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Carved in Stone

Carved in Stone: Holocaust Years - a Boy

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 264
  • Book Info
    Carved in Stone
    Book Description:

    The title of this book is taken from Primo Levi's words about survivors of the Holocaust: `The survivors are divided into two well-defined groups: those who repress their past en bloc, and those whose memory of the offence persists, as though carved in stone.' The memories of Manny Drukier are indelibly inscribed on his mind, and inCarved in Stonehe recounts them with honesty and precision.

    In 1939, at the age of eleven, Drukier was forced by the Nazis to leave his native city of Lódz, in Poland. His narrative, prompted by his first visit back to Poland after fifty years, begins with his childhood, follows him in and out of various hiding places and to the labour camps, and describes his day of liberation and his later emigration to North America. But this is also the story of the day-to-day life of Jews both before and during the war, providing a detailed account of Drukier's friends and family, and their love, wit, and will to survive.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7276-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Henry Schogt

    The title Manny Drukier chose for his memoirs,Carved in Stone, is taken from Prime Levi′s words: ′The survivors are divided into two well-defined groups: those who repress their pasten bloc, and those whose memory of the offence persists, as though carved in stone.′ Thus he announces what the reader can expect: personal memories, indelibly inscribed in his mind, going back to the years of the German terror regime.

    Drukier, who was born in 1928, has lived in Toronto since shortly after the war, and although he does not say so, one gets the impression that he made an...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Manny Drukier
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Prologue: The Second Coming of the Jews
    (pp. 3-6)

    After looking around the crowded revolving restaurant at the top of the Metropol Hotel in Warsaw, the chicken rancher from Biała Podlaska, on the Belarus border, leaned forward in his chair and addressed us earnestly: ′I′ve got a plan for the resurrection of Poland′s economy.′ Our conversation to that point had centred around chickens, so this showed a side of Stan that we had not anticipated. Handsome and lean, in his mid-thirties, Stan is a selfadmitted tax evader in the six-figure range. Nevertheless, he considers himself a true patriot. Tall, fair, broad-shouldered, he walks with a slight stoop brought on...

  7. 1 Rehabilitation
    (pp. 7-10)

    Saturday, 4 May 1991. Jerzy Kosinski is dead. Killed himself in his Manhattan apartment, police say. He was fifty-seven. Kosinski was a figure of glamour. I would often come across gossip pieces about him in magazines. A horseman, a mysterious East European, irresistible to society women. Kosinski had had it made. Jewish, for a time he had denied his origins. I should read his first novel,The Painted Bird, but because it is painful for me to read about Holocaust experiences, I don′t. Like me, Kosinski was born in Łódź, although five years later. His body was discovered at 9:30...

  8. 2 Warsaw
    (pp. 11-18)

    Warsaw, September 1991. The Lufthansa flight to Warsaw via Frankfurt was uneventful. The immigration officer at the Warsaw airport asked me which hotel we would be staying at. Even though we had leased an apartment, East European officialdom is best told nothing, so I unhesitatingly replied, ′Nie wiemy jeszcze′ (′Don′t know yet′). That gave me the confidence to ask a skycap, in Polish, to carry our heavy suitcases and further enquire as to the cost of a taxi into town. The skycap led us to the taxi. The driver consulted with me about the location of the apartment. It was...

  9. 3 Grandparents
    (pp. 19-28)

    My maternal great-grandfather, Meyer Frajman, grew up in the shtetl of Połaniec where he learned the trade of shoemaking. In the early 1860s he was presented as a potential husband to the parents of my great-grandmother, Sura, in the village of Osiek, some twenty-four kilometres away. A dowry was negotiated, and the marriage took place.

    As was the custom, the groom and his bride were supported by the groom′s in-laws for the first year. That is to say, the newlyweds moved in with the bride′s parents. This custom (kest) was part and parcel of the marriage contract, and it was...

  10. 4 New Year 5752
    (pp. 29-34)

    On the first day of Rosh Hashana 5752, Freda and I walked for about twenty minutes from our apartment to the Warsaw synagogue. Freda sat in the gallery with the other women and I with the men in the main sanctuary downstairs. There were about forty men, some with prayer shawls (tallitim) wrapped around their shoulders, several – mostly younger men – in suits and ties and a few, of various ages, in everyday clothes.

    I was supposed to meet Konstanty Gerbert, a political commentator who wrote under the pseudonym Dawid Warszawski, and, as arranged, I kept visible a copy...

