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Letters to Sala

Letters to Sala


Sala Garncarz
Diary begun October 28, 1940, the day of deportation, through November 8, 1940, in Polish, Sosnowitz, Poland
NYPL, Dorot Jewish Division, Sala Garncarz Kischner Collection

Monday, October 28, 1940

From the time of departure from Sosnowitz

At 7:00 o’clock AM, we all arrived at Skladowa Street. After our names were checked, we went to the railroad station where we waited until 11:00 AM. Dear beloved girls!

How can I describe this waiting period? Was I dreaming? Yes, I had been dreaming, since 5:00 o’clock in the morning until we arrived at the designated location. At 6:00 o’clock, it was Sala [Rabinowicz] who first arrived, my sweet friend. By 7:00 o’clock, I had you all with me: all my dear ones: Sala [Rabinowicz], Gucia, Bela, Chancia, and Hela.

My dearests! If you could have looked deep in my heart, you would have seen how desperate I was; still I tried to keep a smile on my face as best I could, though my eyes were filled with tears. One must go on bravely and courageously, even if the heart is breaking.

I said goodbye to my beloved old father. Dear father, will you miss your Sala very much? Me, the intolerable girl? My father cried … yes, he did cry when we were saying goodbye. Onward. Accompanied by all my sweet girlfriends, we started out. Where to? Why? Only the future will tell….

Mother dearest, I have not mentioned you until now. I was not looking at you, though I was consumed by you. You were pleading with me, you were begging me, almost yelling at me—yet, I want to do what I want to do. Now it’s so hard to say goodbye; what can I say to you, what to wish you?

I said nothing. I did not wish you anything, did not ask you for anything. Still, I could not stop looking at you Mother, because I felt something inside of me tearing, hurting. One more kiss, one more hug, and my mother does not want to let go of me. Let it end already, it is torture. Then I say goodbye to my sisters.

I step into the line-up, and looking around me, I see Sala and Gucia, my faithful friends, standing at a distance since they are not allowed to be near. Except for my mother and sisters, here everybody and everything are strangers to me.

With whom are you leaving me, and to whom are you sending me?

Dear girls!!! I am accustomed to you more than to my sisters, and now I have to leave you and must go into the unknown world. Will I ever see all of you again? Sala, does it seem possible that I will not be in your house tomorrow to play cards with [your little sister] Frymka? And [your brother], can you believe that he won’t see me again tomorrow? I wonder if he will remember me, or talk about me. But what right do I have to demand it?

We are starting to move. Goodbye, everybody; remember me, only please do not pity me, because nobody forced me to do this. I got what I wanted. God help me!!! …

I am together now with Miss Ala. There are about 14 women, and we shall try to enable our brothers to live in a way where they will not feel the change that has taken place in their lives.

Tuesday, October 29, 1940

I woke up early as I slept very little. I look around; so it seems I spent one night in my “new home.” I am shivering from cold and my head feels terribly heavy. One by one, the girls look around, taking their time to get up. Get up! Lots of work is waiting for us. A stove is being set up; [one of the girls] makes the stovetop very hot, and now my soul is uplifted. Somehow, things will turn out all right.

Miss Ala also cheers us up, she is such a terrific and courageous girl. Even though she came from a wealthy home, she is able to adjust to present circumstances without fighting them; what’s more, she is able to give us hope. Our dinner consisted of barley soup, which was less than tasty. Well, that too shall pass. In the evening, we were assigned bunks. Wonderful. There is a lower level and an upper level. I can imagine how it will feel to sleep on the upper level. Miss Ala and I reserved one such accommodation. We will be sharing the bunk with one other girl who is very lively, and like all girls, she likes to flirt. In addition, there are four other girls in the room.

Tonight, I slept with Miss Ala; what a delight. I love her. This afternoon, as they were giving out food coupons in our room, an old Jew came by feeling weak and hungry. He warmed himself by the stove. We felt pity for him and asked him where he is from; he poured his bitter heart out telling us about himself. He is from Sosnowitz, has a wife and children, and all of them are in our community. He was supposed to be allowed to stay home … but one person insisted that he must go. So even here an act of maliciousness was carried out—against whom? Against an old, sick Jew. Oh, be cursed, you who did it, and the others who are like you.

