Select Page

Esther and Morris Ringermacher

Esther and Morris Ringermacher
Nationality: Polish
Location: Buchenwald Concentration Camp • Czechoslovakia • Germany • Leipzig • Lodz • Missouri • Poland • Schlieben Labor Camp • Skarzysko-Kamienna • Skarzysko-Kamienna Concentration Camp • St. Louis • Theresienstadt • United States of America • Wurzen
Experience During Holocaust: Family Died During the Holocaust • Liberated • Lived in a Displaced Persons camp • Lived in Multiple Concentration Camps • Sent to Concentration Camp • Sent to Ghetto • Was a Forced Laborer • Worked in Factory

Mapping Esther and Morris' Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Esther and Morris. Use the timeline below the map or the left and right keys on your keyboard to explore chronologically. In some cases the dates below were estimated based on the oral histories.

“The hatred of Jews... It still was the same as it was before the war and after the war. You can’t change those things overnight.” - Esther and Morris Ringermacher

Read Esther and Morris' Oral History Transcripts

Read the transcripts by clicking the red plus signs below.

Tape 1 - Side 1

E. RINGERMACHER: Plain, plain old me.
CARGAS: You have the education of experience, though.
E. RINGERMACHER: That’s right, experience, yeah.
CARGAS: So may I begin by asking you what has it meant to you in your life to be a survivor?
E. RINGERMACHER: What it meant, I really cannot explain. It just for the Jewish people a survivor to tell the story of what happened, how it happened, and what happened in the time, in my generation.
CARGAS: So you tell the story—
E. RINGERMACHER: I do tell my kids, my family and wherever I can. We just had in the JCCA—what was it—the Holocaust Memorial.
CARGAS: With Yaffa Eliach.
E. RINGERMACHER: With Yaffa Eliach. She was there. And my husband was the one what he lighted a candle.
CARGAS: Yes, yes, the six candles. For the six million–
E. RINGERMACHER: He lighted the candle for Buchenwald.
CARGAS: I see, yes. Most of the people who lit candles were from Poland.
E. RINGERMACHER: That’s right.
CARGAS: Yes, yes, I noticed that. And you see, that’s really why I am interested in the Holocaust. It is my people who did this. And I want to know, if I can, what that means to us also.
E. RINGERMACHER: That’s right. They was in cooperation with the German people a lot.
M. RINGERMACHER: They helped. They didn’t discourage. They encouraged it.
CARGAS: Mr. Ringermacher, then you also are a survivor.
M. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, that’s right.
CARGAS: What has it meant to you to be a survivor?
M. RINGERMACHER: Well, it’s the same thing here. I would like—we are happy and glad that we survived but, in the opposite, we are very—
M. RINGERMACHER: Very sad what’s happened to our generation at that time, and to our families and to all of them, what they got lost during that Holocaust thing in the late ‘30s and in the ‘40s.
CARGAS: Do you have fears that this could happen again?
E. RINGERMACHER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, constantly fears that especially in the European nations. About this country, I got doubts because I believe in this country better than in all the European countries. But still, it involves a lot of work and a lot from all kind people.
CARGAS: Do you feel that other people, other than Jews, are working?
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, of course.
M. RINGERMACHER: And another thing, United States is not—it is a state of nations. It’s not one nation. It’s a nation of nations from everywhere. So it’s a different thing here from the European countries. It’s more unlikely it shall happen here because of this.
CARGAS: And do you have family, children, and grandchildren, and so on?
E. RINGERMACHER: I have a son and daughter and a grandchild. I have a sister and brother.
CARGAS: And they were all born here?
E. RINGERMACHER: No, no. They all born in Poland. No, my children—my son was born in Germany, and my daughter was born here.
CARGAS: But they all here now?
E. RINGERMACHER: Now they are all in St. Louis.
CARGAS: They are all in St. Louis. Good for you.
CARGAS: Have you felt, either of you, that there is some reason why YOU have survived?
E. RINGERMACHER: Well, it’s no reason that I have survived. That’s not that I was better than anybody else. It was some better people than me what went to the ovens, more religious and more better people than me, I imagine.
M. RINGERMACHER: It’s nothing against other people, but brains.
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, but I don’t mean that because—it was just pure luck.
M. RINGERMACHER: It’s luck and destiny.
E. RINGERMACHER: I don’t know. Destiny, I don’t know.
CARGAS: What do you mean by destiny?
M. RINGERMACHER: I compare this with luck, and that’s the way it’s supposed to happen and God decides. It’s from upstairs. It’s a God’s thing, that’s all.
E. RINGERMACHER: I don’t even know if it’s God’s thing. If that had been choosen, he would choose better people than me, really. But I just think it’s plain luck. It just happened like this, and it came out like this, just for no reason, for no reason. Just in time when we had to be killed, then it was the end of it, and we survived.
CARGAS: The end of the war?
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, the end of the war, and we survived.
CARGAS: And that’s how you survived, not through escape or—
E. RINGERMACHER: No, no, no, not through escape, nothing.
CARGAS: Some people were thought dead, and they were still alive?
E. RINGERMACHER: No, not through escape, nothing. We just—by the end, when the Russians from one side and the Americans from the other side, they pushed in, you know, to Germany, and they didn’t have where to take us. All the places where there used to be the big concentration camp was already taken, was liberated, and I wasn’t in a bad camp. I was in a arbeitskamp.
CARGAS: Arbeits?
