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Henry Changar

Image of holocaust survivor henry changer
Nationality: Polish
Location: Poland • Russia • Treblinka • Warsaw
Experience During Holocaust: Concealed Jewish Identity • Escaped the Holocaust • Family Died During the Holocaust • Family Died in Concentration Camp • Family Died in Ghetto • Family Died of Starvation • Lived in a Displaced Persons camp • Lived in Warsaw Ghetto • Sent to Concentration Camp • Sent to Ghetto • Worked with the Todt Organisation

Mapping Henry's Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Henry. 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.

“They found – they heard a baby cry. They tore up the partition over there in the attic with boards, was a mother and a baby, in a crib. They shot the mother. They put the baby against the wall and they said, 'Do you want to get some target practice?' He says, 'I bet you you don’t hit the eye,' from 30 yards away, or something like that. They – they took the baby and they shot both eyes, the baby’s eyes out.” - Henry Changar

Read Henry's Oral History Transcripts

Read the transcripts by clicking the red plus signs below.

Tape 1, Side 1

PERRY: This is a record of the history of Mr. Henry Changar, which was done on Wednesday, May the 5th, 1984. The interviewer is Eli Perry.
CHANGAR: This is Henry Changar. What happened? I start our interview around 1930. The reason for this is that my father died, I was eight years old. He was 36. He died very sad, brain hemorrhage. I was in second class; I was in grammar school. And I was not lucky, to say, I might have been the fattest of the fattest boys in school, introverted, and because of my physical looks I did not have too many friends. I was very serious in school. After a while – now all schools were paid by the Polish government; it was in Warsaw. So, some schools in the Jewish neighborhood, these schools were predominantly, I’m talking about Jewish pupils; the Christian neighborhoods they were attended by Christians. Very few of them, very few Protestants, mostly Catholics. Being more serious, after a couple of years, I was sent out of my neighborhood to a school attended by Christian kids.
The language we talked at home was Polish. The only time I hear Yiddish is when there were people who talk Yiddish and I talked with mother who spoke Yiddish if she wanted to. And my grandparents spoke Yiddish among themselves. And so I naturally had some Christian friends, and some Jewish friends. My neighborhood where I lived then, it was, I would say, 75 percent Yiddish, or Jewish, and about 25 percent Christian. We lived on the edge of the Warsaw ghetto at that time, on the edge of the Jewish neighborhood. To go to school, to a Christian school, you’re going to have to take a streetcar or walk about 15 or 20 minutes, because that’s how far we were from Christian neighborhood, even though there was entirely approximately five percent Jewish over there. And Mr. –
PERRY: Perry.
CHANGAR: Mr. Perry asked me about antisemitism. Well, in the school I went to, we had about five Jewish boys, maybe. The rest were Christians. I was the good Jew. The only time I was asked to go to a public park to go beat up on the Jews, to beat up on the Jewish, of course, I refused. (LAUGHTER) And we did have a Jewish teacher who came once, sometimes twice a week to learn the Jewish history, not Hebrew. The same as the priest come and taught the Christian kids catechism. The Polish language that I spoke at home and at school was perfect, with no Yiddish accent, which helped me to survive the war.
Now, let’s jump to 1937, ’38, depression time, which was bad over here and worse in Warsaw. The rate of suicide was very, very great. My grandfather on my father’s side, who I didn’t know, his name was Goldfeier. He was the president of the Jewish congregation. There was, before that time, at the time that I am speaking now, he had a private high school. Incidentally, I never met him and I don’t know what he was like at that time, but I know that my brother went to his high school. And then there was no, he died I guess, and the high school was closed. And my brother had a hard time getting into a state, a city high school, of course being Jewish. He attended couple of years and then he had to quit. Depression, I guess, hurt everybody. I had quit my school, quit, I mean, and I wanted to work. I was about 10 and a half; that could have been in 1932, ’33. And I, what you would call, run away from home. I stayed at my grandparents’ a few days, a few weeks. My parents probably knew about it.