After that, we cried for half an hour, Ala hugging me, about him and our own fate. We have to get hold of ourselves.

At the table, I spoke a bit with our young German office clerk, who seems pleasant. I found out from him that he knows my brother [Moshe David]. I like to hear him talk, because I like the German language a lot, and besides, he is a pleasant fellow. After we straightened up the beds, we cleaned up, and I helped to wash the dishes. I peeled potatoes. One more thing—I mended gloves for a soldier, for which I had to accept [a small payment], even though I objected....

Wednesday, October 30, 1940

We slept quite well last night. After a bit of cleaning and shaking the blankets, we ate breakfast. One of the girls had brought with her some Lithuanian cheese, which she shared with us. We also had bread and butter—an excellent breakfast. For dinner, we had cabbage soup, quite tasty too. I found out quite by chance that Leo, the boyfriend of my cousin Roza from Olkusch, is here, among the men.

I looked for him and found him. When I spoke to him in the evening, he told me sadly that he is imagining Roza to be crying now. He is such a sweet man, strongly built, but his face betrays his young age. He really does love my cousin. Yes, Roza, you can be proud of him. Everybody likes him; I shall try as hard as I can to help him since he is my future cousin….

Also this evening, Ala and I gave him a postcard to send home, which we hope will get there. You must understand that we are not allowed to let anybody hear from us, while everyone at home is going crazy with worry, thinking that we have disappeared.

I washed his socks and I dried his shoes; the poor fellow has a cold, still he went to work. He was told that he might be excused tomorrow and I would be glad if he is excused.

[Thursday, October 31, 1940]

I have much to worry about today. Leo was let go by our boss on Thursday, but it now appears that it’s a bad situation. The authorities came to check on the workers, and discovered that nine of them stayed home. It was a scandal, and all of them were put in a separate room and then they were sent to work.

And so, before bedtime, the entire camp was ordered to assemble. [The leader] requested, in a hoarse voice, that we do not make it more difficult for him to carry on his already difficult duties.

Men are absolutely forbidden to be in the women’s section of the camp. There will be punishment for not obeying orders. Also we are forbidden to contact them. For us, it’s not too bad, but for the men, that is difficult. Well, maybe it’s better this way.

Friday, November 1, 1940

The day was uneventful except that we were assigned to another room, an unpleasant change for me, since the four of us were hoping to stay together in our little room. Well, after all, this is not for us to decide. We will have to get used to the faces of still more new strangers. I also worry about where I will sleep since, while I was away dressing, bunks were set up and no space was left for me to be with my beloved Ala. I had to agree to take the bunk under Ala, but so far, I have not slept in it, because Ala always finds a spot for poor me next to her. She always takes me in.

Now the traditional Friday evening approaches, time for the family to be together, and for closeness to uplift the soul. That day finds me now far away from home. I suddenly realize where I am, and I know that whether this is Friday or not, I will not eat with all of you at the same table, and I will not hear my beloved father say “Kiddush.” No, I cannot be with you because I am in a barracks in a camp!

Something moves me, but there is nobody here who is close to me. I have to hope that Ala will be back from the office soon. Yet my thoughts are with you; could you feel my nearness to you? And so I walked around like a lunatic for I had nobody to share my sorrow, nobody to console me as I cried my eyes out, finding it hard to breathe; it was stifling. Never before did I miss you so much, beloved parents, and my dear girlfriends! Today I was not with you when prayers were said. I did not hear [your brothers] say the prayers. Oh, my dearest ones! Did you remember me just then? I will find out when we are together again.

Ala just arrived; I feel relieved. Would you believe that I could not tell her all that I was feeling? I prefer to write things down, since I don’t know how to talk about such matters. Still, her presence is good for me for it helped me to fall asleep here in Geppersdorf, while my thoughts were with you.

Saturday [November 2, 1940]

I woke up thinking that I was drunk. Do you know why? Because just a week ago today, I was actually drunk after drinking beer on Friday. You drank to my health and a wish for me to remain home, but I am one stubborn girl, am I not? I have to admit that I was a bit tipsy, but it won’t happen again. Today we work only until 12 o’clock.

