||Dr. Barbara Geldner was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1923 to the Polish gentry. Her father was an Army general; he passed away in 1939 before the invasion. Dr. Geldner describes the German invasion and also related several incidents of how the Germans rounded up people at random for work in factories and farms, and how she escaped one of these roundups. Prior to the invasion, she had been a student studying pre-medicine, but the Nazis forbade this. She explained that the Germans wanted Poles to learn "practical" skills, such as trades, that would be useful to the Germans. Thus, she was enrolled in a cooking school. She explained that everyone knew about the death camps and that it was common knowledge, even though no one spoken openly about it for fear of their life. Dr. Geldner did not talk about being part of a resistance movement. In April 1943, she and two friends went to meeting of what would be like a Girl Scout group. The meeting was at a friend's home. The Nazis had strictly forbidden such gatherings. When they arrived, the Gestapo were waiting for them and they were all arrested. She imprisoned in Paviak Prison in the center of the Warsaw ghetto and was questioned repeatedly because the Nazis had found a slip of paper in her purse with a number on it (actually relating to blood type). She was not tortured. After a month, the Germans realized they had nothing to gain from her and on May 13, she and her friends were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. She described her routine and some of the things that occurred, although she did not talk about the murder of Jews. Her job was emptying garbage cans. Dr. Geldner explained that most people kept to themselves and that you tried not to make friends. Food packages from her mother in Warsaw gave her added calories. In early January 1945, the camp was evacuated and she was sent to Bergen-Belzen camp near Hannover, Germany. There, the conditions were far worse than at Auschwitz and she almost died from starvation and dysentery. The British Army liberated the camp in April 1945. After regaining her health, she attended school in Louvain, Belgium before returning to Poland in 1946 or '47. She and her husband, Michael (deceased), came to the United States in 1957. For more information, see article in the New American, vol. 14, No. 13, June 22, 1998, pp.23-29.
||World War II Oral History Project
|Dates of Accumulation
||Febraury 1, 2005
||Cassette recorded oral history interview with Dr. Barbara Geldner. She was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1923 to the Polish gentry. She describes the German invasion. In April 1943, she and two friends went to meeting of what would be like a Girl Scout group. When they arrived, the Gestapo were waiting for them and they were all arrested. On May 13, she and her friends were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. She described her routine and some of the things that occurred. In early January 1945, the camp was evacuated and she was sent to Bergen-Belzen camp near Hannover, Germany. There, the conditions were far worse than at Auschwitz and she almost died from starvation and dysentery. The British Army liberated the camp in April 1945.
Barbara Geldner Interview
1 February 2005
Conducted by Bradley Larson
(B: identifies the interviewer, Brad Larson; G: identifies the subject, Mrs. Barbara Geldner. Open brackets [ ] or bracketed words indicate that either a word or phrase is not understood, or that proper spelling for the word is unclear, in that order).
B: This is Brad Larson. It's February 1st, 2005 and I'm with Dr. Barb Geldner in her home outside Red Granite, Wisconsin. Before we start Dr. Geldner, I want to a little sound check.
(From counter point 4 to 44, the conversation cannot be heard well enough to transcribe)
G: searchers. Marching. And they had to get…
(From point 51 to 55, the conversation cannot be heard).
G: they had to give up. Then after find out, after two weeks or more, eventually - I don't remember - someone was, what was the name of the, oh what was that? Governor of Warsaw? German responsible for quiet, for order. So about two weeks after, they eventually discovered that…
(From point 65 to 83, conversation cannot be heard).
G: flowers and names. [ ]
B: So they put them against the wall and…
G: [I don't know but] was some black on the pavement. Terrible things.
B: How did your life change in that period? What things occurred in your family?
G: [ ] Gymnasium. Gymnasium is a [ ] is, gives the education of college. In Europe this is the, what is it's name. Still, I don't know how France, I think they also [ ] lycee, they call it. So I was in …
(From point 94.5 to 99, conversation cannot be heard).
B: Was this illegal to do? So what would have happened had you been caught or found out?
G: Sooner than it happened otherwise…
(From point 103 to 104 conversation cannot be heard).
B: During this time were you aware of an underground movement that was…
(From point 105 to 118.5, conversation cannot be heard.
B: So there was pretty much, without really speaking about it you knew…
G: Right. Not speaking much but just enough…
(From point 122 to 246.5, conversation cannot be heard).
