Abducted from my home, farewell mother

EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT

Tuesday 25th March 1940

At four o’clock in the morning the lady next door knocked on our door. We were wide-awake in no time. It was pitch black but the sound of tumult drifted up from the street. Our worst fears were instantly roused by the thumping noise of soldiers’ boots striking the pavement. With one leap I was at the window and carefully pulled the curtain aside. I thought I was looking into an eerie abyss. The houses opposite were already under guard by the SS. In one hand they held an upturned rifle and in the other a torch whose beam scanned the front of the houses. Men and women were clubbed as they were pushed out of a door into the street. The SS quickly made sure that they were not men disguised as women. Then they were pushed and beaten back into the house. My mother and siblings observed this scene from the window and began to cry loudly. Their plaintive cry and the paralysing fear of what was to come suddenly made my hands and feet tremble. My teeth began to chatter and I struggled to remain erect. I was totally helpless, what should I do with myself now? Where could I run to hide myself? Nothing made sense anymore, it was now too late to escape. I embraced my mother and tried hard to stop her tears, “I will run away quickly and try to hide somewhere”, I promised her. “I think I can shelter at the neighbours”.

deportation-jews-zawiercie

Deportation of Jews from Zawiercie [United States Holocaust Museum]

I ran quickly downstairs to the first floor to our neighbours. In great haste we decided to put a large wardrobe in front of the door behind which we would hide. However, the wardrobe was not large enough to conceal the entire door. Without further ado, the neighbour’s wife shoved us into the cupboard and hid us with the clothes hanging inside. Before we had a chance to settle into our hiding place we heard the deafening shouts of the Gestapo and the police, “Men out, damned Jews out!” Heavy steps approached us and before we had time to think, the SS were already in our neighbour’s home and ripped open the cupboard door. They cheered as they rummaged through the cupboard. They forced us out under a hail of blows from the butts of their rifles. We were kicked and pushed and we ran to the staircase. With one shove we were forced down the flight of steps. At the bottom of the stairs, I was pushed towards our neighbours who were already assembled there. My mother stood on the second floor and watched this scene with tears in her eyes. I looked up at her, yearning to give her a final farewell hug. With poundings and beatings with batons we were driven further and further away from our home towards a large crowd of fellow sufferers.”

Ernst Bornstein’s familySSZawiercie
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