During WWll many of German young man were drafted. Their positions in workforce had to be filled up. Therefore Germans designed the system to pick up young males from the streets in occupied countries and send them to work in German factories and on farms. Just like that. It usually happened in crowded cities and Warsaw was a prime example. They used military trucks to block the exits from several city blocks. Young men were picked up from terrified crowd and loaded into the trucks. Only reason to be chosen was to be healthy looking young male. From there it was a short trip to the train station and then only God knows where.
My Father was 30 years old at that time. Had had a misfortune to be picked up from the street and put on the train. His train was going to Auschwitz.
Besides being a concentration camp, Auschwitz was a chemical factory. Still is. IG Farben was producing there artificial rubber mainly for use by Wehrmacht, since usual sources of natural rubber in Southeast Asia were blocked by Allies. Prisoners were used to work in the factory, often to be exterminated afterwards.
My Father was a highly educated man. He took Greek and Latin at school and also spoke fluent German. After they were loaded into cattle cars, he stroke a conversation with his guard, who appeared to be Austrian. They talk with each other most of the journey. Between Warsaw and Cracow distance is approximately 200 miles. From Cracow, which was a change station for trains and cars, to Auschwitz is only 40 miles. In Cracow terminal, where cars were being hooked up to a different engine, his Austrian guard sent my Father to buy a pack of cigarettes. He knew, that he was given a chance to escape and never came back. Took back roads to Warsaw and was reunited with my mother.
Not everything was clear for him to comeback though. He didn’t have his ID (Ausweis), since his original was taken by Germans during his “arrest”. Not having proper papers was being punished severely by occupiers, often by imprisonment, trip to concentration camp or even death. He traveled to Milanówek, some 20 miles from Warsaw, where my mother was and got a clerk’s job in a local infectious diseases hospital. Germans were terrified of infectious diseases (big chunk of their research was done in this specialty) and ID checks were not done in that place quite so often and thoroughly. He survived the war.
My two young uncles weren’t so fortunate. They were smuggling food to Jewish Getto through the hole in a wall. They were caught and sent to Auschwitz, where they died. They were in their early 20s.
A few months after I was born, Warsaw Uprising broke up. Fighting was very heavy and many people have died. One can see ferocity of battles and methodical, cruel and senseless destruction of Warsaw in movie “The Pianist” by Roman Polański. One day young Polish resistance fighters brought to my Mother two newborns, whose mothers were killed by Germans. One of them was a Jewish boy. There was no baby formula available of course and since I was breast fed, asking my Mother to raise them was an obvious choice. She was an excellent substitute mother and later on, when they were able to be fed with the bottle, other families took them over. Later on, when war was over, my Mother was trying to find my milk brothers (sister ?). To no avail.
I always thought, how many things had to go right for me to come to this country. These events were just a beginning.