Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Interview with USHMM
Avraham Bomba was born in Boyden – Oberslazen, Germany. His family moved from Germany to Czestochowa, Poland. He was deported from Czestochowa Ghetto, to the Treblinka death camp, on 25 September 1942.
A barber by profession, he was selected to work, whilst his wife, son, brother and other members of his family were murdered on their arrival at Treblinka. He escaped from Treblinka in January 1943 and returned to Czestochowa Ghetto. He later settled in Israel, and also appeared in the Claude Lanzmann film "Shoah" in produced in 1985.
Selected Extracts from Interview on 28 August 1990 with the USHMM
Were you married during this time?
Yes I got married in 1940, because we couldn’t go from one place to the other. Our dating – the time – we were almost seven years together, so we decided to get married and to live together.
We got married, two years after that my wife got pregnant and we had a son. He was born on 31 September 1942. That is only 20 days when it started, the liquidation of the Jewish people in Czestochowa.
But between May 1941 – September 1942 they took out a lot of people. They sent them to work, which most did not return from and it was not always in the big ghetto.
But we could live with- communicate also with people on the outside, with the Polish people. But when the liquidation started on 22 September, it was exactly a day after Yom Kippur in 1942.
At Yom Kippur 1942, we were at the prayer house and people came in from work, because people had to work even on Yom Kippur. They said at the station, the railroad station, there is a lot of cattle trains and there are Ukrainians around.
We heard the word Ukrainians, we knew something is going to happen, so the prayer was interrupted. We already know that they are going to take us away – they’re going to take us somewhere.
Middle of the night, around 12 o’clock, all of a sudden, all the lights were on, which normally since 1939 was not allowed. Four o’clock in the morning the Germans started to take out the Jewish people. They started first with the poorest neighbourhood, where the poor people lived.
That was on 23 September 1942, I was living with my wife, my mother, my little brother, child of mine. They took us out to the transport – taking out people, those who were not fast enough got killed and left on the road.
We were the lucky ones, we made it to the transport, when we came to the railroad station and there was over there I would say thousands of people. Thousands and thousands of people.
They had, accordingly that I know, over 60 wagons, cattle wagons – each one contained over 100 people. Children were not counted.
You are in the Synagogue – It is after Yom Kippur
Yes – so when we are taken out of the house, they took us to the railroad station. And on both sides there were German Ukrainian, whoever couldn’t walk that fast, they got rid of him by killing. So we went in to the railroad station, it was not the general railroad station. It was the railroad station for cattle.
And over there, they pushed in people. They threw in children, one on top of the other until they’re loaded. Those ones… over 60 wagons. Myself and my wife, the kid, my mother and the little brother, we couldn’t go in.
It was about 2,000 more people – they couldn’t go in because they had too many people already in the wagons, so they decided to send us back home. Now this was unbelievable a story. All of a sudden people started to panic – people start to dance. Happened? They were the lucky ones – they got their amount what they need to be taking out of the ghetto and the rest they will not touch anymore.
The people they were together, the families were together, they were very happy, because nobody was missing. We were sent home but one thing we could understand the situation was not finished. We didn’t have to wait too long because on the 25, four days after the first transport, the same thing was going on again.
September 25 1942, which on the Jewish calendar was – again they took us out. Now this time we didn’t go straight to the railroad to be sent off. We went to the market which there was the German head man from the Gestapo, by the name of Degenhof, he was their leader.
He was the murderer of the …. Not only this city, but more cities. And that was when he decided who should live and who should die. With the point of the finger, he said this way, the other way. A little bit younger, not too many asking questions, “What is your trade?” Somebody had a trade like electro-mechanic, which was rare for people in our town, or engineering, to the right. Ninety five percent of the people which they took from their houses, he pointed to the left – which means to the transport.
But before that, there is another thing I have to mention – people were running around crazy, starting to get a paper from the Judenrat and also from the Germans that ….. all kinds of paper , red, green, with a stamp, without a stamp and everybody tried to do the best even with money to get the right paper. But nobody knows what the right paper was, each one was happy because he’s got the right paper.
