Oral History

Felix Horn describes a hiding place in Warsaw

Felix was born to an assimilated Jewish family in Lublin, Poland. His father was a locksmith and his mother was a singer. Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, Felix fled east to Rovno and then to Soviet-occupied Lvov, where he was accepted at a medical school. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Felix was taken to a labor camp. He escaped and returned to Lublin, and found that his family had been forced into the ghetto established there. After the liquidation of the Lublin ghetto, Felix, his sister, and his future wife Lucine were sent to the Majdan Tatarski ghetto. Felix, Lucine, and her brother escaped and hid, eventually fleeing to the Warsaw ghetto, where Felix and Lucine were married. They escaped to the "Aryan" side of Warsaw and obtained false papers. Felix worked for the underground during the Warsaw Polish uprising in 1944. He and Lucine were liberated by Soviet forces in January 1945. They immigrated to the United States in October 1950.

Transcript

There was in the corner of the room, there was, um, a ceramic heater. I don't know if you're familiar with European heating system. They're made out of ceramic tiles, a square up to the ceiling almost, and connect to the chimney, and you were heating with coal or wood. There was a little door, metal door, that you'd open, put your wood or coal there. What I decided to do, to hollow up that stove. I disassembled the whole stove, Lucine would bring me clay each day, a little in the bag, a little bit, I used a fork and a knife to disassemble without cracking the tiles. Don't forget this was an old stove. And from the base down I rebuilt the whole stove using clay and water. And I removed the top, the surface, the ceramic tiles, and I made a wooden plank and put a tile on top of the wooden plank, so this was like a cover. But you had to heat it, what are we going to do? So we bought a little iron stove with a pipe. The pipe was going right through the middle of the stove, into the chimney. There was a little stool in the table next to the stove, in case of an emergency I could step on the stool, on the table, inside the stove. I was sitting, like, on the horseback, on the pipe. The only thing I forgot, not being professional, what am I going to do--the pipe is going to be hot because the stove is being used for cooking. I didn't think about it. And I didn't think about the possible gasses emanating from this contraption. I was not a scientist. I'm not a professional bricklayer or stovelayer, or whatever. But it served the purpose and I hoped I never will have to use it. All of a sudden one day we find out that the landlady had a cousin in the village near Warsaw, who one day came in drunk, totally drunk. And when he knocked at the door, I had only maybe a minute time to get into the stove. I got into the stove. He came in, they tried to get rid of him. He was so drunk, he couldn't, he said, "Oh, no, I stay here overnight, I come, I go home tomorrow." So I stayed in the stove all night. When he left the following morning I was totally unconscious, overcome by fumes. They couldn't call a doctor, they couldn't even pull me out, it was very awkward, was way on top, close to the ceiling. They had two women, one old lady, Lucine is young but alone, she couldn't do, couldn't pull, I was a heavy-weight person. And I start moving a little bit, by now I was really semi-conscious, and I got out of that stove. They tried to breathe through my mouth, give me artificial respiration, spraying water, splashing water on me, and so on, and I come to it, and I recovered.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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