Oral History

Miriam Lewent describes conditions in Siberia

Miriam and her family fled their home when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. They were interned by Soviet forces and deported to Siberia. Near the city of Tomsk, Miriam cut trees to earn food rations. When the Soviet Union went to war with Germany in June 1941, the Soviets released Miriam and her family. They sold their Red Cross rations for train fare and intended to return to Poland, but most of the family settled in Kazakhstan during the rest of the war. There, her father taught Hebrew to Jewish children.


We lived...you see, uh, they had those wooden houses that their prisoners lived, so they took them someplace else and they gave those houses to us. And, of course we used to cut our own wood for heating the house which was one...house--was one big room and like two families would live. So we would build like against the wall, benches, you know, from wall to wall, and we slept one next to another. First of all, it kept warm and it saved room because there was no room and there we would go uh...like we would melt the snow for cooking. Cooking consisted of...I mean if you got a pound of, uh, corn kernels, so we used to grind it and it became flour, and you boiled the water. So in order it should be a lot...I mean it was like twenty people and everybody should get a spoonful, so it got thick and you know you would just look at and it should get thicker and thicker, you hoped. If you didn't add on water, so it got thicker, and everybody would you know, just get a spoonful and eat. And that's what, uh, kept us going...kept us going with the hope that someday, you know, that the war will finish and we'll go back to Poland.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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