Coming in to that place where he decided- Degenhof decided who’s going to go right, who is going to go left, the paper was not important – it was just worthless. They took the paper and tore it up. So I was with my mother and the kid, my wife and my brother, and it was most of my family who went to the left, to the transport.
Went to the transport where the cattle transport …. And they took us into the wagon, that was the last time I saw the city of Czestochowa before I came back from Treblinka. In that cattle train I don’t know how to start and I don’t know how to end because it was like living through a whole life in that thing. First thing, people one on top of the other. You couldn’t stand straight – you couldn’t bend – you couldn’t sit down.
They took us 6 o’clock in the morning into that train – we were there until it finished loading with all of us 2 hours, maybe more than that. Then they took us back to the main station and over there we were waiting a time. Across the railroad station there was another train that had passengers. Polish people, they could go, they could ride, handle anything they wanted.
I happened to be the lucky one, I was near a little window, with wire closed around that people shouldn’t be able to escape. I looked through , most of the people what they did to us, they spit on us. It happened, one girl I know her, she worked for a Jewish family from my …. Not the house where I lived but the house where I had my barber shop. When she saw me, she said, “Oh you are here?” And she started crying.
But more than 90 percent of the passengers in the other side of the train, they spit on us. And so we start rolling…. Start rolling to where nobody knows where we are going. In the middle of the night, was already about 18 hours in the train, we came to a side station, which they pointed out this was Warsaw. Stood there for a while and inside that train, with God’s help, it was hot like hell and that was almost the end of September, where usually in Poland, end of September is nice and cool.
But at that time, God helped them, not us. After about 1 o’clock, or 2 o’clock we start rolling again and we went through wilderness and that kind of thing. We came to a halt, I looked out and I see a sign which didn’t mean nothing to me. The sign was Treblinka.
Today, everybody knows what that word means – at that time it was just a name, not a … a little bit, a tiny little, maybe it was 40 families altogether. Stayed looking out through the window, more trains came, from other parts of the country. They went in, after about 2 hours they came out, all the trains were empty.
And now was the time our train started rolling and we went in, gate opened up, rolled into the camp of Treblinka. 10 men over there – we got in over there. The trains didn’t go in, like you know, the first goes in.
The engineer takes a train but backwards because the engineer and the people working in the locomotive of the train, they shouldn’t know what is going on over there. They were not supposed to see what is going on, that’s why he pushed in the end of the train. And we went in.
“Out!” Out!” they started yelling. It opened up – I didn’t know how many dead ones were in the train because nobody counted how many we had in our train. We had on out … men on the right side at the open, women at the left side at the barracks.
We didn’t know what it is, and we didn’t believe something was wrong. I know that something is not usual and that this is the last time we see each other. My wife, the kid and my mother went to the left side. My little brother who was 13 years old at that time – and some of the Germans, Ukrainians and also Jews from the “Red Commando”, say, “Take off your clothes – take off your clothes – start taking off your clothes.”
All the people did, but myself I don’t know what happened – a man, a Jewish man wearing a red band, the so-called Red Commando went through- he recognised someone which was near to me, he said, “What are you doing here?” “You see what I’m doing here.” So he said to him – “We need a few people.” Go to the side. “You need more?” “Yes, need more.” They took out about 16, 17 people. I was between them. Now this man which he recognised, he was married to a cousin of mine.
They took out his brothers –in-law, three of them, myself, my little brother they couldn’t take out because he was a kid, 13 years old. And a few more stayed on the side. We didn’t see. People went in through the gate. Now we know what the gate was. It was the way to the gas chamber and we never see them again.
That was the first hour we came in. After that we, the people, 18 or 16 people…. More people came in from the working people, what worked in the gas chambers. We had an order to clean up the place, it was horrible, but in 5-10 minutes the place had to look spotless. And it looked spotless, like there was never anybody in the place. So the next transport when it comes in, they shouldn’t see what’s going on.
You were cleaning up the place?
