Oral History

William (Welek) Luksenburg describes the first night of the German invasion of Poland

Shortly after the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, William's family was ordered into a ghetto and his brother went to a work camp. William bribed officials to discharge his brother from a hospital destined for evacuation to Auschwitz. Later, after escaping from a prison camp to tend to his brother, William was jailed. He was sent to Blechhammer, Gleiwitz (where he met his future wife), and other camps. William collapsed during a death march near the Austrian border, but was then liberated. His parents and brother perished.


Things began to change right the first night. The first night there were blackouts all over town. They would have a curfew. After dark, nobody's supposed to leave the house. The first memorable night is, was, when I...when some of our neighbors tried to...a young man tried to cross the street and he didn't realize just crossing the street, uh, would...would break, breach the curfew and a German soldier said, "Halt," and he kept on running. And he got machine-gunned all the way across, and he fell right in front of our house. So the Germans started yelling, all the men "'Raus" [Get out], all the men out to help carry the body in and made me carry the body with four other persons. And because, the way he was machine-gunned, he was completely like cut in half. When I got home I was completely covered with blood, and I remember when I got into the house, my mother looked at me completely covered.There was something...such an awful thing to see first time. I was just absolutely covered with blood, and I always remember my mother's, uh, expression and my mother's fear and my mother's cry out when she saw me completely covered with blood and that was the first night, the first expression what was...We didn't know what's coming and it was a horrible thing, that first night.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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