When I came back home, I got a job in a small factory – I don’t know how to express it – but they made sweaters and socks, very, very high-priced merchandise. And I was more or less a boy to sweep the floors. Every dime helped. Later I worked in a store that was, the street was Nalewki, which was pretty known by the Jewish people who had come from around Warsaw, because this was the business district of Warsaw, mostly owned by Jewish business people. And I worked in a store that was selling buttons. And because I was so eager to wait on customers, I was fired from that store. There around I got a job on a street called Karnelicka (?) which was just a few blocks where the uprising started. And down the corner on Nalewki there was a textile store, union store.
I had to belong to the union and I had to go to, because of the government orders, everybody had to go to school ’til he was 18 and so the union required. So I went, I worked ’til about three o’clock, ’til four o’clock – the store was open ’til seven – and then I went to business high school at night time which they open ’til nine o’clock to learn bookkeeping, lettering, window display, things like that. Meantime, back at home, oh, I was sweeping the floor, waiting on the customers sometime, when everybody was busy in a textile store. The owner’s name was Zauberman, big man. Very proud, a self-made man, fairly wealthy. That doesn’t mean that he drove a car. Most people walked. You could hardly find a garage over there.
Most people in Warsaw lived in apartment buildings. There were no garages. I remember the owner of my apartment building; there were 36 tenants. He had a car. Once in a while he came. We had to mail our rent. And I, of course, I was a delivery boy at the same time. My boss, normally when I had some delivery to make to a customer, he gave me streetcar money. And by this time, we are getting to 1938 and ’39. I was over there for a couple of years, I guess, and I always walked and brought the dime home.
The reason the family needed the extra few dimes was because we were in embroidery business. What you would call “sweatshop” over here. It was at home. We lived on the third floor and, actually it was the fourth floor as you start counting over here. No elevators. The apartment had four rooms, which was pretty nice. We had three girls doing the embroidery. And when my father was still alive – so this was before 1930. Once a week, he used to take raw material to small towns around Warsaw, the embroidery material. Most of our embroidery, we were working for the armed forces, insignia, army insignia and so on. Under contract, and, of course, the depression hit the government as hard as it hit everybody else. Somebody came up with an idea to make the stamp of the insignia out of metal.
Imagine four rooms, stuck with boxes of finished insignia, epaulets, things like this, up to the ceiling sometimes – hallways, it was all over the place, getting ready for delivery. Because of the metal insignia that the government was able to buy at a fraction of the price, they cancelled the contract, which we worked on for about a year or more. Putting every penny into raw materials to get the embroidery done and then we were stuck with it, with no compensation, and pretty soon the war broke out. It was 1939. (TAPE STOPS)
I’ll drop now to about 1932. It was two years after my father died. My mother remarried. She married an unemployed musician who came back from Paris. I had placards showing him with his orchestra. He was a violinist. He had a son who was a convert to Christianity, living in France, in Paris, and they had a Polish tourist bureau. His sister, or his sister-in-law, lived near quite a few family members living in Paris, lived over there, and there was a younger brother who went to school over there.
PERRY: Your younger brother?
CHANGAR: No, younger stepbrother, let’s call him stepbrother.
PERRY: Okay, stepbrother. Do you have any other natural brothers?
CHANGAR: Yes, I had one natural brother who I mentioned.
PERRY: How about sisters?
CHANGAR: No sisters. There were only two. This younger brother, stepbrother, came back to Warsaw with my stepfather and lived with his aunt who was my stepfather’s sister. And they had – they were very wealthy people. They had, they had an apartment building which had three courtyards. I would say, about, at least 100 apartments, and, in turn, they had a iron or steel works. It was in Warsaw – no, it wasn’t in Warsaw, it was around Warsaw. So they were very well fixed. A few days after our mother remarried, she sent the boy home to us. Now there was depression already which should I say was a lot harder because we had very little reserve.
And then – but this was the story. My stepfather was very well educated. So was my mother. She went to finishing school. She went to college. Most of my uncles went to college. The one that’s in St. Louis went to college. His name is Morris Changar. He was the youngest of seven brothers.