E. RINGERMACHER: Arbeitskamp. Do you know what this means?
E. RINGERMACHER: A working camp.
CARGAS: A working camp.
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, that’s German, arbeitskamp.
CARGAS: All right. Did it have a name, a special name?
E. RINGERMACHER: It was Leipzig in Germany. Leipzig, Lichtenfeld.
CARGAS: Lichtenfeld?
E. RINGERMACHER: Lichtenfeld, yeah. It was a –it’s outside of Leipzig—ammunitions, ammunition fabric.
M. RINGERMACHER: Ammunition factory.
E. RINGERMACHER: factory, yeah. So by the end of the war when America went in on one side and then the Russians came from the other side, they didn’t have where to take us. So they was packing us on the Elbe. Did you heard of the Elbe?
E. RINGERMACHER: They was packing us on the Elbe by ship. So we thought any minute, they gonna sink us (LAUGHING), but they was afraid already—the Russian was on the side of the shore.
M. RINGERMACHER: They were afraid for themselves.
CARGAS: Oh, the Germans put you on the ship.
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah. They took us out from camp. They want us to take to another camp, to another camp on the other side on the Elbe River, but it was too late because the planes and the soldiers already was surrounding, and the bombarding and everything, and they couldn’t do nothing with us. So they left us on the side by the river, and THEY escaped. And they left us just on the side by the river.
CARGAS: And were you at the same camp, Mr. Ringermacher?
M. RINGERMACHER: No, I was in Buchenwald, and then they sent us to a place by the name Schlieben.
CARGAS: Schlieben?
M. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, and this was a camp, the same thing. This was also a concentration camp, but it was a working camp. It was a place where they worked the Panzerpalz, they called them, “Panzerpalx”, [which means] against the tanks.
CARGAS: Yes, against the tanks.
M. RINGERMACHER: Yeah. And from over there they took us to Theresienstadt.
CARGAS: Oh, yes.
M. RINGERMACHER: And from over there, this was in—we were over there about six weeks. And then we got liberated a day later. It was on the 9th of May. We took them out and more because they got surrounded, the SS got surrounded, but then they hide themselves in the mountains around Theresienstadt, and they couldn’t get them. It took them a day more to get rid of them, and then we got liberated.
CARGAS: May I ask you where are you from exactly in Poland?
E. RINGERMACHER: Skarzysko. Skarzysko, Poland. Let’s say how you spell it.
CARGAS: I’ll find it, I’ll find it.
E. RINGERMACHER: No, I can spell it for you. S-K-A-R-Z-Y-S-K-O, Kamiena. This is on the river, Kamiena.
M. RINGERMACHER: This is 150 kilometers from Warsaw.
CARGAS: Okay. Good.
M. RINGERMACHER: The state is Kamiena.
CARGAS: And where are you from?
E. RINGERMACHER: The same town.
CARGAS: The same town. Did you know each other before the—
E. RINGERMACHER: We was married in 1940.
CARGAS: So you were separated in—
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah. We was married in the ghetto.
M. RINGERMACHER: We was taken together but separated in—
M. RINGERMACHER: In 1944, by the end of 1944, they took you, and you were in concentration camp in Skarzysko ‘til 1944, and by the end of 1944, they took us out from Poland, form Skarzysko, to Germany. They took her to Leipzig, and me they took to Buchenwald.
CARGAS: How did you meet again?
E. RINGERMACHER: After the war in 1945. He was liberated in May. I was liberated on the 25th of April by the Elbe in Wurzen. And then we didn’t know where to go. So we told, where can we go? Our homeland. We go home, like everybody thinks, “Well, we’ll go home, back to Poland.” And we thought, you know, the whole town, you know, all the neighbors, all the people over there, they’ll take us with open hands. You know, we survived after the war. So I was together with my sister and my mother. My mother was in camp with me, and my sister was in camp with me. And when we was liberated, we saw a big train going from Germany. So, we didn’t have nothing to lose. We jumped on the train because we was harassed from all the sides–from the Russian soldiers, from the, you know—after the war. So, we jumped on a train–on a open train, on a open train.
M. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, is a freight—
E. RINGERMACHER: A freight train, yeah.
CARGAS: A freight train.
E. RINGERMACHER: And we was sitting on the train, and no matter where he go. Everything was broken, you know, so he went one kilometer ahead and three kilometers back (LAUGHING).
M. RINGERMACHER: The rails were broken.
E. RINGERMACHER: He went back and forth, but we didn’t care. We was safe at least on the train. A bunch, you know, we got together, whoever we met. We got together and jumped on the train. So we was on the train going back to Poland to find out that the train gonna go back to Poland. So we went back, and we finally, after a few days, we came to Poland, and we came to our town, to our hometown. So we came to our hometown, dirty—and you know how we looked from concentration camp. Well, we found some clothes on there, and we changed the clothes because in camp we had those special outfits, yeah. So we changed for private clothes, and we came to Poland and into our town. And then we asked—we came to the edge of the town. We asked over there, Polish people, “Is there any Jews in here back?”
And they said, “Yes, it’s a few back.” But the minute they saw us, “Why did you came back?” This was the first thing. “We thought that you were not living. Why did you came back?”
