Oral History

Fred Bachner describes flight to eastern Poland upon the German invasion of Poland in September 1939

Fred was born to Polish Jewish parents in Berlin, where his father owned a factory. After the Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom in November 1938, Fred's father and brother were deported to Poland. It was not until June 1939, when Poland allowed Fred and his mother to enter the country, that the family was reunited in Krakow. Fred and his family tried to flee upon the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 but were told to return to their homes. They were forced into the Krakow ghetto, and Fred was later deported to forced-labor camps. He was also imprisoned in Auschwitz and a subcamp of Dachau. Fred survived the camps, and was reunited with his father and brother. The three moved to the United States in 1947.


We took everything into a suitcase, and we grabbed the baby carriage and put it on top of the baby carriage, and our family we started to hold ourselves together and started to march to evacuate further in, in, into Poland. Now I don't remember exactly how many kilometers we marched or so, but it was, uh, I don't know, it was about, we managed in, in four days, in five days to go about 100 kilometers, or maybe 70 kilometers, and we walked across the fields, you know, because the, uh, corn was already taken in and the hay, and the potatoes were, and only the potatoes were still out in the field because this is a very big farm country, Poland. So, um, we started to go further and we, we walked further, and who do we meet there? The German soldiers, because they got ahead of us, not, not by, on the, on the roads but they were par...parachuting into the, to the advance areas and securing the advance areas. And when we came, you know, we come there, and we see the German soldiers and they said, "Oh, go back home, go back home, that's all you, wherever you...whatever city you are from, go back home." And right there and then there started the big antisemitism by the soldiers, to, to see the, the Jewish, the religious Jewish people used to have beards and big payes [sideburns], you know, and, and you, you wouldn't believe it but they started literally to, rip out the beard and rip out the thing and, you know, and, uh, so, uh, the Jews, you know, they, they started to, to take a bandage around the, the, uh, the chin and hide the hair from the beard in there, and when German came, you know, they had, they had the toothache or headache or whatever it was, you know, to, to save themselves with the beards.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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