G: told them to look for us there. When I came, this was, when I came to this apartment, there were two or three men speaking good Polish. And they started to give me some questions. [ ] questions I don't remember what. I came with a gift for my niece. This was her birthday. Right after visiting my friends I was supposed to go to [Krakow] for birthday of Eva. Well we were sitting there and they had some questions. They, the mother, her mother [ ] which was her apartment. The father was not at home, the brother was not at home. Brother was about twelve maybe, at that time. And was only mother there. Mother was pianist and painter. She was making quite good and known artist. And also [working on a book] with another friend.
And we were sitting there probably three or four o'clock or so. Or five. In the meantime someone came to the, borrow the matches. Needed matches. And this was a woman because I heard her voice and she managed to separate herself and run away. How did she know? I wouldn't know, that it is risky to come in. Maybe she came to check up.
B: So what were these men doing in the meantime?
G: Oh well, they were checking whole house. But I was [in one place or another] nothing special to do. And they took us in the car to a [Ahlayashooha] was the command of internal police. In Warsaw. And this was, had a very bad name. They murdered people right there. They interrogated in different fashions.
B: Did you know this, Dr. Geldner?
G: Oh sure, yeah I knew it. And one leaving it was knew what it means [alayashooha]. Police ah, outfit. I had the name. I lost this, my name. And so we're stay there overnight. I don't know if they gave us something to drink or not. We were sleeping on the, some piece of wood like planks. Something to lay down on. And then they, maybe there was some interrogation. But no one knew anything. [ ] There was nothing to say, nothing to do. I would rather ask them why, what do you want?
So they took us to the prison which was [ ], which was [Patyek]. I said it was in the middle of ghetto, Jewish ghetto. And then there was maybe thirty women were sitting on the floor, something like blankets with hay inside so we can sit. The restrooms were terrible. There was one corner and you could (go) there. Yeah, that's right. And go to the bathroom in these big cans. And then no one of course was saying information or [planes]….
B: You mean among these thirty people no one spoke.
G: No, probably okay or something like that. That's it, nothing more. Then I remember as I once said, they took her for interrogation and she came kind of changed. And they probably, mmm, murdering her or something like that.
B: Were you and your friends kept together?
G: No, I don't know.
B: So you were parted.
G: Together we arrived to [Ahlayashooha] where this police had headquarters. And from there to the prison. But in the prison everyone was in different room. And about a week I think, I was the first who received a package with food and a pillow. My mother was looking for me and she couldn't locate me. She was [treated] to the Polish police. You couldn't rely much on Poles, Polish police because they were all working for the others. But you could at least get some advice. [allergical] advice. So they couldn't find where I am but they say, "Ask, try [Ahlayashooha].
(The first tape ends here).
B: Tape two.
G: Polish police advised Mother to go to [Ahlayashooha] and ask them whether they give you some answer. And Mama went there and sat down on the chair. Chairs were sitting in small rooms, maybe three rows or four and each row had three chairs that say, [ ]. And all of them were [ ] one way so it wasn't like that when they [ ] up with you. But were facing one wall. And Mom went there and someone brought a man and started to beat up this man on the way. And Mom got so afraid and so nervous that she left and [ packet can take it]. So she went home and someone maybe advised her to send this package to me too, to [Patyek], to the prison.
B: Prior to that, had you any food?
G: Well they were giving us some food. We were not real hungry sitting…
B: Did they pull you out then to interrogate you?
G: I don't think they had any interrogation for me in [Patyek]. Yes, in [Patyek], when I was in [Patyek] they asked me twice for interrogation, to go out to, to the [Ahlayashooha]. And it was very, very special also. I was one in a big truck, covered, the truck was covered with a heavy…
G: Canvas, um hm. And two soldiers with long rifles, which were not on their arms but sitting on the bottom. By the entrance, it wasn't easy to get into the truck. It was kind of high. And the bench, and I was sitting there and they were sitting by the entrance. And they were looking and going through the ghetto, ah for interrogation. And this was twice. But the second time I think it was already, right after the ghetto uprising. And I saw those children, quite many, how many? Maybe five altogether, one here, one there, one there, sitting and, on the sidewalk. The driving surface is lower and the sidewalk is a little elevated, with children. Of age maybe four or five. And I think younger - three.