  11. 5 An Apartment in Łódź
    (pp. 35-42)

    In Polish, the word ′miasto′ (city) always precedes Łódź for the following reason: The word ′from′ is ′z,′ so the statement ′I am from Łódź′ translates ′Ja jestem z Łodźi.′ However, the word for ′thief′ is ′złodźiej′ – pronounced almost identically to ′z Łódźi′ – so one could easily be taken to be declaring oneself a thief. To avoid the trap, one says, ′z miasta Łodźi.′

    We arrived in the city of Łódź late in the afternoon. After foolishly missing the nine-twenty from Warsaw, we had had to connect in Koluszek, about halfway to Łódź, with a rattling old local...

  12. 6 Yom Kippur in Łódź
    (pp. 43-58)

    On the way back from our visit to my old home we stopped at the address which, according to Cousin Leon in Toronto, was the Jewish community centre. No luck; no one there knew the place. We returned to our hotel, The Grand (which it had certainly been when I was a little boy), changed clothes, and went down to dinner. After the meal we asked the desk clerk for the location of the synagogue or Jewish community centre. He seemed puzzled, looked something up, and referred us to number 6A Południowa (South Street). We found the street, but there...

  13. 7 The Last Hours of Childhood
    (pp. 59-74)

    The Łódź civil registry office was not hard to find. I was asked to fill out a slip giving details, and after fifteen minutes and payment of six thousand złoty – about sixty cents - I received a typewritten, stamped, and sealed version of my birth certificate. I was Mojźesz, my father was listed as Gabrych, and my mother as Idessa. I was shown the original entries in my father′s handwriting. For good measure I also got and paid for a copy of my sister, Anna′s, birth certificate. In a few minutes Freda and I were back in the sunlight....

  14. 8 Kielce
    (pp. 75-80)

    Freda and I drove to Kielce in a rented car in the fall of 1991. Our first sign of the town was a series of four- and five-storey apartment buildings erected after the Second World War. After we passed a street flea market specializing in automobile parts, the streets began to look vaguely familiar. We followed the signs forcentrum, hoping to find there the place I′d called home for about six months in 1940. But the road led to a dead-end street and then to a pedestrian mall. On foot, we located the old town square, renamed Plac Partyzanów...

  15. 9 Majdanek
    (pp. 81-94)

    Back in Warsaw, Freda and I met Beata for lunch. Beata is a busy woman, the publisher ofEx libris(a book review insert toŻycie Warszawy) and two other papers. She had been a delegate to the round-table discussions with the Communist martial law government in 1989, representing journalists on the Solidarity team. She knew Walesa, Michnik, Kuroń, and Mazowiecki personally. A lively, slim woman of perhaps thirty-five, with short, ash-blonde hair and expressive blue eyes, she was well dressed, smoked a lot, and used her hands to make a point.

    After rejecting a foul French, then an equally...

  16. 10 Staszów Then and Now
    (pp. 95-108)

    In that first summer of the war, and over Mother′s misgivings, Father hired a driver with a horse and wagon to move us from Kielce to Staszów. Mother′s sister Bluma and her brother Nathan had gone there from Łódź with their families. Kielce, her preference, was a major city, the province′s capital, whereas Staszów was a ′shtetl,′ a small town located in the midst of reportedly rich farmland. In Kielce food was becoming increasingly expensive and harder to obtain.

    Aunt Rózia argued that we needed the family for comfort, and that, in our reduced circumstances, we would be better served...

  17. 11 Szifra
    (pp. 109-116)

    At one time or another we have all had problems with ill-fitting shoes. Along any shopping street, only food-related outlets outnumber shops selling shoes. Why shoes? Apparently the comfort and pleasure derived from well-fitting, attractive shoes outweigh other considerations. Pinching, blister-producing footwear is nothing short of a calamity. The mood sours, digestion suffers, tempers flare. A perfectly calm, rational person can turn into an ogre when plagued by sore feet. A sizeable proportion of discretionary spending is on shoes – possibly more than on any other item connected with bodily comfort. A good friend once said to me, ′I would...

  18. 12 Our Time Has Come
    (pp. 117-124)

    The winter of 1941-2 started out cold and stayed cold. The Germans had forbidden the burning of coal, and wood was expensive and hard to come by. All electric power to the ghetto was cut off. A curfew was in force. Evenings we sat or lay in dark, cold rooms. We gathered that the German armies in Russia were also suffering from the cold. Their rapid advance had stalled. Posters went up ordering all Jews to turn in their gold jewellery and fur garments. The penalty for non-compliance was death. By now very few Jews had any gold; most had...

