 1941, the Germans took my father to the forced labor camp in Drohobycz where he worked as a tinsmith in the oil refinery, fabricating and tinning boilers for military purposes. In the ghetto, I suffered from typhus and dysentery. I was a sickly child and forever famished. Thus, I do not remember much other than an acute sense of hunger and a constant craving for bread.
In Drohobycz, the most brutal oppressors of Jews and especially of children were two Gestapo men, Ginter and Sobota. Particularly dangerous was Sobota, because he came from Świętochłowice in Silesia and knew the Polish language very well. He enticed children, passing out candy, and then shot them or smashed their little heads on the edge of a street curb. Those bestial scenes are forever fixed in my memory. Although so many years have passed and I was such a little girl, I have them continuously in front of my eyes.
At the news of the intended liquidation of the ghetto, my mother and I escaped to the leather tannery (where my Uncle Natan worked) and hid there for several months. Then, Catholics with whom we had been friendly arranged an escape for us. Hidden under straw in a horse-drawn wagon, we were taken to the Bronicki Forest. We stayed there in a shelter dug out of the ground. Through this entire period of time, I saw no daylight. In the escape and the supplying of provisions, we were assisted by Józef Miniów, who after the war settled in the community Dukla near Jasło.
In 1943, my father, who succeeded in escaping from a transport after the liquidation of the camp in Drohobycz, arrived to join us. Mass executions of Jews were taking place in the Bronicki Forest; those graves are said to be there to this day. Partisan activity was also very strong there, and thanks to it, a few dozen Jews like us were saved.
We reemerged from hiding in August 1944 after the entrance of Soviet troops. After we came out of our hiding place, I was totally unable to walk. They used to carry me out onto a bench, into the sun. After a long recovery period, I started to learn to walk. The effects of rickets, rheumatism of joints, and pronounced changes of the spine have left their mark to this day.
The entire family of my mother and father perished, probably in Auschwitz. Only two sisters of my mother, who ended up in the Soviet Union near Baku, survived.
In 1945, we arrived by an organized transport in Gliwice. In Gliwice, I finished elementary school and then high school, and, after passing the matriculation examination in 1953, I began to work in an electrical power plant. I worked there for thirty-eight years in a supervisory position. I have been a member of, and an active participant in, the activities of the Jewish Socio-Cultural Society in Gliwice since the fifties without interruption. In 1962, I married. I have one daughter, Dorota. I was widowed in 1988.
Gliwice is located in western Poland. After the war, many Poles were transferred from Eastern Poland, which was absorbed by the Soviet Union, to Western Poland, part of which was taken from Germany.
Gliwice, October 27, 1991–February 28, 1993