After a while, my father played some theaters and then he got a job with the Warsaw Philharmonic as a third violinist. Then he played an alto violin, after he started with the alto violin, he became third violinist. And after the Germans started sending money for propoganda, anti-Jewish propaganda, all Jews were fired. There was a depression there, too, from the Philharmonic, and so most of state and city offices, this was city-run and paid by the city.
And then, since then, he had a few odd jobs here and there. One time he played in the circus. He played the violin with gloves on. Except the tips of his fingers were exposed. There weren’t even – he played ______ theater, it’s called _____ theater, on Nalewki (?) small theater, pretty little theater, which was the music concerts, plays and things, similar to the size to the one that we have at Westport. That was round. And we had, we didn’t have to have, me and my brother, and my mother, we didn’t have to have free tickets. We just came backstage and watched the orchestra. Sometime we see one of my other uncles. Perhaps, he wasn’t an uncle because he was my mother’s female cousin’s second husband. He made handmade or handmade costumes for the actresses, so he was over there, too, many times.
Anyway, going back home. It was hard to get a job, wintertime. My stepfather felt that administration of the business was at home and helped in any that he can. We always had a live-in, live-in maid which wasn’t too much of a luxury because the depression was there and for a very small few dollars, a few zloty a month or a week, and clothes and food and lodging – she slept in the kitchen. That freed my mother for growing to learn the business. Even when the war started, we had one that was of German ancestry – it was a German maid.
PERRY: Unbelievable.
CHANGAR: And (PAUSE) goin’ back to the…we had the contract cancelled and the boxes stacked up and no money in reserve. There was some few stocks and bonds and things, and some were pretty hard to cash unless they are Americans, little coupon things. So we burned them. We had a ceramic or clay tile furnace which was in the corner of the four rooms all the way from the first floor all the way up through the attic, to the chimney. The door to the furnace, or oven you might say, or heater, whatever, the door was open to the living room. From then, it was mostly coal fired. And whoever, you fired it with whatever you can. So we burned most of the things. Coal was hard to get.
PERRY: You used it for fuel.
CHANGAR: For fuel, yes, coal was hard to get. And then, can I start with the war?
PERRY: Yes, if you’d like to now, sure.
CHANGAR: And, one day we woke up and we see big yellow…
PERRY: Placards?
CHANGAR: Placards, stretched from one side of the street to the other. It said, “Seuchengefahr. Typhus – typhoid fever. Enter at your own risk.”
PERRY: You evidently knew German then, too? You said you spoke Polish at home.
CHANGAR: Yes, let’s, let me back up again, to the bombing. Let me back up over here. As I said, I’ve been here since ’47, so memory…
PERRY: Sure, no, it’s hard to remember but…
CHANGAR: You want to know, day by day, or by one week…?
PERRY: Well, whichever is easiest for you.
CHANGAR: The Germans bombed Warsaw for about three weeks.
PERRY: After the war broke out?
CHANGAR: That’s right. 1939, it was August or September. And the Polish army and the civilians barricaded the streets. And the German tanks and so on – the German tanks tried to cross it. They just threw gasoline on the far edge of, they would throw it out of the windows and get it on fire. The Germans couldn’t get through. This was very hard bombing; they bombed – most of the tops of the tall buildings were bombed off. (PAUSE)
My mother was a very wise woman. Her father was a very wise man. He was a cabinet maker across the street. He had a cabinet shop on the same street, a street called Karnelicka. When I was a kid, I used to make a nickel or dime helping over there to make cut out. Monograms, the flowers, the veneer that people ordered for the doors, as a dowry or as a present. I was very good at it. Look around you, and there’s a lot of things you’ll see around you. They are made by me. The table you see over here was made by me.
PERRY: Oh, this is gorgeous.
