Warning! The text retains the original spelling of surnames and place names by an Israeli researcher; in many cases it may not be correct. Fragments that could contain current personal data have been removed from the interview.

Name of interviewee: Eliezer Or (son)

Subject of interview: Chana Wasong [Wosung] nee Weitz, born in Lublin in 1918.

Part of this information is based on an autobiography written by Yochi Weintraub

 

The Family Weitz and life in Lublin

I [Chana Wasung] was born on February 10th, 1918 to my parents, Iona (Taube) nee Brifman and Eliezer Weitz. I was given the name of Chana after my maternal great grandmother. My paternal grandparents, Yakov and Dina, lived on our street [Lubartowska Street].

The family members were horse dealers. They made barely a living from their business, but in those times people were satisfied with a minimum income. My mother was born in 1896. My father Eliezer was born in 1892. He did not attend a regular school, but learned only in 'Talmud Tora' (Bible study). The family used to go to the Synagogue only on Shabath and Holydays. I was the eldest child in the family and after me five sons were born: Moshe, Leibel (Arieh), Iosl (Iosef), Itze (Itzchak), Rafuel (Rafael). In order to help father to earn a livelihood for the family, mother worked at home preparing 'Fly' papers'- sticky papers for catching flies.

I went to a state school, where Polish and Jewish children learned together. We used to wear a uniform at school: a black apron with a white collar. In winter we received a glass of milk with a 'beiggel' and a portion of fish-oil. Up to the fifth grade the studies were free of charge and afterwards the parents had to pay tuition for their children's education. I learned six years and then I started working. I worked 10 hours a day at the factory of 'Fly papers'. I gave mother half of my salary and the rest I used to buy clothes and for entertainment.

My father left home and went to Brasil to try his luck. He stayed there three-four years. All this time he kept in permanent contact with us and sent money as much as he could, but he did not succeed in Brasil and when he was able to collect enough money for the fare, he came back home. The time father was away was a very hard time for mother. She worked at nights sewing featherbeds. Since she had many orders I had to help her.

At the age of 16 I joined the Zionist youth movement 'Left Poalei Zion'. We used to gather every evening in a rented hall to attend meetings and lectures. We also sang and danced 'Hora' for many hours, until we got tired. There were also other places of entertainment, like dance halls, where we had to pay an entrance fee. On the Jewish street there were two such halls and I used to go there twice a week. The orchestra was playing and we danced waltz and tango. We used to drink especially a beverage named 'Kwass', which was made of beets' juice and bread and sometimes they added also apple juice. 

In one of the dance halls I met Moshe Wasong for the first time. I was sixteen and he was seventeen years old. After we met three times and talked a little, we became a couple. Moshe was an apprentice of a carpenter. His father had moved to France and never came back. As Moshe was a little boy when he left, he didn't know his father. When he was eleven years old his mother sent him to work. Moshe earned 1 Zloti per day. He used to give it to his mother, who gave him a quarter for entertainment. We both liked very much to watch films. Sometimes we went to the city for a walk with friends and sometimes we sat alone on the River bank.

When I was 21 years old we became engaged. We chose a small hall without any orchestra and hired only one 'Kleizmer' (musician). We invited only 60 guests but the event was very nice and we fixed our wedding date for 2 years later. 

Outbreak of II WW and escaping to the zone occupied by Soviets 

On the first of September, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. A month later I married Moshe Wosung. As we wanted to run away from Poland as soon as possible and my father did not allow me to leave with Moshe without marrying him, we had to accelerate our marriage. On Saturday night we had our wedding ceremony (Chupa) in the same hall where our engagement party took place.  At that time the Germans started to abuse the Jewish population. It so happened that on his way to the hall some German soldiers caught the Rabbi and shaved his beard by force. When he arrived to the hall to perform the ceremony, they almost didn't let him in since no one recognized him. The wedding was very sad. I even had no wedding dress. When the guests were gone, father burst into tears.

The next morning we packed two bags with some cloths, a towel, a sheet and a few family pictures and went on our way. This was the last time I saw my parents and family alive. We arrived by cart to the city of 'Chelem' [Chełm] in the area occupied by the Soviets and they sent us to work at a factory. At that time it was still possible to return through the border to Poland, which was occupied by the Germans. There were many Jews who did so. I also wanted to return home because of the very difficult living conditions. However, Moshe refused and I gave in. All the Jews who returned then to Poland later perished in the Holocaust.