We were cleaning up in the outside. Taking away all the clothes to those places where the clothes were. Now not only the clothes, all the papers, all the money, all the….. whatever somebody had with him. And they had a lot of things with them, pots and pans. We cleaned up. Still didn’t know what’s going on until this guy with the red band – when we asked him, “what’s happened to them?” He said, “Be happy, we are here because they’re finished.”
At night when they took us into the barrack … the barrack was near, I was just about I would say 50 meters from the gate to the gas chamber.
It was at the same place where the people undressed themselves. The men undressed themselves, there was a well.
Why I mention the well, because I tell you what the well was. People they knew already, not from the beginning like from Warsaw- they started on the 22 July 1942, so people they knew already what Treblinka is.
That is not a working camp, not a concentration camp, but an extermination camp where nobody comes out alive. The minute when they came in, we find over there – took out from the well, over 50 people. They jumped in, instead of going into the gas chamber, they just jumped into the well.
Jumped into the well, I am sorry?
The well. Yes. They drowned themselves. Took them out and that water we used to drink. Nobody got sick, nothing happened. At night, couldn’t sleep. Some of us which were … there were religious people and they found out that their parents or their wife or children were killed, they were not taken out, people who have children. Mostly they took out people, 25, 26, 28 years old.
Some of them they were religious and they start saying the traditional Kaddish. That was the first night I was over there. In the morning – 5 o’clock in the morning, the order, “Out” went out. Stayed in line to work.
What was the work?
The work in Treblinka – mostly sorting the clothes which they were taking away from the people they killed and there was piles of clothes. They had to be divided – like coat to coat, shoes to shoes, shirts and also the quality of it. Cotton, other things, wool that was the job. We called it the Sorting –Kommando – maybe you heard that name- maybe not?
So we worked over there. I myself I was a barber – then at the third day or so it came, another order. They need barbers – from my town between the 16 people they took out, there was one more barber. But I had some friends with me – you do. You’re going to be a barber, they took also from other places, mostly from Warsaw. They got themselves about 14,15 barbers.
And they took us to the other side of the place which is called Treblinka 2. Treblinka 2 means only the work dealing with the dead people in the gas chamber. What they wanted us to do is to cut off the women’s hair. They took us in to the gas chamber .. in the gas chamber before they gassed them.
There were benches, about 20 benches, maybe less. And on a row of benches women were sitting and the barber went through cutting hair, with me cutting hair. The way the Jewish Elder, I know after I find out that he was converted, but that does not mean anything, his name was Engineer Galewski. Maybe you heard the name?
He was the Jewish Camp Elder – he was a very nice man – very fine gentleman. He came over he gave a speech to us, he said, “Look people. I don’t want that the women should know that they are going to be gassed. Make believe you are giving them a haircut. They, they are going in to take a shower. It is… take a bunch of hair from here. Take a bunch of hair from here. Don’t take off all the hair. Don’t make them look like monkeys.”
And so we didn’t.
Tell me what is was like?
What was it like? We had scissors. From them we took bunches of hair. Cut off- threw it on the floor to the side and in about 2 minutes we have to be finished. Not even 2 minutes, because there was a line waiting to come up – the next group. And that is how we worked. Inside it was very painful. Most painful was because some of the barbers they recognised their dear ones, like wives, mothers, even grandmothers.
Can you imagine that you have to cut their hair and not to tell them a word because you are not allowed. If you say a word that they are going to … uh be gassed in 5 or 7 minutes later, there would be panic over there and they would be killed too. After that, the transport was finished.
You started to tell me about your barber friends who worked with you in the gas chamber, would you tell me about some of them and some of the families that they met there?
It was just families like any other family. But the most thing that hurts is when you know people. When a transport came in, you don’t know the people, but when comes in somebody you associate or you are related that’s an entirely different thing. It hurts a lot more. We have … I have a friend. We worked together- we were friends in the same town together. Was a barber, a very good barber too.