CHANGAR: This chest over there was made by me. That’s one of the first things I made for the home, in the other home. There’s a lot of things downstairs. And this house that you’re sitting in right now, it was a frame, was a prefab, it arrived and I put the floors down and the plasterboard, and the bricks on the outside, they were laid by me. So I was pretty handy. Some of the things were made by my wife, embroidered. I could also embroider. Because many times there was a rush order and many times, “Henry, sit down.”
PERRY: Embroider.
CHANGAR: Embroider. You’re going to hear the name “Henry” in Polish it’s Henryk, for short it’s “Heniek.” As I mentioned before, on my birth certificate there was no name Hirsch. They didn’t write my Yiddish name or my Jewish name…my Hebrew name was Hirsch, or Hirschel. “Havash” we called it in Warsaw. Sound of the “e.” Jewish from the other parts of Poland say it as an “e;” we say it as an “a.” We say, “Fleisch.” You probably heard the expression “fleisch,” which is meat, they say “fleisch.” Bagels, I say “beigels.” Of course I say bagels now. But that’s – you had different dialects of Yiddish throughout Poland.
PERRY: Well, did you speak Yiddish too?
CHANGAR: No, but I understood a few words that my mother didn’t want me to understand. She spoke Yiddish to my father, to her mother. And so, I do know how to say it. And we going back to, well actually, my mother was a very, very smart woman. She used to be, when she was young, a saleslady herself in a haberdashery. My stepfather, from father’s side, whom I didn’t know, he died of heart attack. He was a religious man. His wife wasn’t. She didn’t wear a scheitel, a schaitel. Okay, I catch myself once in a while. And every summer she would go to Baden-Baden which is German resorts and things like that, to France or someplace else. I knew, I never knew them. They died before, died before I was born.
My mother’s parents, to the contrary, my grandmother was very religious. My grandfather was not. She would not serve him breakfast until he prayed. Of course, he didn’t wear a yarmulke. She wore a sheitel. And she wore black or white socks. She wore nothing but black or white. When he died, she didn’t say Kaddish. She always read the bible.
PERRY: When your natural father died, she didn’t say Kaddish?
CHANGAR: No, when her husband died. He died heart attack.
PERRY: Yeah, that was your father, wasn’t it?
CHANGAR: No, his stepfather.
PERRY: Was he religious?
CHANGAR: No, he was not, he wasn’t very religious, but he was, my parents, my mother was not, my mother was not religious. But when my stepmother, her mother, came to visit…As I said, I never knew my stepparents from my father’s side. I had pictures; my uncle has some. She would eat nothing, drink water or tea. As I told you on the telephone, she would stir the tea with the wrong side of the spoon. So, God forbid, the spoon might have been used for something that wasn’t kosher.
A lot of Jews in Warsaw and all over, all over Eastern Poland, on Saturdays, we ate cholent. My grandmother found out about it and she went to the bakery shop. Most Jews know that they have to bring it to the bakery shop, it bakes overnight; you pick it up Saturday morning. A big cast iron pot covered with brown paper and the name on top of that. And she went there to the bakery shop to tell that our cholent wasn’t kosher.
PERRY: Why not?
CHANGAR: Because it wasn’t made with kosher meat. And, possibly, when the war started we were with pork. That’s all you could get, so you couldn’t get. Poland grows a lot of pork. The pork was too high a price. Then they _____ because that was big demand, of pork, hams, and so forth. Let’s say, you put a big piece of pork on the bottom so that the cholent didn’t burn up. Because you always put the meat with the fat down, next to the gristle, you put the fat down to the bottom. It was hot on the bottom. The heat came from the bottom. And this saves the meat from being burned up, just the fat. Not the meat touched the pot, but the onions and whatever they put other things over it too, not only for the taste, but to insulate the food from the bottom of the pot.
Now this is about my grandmother. She died of a heart attack…it was during the war. Just before the war, when they started making handmade – machine made furniture and so on, he sold out his shop, whatever he could of the machinery. And they went to the city of Ostrok (?), which was a resort city for people who had, who had, what is the lung disease that you get?
PERRY: Tuberculosis.