And [I was afraid, because,] terrible! I was thinking those people don't [have a soul]. They took the soul away.
B: Did the German soldiers that were with you speak to you at all or push you around or anything? They just…
G: [Just got up and].
B: What happened when you reached the interrogation itself?
G: Right. They took me to this room and this young-looking man standing by his desk. It was long boots and with a page in his hand he [ ] on his boots. And he was asking things that I didn't have any answer. I think I once ventured to ask "Why are you keeping me there? There is no reason."
"We found something in your purse. What is that, this number?" It was the number for my group to check the blood group. Because I was in the group for [ ] emergency service for people. And there would be bleeding. There would be shooting and that would have to… But they were just scratches, numbers on a piece of paper. Just nothing. So I didn't know of course what number was, what means with those numbers. But there was nothing special that was interesting in my purse that could be for him, interesting. Some addresses which [ ].
And the second time [ ] there was no beating and I was prepared for that.
B: Were any of your friends, the people that were arrested with you, did they go through the same interrogation sessions.
G: They did not.
B: Just you.
G: Just me.
B: Well what happened when they realized that they couldn't get anything from you?
G: To the camp. Because actually all these activities what they did, they wanted to destroy the people, destroy the young intelligent, stronger intellectuals. To damage, to [ ] the better ones.
But the mother, mother of my friend died there. We found out later. When I receive my package from my mother and the pillow. The guard came to the room, to the door to talk with me and say, "You know that you had this pillow. Mrs. [Lowdeska] feels sick. Would you maybe give for her this pillow?" "Of course." So I knew that she is sick. And after she didn't go to the camp with us, then I know that she died. And [ ] couldn't get from [ ], how did [ ] die and what happened. She was, that she exploded with her with some anger, I don't know. Could be.
B: So they realized they couldn't get any information from you so they were going to send you off to someplace. You didn't know where they were going to send you?
G: I didn't know. They were in the, but I thought they would do something. I thought it was fifteen of May or July. May, maybe May. But then I found out in the boat it was was seventeen.
B: Three, 1943.
G: Forty-three. They call my name and everyone else's name who's coming. So [Irena], all three, we were going to the same camp. I knew that my school would be worried about the situation. And later I was already in Poland. It was already '46 when I met my director of the school. Just [ ] on her.
I [ ] her and she said, "We closed the school. We closed the lessons for three days, thinking that, who knows what might happen if someone didn't say anything. But no one said anything.
B: At this time did you know the existence of these camps? Were you aware?
G: Mmm hmm.
B: How did you learn about that?
G: Because people are talking. So people are thinking. They think a trip to these places…[ ] how. The same question my brother asked. What was the coming occasion? How did you know what's going on in the country? There was mouse communication. Mouse [ ]
B: Did you know what was happening outside of Poland in the wider war, did you know that the United States was involved in the war?
G: That one, oh we couldn't have read here because they took our radios. I don't know if you had it
[ ] had a good idea at home. And they ordered to bring them the radios because it's not allowed for us to keep our radio. But we may hear their radios. And those radios are on the street or, I don't know. But you couldn't have your own radio at home. So the wealthy people did have radios hidden in the basements or somewhere and it wasn't very dangerous.
But we didn't know. We let's say, one talking to the other spread the information. Once came, the news [ ] this morning or this night the women are taking some blankets and going to the railway. There were some railway not far from where we were living. You had to walk a little bit. That, the wagons of children would come there. So they took some blankets and went to the children's. so they were bringing those children, save them, bring them home. But supposedly nothing happened. There were some wagons, rail, there. And some dead people inside. I don't know if it was true, maybe not because [ ] so much.
B: So when you left the prison, what happened to you then? Where did they take you and how did they take you?
G: They took us by car, big canvas-covered cars to the wagons, railways. About 40 in one wagon. Those wagons were closed and the doors were closed. No one could get out. And there was no bathroom.
B: Forty people packed into this car.
G: We were standing or leaning. A bathroom was in corner. I you wanted to do, you had go there to this bathroom. To this little corner. No food or nothing. Maybe they gave us before going on this trip, some. I don't remember either.
And then they took us to Auschwitz. And all [ ] there , there was naturally people who were searchers or uniformed people and dogs. And they took us to the places to change clothes, to take shower. And to cut our hair. So they cut all hair from my head. Completely.