And he was working in the gas chamber with me. It happened that one time his sister, one time his wife, came in his sister-in –law same thing. He start hugging and this and that. To take half a minute more with her than with any other one. But this thing has to be done. He couldn’t help himself. It was very hard. It was very, very horrible, but if it was any other way you get killed, which happened.
Now let me tell you a story. I had a very close friend of mine, I worked with him together for years. His name was Slamic Dorfman. Very fine gentleman. Now two men from all the time I was there, they didn’t want to stay together with us and work together. They ran into the gas chamber by themselves. He was a barber and the other one was a neighbour of mine. He did the same thing. That’s two and the history …. When the history of myself being in Treblinka ----------- I didn’t have the guts to do it. I wish I could. I did not. But what could he do? Or get killed!
To go together with him or wait maybe another day. And I want to tell you something, if a human being is in a situation like that, he thinks of every second, every minute … maybe… maybe there will be a change. Maybe something happened – maybe there will be a miracle that he will survive.
That people were not ready to get killed, people were not ready to even try and escape. And it happened to myself when I organised my escape.
I organised another escape of 11 people when they escaped from Treblinka.
But people that were not ready for it, they didn’t want it. I had a friend of mine who was a leader from the organisation of the workers and I said “I am planning an escape. Maybe we will escape, are you interested?” He said “Look Abe, I am here already. Where I am going to go outside to the Polaks. They will kill.” Which is….. was the truth, it was the truth. “So I rather stay here.”
Another thing I want to mention, I hear that story, many, many times and it hurts me a lot. I am going back to this same time that Jewish people went in like sleep to the slaughter house. It hurts me a lot about that. I explain that to you why. People are not sheep – the way the Germans organised to get the people killed is entirely different way.
The first thing of not allowed to go out, the second thing is not to bring in food. Then they starve the people, they take away the clothes from the people. They take the furniture from them, the better ones. They take away the force and then to starve them little by little until the people they lost their will to fight even the will to live. And to them was the same thing – what I am going to lose, I am starving here. I got nothing here. Maybe if I go away and they would send me somewhere away, they promised …. Maybe over there I will stay.
And this is an entirely different story like some people they say, here especially,” Jewish people why you went?” They don’t understand that looking at a wife, looking at a child and not to have a drop of milk, even a drop of water for them …. What could those people do? “How could they fight?” “And with what?”
First thing you went…. Somebody was lucky. He went across the gate. Got killed on the other side because he got paid from the Germans. He got paid for each Jew he got paid a litre of vodka. That was to them and he got paid with salt. He got paid with sugar, and even not for that time he was willing to do because to get rid of a Jew. And that did not happen to one, a thousand or ten thousand – it happened to a lot of them.
The people they didn’t go like sheep to the slaughter house. They were already willing to go the last way even to the gas chamber because their will was not decided by them.
It was decided by hunger, other things what they went through, sicknesses of all kinds. And now I want to tell you about the gas chamber. Always they ask me about this thing. The gas chamber – how it looked? Very simple, was all concrete, was no windows. There was nothing in it. Beside on top of you, there were wires and it looked like, you know, the water was going to come out from it. Had two doors, steel doors.
From one side and from the other side, the people went into the gas chamber from the one side. Like myself I was in it doing the job as a barber. When it was full the gas chamber the size of it was … I would say 18 by 18 by 17 - I didn’t measure that time. Just looked like I would say I look here the room around, I wouldn’t say exactly how big it is.
And they pushed in as many as they could – it was not allowed to have the people standing up with their hands down because there is not enough room, but when the people raised their hands there was more room to each other. And on top of that they throw in kids, 2, 3, 4 years-old kids on top of them. And we came out – the whole thing took I would say between 5 -7 minutes.
The door opened up, not from the side they went in but on the other side, and from the other side …. The group… people working in Treblinka 2. which their job was only about dead people. They took out the corpses – some of them dead, some of them still alive. They dragged them to the ditches, and over there they covered them. They dug ditches and they covered them.