CHANGAR: Tuberculosis. They had baths over there and all kind of things. It was before. I had an uncle with a sweatshop, old factory, manufacturing children’s clothes. He sold all the way out just before the war and went to Paris. I have no knowledge where he is and what. The war was coming up and my grandparents came back to Warsaw. They closed the restaurant, or sold the restaurant. A lot of relatives came back to Warsaw, and lived with us, lived with another sister. My uncle left for Paris. And it was before the war. But he, grandfather, died just before the war. Died of a heart attack, I remember him laying down; they pushed me away, but I just looked through the door and…
In fact, when my father died, they, I was on my way from school. There were businesses on the street, the stores, near the apartment building I lived. They grabbed me and would not let me up. Everybody cried. I couldn’t cry at that time, eight years old. Shocked me. But I make a mention of it, I started crying. My voice broke down. It probably is now. (PAUSE) And, let’s go back…
PERRY: You started to tell me…and I asked you to go back – before you got started on the war. Remember when you started to tell me that they put the placards up?
CHANGAR: You want me to go again back?
PERRY: To the war, yes.
CHANGAR: My mother, as I was saying, she was very smart woman. She seen what was happening. But the Germans were marching on Warsaw. I had another friend in Warsaw. She called the farmer and she sold all the furniture, not, not all the upholstery furniture, but the tables, chairs, chifferobes used as our closets, breakfronts, things like this, which were all made by my stepfather, by my grandfather, for several wagons of potatoes.
CHANGAR: Each tenant had his own little cellar under the finished floor which was padlocked. Our cellars were not paved, they were dirt bottom. And they had a small window, like the basements over here, each one had a small little window, glass and iron or whatever it was. And when you opened the door there were so many potatoes. When you opened the door you…you had to, you had to be careful to open the door because some of the potatoes spilled out. We had so many potatoes, you know, loaded through the window. There was, when we knew that war was starting or already started, that gave us about 12 days or something like that. I was 16 years old.
The janitor was Christian, like all janitors in the Jewish neighborhood, Christian, and I went to school with his kids. One of his boys, the older boy was about my age; the younger one was two years younger. I was 16; he would have been 14. We decided early, going into the bombing, Warsaw is already under siege, German tanks, howitzers all the way around, German planes bombing Warsaw. They didn’t bomb like they bombed, like the Americans bombed or the Russians bombed. It wasn’t saturated bombing. They were the prettiest things what they bombed. They had the bomber-divers. He dived on the building when he wanted to, threw out bombs and up again to avoid the anti-aircraft fire. We decided, me and my friend, Olek was his name, we decided to get to the edge of Warsaw, the suburb of Warsaw, and see what we can find in the way of food. Some of the potatoes my mother traded for other food, for meat, for meat, for vegetables, for other vegetables, for other things that she cooked because these potatoes wouldn’t last that long, they started going rotten. Looked like a jungle, all growing toward the window where the light came in. Like vines. So we had to get rid of it fast for whatever we can. And some probably she sold for money. And some we traded for other things, other foods, whatever we could. You traded for rings, or diamonds, for anything of value that we could hold on to.
Me and my friend went to a suburb of Warsaw and, to dig up, the farmers run away from there, had junk gardens mostly, like around here too. They ran away because that’s where the German bombs fell and that’s where they bombed mostly. And we found a couple of cabbages; we didn’t find any potatoes. We kept them in a sack. We found a horse that was still alive. It was dying. It was hit by a shell. We cut some meat off the horse. The war was getting bad, the bombing, the bombs were worsening and the shells were worsening and we decided time to go on back. We already had a sack, he carried one side and I the other; we tied it. Carried it. And all of a sudden we seen about 15 artillery soldiers on horses; that’s Polish artillery. They went to fight the Germans.
They went to find the Czechs before the time because they got propaganda from Germans, “Germans were fighting Czechs because they took your territory, you have the white eagle on some of the Czech buildings, so you go fight them.” So, they pulled a couple of howitzers, a couple of squadrons what you would call it, the cannons weren’t too large but they pulled them. And then we heard the spotter plane, plane high up there.