B: Were you still kept in this group? Was the group that left Warsaw kept together?
G: Yes. Then the [ ] [Regina] were there. And we couldn't recognize each other because we didn't have hair. And there, they gave us numbers. Here are the numbers.
B: They tattooed your arm.
G: Tattoo. Um hm.
B: As you got off the train, do you recall what you thought this place was? Did you know what it was?
G: Um hm. Because it was there, Auschwitz. It was such a smart, smart saying, German saying, "Arbeit Macht Frei." You know what it means?
B: Work will make you free?
G: And I [ ]. We knew right away what it is.
B: Did you know that they were killing people?
G: Oh sure.
B: How did you know that.
G: You know. People are talking.
B: So after they shaved your hair and gave you your number?
G: It was maybe time for dinner. I don't remember if they fed us this morning, this evening. I don't even remember how was it. What time of day. But it was a day when we arrived to Auschwitz.
And then I remember how they asked us to put those wagons with garbage to someplace. So we're pulling those wagons of garbage. And one of them decides to recite Latin verses. And I [ ] might cry
when something happens very bad. I start crying. I was [ ] all the time crying. They tried to do something smarter than just emotional. Tried to do to, to start, what was it? [ ] or French, yes French.
B: Of the group that you were in, in that boxcar, how many of them were sent to death as opposed to you and your friends who lived. How many of those were killed?
G: We thought, those that I know, no one was, because they send us to… It was like different camp. Auschwitz sent there, where the German doctors were performing strange researches on the people and probably also killing. People would die anyway in that condition like that. But it seems like they didn't want to kill right away everyone. I don't know why the difference. But good they didn't.
So the center Auschwitz was somewhere else. But we were sent to the different camp, different part of the same camp. Concentration camp.
B: What did they have you doing?
G: Well beside of pushing the cart, they show us where we were to sleep. Of course you didn't have toothbrush or anything, soap or. And the places to sleep was, have you seen it sometimes in the pictures? It was on a bottom place and there was some terrible mattresses. Like a bag of hay, big bag of hay. And some blankets. And about, and this was on the bottom, and about that high was the second one.
B: Three or four feet.
G: So it was like a niche. It was inside. Entrance was only on one side. And on this platform like that, slept five, six people. There was a place for the bathroom in the middle of the barrack. So this was the place where we at first, slept. Later, I didn't know why they change us to different barracks. And there were bunk beds built of wood with mattresses. Each one had some kind of mattress.
B: And how about your food? What did you have to eat?
G: There was some kind of tea and some bread with cheese. I remember at first I wasn't hungry. My ah, not [ ] of it but just [ ]. Just by…
B: They were all women in here?
G: Yup. There was no men, just women.
B: No children?
G: No children. So they say, "You eat, Barbara because you have to have some strength." But I couldn't eat this cheese. Was terrible. "Well, don't throw it away. If you really don't want to eat it, I will take it from you." Next week I already ate this cheese.
B: Did anyone try to steal your food or take your food?
G: Not really. Not bad. But let's say later my mother heard me right away and she was sending me the packages. In three weeks, I was the first to get the package with food.
B: And what kind of food would your mother send you?
G: My mom, the white bread was toasted on butter. And boxes of ah, boxes with some spread or maybe cheese. And she put this kind of boxes with meat immersed in fat. The pork fat. Fry bacon, you had this fat. Meat is already cooked. You put it in the box and cover it with the fat so it won't get destroyed. She also sent me lemons but lemons not always come well. [ ] if she cover it with some wax.
B: And the Germans went through this before they gave it to you and took out anything like the lemons?
G: Sometimes they steal some cakes.
B: Let's talk about the guards for a minute. What were your guards like? The German guards.
G: Actually we were dealing with the so-called "capo."
B: And what were they?
G: Capo. This was a woman of bad manners usually, not always. But she was the strongest one and she was [ ]. No one tried to get cross with her. So you just tried to be away from that.
B: So she had the authority?
G: Right. And she was referring every day, every day there was in the morning, so-called, appell. Every prisoner was standing in a row. Five row. And the capo counted everyone and she gave him the report that everyone is here.
B: I don't know exactly how to phrase this next question. So just kinda bear with me here. How did you perceive you German captors and your invaders? Were you filled with hatred? Did you try not to think of them? How did you view this whole situation? How did you get by, I guess. Do you see what I am trying to say?