So we saw that we got nothing to talk with them, but anyway, they told us there’s a few Jewish people around, and they told us where. And we went over there to those few Jewish people and—the city hall from our town gave those Jewish people a few apartments where to live in, and like concentrated in a few places. Here there are a couple Jewish families in one room, over there on another street was a couple Jewish families—not a couple, was a room with ten Jews in one room because they was afraid to go out. And when WE came, when WE came, we found over there those families, and one lady said to us, “Come and live with me. I got two rooms, and I’ll give you one room, and we’ll have one room.”
CARGAS: A Jewish lady.
E. RINGERMACHER: A Jewish lady, yeah. And we went in, and we was lucky that we got that apartment with a Jewish lady because this was like in a—how you say?
M. RINGERMACHER: A square block. You know, it’s not like here.
E. RINGERMACHER: It was like a garden apartment.
CARGAS: Uh-huh, I understand.
E. RINGERMACHER: You know, garden inside like a garden, three apartments like this. In front was the Russian military station.
CARGAS: Oh, yes, headquarters.
M. RINGERMACHER: Headquarters.
E. RINGERMACHER: Headquarters—
M. RINGERMACHER: There was like they call KGB. What they call?
CARGAS: They call NKVD.
E. RINGERMACHER: NKVD, yeah, that’s right. This was in front of this—our apartment.
M. RINGERMACHER: The guards, they took guards over there all the time.
E. RINGERMACHER: And we was living behind. So we was lucky that time because we was living there how long? Since—
M. RINGERMACHER: We came there in—you came ’45.
E. RINGERMACHER: We came May, ’45.
M. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, ‘til the end of ’45.
E. RINGERMACHER: ‘Til September, I guess.
CARGAS: And that’s where you met?
E. RINGERMACHER: No, no, no, no, no—one month later my husband came to the same place.
M. RINGERMACHER: I thought the same thing.
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, he thought the same thing, “Let’s go home. We’ll meet the family over there.”
M. RINGERMACHER: “Maybe my brother is back”, because I had two brothers, and one got–
E. RINGERMACHER: One didn’t survive.
M. RINGERMACHER: One did not survive. They took him from—and he was in Buchenwald, too, but I heard in March, 1945, they took him from Buchenwald to Mauthausen, and he did not survive that trip. They killed him. Not just him, but the whole transport.
E. RINGERMACHER: The whole transport.
M. RINGERMACHER: Now, though he did not survive, and one brother who was in Russia, he came back, and he is here. But I lost a brother and my mother got killed, too, by the Germans. And my sister—
E. RINGERMACHER: The whole family.
M. RINGERMACHER: The whole family. That’s all I have left, one brother at—
CARGAS: At the garden apartment?
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah. One month later, my husband showed up. So we was lucky then. We was very happy, and we was living over there in that apartment. In fact, we had to make a living. I was a dressmaker from before. I learned how to sew, dressmaking. I learned during the war. I finished school, and then I went to learn something. We had to have, you know, not like here, you think about college. Over there we was thinking about a trade to make a living. So I learned how to sew, and when we came back, a lot of those Polish people knew that I am back, and they came in to me. They brought something, you know, to work for them. Okay. One morning a lady runs into us, “My God, my God, you alive. I am so happy you alive!”
I said, “What’s happened?” And she was all shook up. I said, “”What’s happened?”
And she said to us, “Go away from here because they killed ten people. They killed ten people in the next apartment!”
M. RINGERMACHER: And they were survivors.
E. RINGERMACHER: Ten survivors.
M. RINGERMACHER: They survived Hitler, survived—
E. RINGERMACHER: They survived all the concentration camps, Treblinka—
CARGAS: The Polish people?
E. RINGERMACHER: The Polish people. One man was—he jumped out from the wagon, from Treblinka when they took him to Treblinka. He jumped out, and he came back alive. The other ones all over. So they get there it was ten people in one house. A few Polish people got at night into them, killed them one by one.
M. RINGERMACHER: With a machine gun.
E. RINGERMACHER: With a machine gun—with a machine gun was it?
M. RINGERMACHER: With a machine gun and with the pistols. One was from the militia—he got a machine gun.
E. RINGERMACHER: It was like, it was like—
M. RINGERMACHER: One from the Polish, Polish militia.
E. RINGERMACHER: Eight men and one woman was between them. They all got killed. So when this woman come to my apartment, we was lucky because the militia, the Russian militia was in front of us. So we got somebody.
CARGAS: But the woman who warned you. Was she Jewish?
E. RINGERMACHER: No. She didn’t, she didn’t—it was in the morning, it was next day. She just came up to tell us what’s happened, yeah. We didn’t run away, but we wanted to find out. We didn’t run away. What’s happened, we find out what’s happened, and we even made a funeral for them. And we was attending the funeral. All the rest of us who survived, we went to the cemetery with the Russian militia watching us with pistols. This was after the war in mine home town! With militia watching us, we was afraid to go alone to the cemetery.
M. RINGERMACHER: The Russian militia was supposed to watch us.
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah. And we buried them.
M. RINGERMACHER: That nothing shall happen in this same Polish town.
E. RINGERMACHER: To us, yeah. So a few months later—a couple—I don’t think too long–
M. RINGERMACHER: A few weeks later—
E. RINGERMACHER: A few weeks later we left our home town. We moved out to a big town, to Lodz. That’s the second big town in Poland—Warsaw and Lodz. And then we stayed in Lodz ‘til we went away altogether from Poland. They find out who killed those people. They found was a woman involved of it.