And then the shells started coming, so I assume there was a spotter plane who gave orders to the battery and they started shelling, closer and closer ’til they started hitting those horses that were going in all different ways. A big shell hit one soldier in the leg on a horse and hit the horse, who died, then his leg was torn off. So we started running and a shell fell right next to me. It was so close that it threw me, I would say, about 30 feet, 40 feet, 50 feet, I don’t know how far (BREATHING DEEPLY) and I got up with Olek. I don’t remember whether we recovered, but he was running, matter of fact was running towards a building, was a big modern building, was on Zoliboc street of Warsaw, in a suburb of Warsaw where they building new buildings. Just like over here now, they start to convert farms into subdivisions and so on, and they did the same thing over there. And towards the building, and then the glass started falling down, so we ran away from the building. We seen signs “Red Cross Here, Red Cross Over There” with arrows. We went over there, in a basement, first-aid station.
But before we got there, I felt my hand was wet. I looked at my hand. My index finger was hanging loose, so as you can see, the index finger was hit by a shrapnel. Very small piece. And, you see, I was holding it this way, here. (DEMONSTRATES HOW HE HELD HIS FINGER AND SHOWING SCAR) See the scar? Started here. There was a little nurse over there, and she said, “When you go to the hospital, they’re going to take you to the hospital…” She bandaged my hand. The Polish government, the city government, requisitioned all taxi cabs, all trucks, everything. They (OVERTALK)
PERRY: May I change this? Let me stop this a second.
(End of Tape 1, Side 1)
CHANGAR: The nurse advised me to go to a certain hospital, came an ambulance and said they are going to a certain place, drop off the people wherever they can. And they loaded up, and I said, “No, I can take the next one.” Well, it was a half-hour or so, an hour, taxi cab came. And I said I want to go to this hospital, in a taxi cab, it took about 10 people. He said, “Okay, I’ll try to, but it’s pretty hard.” We started going this way and the street was barricaded, and the other way the street was barricaded. It was war so streets were closed. Craters, shell craters were all over the place and went to another, finally, went to the hospital, and I’m on Chlodna Ulitza and they said this is just for, for pregnant women, hospital, you know. And so we can’t. There is a hospital about 10 blocks west of here. And see if you can get over there. So we got to that hospital. Of course, we forgot about the hospital we were supposed to get to because we couldn’t get to it.
Well, they unloaded us over there. Us, me and another fellow, which they wouldn’t take him. They had the hospital full because the wounded people were laying on stretchers, in hallways, on floors, and blankets, and so on. And the driver says, “That’s as far as I’m going. I’m not going any place. Now you get out.” And we got over there.
I was several days over there. By that time the war ended in Warsaw. I could hear the Germans, police cars with the sirens and so on. And with the loudspeakers to urge the Polish people to get the barricades off because they’re gonna shut the water off, shut the electricity off, and shut everything off that hasn’t already been broken. And otherwise, we, so – There was, I don’t know how many doctors there were in the hospital. I only seen one. My nurse used to come every day and bandage my hand. That doesn’t mean she took the old bandage off. She just put the other bandage on. My hand was getting’ bigger, bigger until it started smelling – gangrene set in.
And she said one day, “Now, you’re gonna get operated on your hand. On your finger.” They got me on the operating table, and the doctor said, “We’re gonna sew it up for you.” I said, “Doctor, the finger is hangin’ loose.” I said, “There is no use.” He said, “We will operate and might save your hand, see if we can save your finger, and if we can save – the gangrene, and so on.” I said, “Cut it, just cut it down because it’s no use. I don’t want to have something that’s stiff and I won’t be able to use it.” “Well,” he said, “well, it’s going to look better than this.” And I got some, whatever they used at that time, morphine I guess, or something, put me to sleep. And sewed up the finger. It was the same story again. Bandage and bandage everyday, and bandage everyday.
