1939 – early 1944
When their house was demolished, Alfred and his family went to live with his grandparents. Although there were only two rooms it was in a part of the ghetto that the Jewish population of 3,600 were forced to live in by the Nazi-German soldiers.
On a frosty night on 29 December 1939 the family were told to leave and move on. They managed to find accommodation in a village called Parchatka. Initially conditions weren’t too hard as the village was in a farming area and food was readily available. Whilst living there one of his twin sisters, Rivka, who had been staying with relatives in Warsaw, died in hospital after their house was destroyed in an air raid.
Alfred and the rest of his family were able to stay in the village for two years before again being evicted. But in 1942 they had to cross the river Vistula although they ignored advice to move to another town and instead were forced to live in two other ghettos, Parchatka and one at Zwolen. This ghetto was established in the southern part of the town where thousands of Jewish families from the town itself and from neighbouring villages were concentrated.
Alfred only stayed there for four days. Families were rounded up by soldiers in tanks and sent to the market place; if any refused to leave, the dogs were sent in or they were shot. Selection then took place and the families were segregated into groups of men and women and ages. Alfred was separated from his father and this was the last time he saw either him or the other members of his family.
A group of young men, including Alfred, and women were selected in Zwolen and sent by lorry to a slave labour camp in Skarzysko-Kamienna. During the journey Alfred witnessed the murder of one of the young men. Although he had bribed a German soldier with money, he was shot whilst trying to escape. On arrival Alfred was assigned to C camp, initially working in transport unloading scrap metal, iron ore and slack, a bi-product of metal.
Later he worked in a room where women melted TNT from powder into liquid that was poured into copper buckets and then into shells. When the liquid solidified Alfred’s job was to bore holes in the shells, ready for the detonators to go in. There were twelve-hour shifts either working all day or all night, and the toxicity levels were such that the workers became yellow.
There was only ersatz coffee (substitute for coffee) for breakfast, and soup at lunch time; the life expectancy on this ration was only 3–4 months but fortunately Alfred was helped by a Polish worker who came from the town who gave him some food, and later, he was given scrapings of milk from the bottom of the churns in the camp by another worker. Only because of this was he able to last at the camp for 18 months but later he described it as one of the worst camps he was in.
At the beginning of 1944 Alfred was moved to another camp at Czestochowa in southern Poland.