M. RINGERMACHER: And the Russian, maybe some of the Polish government—they caught them.
E. RINGERMACHER: They caught them, yeah, the whole bunch.
M. RINGERMACHER: A few they caught. One was executed, and I think that the lady was executed.
M. RINGERMACHER: The lady was executed, and the two other people, they got prison, three or four years, I don’t know, but they caught them.
E. RINGERMACHER: They caught the whole bunch of them. And then in the big city we was so afraid since then, we kept the door locked even in the big city. We was so afraid that we lived each day. We was very frightened, and then we—
M. RINGERMACHER: And except this—not just—on the whole we were afraid that still it is left from before the war, you know, the hate, the hatred for Jews.
E. RINGERMACHER: The anti-Semitism.
M. RINGERMACHER: The hatred on Jews. It still was the same thing what it was before the war and after the war. You can’t change those things overnight.
CARGAS: And yet they knew what happened to the Jews.
M. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, and we—
E. RINGERMACHER: They helped them.
M. RINGERMACHER: They knew and we knew that this will go on and on, and the same thing. It’s no use to be over there, so we decided to leave Poland.
M. RINGERMACHER: –and to see where we will go from over there.
CARGAS: That’s interesting. You went from Poland to the home of the Nazis.
E. RINGERMACHER: To West Germany, to West Germany.
CARGAS: I realize that.
M. RINGERMACHER: At that time, Russia was over there, you know. This was not Germany at that time. It was like a liberated country.
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, and they had like the peace, you know, special concentration camps—not concentration camps—
M. RINGERMACHER: For the leftover—
CARGAS: Displaced persons.
E. RINGERMACHER: For the displaced persons.
CARGAS: And then you came from Germany here?
M. RINGERMACHER: From over there, yes.
CARGAS: Right to St. Louis?
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, and so we stay in St. Louis.
M. RINGERMACHER: We got sponsorships from here.
CARGAS: I really want to ask you because of the purpose of this book and the direction I think we must speak about is what do you think about Christianity?
E. RINGERMACHER: I told you now one fact. I told you this one fact what will live over after the war, after all the concentration camp, and this was all Catholic people, Christian people. Poland—I think Poland with the whole religion in Poland mostly was Catholic—Christians, Catholics.
M. RINGERMACHER: Ninety-five percent.
E. RINGERMACHER: And I think that this—I don’t know, maybe your ancestors was from Poland, but you’re writing a book. I wouldn’t say this to any other person, Polish person. You know, I don’t hate the Polish people what are in here. They are changed; they are different; they changed, but I can tell you that I would never go back to Poland, see Poland. Poland for me is blood because the Polish people, for me, they helped the Nazis more than any other country. They helped. This was—they didn’t build the concentration camps. They didn’t build the gas chambers.
M. RINGERMACHER: The gas chambers they built in Germany.
E. RINGERMACHER: They didn’t build in France; they didn’t build in Holland; they didn’t build in Czechoslovakia. They built all the gas chambers in Poland. Most of the gas chambers was built in Poland: Auschwitz, Treblinka. Everything was in Poland.
E. RINGERMACHER: Because it was in cooperation with the Polish people. I don’t say maybe it was one percent good.
CARGAS: Not all of them–
E. RINGERMACHER: Maybe one percent. A few people.
M. RINGERMACHER: There were a percent, I can say I don’t know if more, but there were people who helped and who hide a few Jews over there.
E. RINGERMACHER: Us for a few weeks or so. Maybe one percent. I can even think one percent, but most of them.
M. RINGERMACHER: This one percent is lost between those others.
E. RINGERMACHER: They was afraid. They were afraid. It wasn’t like now. Now people all over the world speak out for humanity. They speak out for a free world. At that time, everybody was afraid. That what’s happened. Even–I say that’s why it’s happened to us, too. If we wouldn’t be afraid, wouldn’t be the Treblinka and ashes. They would stood up like the Warsaw ghetto did. But the Warsaw ghetto was the last. They saw that’s happened all over, but we didn’t know what’s happened. We was afraid for any little thing. We had the Germans. We had the Poles. We had like—I’ll tell you one thing—
M. RINGERMACHER: What’s the difference? I wouldn’t go, I mean, in the concentration camp not to get up and do something about it. If I would know that behind me I have the Polish people who will—if I will go in the forest or hide or make like—
E. RINGERMACHER: They would help me.
M. RINGERMACHER: Groups to fight back.
CARGAS: Resistance groups.
M. RINGERMACHER: That’s right. I would take a gun or something, and get in groups and go into the forest and fight against them if I would know if I have behind me my people. Means the Polish people, if they should not say, “Oh, here, here they are. Here they are.”
E. RINGERMACHER: You know, in ghetto, we had one street to walk. You know, maybe ghetto, one street to walk if—
M. RINGERMACHER: The Germans did that.
E. RINGERMACHER: One girl and a boy went for a walk, so I don’t know, maybe they had somewhere to go. They went out of the ghetto a block or two blocks behind the ghetto. So one Polish guy saw them, and he knew them. That was a Jewish girl and a boy. They called right away a German. “Those are Jews!” And you know what they did? They took them away. And the next day, in the morning, they made that boy run through the whole street, and they took a German shepherd run after that boy and tear out pieces from him—tear off his clothes and tear out pieces. Can you imagine this? (LONG PAUSE) That’s what I remember. Our—the “middle” Poland was bad. Congress Poland was very bad. Maybe somewhere in other–in other states– because it was a few partisans what they survived in the–
M. RINGERMACHER: In the forest—
E. RINGERMACHER: In the forest. What maybe they ran out, and they gave them some food, but not in our—in the center of Poland. This was the worst what I remember. I cannot tell you anything good.
