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  To the Left or Right from
The Sun Will Rise
Parents relive the war years - the struggle and the survival

By Miriam Dansky  E. Reifer 


Other Available Chapters
Stories That Raise Questions 
Holocaust Survivors 
Chrzanow's Liquidation 
The Inky-blue Tattoo 


To the Left or Right

One of the final events had been the summoning of all Jews still left in the ghetto to gather at 9 a.m. to a specific assembly point. By now, such summonses were the daily fare of ghetto life, and the state of demoralization of most ghetto dwellers made compliance to this latest order relatively matter of fact. If the gray matter in the brain simply ceased functioning, refused to think any further, then looking up at an unfamiliar sky and clutching your card in a convulsive grip between your tired fingers, was the only thing that mattered. Perhaps they now felt they were inhabiting a new world which was material without being real. They were nothing but ghosts, breathing the last of their miserable dreamlike air. Now, they were divided simply into two lines, and it soon became apparent that some people’s cards were being stamped ‘blue’ and some ‘red.’ The assembly point was under extremely heavy guard for it seemed that a whole division of SS from Katowice had been enlisted for the event. The familiar figures of SS men Dreher, Frietag and Kronau were visible too, milling at the front end of the square, where tables had been set up to deal with the inevitable paperwork. Now, from muttered undertones, it became apparent that there was consternation spreading like contagion among the waiting Jews. What do the blue or red stamps portend? Who could be called lucky, who unlucky, for there was no immediate way of telling? One of Shmuel Reifer’s last memories of Chrzanow was standing on a low wall behind the assembled mass, noticing that those in the right-hand line were being marched off in looser, less tight-knit fashion than those to the left. He had there and then made a snap decision. He would advise his family to try and get into the right-hand line.

lll

No, the end had not come on that day, for the move to the right-hand line had, after all, proved to be a fortuitous one. They had been marched slowly around the streets and then simply released. But ‘release’ from an unknown hell, back into a known one, can hardly be termed release. With such ‘illusions’ of ‘luck’ and ‘escape,’ ghetto dwellers lived until the end. But of one thing everybody was now certain with a new and terrible certainty -- his turn would come. After this ‘escape,’ Shmuel Reifer knew that his days in Chrzanow were numbered. This was because the realization had now come to them that their situation was impossible. They had no food, no connections. It was only a matter of time before the Germans would discover their cellar hideout. It had been discovered once already. They decided to leave Chrzanow and try their luck in a neighboring village. Accordingly, he, his brother and father had walked to the station and boarded a train. They had done this separately so as not to arouse attention, for this action in the Poland of 1943 was no less than audacious. If they were recognized by any stray policemen or by their neighbors, death would not be far behind. Covering their yellow stars with their tattered jackets, they held their breaths.

The train spluttered to life and then simply stopped. Everyone in the carriage waited. A babushka-clad Polish peasant woman seated in one corner was muttering words of prayer or imprecation. Babies in arms cried. One or two Polish soldiers stood and smoked, leaning their heads out the window. In that single moment in the shabby compartment with wooden seats, waiting for the proposed journey to begin, a pain, more piercingly human than any since it had all begun, had stabbed the youth through and through. For there were really people who still pursued a mundane life, conducted business, raised their children, went to church on Sundays, traveled to neighboring villages, and yet they -- as Jews -- were as effectively excluded from that world as if they were aliens from another planet.

At that moment, the train’s wheels started to turn, and the conductor, with his roll of tickets, began to pass through the carriages. The train drew into Sosnowice. There, they alighted as planned. It seemed to him momentarily that the stationmaster was eyeing him with a sharpening glint of recognition. Recognition was possible here, for he and his brother had often traveled to Sosnowice on errands for their father. The only thing to do now was to walk in as unconcerned a manner as possible. So they walked on and on, not stopping to look back or even to draw breath, until they had entered the ghetto’s main streets. Here they had furtively removed their jackets, dropped their tense expressions and mingled with the crowd.

 
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