"When the war broke out, the Russians were the first to enter the city. The Soviet Union was there from 1939 to 1941, because Poland was divided between Russia, or the Soviet Union, and Germany. In 1941 war broke out between them, and shortly thereafter, the Germans entered into the city. Within very little time, a few weeks, it became serious. A group of young men from the Gestapo entered the house. I was sitting in the balcony reading a book, when suddenly I saw two Gestapo men hitting my mother, and she tried to defend her husband when they grabbed him, and they grabbed him and they were going to hit him with a gun. That was the worst scene I ever saw. Then they took my father and my brother; I don’t know how, but they did.
Shortly thereafter we were forced to live in a ghetto, which were streets where only Jews were allowed to live. I was there for less than a year. Then they raided the place and took some people. They took my brother, my grandmother, and my aunt. They released my brother because they were going to use him for work, he was young, and they took my grandmother. Later we learned that they were taken in cattle trains, because two young ladies managed to jump off the train on the way, and they told us that my grandmother had suffocated and died there. And we knew nothing more; later we learned that they were taken to extermination camps where they were killed in gas chambers.
Then we were immediately sent to a smaller ghetto, where we were barely surviving. They raided the ghetto and took my brother. They took my brother to a labor camp where he was killed too.
Mom wanted to commit suicide. We would carry poison in our pockets, potassium cyanide, which was very scarce, but a lady at a laboratory, who was a close friend, got it for us. But I would tell my mother that I wanted to live. She did not want to live; she had lost her sister, she lost her son, she lost her husband. But I insisted so much that she talked to a dentist friend of ours, and she said to her: “I know of a farmer who is willing to hide me, talk to him and see if he can hide you.”
Then one night we left the ghetto and we went over there, it was a few kilometers out of the town. We talked to him and he said yes. So, seeing that they were going to kill everyone in the end, we left. And I was there, first in a barn, I remember, then for about nine months or so, in a space that he set aside in a shop that he had there, he made a fake wall that measured 80 centimeters and he opened a tunnel starting from his room, underneath the bed, to go through that space. We were there for about nine months without going out, without seeing the sunlight, without seeing anything, suffering from hunger many times, because when the farmer’s wife fought with him, she would not feed us. But thank God we were safe there, eating at the most twice a day, but usually once a day, once every thirty six hours. In darkness, coldness, humidity, but thank God I am alive to tell my story."
What did placing your hands on this commemorative plaque mean to you?
One feels impacted. I feel sad for the family that I lost, but at the same time I feel happy to come with my son and my grandson, above all, having my family that remains. But one always ends up feeling… how can I explain it? Somewhere in between the sadness for what I lost, and happiness for what I have.
How important was it to place your handprints on this plaque?
Let’s say, that is part of the responsibility I feel. Why responsibility? Because it is my obligation, my moral obligation to continue –more than continue– to tell the world that this happened. There are people who don’t know, or people who do know but don’t consider it important. There are still movements that try to deny the existence of the Holocaust. If now, that we still have survivors who can come and stand up and say: “You know what? I went through this, this happened to me,” they can tell their stories. What will happen the day that they are no longer here? These movements will be able to come and say: “You know what? That didn’t happen, that was invented in history.” If we are not here, if the survivors are not here to say “You know what? Don’t dare to say that” Well, then they will be able to do so.
—Carlos Halstuch, Son of the Holocaust survivor—
What do you think of the Holocaust?
This can never be forgotten. To me, if this happens again, it would be like the end of the world. I am very happy to see him because if he had not survived, my dad would not have been here and I would not have been here. I truly can’t express how happy I am that they have survived.
—Yoel Halstuch, Grandson of the Holocaust survivor—
Sigmund Halstuch, his son Carlos, and his grandson Yoel, form a part of the voices of those who, after having suffered the Holocaust, have broken the silence and rebelled against oblivion.