G: Yes. There was no love and no understanding. I didn't try in my [ ] try to understand his being here. He was the enemy that you have to go around carefully and not to get being noticed too much. When I was crying for three days with my friends, talking with different school things, suddenly we were passing by the guard tower and here [ ] right before my nose on the ground a package like you put, like when you put the sandwich and cover it, white. A nicely wrapped sandwich right, dropped right before my nose on the ground. And I look up and there's someone there and they step over it and when [ ]. It [ ] to know. And wants to check. Maybe there was no way that it would be something like, "Oh, do that and that and you will be free." So I know that there [wasn't] that. I was thinking, maybe, and this is our food for me. Don't need it. Maybe something [ ], I don't know. this is my feelings. [ ] But each time, and brushing with them was the same.
I developed some skin infection on my knees. On my legs. And then there were blue marks left on the skin. I was getting into the car, into the German, wanted us to get to the car. [ ] what was the reason for it. And he ventured some joke about my, about those marks. And I, which were supposed to be [ ] And I think noticed that one either.
And then, then later on it was probably in '44, quite late, there was one of them and he, I wasn't doing something, I don't know what I was doing. And he came and he started to talk. And I'm, I think he was speaking Polish too. And he was, he didn't really wanted to be anywhere in the army and they took him to the army and he did, he's not interested. He wouldn't… I was polite but then he [ ] any remark.
B: So there was no conversation ever between…
G: Not for me. Because I didn't want to talk with them.
B: And how did you get by on your day to day, what was it like on a day to day basis? Could you describe an average day for me? What would happen?
G: Appell in the morning. Some food, then some work. Going to some work, which wasn't really any hard work. No one [ ] quick, quick, do it better. Not really. [ ] Some women wanted to work harder and those were from Ukraine, farm women. And someone said they wanted to work hard. Don't even think about it. So I agree with that.
B: Were most of the women that were with you, you said these were Ukrainian women, were the rest of them Polish women or were they all over? Were they from all over?
G: I met one that she later taught me, she's Jewish. "You should not tell me that." I didn't want to know it.
G: Because I don't want to, if something happens I don't want to know about her, anything that could be difficult for me to keep quiet. So women usually didn't tell anything. But in prison and everywhere we didn't share any information that would be embarrassing to keep. We don't want to make it harder for her to know my particular problem.
B: Did you talk about what was happening in the other part of the camp where they were doing the murdering? Did you talk about that among yourselves?
G: Well, we had those selections, so-called. Those things they usually did at evening.
B: And how would that work?
G: They would have some noise from a different block and they just supposedly took some women to the trucks and take them somewhere.
B: Did you talk about that among yourselves or did you not?
G: Right, right. That is the selection, that we don't go there.
B: So this was your day after day. This was your thing that happened?
B: I'm going to change a tape and then we can talk a little bit about how the camp was liberated and what happened at that point.
G: Right. We…
B: I would like to change the tape first.
(The second tape ends here).
B: Okay, this is tape three. So we'll continue.
G: I have something interesting that I wanted to tell you also. We left the camp, Auschwitz, during the night of January. And I don't remember if it was the beginning of January or the second or third, or it was later in January. Everyone suddenly. It seems to me that it was about the second or third. Or would it be January 1st? Appell, everyone to the appell. And we are going. Did they give us something to eat before or maybe not? And we, they put us in five or six of a row and we were marched but it was a cold January in this climate up there. Seemingly to what we have. And so the route was kind of a, it wasn't a hard road. It was between the forests. On both sides was forest. And the road was covered with snow.
B: Did you have any warm clothes?
G: Well, some. So and we were walking and it seems to me that they had us maybe in the morning or middle day or the late morning. And we were walking still and some people were tired, couldn't walk far. And didn't have the strength. It was walk, walk; go, go, a little bit more, a little bit more. It's better to go because then there was some shooting there in the back.
B: Did you know why you were leaving? Did you have any sense of why the urgency?
G: I had this feeling for some reason that they are taking us to different camp and the reason these, the police got a reason that front, Russian front is approaching. So they wanted to take as many people as they could, away. So it seems, the Germans, the soldiers were with guns and with the dogs. And there was this fear of getting behind and being shot.
B: And you could hear shooting?
