October 15, 2007

Don’t Get Me Wrong – Poles Did Help My Father During the War!

It would be untrue to state that all Poles were antisemitic and all assisted the Nazis in the murder of Polish Jewry. In fact, Ben Neuman was saved by several Poles living in the area surrounding Radziejow. My father escaped a German work camp shortly after the Jews of Radziejow were shipped off to Chelmo for gassing in the gas vans. He had no place to hide, shelter or food. He lived outside hiding in the hay stacks. When he got hungry he would beg for food from poor peasants and shoemakers that knew my father from their purchases of leather goods from the store located in Radziejow. Some peasants would let him stay the night. Others would give him as much food as he could eat. They wouldn’t let him take food with. They were afraid that he might be captured and interrogated as to where he got the food he was carrying. Occasionally they would let him stay and hide with them for several days. He did not shower, had body lice, and was unshaven. Despite his unhygenic appearance, and the real danger he represented, these simple Poles placed themselves and their families in danger by aiding a Jew.
Did they do it out of love for the Jews, an act of defiance to the Germans, or because they felt sorry for a fellow human? I don’t know, but the fact is they did it.
One polish shoemaker allowed him to stay in his one room house that served as his place of buisness. My father hid behind a sheet that separated the work room from the “bedroom”. The Polish shoemaker would have a constant flow of German soldiers in his workshop. My father trembled behind the sheet hoping that he would not be discovered. After a few days he thanked the simple shoemaker for his help and moved on.
As time dragged on, my father felt that all was lost and the only way to end his misery would be to either commit suicide or turning himself over to the Germans. Then a miracle occurred, he entered the town of Radziejow and started to walk around expecting that he would be turned in. Instead, no one turned him in. He just wandered around the town. Suddenly, he ran into a polish woman that he went to public school with. She told him not to lose heart, she would find help. Eventually she and her brother found a place for him to stay at a rich estate with a “polish princess” whose husband was German and her son was an officer in the German Army (possibly the SS)! More to follow in forthcoming blogs about this amazing true life story.

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