Let me back up a few days. I couldn’t eat. Of course, there were some soldiers over there – one had, one had – his jaw shot off. Took his lower jaws out. All he had was just the flesh hanging over here. They were supposed to fit a mechanical jaw. And, all we had was cucumbers, lot of spaghetti and oil. Of course, I could eat it. He just (MAKES SUCKING NOISE) sucked the spaghetti.
One night, heavy shelling. I was by the window. They shell on the upper floors. The shell hit the floor under me. They shot up the whole floor from under me, and I fell with my bed, down the floor below. Luckily, soldiers sleeping, laying over there wasn’t hurt. I just got some small fragments of glass on my face. I think one leg had a tiny fragment. Took it out quite easily with tweezers. And then the war ended. To go back to the Germans – and one day we saw a German guard outside. That was an army hospital, which I didn’t know. German guard outside, nobody leaves, nobody comes. I was able to get a message to my parents, and this was summertime, to bring me clothes. I wanna get out of here because they, everybody is going to be workers. They are going to get everybody out. He said, “They will come in an hour. They will be there in an hour, an hour and a half.” This was pretty far from where I lived. This is not a convenience, or a taxi, or what have you, fine, or not, walk – anyway, they were there.
After a while, I don’t know how long it took, I was on the first floor, and they handed me clothes from outside the window. They gave me clothes which I put over the hospital pajamas, and I went home from over there. My mother said, “What happened?” And I said nothing. “You told me on the telephone that you got your knee shot off or something like that, which wasn’t true. It wasn’t shot off.” And she said, “Let’s get you to a doctor.” At the end of that long block, there was a doctor. His name was Rappaport. I remember he was four feet high. Very able. Had a dog. He said, “The visits cost you five zloty, operation or whatever you have. And a bucket of water. Two buckets of water, it’s free.” And it was on a second floor. And people were sitting, laying all over the staircase in the apartment building, too.
And during the war, everything was, because of the war, you walk around with a bucket of water, somebody went to the river to get a bucket of water, because Warsaw is on a river. And cover it up with a rag or something, big leaves, and people used to stay with cups, tin cups, some were attached to the bucket of water. They sell the water on the street, and coal. We jumped on a wagon and threw the coal around so, and if you picked up the coal…
PERRY: Had the Germans destroyed the water system, or just cut it off?
CHANGAR: No, they…it was just destroyed by shells. And of course when they said for Warsaw to surrender. They were still shelling, the war was on, and the water was still there. Well, I was in hospital, some pregnant women, from about 10 blocks, running from the other hospital with _______. On the way home with my parents in the taxi, I told the story of how I got to this hospital. “How come you got so far?” We passed by some of the other hospitals that the taxi driver wanted to drop me off, but I was stubborn. I want to go to my hospital, the hospital I was recommended to, which I wasn’t in the end but there was no other way we could go. There was no barricades yet taken away and then the falling shells and this taxi cab took the same way.
We passed by several hospitals. They were not there anymore. They weren’t there anymore. There was ruins because the Germans were bombing hospitals. They don’t care or give a damn whether it was a Red Cross sign on the roof or anything. Besides, the big buildings were shelled because everybody could hit the big building; they could see where they were. The small buildings, the small buildings got protected by the big buildings, and the hospitals were big buildings. So, there was my lucky…
When I got to this hospital, we say that the upper floor and the roof were shot off, too; but there was a big building close to the barracks. I guess that is where they shot some shells. Maybe because it was an army hospital, too, I guess they knew that.
And I went to this doctor, and I was ready, entered with a bucket of water, or two buckets of vodka and five zloty which was worth a dollar at that time because five zloty was a dollar. And before the war, that time the dollar was way up. It was war money. Polish money was nothing. Couldn’t buy a loaf of bread with it, two loaves of bread. A lady was over there with a big growth on her neck. She couldn’t straighten her neck, her head up. Her chin was touching her chest. The growth was of the size of a grapefruit on her neck. And, of course, she had very little of, what you call it, anesthetics – medicine so, mostly morphine, I guess that’s what he used. So he said, “It’s won’t hurt you. All I got to do is touch it with my scalpel, and a little pus is just going to come up, ’cause it’s so sharp.” Before he touched her, she screamed. Finally, he slapped her twice over her face…he just, and he cut across the growth, and pus just…and he said, “Nurse, go clean it up. Next.”