G: Yeah. So we were, this walking was difficult. The snow was wet, wet snow. And then, I even don't remember exactly what was the place that they took us to, the train. Some train station. And the wagons were open on the top. Only the bottom was covered and it with some hay on the bottom. And then they give us something to eat - maybe. Forty to every wagon. And so my friends were not with me. And [Regina Gabreck] was already before transferred to different camp. [ Degreisich] she
went. And so, and there we were sitting, sitting, laying be it one on the other. They were giving us bread and the women ask me to divide this bread. And so the others, but, "You help me." The others would. So divided, count it so everyone will get it. But you said, was there any stealing? Sometimes when the package came, some of the, some part of the package or whole package might disappear.
B: If someone, if a prisoner stole from another prisoner, was there any kind of…?
G: No. You didn't know who and eventually maybe he needed more. She needed more.
B: In this long line of prisoners, was it all women, everybody from your block? Were there any other blocks or any other prisoners that went along in this long line that went to the trains?
G: I don't know because first of all from different blocks if someone from different block, I don't know. It was dark. They were more busy taking us to start walking than counting even. Someone said, "Let's escape. Let's go away." And I was afraid. I didn't want to be shot on the way. I did want to play with the dogs. And after I have ended, eventually let's say find myself in the forest alone, I don't have anything with me. I don't know where to go, to whom? They had different people sometimes in the forest.
B: Did people talk about escape very often?
G: The escape? Not necessarily from the camp because then there is a big thing and everyone has learned at first that some [ ] they have murderer. They would escape and you have to get him absolutely back. But they were very [strict] about it. And then it was, I heard about someone did escape. And then would stay longer in the Appell. And here these people were [ ]. I thought that if we go all together it safer for me. Will be what will be, we'll see.
B: Where did they take you on the train?
G: With the train we get to Bergen-Belsen. Which took several days.
B: And where was that located?
G: Bergen-Belsen is in, near the [Lentz] border or close to the Netherlands. Supposedly they make some museum there. Maybe it's already there. There is a tape, PBS once show Bergen-Belsen
camp. But I came already. My husband was looking at it. And he said, and I said I would like to get it. So now have you heard about Auschwitz movie? PBS was showing. Did you see?
B: I watched some of it, yes. I didn't watch the entire thing.
G: So never did I… I couldn't find it. My PBS here didn't show it for some reason or other. And I was calling to them. I'm getting my direct TV and they say they will find for me this channel that's missing probably. But Joanna my daughter was looking for the tapes and maybe I will get the tape.
B: So they took you to Bergen-Belsen and you got off the train there and they took you into the camp?
G: Right. And in the camp there was terrible there because this was the camp was for military, for soldiers. They were not prepared to get hundreds, thousands, God knows how many prisoners. So
they didn't have food, they didn't have water, they didn't have the lodging. Well actually we got some beds but food, they were so, they didn't have anything. And they were giving us twice a day half of a cup of something that was like cream of wheat. And this was very little. There was also men's camp up there. We didn't have contact but later I find out. They were getting the same amount of food and they barely were walking, actually.
B: So you were starving to death, if that would describe it.
G: Close. Um hm. And then at the end of this , this was already '45 we developed, I'm thinking when it started, several weeks before liberation by the English army. Our whole camp got some intestinal infection which was so bad. And I developed a temperature which was actually, in the afternoon I was shaking like malaria. And I was shaking so much that I asked my friends to sit on me. Because I couldn't keep my teeth together and my whole body was just trembling [ ]. And it lasted, I don't know maybe an hour or two and gradually went away. And after that I was so weak that I barely walked. So I think that I know what it was. It was very advanced slow dying or close to that.
When eventually the British came, one of my friends went to talk with them. That we have such a diarrhea and they gave us, and she brought sulfa tablets, sulfadiazine. And there we started, it was wonderful. They ate. First they ate, [ ] seven, then gradually less and less. Wonderful. They brought us food.
B: When was that?
G: Nines. Eight or nine of May.
B: When they brought you food, were you able to eat? Were you able to, being so sick and so weak, were you able to?
B: You were.
G: Nice white bread. Very white bread. This was okay and then there was butter. There was bread and butter.
B: What happened to you then after they had liberated the camp? How did you, what was the process in your story, how did you get back to Poland?