CARGAS: And do you still—I want to be careful with these questions—
E. RINGERMACHER: No, no, I am the same.
CARGAS: For example, towards Christianity in this country—
E. RINGERMACHER: It’s nothing; it’s different.
M. RINGERMACHER: Here you don’t have that hatred. See, over there, the hatred they gave in to their generations, their kids, the hate right from the beginning, from the start. They raised them like this.
E. RINGERMACHER: The churches, the churches, and all the schools, and all the churches. They was teaching religion in the schools.
M. RINGERMACHER: They raised them that way.
E. RINGERMACHER: In all the schools they was teaching the Catholics that the Jews killed Christ.

Tape 1 - Side 2

M. RINGERMACHER: And that’s what happened close to 2,000 years ago. They teach the same thing, the same will go on, and on, and on, and on, and on to this day. And because of this, they’ve gave all this hate from the start, and that’s what happened.
CARGAS: Would you also say that you also will not return to Poland?
M. RINGERMACHER: No, what for? I’m not nobody.
E. RINGERMACHER: You won’t find anybody from our people, from the survivors what would return to Poland. Nobody.
M. RINGERMACHER: I couldn’t find my father’s grave even when I came back.
E. RINGERMACHER: It was everything demolished.
M. RINGERMACHER: See, look at this. I couldn’t find my father’s grave. He was—he died—
E. RINGERMACHER: –beginning of the war.
M. RINGERMACHER: –he died naturally in 1942.
M. RINGERMACHER: And I buried him over there in that town. When I came back, I came back to see if my—if somebody is left from our family, and I wanted to go on my father’s grave. And this I didn’t–I couldn’t get here.
E. RINGERMACHER: And people what really, what I think were good to me, they said, “You better go away from here.” They was talking to me, all my friends, all my—
M. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, because they knew she was one that was good.
M. RINGERMACHER: And they knew that it could happen again.
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, they had bad organizations over there. What those organizations do?
E. RINGERMACHER: What was this for?
M. RINGERMACHER: This was a real anti-Semitic organization, A.K. This was special to look for the Jews in those times, in those Hitler—and more in the war time. Special people, Akah they called them.
CARGAS: They were cooperating with the people that captured them, invaders.
M. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, it seems like it because they were looking there a special organization to look for the Jews, to find them and to give them over to the SS, to the Nazis.
E. RINGERMACHER: The Polish people was always waiting ‘til the Germans gonna drive us out from the town, to take over the homes and to get everything what we had.
M. RINGERMACHER: One professor was over there in our town. What was his name? He was a good friend of—
M. RINGERMACHER: Don’t you remember that professor from—
E. RINGERMACHER: I know he was such a heavy guy, a pro—
E. RINGERMACHER: No, no, no, a Pole.
E. RINGERMACHER: Intellectual, yeah.
M. RINGERMACHER: He was a something here from the one percent.
E. RINGERMACHER: You didn’t saw Jewish professors over there. There was no Jewish professors. It was very hard to get to a college at that time.
M. RINGERMACHER: Oh, in Warsaw—
E. RINGERMACHER: In Warsaw a few people got into colleges, but not in the small towns. You couldn’t go into a college.
M. RINGERMACHER: In Warsaw and Vilna and those bigger towns, except they were in the Jewish education. In Jewish education there were big people like big Rabbis and well, well, very well educated. But not professors like here with all kinds of subjects.
CARGAS: Well, in your opinion, is the world forgetting the Holocaust?
E. RINGERMACHER: I don’t think so. We wouldn’t let them to forget the Holocaust. That’s what the Jewish people trying to do. That’s what all the survivors and that’s what all the rest Jewish people, whoever understands, whoever cares, and people like you. It’s some now who are getting all together. You know, co-education. And I think the longer it takes, the more people start to revive everything. They want to find out what it was. For instance, now we hear more about the Holocaust than ten years ago. Like I said the other day, “In a few years, a few years later, we’re gonna be antiques.” {LAUGHING}
M. RINGERMACHER: We would like to continue this in a tradition not be forgotten–
M. RINGERMACHER: –in order it should not be renewed, those kinds of things.
E. RINGERMACHER: That’s why we have to keep up Israel, to feel a little more secure. As long as we got Israel, we feel more secure because when we was in Poland, we didn’t have anything else. But, if you understand Polish, “Zydi do Palestini” (Jews go to Palestine), this was the slogan. We didn’t have any other things, from all my best friends.
CARGAS: This was the slogan of the Jews?
M. RINGERMACHER: No, it was the Poles. “Go to Israel.”
E. RINGERMACHER: “Zydi do Palestini”, that’s all they could say.
M. RINGERMACHER: I wish we both could go.
E. RINGERMACHER: “It’s no place for you in here. Go to Israel.”
M. RINGERMACHER: We didn’t have no place. To United States we couldn’t go because, in that time, there were no emigration here, and we couldn’t get out from over there. If we would be able, we would head for Israel, they would take us in. But there were no Israel in that time, so we couldn’t go. We had to be over there.
CARGAS: You are president of the Habonim Society. What exactly, for the book, is the Habonim Society?
E. RINGERMACHER: For your book? I don’t know about the Habonim Society. It is a small group of survivors.
CARGAS: Just a St. Louis group?