Something new happened. As I was sitting on my bed writing, the SA [Sturmabteilung, or Storm Trooper] man came in. He said, “Get your coat, we are going to the movies.” I was amazed and I took it for a joke. But an order is an order, so I put on my coat and beret and together with [two others], we all went out. He took us to [the office] and we helped him to do some dusting. They were very nice to us there, and they gave us some beer. It warmed us since it’s quite cold. Then we went back to our place and brought back cigarettes for our boys.

Sunday [November 3, 1940]

Today is our holiday. From early morning, there is much activity, and no wonder. One wants to outdo the other. I personally do not feel joyful, even though this is supposed to be our holiday. [Another girl] and I started cleaning: we made all beds, washed the floor. Unfortunately, even today Ala has no free time because there is work to be done in the office.

In the afternoon: my conscience bothers me because while Ala was working in the office I did something foolish. Music was playing, so I danced with [one of the girls]. When she invited [a boy], I quickly stopped, and soon everybody gathered near my door. Suddenly, Ala appeared, entering the room in her steady, manly way, and everybody moved over. I am so proud that everyone respects her and pays attention to her but now I feel guilty because I hurt her. Might I lose her because of it? It would be a terrible blow to me. We go to sleep and when I am near her, I feel good again and blissful. Our conversation resumed on the same subject we so often talk about. I told her about my doubts, my desire to see and experience everything, and I related a lot about myself so that she could understand and forgive my behavior today, which was caused by my youth and inexperience. I think she understood and she forgave me. She is so sweet, and so strong…. It is so wonderful to be with my Aluchna, so wonderful.

Monday [November 4, 1940]

The SA man came in the evening and seeing a German-Polish grammar book on the table started reading the Polish part. It made me laugh. Later that evening, I went for a walk with Leo, and he told me more about himself and Roza. We shook hands to seal our friendship. This boy suffered so much because he had to fight with his parents about Roza, and just as they were ready to give him permission to marry, this new misfortune struck all of us. Oh, what wonderful dreams he has for the future! Roza, Roza, you should know that even at night, he keeps repeating your name; he has no better subject for conversation than you. You, Roza, should be so happy.

At night in the bunk, Ala read to me the letter she wrote home, in which she mentioned me. That made me very glad.

The world is moaning, life is terrible, and there is much to lament. Is it any surprise that I am seeing people’s misfortune, their sufferings and the injustices done to them? The world is complaining, and there is a void around us. Now the winds are blowing hard; what are you bringing us—your madman? Will it be fair weather or foul weather? Will there be quiet or turmoil?

Time to start working. Ala left for the office, while the wind picked up speed and became more mournful. A hubbub arose as everyone started running toward the square and onto the roofs to tie things down. Panic broke out and everybody got scared, some girls started crying. We have some sick ones who need to be consoled.

Six more women are to leave. Will I be among them? Ala comes running to me. “Listen, one of the office girls will have to leave as well, so if it’s me, you will come with me.” The truth is that I agreed without even giving it a thought. Well, it became apparent that they have no intention of sending Ala away, and Kronenberg [the Jewish leader, or Judenalteste, at Geppersdorf] did not want to put me on the list.

Little Keiti, the poor girl, cried and did not want to leave; still, in the end, she had to. I felt sorry for her, the poor child. But that was not the end of this matter. Next day, 60 more men had to leave, among them Leo. I felt very sad. He will probably have no one to talk to about Roza. At the last moment, he was designated a “group officer” and he departed. The following days were very unpleasant, still, they were sweetened by the fact that I remained with Ala.

Friday [November 8, 1940]

Oh, it’s Friday again. What a horrible day for me here. Again, my thoughts turn to home, and again, I am overwhelmed by despair. Dear God, will Fridays always worry me so much when I am away from home?

It’s quiet now. All the girls are in bed….

The SA man pointed to me and said, this girl is clean, and he seemed to be almost glad about that. Fani Czarna looked at me and asked for my home address, so I asked her to tell them the best news about me. When she said goodbye, she shook my hand. They left.

In the afternoon, a small blow: 120 workers are being sent out. Everyone is fearful that someone among relatives or friends will be sent away.

Just look at us, tired and exhausted,
And how our hearts are bleeding.
Where are our aged parents,
Whose life is being poisoned?
So let it all be enough
For You to take off our burden,
Let us hope and be certain
That soon our parents and family will be one with us
That is the essence of our hope.