G: Right. I met some people from the military camp and officers. Polish Army? I even have the particular book with me, the passport like. And they incorporated us to the army. To the military. And they, and because we wanted to go to school [ ] ready to school. They referred us to Belgium high [ ] center. Polish high [ ] center. You know French [ ]. And this was, supposedly this was all this money they took from Poland to England.
B: When you left the camp were you reunited with your parents?
G: No. I was in Netherlands. Bergen-Belsen is northwest part of Germany. Very close to Netherlands. So [ ] is far away. My mother was alone already because Father died before I was [ ]. My stepfather. So when, this was May, in May this were schools [ ] over the year. The school year starts in October almost. So this is [ ]. This was a high school or some kind of school, a [ ] school, sisters let us stay in the school when the students went all to home. So we could take the rooms. And we stayed there until the school year started. But before that we had some conversation with the admitting personnel and I wanted my medicine. Some people had different faculties chosen, started already and didn't finish. They were very good student, I felt. So I finish, I had my in [Luverne] Catholic University of [Luverne]. This is where I had my first year.
B: And you didn't go back to Warsaw?
G: Until the meantime Momma sent me a letter that the father, the stepfather died. And she feel so bad, alone and she would like me to come home. And I really don't want to very much. There was a question, "What kept you going in the camp?" My mother. Because my mother was the person that you don't dare to upset. You don't do your mother problems. The arrest and all that had happened, it is hard to say that it is my fault but it cost her a lot. My emotion and pain, and it hurts. So, [ ].
B: Your mother kept you going.
G: Yeah. You say how the information goes through. A friend of Mom, my parents, a physician, he was practicing physician. He was Jew. His wife was not and he ask Mom that he stay in Mom's home, apartment. And he was from two weeks there. And here neighbors noticed. You don't talk about, you just see things. And this was very dangerous to keep anyone, to keep any Jew in your house. So the neighbors, women, you know, "It's obvious that someone is in your apartment and people are talking about it. And they are saying the same." So Mom said to him that that his situation, so he left. But he was alone. His son was also, he had a father that was a Jew and somehow I know when I was even in [Patyek] we had a little walks, prisoners go for a walk outside. And I noticed him carrying something with his son. They were [ ] all food or something [ ] And he make he didn't even look at me.
B: He didn't acknowledge you at all.
G: Because you know why. He did because, just don't say anything.
B: Is the war and your experience at Auschwitz and being a prisoner something that you think about very much today?
G: [Yeah]. Um hm.
B: Is it something that you remember often?
G: When I eventually came here and Mike, my husband, he liked to read a lot. And he had a different thing and he would think about the war and about espionage and all those things. But I didn't even want to look at those things. Just rejected it. Forget.
B: Well, thank you very much for talking with me. I appreciate it very much. I know this probably wasn't easy for you to do.
G: Well you gain something. When [ ] when I finished my first year, I guess I did [ ] come home. Mom registered me to University in Warsaw for second year. Because the first year I would have had in Belgium. So I came kind of late. It was already October and the classes start usually about in October. And I wanted to stay and they kept a picture of my [ ] travels [ ] military, [ ]whenever, to go to Paris and [ ] Nice, Madrid [ ]. It was fun. So I had this fun behind. But then I took the repatriation train. I was going from Brussels straight to Poland. It took a couple of days or so. Before I left, everyone kind of told me, "Don't say when you come that you have been in army of [ ] the national army." Because this was the [ ] was not socialistic. And there were Communists and Stalinist regime. "So don't say anything what you did after the war."
B: Did that turn out to be good advice?
G: Oh yes! I Warsaw, I went out from the train and the military, he had green uniform.
G: Not Soviet.
G: Polish. He was asking, "Have you been in a [car]? "No, no."
B: Well, thank you for sharing your story with me. I appreciate it very much. Is there anything else you'd like to…?
G: Oh I think that's all [ ] magazines, [ ] to say. We still meet sometimes to talk about it if you…
B: I would like to very much.
G: You might like some pictures, maybe.
B: Sure, yeah.
G: Your book is so pretty. So close to the human existence. The pictures are there too.
B: And that's what we were trying to do.
G: And the conversations.
B: Thank you very much.
||World War II
||6: T&E For Communication
||Oshkosh Public Museum
|Location of Originals
||Oshkosh Public Museum
||World War II
Prisoners of war
||Oral History Interview with Dr. Barbara Geldner.