That was the beginning of Treblinka, the time when I was there. Later they changed the situation over there by killing people the same way, but not take them to the ditches, but take them to be burned, but to pile them on top of one another and burn them. It was for those people …. I brought you the picture. Three of them, they worked only by dead people. I myself I worked in Treblinka No 1, which was a little bit easier.
Why was it easier?
Because we …. The people working in Treblinka No 1 – I, we took in the transports living people. All living people. And from the living people, we got something. We went through a pocket, we find a piece … piece of bread. We find sometimes a bottle of water which was a really …… some of them they brought in other things to eat, but over there in Treblinka 2 they had no chance. All they got is naked people going in and dead people being taken out from the gas chamber.
How long did you work as a barber in the gas chamber?
In the gas chamber we were working as a barber over there between 2 little more than 2 weeks. Not for three weeks. And then they decided that the barbers will not go in anymore to the gas chamber to cut off the hair of the women over there, but in the undressing barracks, they divided a part … lets say like you take here, divide a part and on this side they put the same thing. Benches around and we cut the hair off, not in the gas chambers anymore.
That was the last time… the 3 … the 2 or 3 weeks we worked over there. Nobody else worked any more from Barrack No 1 because they did not allow it. It was a gate between Treblinka 1 and Treblinka 2 to the gas chamber, also with barbed wires and it was some kind like trees, other thing, through the wire it shouldn’t be visible.
Abe, I need to ask you , if you can, before we leave and go to the other job because now we don’t know enough. Can you tell us during those 2 weeks you were in the gas chamber working and I know it is hard but can you tell us about some of the other people working in the gas chamber with you. Your friends first. What … who were they and what did they do?
They were common people like myself ….. growing up together. They were people that I know. Like there were people from Warsaw, people from other places I never knew. We just met over there. One of them specially was a man, he was a fireman, matter of fact he was related to Danny Kaye because Danny Kaye came from our place, his parents. And his name was also David Kamiski which was the name of Danny Kaye. He wasn’t a barber, I took him in.
He was standing next to me and they were looking for a barber and I said, “Danny, how about you?” “Fine – what’s happening?” They go in, because over there he did that job. He wasn’t in the eyes of the Germans which is another thing I have to tell you. People working in Treblinka, there wasn’t a job that you work, you going to work tomorrow.
Every day they changed the people that worked there, if somebody worked in Treblinka a week, he was an old worker. He was very old he worked there, he survived a week. Every day they killed 2, 3, 4 hundred people that worked in Treblinka and from the transport arriving, like myself they took out other people. So they were working over there the same way, and those people that I know they worked with me as a barber.
The same they did - the same thing as I did.
They had over there sometimes their sisters coming and I said it before, they had to a job. The job was to prepare people to go into the gas chamber. Not any other thing. Now after that we worked over there only a few hours because a transport like cutting their hair – let’s say a transport like myself when I came in. When I came in, I came in from the town of Czestochowa, then came a transport from other places, it was 18 thousand people.
Eighteen thousand people they took out, 16 or 17 people from 18,000. And it happened a day I was there and I can remember, it was 4 or 5 days like that. Not all the time. Most of the time was between 12 and 15 thousand people, but it happened 4 or 5 times there were 24 thousand people in one day. Each transport took between 2 hours. No more than 2 hours. And it was ………… Everything spotless.
The train would come in - you couldn’t see any dead, you couldn’t see any blood. Everything was shiny. The rest of the time … talking about myself because not everyone was a barber over there. But we did …. After our jobs as barbers we worked in our places in the sorting – commando, picking the clothes up, bringing the bundles from one place to another place.
Taking the bundles to the railroad place to load in the wagons, because they have to take those things in. Now there was a question some did ask me, “Why did they have to cut the women’s hair?” Was simple, simple answer to that. Because they needed it. What they did from that was to make saddles for the horses. Now if you cut off hair from a human being, that hair is just like cutting off the feathers of a goose. If you cut the feather from a goose, is alive, that will never die. Whatever, you do, you push it down, it goes up.- stays up.