In Siberia

In 1940, the Russians expelled us from 'Chelem' [Chełm] to Siberia. We reached the area of 'Tagoledski' in the far North. We did agricultural labor and every other work in order to support ourselves. Once a month we got paid in the form of food parcels. Bread was distributed according to coupons. Meat, milk and eggs were out of the question. In winter the situation worsened. We prayed that the horse and the cow should dye, since then we would get small portions of meat. All this time we knew nothing about the events taking place in Lublin. We sent many letters but we got no answer. Up till now I have remorse feelings for having left my parents and brother. After the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, we were liberated from Siberia and moved to the Asian Soviet area. We lived in a small town called 'Pushulak'. At the age of 23 I lost my first son Reuben. When I became pregnant again Moshe was recruited to the Russian army. At least he had something to eat in the army. My second son Yechezkel was born towards the end of the war. But he, as well, didn't live long due to the difficult living conditions and died at the age of 15 months. Moshe, who was serving in a nearby unit, came to see me in the hospital and buried the little boy with his own hands. Later on Moshe was transferred to the Polish army and was posted far from home. One day, two soldiers passed through our village and told me that Moshe was killed. Many time passed until I discovered that they had been wrong. 

Returnig to Poland, Kielce pogrom

After the war, at the end of 1945, I returned to Poland. My first stop was in 'Chelem' [Chełm]. Many polish inhabitants gathered around me and asked loudly: "How is it that so many Jews are still alive?"  I decided to leave and go further on my way. Before the train left, I met a Jew from Lublin who asked me what my name was. He took out a little notebook from his pocket and asked: "Have you a husband?" I answered: "He is in the Russian army". Then the man said that Moshe was in Lublin. It appeared that Moshe came to town and told his name to the man, saying that I was due to arrive by train to Russia. This way I learned that Moshe was alive.

It was on the 4th of July 1946. When the train became close to the city of Kielze [Kielce], anti-Semitic hooligans came in to my wagon and began to ask for passports from the passengers, most of them Jewish refugees. Then they shot to death 2 Jews who were traveling. I had no polish passport and so they understood that I was a Jewess. I hurried and showed them a letter from the polish army confirming that my husband Moshe was a soldier, but they said: "Perhaps he is a gentile, but you are a Jewess.." A passenger in the wagon shouted: "What is the matter here? Throw her out through the window of the wagon and let's finish with it!". Another passenger, who tried to take my side, was immediately silenced. They caught me by the shoulders and threw me out through the window like a parcel and the train continued his journey.  As a result of the fall, my foot was separated from the bone and remained hanging only on the skin. I couldn't stand up and almost fainted. Then a polish woman arrived carrying 2 buckets of milk. She asked me what had happened to me and washed the mud of my face with some milk. I was so shocked that I even did not feel any pain. I took my handkerchief and tried to stop the blood. The woman's two sons arrived and she told them to stop the coming train and put me on it, so I would be able to reach a Hospital.   

She made them promise her that they would do everything possible to help me and disappeared. One of the sons told me that on the same day a big pogrom against Jews took place in Kielze [Kielce]. When the train approached, the sons stopped it. The manager of the train agreed to take me and gave orders to lay me down on a bed of straw in a cattle wagon. Next to me they also lay down a woman with a wounded head. In one of the stations polish soldiers were washing near a water tap. I begged them to give me some water, but he said: "Shut down, little Jewess! Otherwise I will kick you and you will be covered with water.."

The doctor at the hospital in Kielze [Kielce] didn't agree to treat me. Luckily there was a Jewish doctor who performed surgery and placed my foot in a cast. A few days later they transferred me from Kielze [Kielce] to a Jewish hospital in Lublin. I was hospitalized six months since my life was in danger. At the hospital I reunited with my husband Moshe. After the release from hospital I continued lying in bed for a year, suffering severe pain. After a year I started moving with the help of crutches and later with a stick.

Moshe's sister Halina, was the only family who survived the Holocaust. All the others perished. Halina and her husband helped us a lot. After Moshe was liberated from the army they helped us to settle down in Lublin and integrate in business. We enjoyed a comfortable life and much money. But, in spite of all I felt insecure. I always returned home before darkness and I asked Moshe to do the same. In 1948 I gave birth to a son whom we named Eliezer.

Immigration to Palestine

In 1950 I registered at the Israeli Consulate in Warsaw to immigrate to Israel. For being one of the survivors of the Kielze [Kielce] pogrom, I was put at the top of the waiting list for immigration to Israel. We had to marry again in the presence of a Lawyer in order to register for immigration, since the original documents had gone astray in our wanderings.

After waiting during a year, at long last we left Poland on our way to Italy and on the 'Pentecost' holyday in the year 1950 we reached the Port of Haifa. We settled down in Tel-Aviv. Moshe found work in his profession. I had no specific profession so I did housework. In 1952 our daughter Shoshana was born. After several years Moshe decided to open his own carpentry. He continued working even after he was 70 years old. [...] 

 

 

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