Writing this book was
postponed for decades. There was always something that seemed more
urgent: studies, a scientific paper, a chapter for a book, raising
children. Almost everything had a deadline. The memories could wait.
For the past 10 or 15 years my wife and children who have heard many
episodes from my childhood and youth reminded me repeatedly that I
should record at least my memories from the Holocaust; they insisted
that this document cannot wait forever. To them are due the credit for
its writing and my thanks.
I have a good memory. I
remember events, names, addresses, dates, telephone numbers. None of
those mentioned here has been fabricated or changed. In a written
document parts may fade away with time to the point of becoming
illegible. But if the document is not tampered with, no parts are
reconstructed or otherwise replaced, the residual document remains
true. Memories fade too. Many details, facts, persons, become
forgotten and cannot be restored. Whatever faded away from my memory is
not here. But the remainder is true. I have not reconstructed
anything. No gaps were filled.
During the past few decades
the concept of the Holocaust has suffered an incredible deprecation.
For millions of people around the world the Holocaust means "just" six
million Jews who were killed during the World War II. Those people are
willing to argue not only about the exact number of victims of the
Holocaust (after all, more Germans and Russians were killed during the
World War II, so what is so special about killing Jews?), but even
about the very existence of this phenomenon.
In order to understand the concept of the Holocaust, one should not
think about "six million Jews" or "one-and-a-half million Jewish
children," but about the single three-year-old girl who was taken by
force from her parents and thrown into the gas chamber to suffocate.
Or, about the one-year-old boy, torn out by an SS-man from his mother's
arms, grasped by legs, his head smashed against wall in his mother's
view. This was the Holocaust. Only after realizing these examples of
sadism, can they be multiplied by six million. For the horror and
bestiality lies in individual experiences, not in dry numbers.
This book describes the experience of
one boy and one family during the Holocaust. It is my experience and
that of my family. It should be judged by the facts as described.
Friends have suggested that I use the
services of a ghost-writer, who could try to patch up missing details
and produce a more complete, exhaustive picture. To this I object. This
book is not intended to be a literary creation. But it is true to the
facts. It is a true document.
In writing names of persons,
I use routinely the Polish spelling. To English speakers it may seem
odd to see Jozef rather than Joseph, Lorenc rather than Lawrence, or
Dawid spelled with a w instead of v. But this was the spelling used by
the people described in this book. These were real persons and
real names. Because this book is a true document, I decided to
stick to documentary precision, which includes the proper spelling of
During the Holocaust, while
I was posing as an Aryan, many Poles helped me to hide, and saved my
life while risking their own. Some of them did not expect, and never
received, any reward. The names Stawowski, Bajer, Wieczorek became well
engraved in my memory and appear on the pages of this book. There were
others, whose names I never knew, or have forgotten, because my
encounter with them was very short. To all these I express my thanks
and deep appreciation of their characters and deeds.
Finally, special thanks to
my children: Yifat, Dorit, Limor, and Avishai for critical review of
the manuscript and their exhaustive editorial help.