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Victor Lews, his story of survival!

What it took for one Jewish man to survive the Holocaust
The Story of Victor Lewis

[Published with the permission of Victor Lewis]

Victor Lewis circa 1936

I’m not a poet or a writer. But I have an important story to tell. My memories of the Nazi occupation of Poland and my experiences during the Holocaust gave me nightmares and interrupted my ability to sleep for many years after the war.


I wrote this account in memory of my dearest parents and siblings, most of whom perished in the Holocaust.


I also wrote this account for all to read, so that the experiences of my family during the Holocaust will never be forgotten. Now, it will be the job of our children, our grandchildren, our teachers, and historians to know the horrible story of the Holocaust, to pass it on to future generations - in the hope that it will never happen again!

-Victor Lewis
December 11, 2000


Victor Lewis (Leserkiewicz) was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1919 to a religious Jewish family. At the beginning of World War II, he had two parents, Abraham and Berta; two sisters, Lola and Greta; and two brothers, Leon (Leszek) and Jacob (Kubus). Lola left Krakow for Palestine years before the war broke out and was fortunate to have avoided the Nazi atrocities in Europe.

After a harrowing 6 years at the hands of the Nazis, both of Mr. Lewis’ parents, and his sister, Greta, had perished. Both of his brothers barely managed to survive, but his youngest brother, Jacob, died from food poisoning just a few days after being liberated from a concentration camp in Austria.


From the transport out of the Krakow ghetto that should have killed him, to the gruesome concentration camp at Plaszow, and finally, after five years of hardship - to the relative “safe haven” at Oscar Schindler’s ammunition factory in Brinnlitz, Czechoslovakia, this is a heroic account of intense hardships and harrowing near-death experiences that were required for Victor Lewis to survive the Holocaust.


Deportation from Krakow

A year and a half after the invasion of Poland by the Germans, the Nazis evacuated the Jews from my home town, Krakow, and resettled us in very cramped quarters in the most dilapidated part of the city. On March 13, 1941, my family of six people was forced to relocate from our comfortable 3-bedroom home at Retjana # 5 to a cramped one bedroom apartment at Targowa # 1, which we shared with several other families.


Life was difficult in the ghetto. Jews were routinely abused, assaulted, and even murdered by the Nazis, who patrolled the streets with pistols, rifles, and whips. We were prisoners at the hands of an abusive force that had prompted a world war, but we were totally unprepared for the obscene horrors and large-scale genocide that our captors were about to execute on us.


The date was October 28, 1942. The Nazis were about to implement their second deportation of Jews from the Krakow ghetto to the extermination camps. We were told that the ghetto would be liquidated, that we all were to be transported to labor camps, and that everybody had to go to Plac Zgody square with their most important belongings.


Fear could be seen on the faces of every Jew in the ghetto. Everyone felt that something horrible was about to happen. On my way to our family’s apartment, I met my parents, my sister Greta, and my brother Leszek inside the corridor of their building. My parents had come out of the bunker where they were hiding, and I wanted to warn them to stay inside.


They didn’t have any working papers (Arbeits-bescheinigungen), so I thought that their lives could be in danger. But, it was too late to tell them to go back into hiding. From all sides, the SS Gestapo appeared before us and pushed us into the street.


Leszek and I had working papers indicating that he was a toolmaker and I was an auto mechanic for the German SS. We thought that these papers would save us and our family from the deportation. We presented the papers to SS Obersturmfuhrer Martin Fellenz, {1} a Gestapo

officer who was in charge of the deportation.


On Mr. Lewis’ return to Krakow 43 years after the second liquidation of the ghetto, Plac Zgody was eerily quiet.

Fellenz ripped up our papers, began to beat us with his club, and ordered us to go with all of the other prisoners to Plac Zgody. At Plac Zgody, I noticed many familiar faces, including my girlfriend Regina’s mother, Ida, and her two sisters, Tosia and Gienia.


I wanted to talk to them but I was not permitted to do so. I had to sit on the ground and remain still. The Germans ordered us not to move an inch. To prove their point, they began to kill anyone who got up or moved around. At that point I decided that I had to escape, no matter what might be the consequences.


I told Leszek my plans, and he said he would try to escape, too. I told my parents and sister what I intended to do, and they told me to go ahead and run. Soon, we were ordered to line up, four in a row.


I told my family not to look for me if I tried to escape. Passing Wieliczka Street, I tried to run into a house, but I was unsuccessful. I was stopped by an SS guard and forced back onto the line. I was lucky that guard did not kill me right then and there for trying to escape.

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/vlewis.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team


Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009

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