  19. 13 We Work
    (pp. 125-142)

    The hurtling truck continued on to Kielce. By 1942 the Jews of Kielce had been deported by the Einsatzgruppen. In late afternoon we arrived at a factory complex. The sign read HASAG, the Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft. Herded over to the barracks, we were given a chunk of bread and told that work assignments would take place in the morning. I later learned that the factories were located in four two-storey buildings and an equal number of single-storey ones. Several smaller structures contained maintenance shops, the kitchen, the guards′ quarters, and warehouses. The entire area was enclosed by a high barbed-wire...

  20. 14 The Other Way
    (pp. 143-146)

    Cousin Meyer, the youngest grandson of my great-grandfather Meyer, spent most of the war years in hiding. Towards the end, in 1944, he hid in a trench dug behind a manure pile. The heat generated by the compost heap kept his hide-out warm in winter, and the stench made the curious stay away in summer. Cousin Meyer′s branch of my mother′s family did not migrate to Łódź. The German occupation in 1939 found them in Osiek, an obscure shtetl tucked away down a dirt road east of Staszów. At that time, Meyer′s family, having accumulated considerable real estate, was the...

  21. 15 The End of the Line
    (pp. 147-172)

    We had been sent somewhere to the west of Kielce to build fortifications for the second or third fallback position against the advancing Russians. In August 1944 we heard that the Polish underground, on orders from the Polish government in London, had staged an uprising in Warsaw. The Russians, not wanting to be pre-empted, had decided not to cross the river Wisła to help the insurrection. This had bought the Germans time to prepare a second line of defence.

    On our arrival all the men, including me and Father, were placed in a large, two-storey barn. The women, including my...

  22. 16 Auschwitz, 1991
    (pp. 173-186)

    Half a century after the Second World War we subscribe to the notion that the retreating Germans insisted on dragging any remaining Jews with them in order to do away with witnesses to the ′final solution,′ that a denial of the Holocaust was in their plans all along. On the Flessburg train all we knew was that they hated us too much to let us live.

    Freda and I took the train from Warsaw to Kraków, a pleasant three-and-a-half-hour trip. Until the 1600s Kraków was the capital of Poland. It had 105 churches, a castle, many palaces, and the second-oldest...

  23. 17 The Kindness of Strangers
    (pp. 187-210)

    Czechoslovakia, 28 April 1945. Aided by morning′s first light Izidor and I made our way to the nearest house. ′Chleb′ (′bread′), we said. Giving us some bread and milk, an elderly couple and their daughter, themselves poor refugees from the Sudetenland, advised us to keep on going. The Germans patrolled the area constantly. Dressed as we were in grey with three-inch-wide red stripes on the back, sleeves, chest, and pant legs, there was no mistaking us for anything but escaped haftlinge. Having made it this far, I was not keen on risking a bullet in the head now. Promising to...

  24. 18 In the Orphanage
    (pp. 211-228)

    Neuburg, just south of Regensburg, had a few things going for it in January 1946. It had been untouched by the war. A sleepy fifteenth-century walled town with quaint crooked streets and only one tavern open for business, it became the locale where I again hooked up with the U.S. army.

    Second Lieutenant Boyd Burton of Company F, 405th Infantry, interviewed Izidor and me, and, shaking his head in wonder at our stated proficiency in four languages, took us on. It meant three meals a day and a room with two cots. Marienbad it wasn′t.

    At the outskirts of the...

  25. 19 That Side Jordan
    (pp. 229-246)

    The America of my imagination had been created by the carefree soldiers of the 17th FOB. These boys talked about jobs, left food to spoil on their plates, put out half-smoked cigarettes, played poker for money, were unconcerned about the state and cost of clothes, called sergeants by their first names, and said that the United States was the land of plenty. But I also had more sombre thoughts, a wariness and suspicion that for me, life would not be easy.

    It was sixteen months since Hiroshima. America had fought and won a global war, during which time a horrid...

  26. 20 Greetings
    (pp. 247-255)

    In the late 1960s, Freda, our children, and I visited the Zeldises in Long Island. The apartment they lived in was in the path of airplanes taking off and landing at La Guardia. Our conversation was interrupted constantly by screaming jets. This wasn′t the Milton I had known; his business had recently failed, and his life savings were lost. Not long after, we returned to Long Island for Milt′s funeral. He had succumbed to a massive coronary. A few months later Yetta committed suicide.

    The other night I started readingKoniec świata (End of the World), the diary of Baruch...