And with human hair it’s the same way – when you cut the hair from a dead person, this hair just like the person is dead. But if you cut the hair from a living person, if you put it in the saddle, the saddle will not push down, that’s why they cut the hair off. Just to send back to Germany to the practice over there where they make the saddles with it. Now while working over there, I did all kinds of work. At the time - let me explain the … the start of the day.
In the morning , 5 o’clock we had the order to get out. Get Out. Went to the kitchen. Not just going forth like soldier, 5 in a row to receive coffee. A little bit of black water and slice of bread. Daytime nothing – after the work we received some kind of soup. And it was people working in the kitchen, excuse me the expression, the toilets and all the places.
The hardest job I think even harder working in the gas chamber, cutting women’s hair, was when the transports came in and you had to take people from the wagons. Crippled people, small children, who lost their parents between like let’s say they took one .. the mother into one wagon the children into another wagon, they were not together, so they were separated.
But we have to take those people, the old, crippled people and the little small children to the Lazaret. Maybe you heard about the Lazaret – now the Lazaret usually means a hospital. Now over there wasn’t a hospital. Was a big, very big ditch. And it was also with trees around – you could not see what was going on inside. In front of it was a man in a white thing with a red cross.
It is just like going into a hospital, but going into that ditch over there was a Ukrainian or German… shot in the head and into the ditch. And that was the hardest to do – to take people, specially to have children … children a few months old …. To take them in, throw them into the ditch where there the fire was burning day and night at that ditch. All the things what we find, papers, all kinds of things, we threw in that ditch and that was going on as long as I was there.
The fire was never off, all the time it was on. And on top of that, people and people are killed. Somebody, lets say – anytime when we couldn’t go in to the latrine, to the toilet, we went to the side to do it, right away they were killed. That happened to a close friend of mine, he’s brother’s a barber – he is alive. A guy by the name of Sliska, he just stood on the side to do his…. Took him, killed, into the ditch. And that happened all the time. Every time and all the time.
Now it happened , one time it happened, a transport came from Ketrzyn, Kretrzyn is a little town next to Warsaw. Came a transport from there and a woman came out from that transport. Why I mention it? I will tell you the story what happened. She came out, in front of her were two men, two was moving with the red finger on. One of them a tall fellow about six two or six three, blond hair. Real German, but a Jew. And another one, his name was Solic. Matter of fact he was a barber. Well he did a good job
What you mean a good job?
For the Germans I would say.
He was active, he was quick. He organised it quick, he took the people away quick out from the trains. But she didn’t know they are Jewish people. She came out from the train with a razor and she cut the throat of both of them. Especially the tall fellow – I never knew his name. He was very handsome looking like a German, than all the Germans put together.
And naturally on the spot they killed her- not with guns, with their shoes, with anything they had, they killed her. They took those two men into a hospital, I don’t know where, but out from Treblinka. The tall man they couldn’t help, he died. They brought them back to Treblinka. The other one he got killed also they brought back.
But the first man – that’s the only funeral in Treblinka which was from the beginning until the end. What they did, they took him-they marked a grave for him and wood thing. They buried him. Everybody stood, an order. That’s the only grave which a man, a Jewish man was left in that Treblinka.
Now during the time when I was there, it happened a lot, in the barrack I was in, we were about 70 people in one barrack. Every night of the work people, 5, 6 was missing.
What means missing?
They killed themselves. Hanged themselves with their … whatever they could get on them to strangle themselves. Even my brother-in-law did the same. He married a sister of my wife, a highly educated man. He was the leader of the Socialist Party Bundt, he hanged himself, he couldn’t take that. And that happened every single night – three, four or five people.
Besides people which were killed by the Germans exchanging them for new ones when they come in from the new transports. It happened at one time to me, I got very sick in Treblinka. Very, very sick. And I went over to the Commandant, to the German, I said “Take me to the Lazaret.” When I say take me to the Lazaret, he knows exactly what it means. To be killed. Because I had an attack of the…. How you call it? Kidney and that was pain … I couldn’t take it. Unbelievable!
