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Defying German Soldiers, Part II

George Turlo, Holocaust Survivor

And the truck start to drive.  And I’m laying and I see some kind of blue head, like a monster, blond and blue, beaten up to pulp.  I couldn’t recognize who this person is.  And suddenly, this head start to talk to me.  “It’s me, it’s me.  Jerzy, it’s your priest.”  And this was Priest Gerhowski, this who was helping to save so many Jews.  And he reached me with a hand and touch me, and said, “Pray with me.  Shepherd”—whatever.  “If it’s fate that you lose your life, this is the fate, but maybe God grant you life.  So I pray with you that you survive this.” 

And they brought us—it’s already red, sunset, I remember.  All the graves have been covered already with sand, whatever, except they left the corner portion for the last transport.  The trucks with machine guns and two SS man laying there behind machine guns; an officer with pistol, whatever, in commanding, and also very old commando with spades to bury after the last victims of the day.  And they put us kneeling on the edge of the grave together: was this boy, and I saw two little girls, some Polish family, two man and wife, and after another Jewish people and this.  And the officer said, “Fire!”  Opened fire and (makes machine gun noise), and everybody was falling to their graves.  And a guy who was standing to me, he was falling like almost first, whatever, but he push me and I fall like a fraction of a second before him and thus he fall half on top of me.  And then other people were falling on me and I was choking for lack of air, and I said, “God, please don’t let me die just because of the lack of air.” 

Suddenly I heard the voices, because the people were screaming like the last greeting to their god.  “Oh, my God.  Eloheinu Eloi, Eli, Eli.”  Suddenly there is change of the voices, and I heard the Germans.  “Zurück, zurück!  Partisan are coming.”  The partisans are coming through the woods, so they quickly drop everything, jump on the trucks and rushed away, not covering the graves with the sand, because this was—this time the partisans own all territory outside of the towns.  The Germans could only live in the towns, like in the fortress; nobody ventured, whatever, outside. 

Anyway, coming to me, I—immediately when I heard this stuff, I knew that there would be an evacuation of all this stuff and I start to try to crawl out, because everybody was moving.  The German commanding officer was shooting with the pistol every moving body.  So finally I was crawl out of these bodies (makes breathing sound) and was able to breathe.  But I lay still.  I was afraid to move because I didn’t know what was going on.  But no noise, no voices, so I figure I have to escape from this grave.  When I came to the corner, no way I can climb out the grave.  I have to build a ladder.  And I start to look for small bodies, about—well, I bring this stack bodies, including this Jewish boy, this two—not two, one daughter, because one was covered by the father and I only saw the blond hair under her father’s body.  I couldn’t move. 

So I finally collected about four bodies—children, more or less, teenager.  It’s very hard for me to drag them over the dead bodies to this corner, and any attempt to build the ladder to climb was futile because this was soft.  Every body was giving up under the weight, even though I didn’t weigh too much.  So I decided, well, I’ll wait in other corner till—I know from my father and so on; he was teaching us about rigor mortis and all this.  You have to wait about six hours or more before the bodies start to get stiff. 

And when I laying there and watching the stars above me, I saw some yellow eyes looking down on me.  I said, “Oh my God, it’s probably wolf who’s going to devour me after, when I climb out.”  And I said, “I have to; if they find me, they will just shoot me.”  So I finally, again, try to put these bodies on the top of each other and I finally—this was already almost sunrise time—climb out from the grave.  And immediately when—this was like a little lake there, and I remember that in wintertime I used to go with my father secretly to cut a Christmas tree there because this was forbidden by the Soviets.  So I wash off, because I knew that the Germans, when they see this, they will put the dogs, and scent of fear, and also scent of blood, this is indication what the dogs will go for.  So, ice cold water already in the pond, I wash off completely, wash my head off.  And after I walk to this pond for a long time till I found the entrance to the brook, and walking the brook I got to the woods, under some big oak tree, cover myself with leaves, and fall asleep.

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About George Turlo