Personal Reflections - In Hiding
My name is Sally Eisner. I was born Sally Baran in Poland. I lived with my parents and my only and younger brother. My father was an accountant. He was a highly intelligent person, an international champion chess player. My mother helped him in our small business. My brother and I had a very happy and comfortable life until it was completely destroyed by the Nazis.
With the invasion of Poland by the Nazis, we, Jews were hounded, thrown out of our homes and sent to a ghetto in another town. We were then sent to a small labour camp where we worked in the fields from six in the morning to sundown with very little nourishment. Forced to labour as slaves.
The saddest day in my life was the day we lost our parents. It was in July 1943. We heard terrible sounds of shooting and shelling, coming from all over. We didn't know what was going on. At the same time there was thunder and lightning and I thought the world was coming to an end. I was in the fields working when the Nazis surrounded the camp grounds, ordered everyone, including my parents, to dig a mass grave -- their own. Then they were ordered to strip naked and line up. Then they were shot, one by one.
When the firing stopped and the Nazis had left, my brother, who was thirteen at the time, went back from the fields to see what happened. He saw our parents lying, with all the others, in the that large ditch that became their grave. He immediately ran away. I lay in the fields terrified until it became completely dark. I went back to the camp the very next day and saw the mass grave and pools of blood, all over. I was told by some Gentile workers who had covered up the bodies that my own parents were among the the dead, as were my future husband's mother and his two sisters. My husband and I observe this day as the Yahrzeit of our murdered families. I started out in search of my brother. A day later, in a swampy part of the forest, I found him. We were both very frightened and utterly confused. Ha was practically speechless from shock. The two of us, together, lived through many harrowing experiences until the liberation of our labour camp by the Russian Army in March 1944.
One incident that remain vivid in my memory occurred in December 1943. My brother and I were hiding with a Gentile family who lived and worked on a small farm, owned by the Wermacht. I took care of their young baby, tended the house and did handiwork while my brother helped in the yard and stables.
One late afternoon, as dusk approached, my brother was chopping wood in front of the house and I was inside glancing out the window. I suddenly noticed three horsemen approaching. Someone had obviously told the Ukrainian police about our presence and now they were looking for us.
With blind instinct I ran outside, grabbed my brother's hand pulled him inside and pushed him and myself under the huge peasant bed in the house to hide among the boots, shoes, and many other items that were stored there. We crept as far into the corner as we could, pressing our bodies against the wall and each other. We tried, almost, to stop breathing and I held tightly my brother's hand. We thought this was the end. But anyway, there was not too much to lose.
We heard the loud bang as they pushed open the door. The baby in the cradle began to scream and then to cry. They started to search the house. My handiwork, which they must have found, was evidence of our presence. Then they approached our hiding place. They thrust the bayonets under the bed, sweeping the floor with the blades, stabbing and jabbing into the dark and cluttered space, pulling out boots and shoes. I felt the knife point against my skin but we didn't make a sound o or dared to move. When they were convinced that no one was under the bed, they went outside. They searched for us in the potato cellar too. After a while they left, noisily and angry.
We stayed under the bed for a long time after, afraid to come out. When the family came home and we told them what happened, they immediately told us to leave. It was a bitter cold winter night. We wondered about for days and finally ended up in a labour camp.
This was only one of our many awful and terrible encounters. I cannot describe or understand how we survived? It seems that we were guided by Hashem. We were certainly fortunate. My husband Leon, who I have known since 1938 also survived and we met and were married in 1945. Both of our brothers also survived, thank G-d. They were the only family that remained after the war. My husband's father died of typhus in the ghetto.
Since then we became parents and grandparents. My only hope is that our children and grandchildren will not know war and that there will be peace for Klal Yisrael and for the whole world.
© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.