So he said to me “How long are you working here?” “Oh I said, I work here about 5 weeks” “5 weeks go to the kitchen and ask them to give you some Schnapps.” And I was surprised. And everybody was surprised that he didn’t take out of the gun and took care…. What for you need that. Not that Jew, could get 10,000 Jews. I went over there to the kitchen and I told him what ….. Who is going to give you whiskey? A little bit of water you can have. I got a little water and then he told me to go into the barrack.
That was the first time somebody went into the barrack in the middle of the day not going to work. And I laid down in the barrack. I had two cousins over there, they worked together with me, they were taken out of the same transport with me. One of them, he risked his life to find out what had happened to me. He came into the barrack. He saw me, he never said a word to me. He run out and he said, “Abe is in the barrack.” At the night, they came in – everybody on top of me.
“Oh you must be really the lucky one, that they didn’t kill you.” They didn’t kill. I was still in pain. Over there, we had a transport coming in, not one, but many transports coming in from Czechoslovakia. A man came in by the name of Zelo, he was a captain in the Czechoslovakian army. Another one came in by the name of Masarek, which was not the president. He must be some kind of relation, he had a wife, he was Jewish, or his wife was Jewish. I don’t know. They came in, was a doctor. What happened? When I told him, he took out the tablets and said, “Abe take the tablets.”to me.
I took the tablet.
The following morning I never knew what that means the sickness until three years ago now, I got sick in Israel also on the kidney. Now another practice I worked in…. I worked in a barrack where people were hiding. I did it myself too before I escaped from Treblinka. What was … the barrack was full of clothes.. bundles made out of clothes. So what we did we put the bundles in the barrack, one on top of the other until the roof.
People tried to escape.
What they did they went in the daytime during the work in the barracks and they remained there. And they hid themselves between the clothes. But it happened by accident when the clothes moved, they could never go out and got choked there. At one time we took out from a barrack the size I would say maybe about 40, 60… 40,50 meters, over 30 people. Dead ones! I did the same thing when I escaped. But before that I worked over there and I tried to help some people any way I could. At one time he came in, he was a Kapo. His name was in Jewish Ben Yamin Yakoski. Have you heard that name? You did – he had a brother over there. Very nice, religious individual boy. He was from a town of Yen Jeif [Jedrzejow] which is not far from Kielce.
He came in he said, “Abe, I trust you. Tonight, my people, my brother they are going, they are planning an escape. Eleven of them.” What should I do?” He said, “You know you have some landsmen from your town working outside, not in the barrack, but outside?” I said “Yes.” “Tomorrow morning after the Appell, you bring in your friends. If somebody comes in to you and tell their friends they are working all the time here.”
Naturally I did whatever he told me.
In the morning … group I worked with them, eleven of them disappeared. Then in came the assistant commandant we called him Lalka, that name you heard already many times. He came in the barrack and he looked at me, “What are you doing?” I said I am working on the cloth… looking what is there , cotton, this and that. “Are the same people working here what worked yesterday?” I said, “Yes, everybody’s the same were working.”
It wasn’t true.
What those people crouching the other side of the gate, they left some kind of sign on the trees. At night they couldn’t take away this from the trees. And he saw that somebody went through that.
He came over to me, he took my hat he started to knock in a wooden block which hold……. But I was like paralyzed. Didn’t feel at all. Just for the thing what they had I was scared. They are taking out to kill me. I didn’t feel it all. Behind him was a friend of mine Eisack Sidman. He was standing with a knife over there behind him. And if he would take out the gun, he would kill him.
But it happened that he knocked and knocked and I didn’t say a word to him, so he thought maybe I didn’t know.nothing. So he let me go.
Then at night after work, people came in, “What happened?” I told them, for those people they escaped. After that I found out what happened to them, from all those eleven people, two were alive when I returned to Czestochowa. All the other nine were killed by Poles. They went back to their home town in Yan Jeif [Jedrzejow] and they were very rich. They were like I would say Rockefellor. They had possessions; they call themselves I would say in German, the Bundt’s. They got killed.