M. RINGERMACHER: In St. Louis, yeah.
E. RINGERMACHER: They have such organizations all over, but maybe they call it different all other societies. We gave the name “The Habonim”. That’s the survivors. So we are a small group. It was 100 families, but now I don’t think—
M. RINGERMACHER: It went down.
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, probably about eighty families in St. Louis. And the only thing we got—that’s all what we got in common. We understand each other, and we work together. We meet each other, and we remember the Holocaust, and we try to do whatever it’s possible.
CARGAS: What is possible?
M. RINGERMACHER: Oh, we’re helping some of our people here what they need something.
E. RINGERMACHER: We’re helping, yeah. We got a few—we got a couple—a few women that really need help. We try to help, and we try every year not to forget the memorial. And we work—we try not to forget Israel.
CARGAS: Tell me, Mr. Ringermacher, what do you do?
M. RINGERMACHER: We have a place in—
E. RINGERMACHER: –Normandy Shopping Center, a tailor shop. He’s a tailor.
CARGAS: And both of you work there?
E. RINGERMACHER: We both work, yeah.
M. RINGERMACHER: I was a tailor in the Old Country.
CARGAS: My grandfather, too, was a tailor.
CARGAS: I’m sorry, but I do not have your first name.
CARGAS: Esther.
E. RINGERMACHER: And my husband’s name is Morris.
CARGAS: Morris I have. Mrs. Morris I have.
CARGAS: And the other thing I want to ask you is—now in the book some people will permit their names to be used with their stories. Others prefer to use another name.
M. RINGERMACHER: We, another name.
CARGAS: You would like another name?
M. RINGERMACHER: Yeah. Would you like to be in the book?
E. RINGERMACHER: I don’t care. Whatever’s convenient for you. Yaffa Eliach was not afraid of her name.
M. RINGERMACHER: I’m not afraid of it.
CARGAS: She will be helping me. I told you in the letter.
E. RINGERMACHER: I met her. She was at the Holocaust Memorial.
CARGAS: Elie Wiesel will be helping me. And do you think it would be proper for me to try to get in touch with some people from the Habonim Society? So far, I have three people that I’m starting with, you and Henry Stricker.
E. RINGERMACHER: Henry Strick.
CARGAS: Strick, sorry, Henry Strick.
E. RINGERMACHER: Oh, did you talk with Henry Strick?
CARGAS: I have an appointment for Wednesday night.
E. RINGERMACHER: For Wednesday night.
CARGAS: He tells me that he is very sick.
E. RINGERMACHER: A young man.
CARGAS: He’s a young man.
E. RINGERMACHER: He’s very nice.
CARGAS: He told me, he said, “You must come soon. I don’t have very long.” In fact, he wanted tonight.
E. RINGERMACHER: No, he’s not gonna die today or tomorrow, no, no, but he’s a very sick man.
CARGAS: And also Leo Wolf.
E. RINGERMACHER: Uh-huh, yeah.
CARGAS: But I would like to interview perhaps twenty or thirty people to get a bigger picture.
CARGAS: Yeah, but I don’t think I have to go outside of St. Louis because the experiences will be here.
E. RINGERMACHER: That’s right.
CARGAS: You agree. So, if you could help me with other names, fine. If you’d rather not, fine.
E. RINGERMACHER: I could give you names. Why not?
CARGAS: Should I telephone you about this or—
M. RINGERMACHER: First of all, you have to get in touch with that name what you wanted to give, in case she would—
E. RINGERMACHER: No, no, I can give Professor Cargas the name, and he’ll call up, and—
CARGAS: I’ll write a letter like I wrote you and ask if they want to—
E. RINGERMACHER: –if they want to cooperate. Who gave you my name?
CARGAS: Jordan Harburger of the American Jewish Committee. He’s kind of new here.
CARGAS: He is a wonderfully cooperative man. I worked with him on several things. He’s very well organized, very knowledgeable, and he is a good soul, you know. And so I was very grateful to him. He got somebody to donate to me, a stranger, all the tapes I need which is kind of expensive. So that’s very nice, somebody who himself left Germany like in 1939 or something like that, just before—
E. RINGERMACHER: –just before, yeah. A lot of Germans escaped right before the war, yeah.
CARGAS: And so I’m grateful to him. Well, if I could get just three or four or five names, then perhaps they will give me other names. I could write them.
E. RINGERMACHER: I’ll give him Kogel’s name. Kogel. Maybe a few other not Polish.
CARGAS: Oh, fine—
E. RINGERMACHER: Leo Wolf is from Lodz, what I told you. And Strick, I don’t know from where he is.
CARGAS: I’ll find out.
E. RINGERMACHER: Henry Strick.
M. RINGERMACHER: Kogel is not from Poland.
E. RINGERMACHER: Kogel is from Belgium.
CARGAS: Yeah, that’s important to have from other places.
E. RINGERMACHER: —from Belgium. And Mrs. Katz—from where is she? Czechoslovakia. So you’ll have a few other countries.
CARGAS: Mr. Kogel? Is that C-O-?
CARGAS: Do you remember his first name?
CARGAS: Charles. And do you think he’s in the phone book?
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
M. RINGERMACHER: We have them right year, you know, the numbers.
CARGAS: I prefer to write them first so he can think about it, and then if he wants so say, “No”, I want him to feel free to say, “No”. I don’t want to intrude.