Two of the men I met in the ghetto of Czestochowa when I came back from Treblinka, they couldn’t stay there and they went somewhere away. I never saw them again. That was one part, but the second part we decide to run away. The first thing is we had to get money. When you go out, when you come to the Poles, its impossible to live without it. So we tried to get some money and that wasn’t a hard job to get. The money wasn’t a hard job to get the money, but to get the money was our job. If they find on you one zloty or one dollar you get killed. So about eight or nine from our hometown. One is still alive, he is 85 years old, he lives in Israel, Yakia Bisner, a friend of mine.
And this one, particularly this one, I took him away from the gas chamber three times. He had such kind of eyes, you look at him and you get scared. And twice the Germans took him in told him to go to the gate which goes into the gas chamber. And I was form the side. I threw clothes on him. I took him away. And the third time he went and he worked together with me.
We were together all the time and we collected money together to escape. And matter of fact, he escaped before me. Also organised this thing, we decided who’s going to go. He went away with two other ones, the other ones got killed where he is still alive. When we collected the money… and going in to the barrack, the Ukrainians …. They did something which is not normal.
In the middle of the night we came out from the barracks not walking, but crawling to the wires, to the barbed wires. We want to go through them. We were 7, 8, one was still inside and we had the money with us. Also the same one Sidman which I mentioned before, and the Ukrainians they jumped on us. We were the last straw… went back to the barracks, back to our place. We don’t know anything, but they got him. And they are going to kill. What you got? We showed him, we got money, a lot of money. It happened they let him go. Why they let him go, I will tell you why they let him go. They took the money, and they escaped. These two Ukrainian workmen they escaped from Treblinka.
Then we decided a group of nine people is too much at one time. We are going to organise a different way to escape. Three at a time. And we organised it. One group went the first one, then another group they didn’t succeed. Two men ran away. The third one got caught by a Ukrainian. His name was Ella Loddick.
When the Ukrainian jumped on him, he jumped on the Ukrainian and he bit through his neck. With his teeth he killed him. And he run away. I met him in the ghetto of Czestochowa, he was there, he got married in that little ghetto after he got back from Treblinka. I was at their wedding. A few weeks after he got sick and passed away. Now the third group I went with a friend of mine and a cousin of mine, and we did the same way I mentioned before, hiding between the clothes, you know each went into the ditch. Three of us. We kept the clothes apart.
At night the Ukrainians, the Germans come in start hollering “Raus, Raus!” We don’t know anything. Then with their picks from their rifle, they start picking if somebody is not over there. They left. We worked over there until about 6 o’clock About 8:30 was winter beginning of January 1943 we decide to leave. Now to escape from over there, was one chance.
What was the one chance?
We had to go through the lazaret with the fire, where the dead people were burning. We had to go through there. Otherwise it was impossible because it was six or seven rows of barbed wire. You went through one, you had to go through one, you had to go through the second, the third. Over there was only one, when we made it through that ditch of the burning fire, we had the one with the gate of barbed wire. We decided that on a Saturday night to leave the place.
We took clothes, we threw the clothes on the barbed wire and lucky, no one was in the tower …. Watching towers. There was all around watchtowers, Saturday night we figured out because we saw so many times they disappeared. They went to drink or the Ukrainians went with girls so made that. We came out 9 o’clock at night through that and start running and running. We run all the way, in the morning we find out about 6 o’clock in the morning we were at the same place. And we heard the Ukrainians talking, so we were in a Ukrainian place surrounded. Finally I looked through the stars and I went a different way – went to the Bug River.
The above oral history testimony is the result of a videotaped interview with Avraham Bomba conducted by Linda Kuzmack on 28 August 1990 on behalf of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The interview cannot be used by a third party for creation of a work for commercial sale. The reader should bear in mind this is a verbatim transcript of spoken rather than written prose. This transcript has neither been checked for spelling nor verified for accuracy, and therefore it is possible that there are errors.
Copyright H.E.A.R.T 2007 "Text Version produced by Donald Becker © USHMM"