E. RINGERMACHER: That’s right. So you’ll have a picture from all over. They are from Poland.
CARGAS And Mr. Kurtz?
CARGAS: Do you know her first name?
CARGAS: Regina. Okay, if you could give me their addresses, then, I will leave because I know this is taking your time.
CARGAS: Do you read much about the Holocaust, or do you prefer not to?
M. RINGERMACHER: I will tell you, I don’t have—what I know, my knowledge is without reading.
CARGAS: You don’t need the books, do you?
E. RINGERMACHER: No, the books we don’t—I have enough, I have enough without the books, and then when we watch too much movies, then we cannot sleep at night.
CARGAS: You know, this week the 81st Blow is going to be on.
E. RINGERMACHER: I know. I read about the 81st Blow, so I had the same thing. He got eighty blows, I had thirty blows (LAUGHING). So I had the same thing in my concentration camp. I was working in Leipzig when I told you in ammunition fabric—
CARGAS: Ammunition factory.
E. RINGERMACHER: –and we was working at night—yeah, ammunition factory–Treblinka—when I start to talk Polish or German. So I’m getting so mixed up that I don’t know Polish and German and English, so I get all mixed up. But when we was working, and I had the night shift, at night. And I couldn’t make my quota. We had to make each night so much and so much, a quota. And my mother was working near me, and my sister was working near me, and some other people. So finally, whenever we make the quota, the next day they gave us another—they raised the quota. Finally I said, “What’s gonna be? We’re gonna fail here at night.” And I was weak. I was young and weak and not like, you know. (LAUGHING) And I was telling the girls, I said, “Listen, girls, let’s—if everybody is not gonna make the quota, they cannot kill everybody. They’re not gonna kill everybody.” So finally, I don’t know, it leaked somehow, and we had a Polish guy,
CARGAS: a superintendent
E. RINGERMACHER: –a supervisor (SHE USES A POLISH WORD) it means a supervisor, a Polish—
M. RINGERMACHER: a foreman like–
E. RINGERMACHER: and a young guy, too. And I thought he was very good. I don’t know if he eard something or what. So he went to the German boss, and he told this. He told this to the German boss, and they called me into the office.
And he said, “Did you told this to the girls?”
I said, “No.” (LAUGHING)
They called him in, and he said, “Yes, she told the girls not to make the quota, and they didn’t make the quota.”
So they took me to the bunker. You know what’s a bunker is? And out—not to a bunker. They didn’t let me go to a bunker right away, but they took me—they made like a little court. They did make like a court. And this Polish guy was, and the Germans, the German, the German Heinrich, how you say?—the—meister
CARGAS: Commander?
E. RINGERMACHER: The commander from the whole work was there, and they didn’t ask me nothing. But this—and this SS man was standing around, and this Polish guy said, “Yes, she told them not to make the quota, and she didn’t make it.”
And the German guy, the Heinrich, the German guy stood up and he said—this is like—I told you this, I don’t know. It’s just my luck, I don’t know who did this. And he said, “She’s a good worker” on me, the German. He was an elderly man. And he said, “She’s a good worker.” If not, they would shoot me right away. But as long as he said this, they took me away and they ordered thirty lashes, thirty lashes. So, well, I didn’t know how many they give me, but I fell unconscious, and then they let me into a dark bunker and a little bottle of water, that’s all. And I was there overnight. Next day they came and took me out to work. And my family saw me, they thought that a ghost comes because everybody thought that I am dead, and they didn’t know what happened that they let me go.
CARGAS: You didn’t know this German man?
E. RINGERMACHER: I didn’t know him. I worked for him the whole time. I never talked to him privately. One time, yes, one time I talked to him because one time—every few weeks was like they came and the sick people they took away. They sent out to death camps. So my mother was older, was a older woman, but she was very strong. In fact, she helped me always. I was weak. When I didn’t make my quota, she used to do a little for me. She finished hers first. She was strong, and then she did for me, finished for me. So one time this German guy came, and he said to my mother, “Next day you gonna leave from here.”
And I heard this, and I started to cry, and I went to his office, and said, “Mr. Heinrich, if you sending out my mother, send me, too. Send me , too. I want to go wherever my mother goes.”
He didn’t send my mother. He didn’t send my mother. He left my mother, and he left me. I don’t know.
M. RINGERMACHER: You asked a question before about surviving, and the question, “How did you survive?” It’s just by luck, by luck. I was lucky, and I’ll tell you about this, too. When I was in Schlieben, in that concentration work camp, the people who were with me together—a few hundred over there, I don’t know how many—seven hundred people. And those people, after three months, they couldn’t survive. They died. They got swollen, and they died—one and two and three and four and five. And you asked me how did I survive. My boss, my foreman, the name was Willy. He was like a foreman. He brought me almost every day a sandwich. I don’t know why.
CARGAS: He was a German?
M. RINGERMACHER: A German, yeah. He was the one from the, you know, from Poland, from the workers. He brought me every day, every day, every second day two pieces of bread with sugar, sometimes with jam. That’s why I—he gave me this. He liked me. I was liked by him. You know, I was a tailor. Maybe I did something for him. I fixed him the cap what he wears. I don’t know. He found out that I am a tailor, and then every couple days I fixed him something, and he bring me something. So I survived. Other people with me, from the soup, from those soup. They gave soup with water and mixed in something inside, and they called it soup. And they couldn’t survive being over there a few months. They got swollen, and they died, and I survived.
CARGAS: Mrs. Ringermacher used one word that I didn’t understand. She said “Poland for me is black”?
E. RINGERMACHER: Blood, blood. It’s blood. Because I remember all those camps, all those gas chambers, all those concentration camps full of blood.
M. RINGERMACHER: See in our town alone—
M. RINGERMACHER: –there are graves from 30,000; 20,000 people.
E. RINGERMACHER: In Skarzysko was a Hussak. I don’t know if you know what—
E. RINGERMACHER: Hussak is a German ammunition fabrics. This was the name, the Hussaks, ammunition factories, yeah. What was the name the Hussaks. And this was Skarzysko was an ammunition town. Before even the Germans came, Poland used to have—
M. RINGERMACHER: It was the center of our–
E. RINGERMACHER: –ammunition factory, our town. The whole town was living, they was making a living from the ammunition factory. It was special built outside the town, apart, like a village, just for those people what was working in the ammunition factory. They had good jobs, and they lived there. They was working in those factories. So when the Germans came in, they took over those ammunition factories, and the Germans conducted it, and they took in Jews. They brought in every morning the whole town Jews to work. In the night they sent them home. This is before the—this is when we used to live in the ghetto. They took in for work, and they sent out at night. And when they brought—all the way when they took those Jews from the town to that village, to that factory village—they didn’t allow, the SS men didn’t allow them to walk. They just chased them and shoot them and kill them all the way. So the whole way, they was running, here one dead, here one dead. And they brought them back on the—how you say?
M. RINGERMACHER: Stretchers.
E. RINGERMACHER: On the stretchers, yeah, the dead people all over the town. This we were seeing day and night.
M. RINGERMACHER: They put them in one grave—thousands and thousands.
E. RINGERMACHER: Every day we saw this every day we saw this. So that’s why I say that Poland is to go back—I wouldn’t go back. I couldn’t go back even for a visit because I see it, I see it right now. I told you the story about after the war what we had in our home town. I, you know, I thought that I’ll go home and everybody gonna take me in with open arms. That’s what I thought. And then I had my first good morning. I had, “You still alive? Why did you came back here?” Those our good people told us this. That’s why I say that Poland for me is full of blood. Whatever I think, whenever I think or—
M. RINGERMACHER: Sucked through, that’s all. Thousands and thousands of people are laying over there in graves, and that’s what is standing for our eyes, what always we will see with our eyes. There were dreams. We couldn’t be over there.
E. RINGERMACHER: The other, like Czechoslovakia people, are much nicer.
CARGAS: I was in Prague recently, and it’s a very sad city.
E. RINGERMACHER: A very sad city?
M. RINGERMACHER: Yeah, I can imagine today. Quiet, everything is like silent people.
CARGAS: Yes. And the eyes are very—
M. RINGERMACHER: Silent people. It’s not in that time when I was in 1946, I was in ’45 in Prague. Yeah, I was in Prague before I went home. I went from Theresienstadt to Prague and then from Prague to Poland. I can tell you when I came and I went off the train in Prague, I asked the first one what I met, and I asked where to go to this and this place. He didn’t even show me; he didn’t even tell me. He took me by the arm and went with me over there where I wanted to go.
E. RINGERMACHER: No, but there is better people. Much better people.
M. RINGERMACHER: He didn’t say, “Go over there, go over there” because he knew that I wouldn’t know. He took me by the arm, and he went with me over there where I wanted to go. Very friendly people.
E. RINGERMACHER: That’s what I told my husband when—
M. RINGERMACHER: I think like you say, they are silent. They don’t know what to say. They are afraid.
E. RINGERMACHER: I know the Polish people don’t like the Russians either.
M. RINGERMACHER: No, they don’t. They have no—
E. RINGERMACHER: They don’t like the Russians.
M. RINGERMACHER: This I can tell you one thing that the Polish people are not Communists.
CARGAS: Uh-huh.
E. RINGERMACHER: I don’t think so.
M. RINGERMACHER: They don’t like them; they hate them.
CARGAS: This is Mr. Kogel and Mrs. Katz. (PAUSE; SHUFFLING PAPERS) I should dress better when I come to them.
E. RINGERMACHER: Why? You do dress comfortable. (LAUGHING) Mrs. Katz is 185 New Ballas Road in Creve Coeur.
M. RINGERMACHER: It’s straight farther out west.
CARGAS: Yes. I know where that is. 63141?
E. RINGERMACHER: 41, yeah.
CARGAS: Okay. And do you have a telephone number right there?
E. RINGERMACHER: Yeah. 567-4585.
CARGAS: First, I’ll write the letter, and then I’ll call.
CARGAS: I don’t drink much; I cannot drink much, but this is very good because it’s cold, thank you. (PAUSE; PAPER SHUFFLING)
E. RINGERMACHER: And Kogel, Charles Kogel. It’s 10355 Sannois Drive.
CARGAS: How do you spell that?
E. RINGERMACHER: S-A-N-N-O-I-S. That’s also Creve Coeur, but this is where the JCCA is.
CARGAS: Oh, yes.
E. RINGERMACHER: It’s Beau Jardine, the subdivision Beau Jardine.
CARGAS: And that’s 41.
CARGAS: Do you have the telephone number?
E. RINGERMACHER: 567-4743.
CARGAS: That’s good. Thank you very much. I’ll write to them in a couple of days.
E. RINGERMACHER: I should have given Joe’s maybe, Joe’s number?

Listen to Esther and Morris' Story