I was stretched on an operating table, lights and all. The nurse covered my face. I said, “Doctor, cut the finger off. I don’t want the finger.” “Maybe we can save it.” I said, “Doctor, I don’t want the finger. It’s stiff. It’s no use. The war is on, I don’t know how long it’s going to last. The Germans gonna keep goin’, they won’t stop, they’re gonna keep goin’.” “So, I see what I can do. If I think I can save it, I’ll save it. If not, I won’t.” The nurse put mask over my face. And a drop of morphine – was not morphine because it was sweet smelling. Then she says, “Start counting from 100 back. 100, 99,98,97.” I think I got to 93. I said, “93, 93,” and I heard the instruments. I said, “Doctor, I’m not asleep yet.” And I said, “Nurse.” And she says, “Go back on counting. 93, 93, this is where you stopped.” “93, 93,” I couldn’t function anymore.
PERRY: Sure.
CHANGAR: You know, before I knew it, I was up, and my hand was bandaged. I had to go a few more times. And started getting…he cut the finger off, sewed this one up. When I came to get the stitches out, it was scarred; flesh started growing, wild flesh. It was cancerous. Possibly, whatever, wild cells of flesh, he burned them with sulfuric acid. Growing and finally they quit. And I went over both to pay for a visit and pay him with what you have. The money had no value.
Anyway, when the Germans started surrounding the Jews and taking them into concentration camps, and so on…
PERRY: Had they established the ghetto yet?
CHANGAR: Not as yet. Not as yet. Let me finish with Dr. Rappaport. He was so able that the German army requisitioned him to be in the German army hospital – he was a Jew.
PERRY: That’s unbelievable.
CHANGAR: Unbelievable, yes. There was another unbelievable. My mother had glaucoma. My father, my uncle over here in St. Louis had glaucoma and still probably has it. I’ve got glaucoma on both sides of the family. It runs in the family. I’ve got it from both sides. Well, I had my eyes tested here in St. Louis by one of the finest doctors because my cousin is a optometrist and he recommended me to go to his doctor. They tested my eyes in a dark room and they said that the shape of my eyes are such, if I get glaucoma, it might be acute. Very, very bad, so if I get the glaucoma, starting seeing this way or that way, the way I may, on the far right, it looks like that. “You run fast and run to the doctor because when you get it, you get it very fast, it’ll blind you. You going to get it acute, just like your uncle has, but you’re going to have it acute.” He keeps putting drops in.
Going back to the doctor, the doctor who was treating my mother. I remember; the name is familiar to you. The name was Zemenhof. The street that he lived on was named after him. His father, who was still an eye doctor, discovered the language, or invented the language, Esperanto.
PERRY: Oh yes, now I remember.
CHANGAR: An international language, Esperanto. He was requisitioned by the German army. He was one of the finest doctors in Europe. His father spoke and wrote 27 languages. That’s why he invented Esperanto. Well, this is the episode.
Then I went home and, uh, in a few days, it was a few days, few weeks. It was a few days, few weeks, few months; I don’t remember. We had the placards hanging over, big banners from one side of the street to the other, yellow color. “There is a Seuchengefahr, danger of typhoid fever.” The infection, see the infection, the danger of infection, of course the Jewish half, houses, the Jewish place – and the Christians are advised, advised not to enter because of this Seuchengefahr. Before you know it, you started hearing the German trucks. The German soldiers started grabbing the Jews, and they would close out the block and everybody has got to work. And what was the work? The work was cleaning up the debris. The bricks and so on and dig away the ruins, clean up the bricks, clean up the streets, and cover up the craters and the tanks could come over, of course.
After a while you have streetcars pulled by horses, because they couldn’t afford enough electricity. And, the buses got pulled by horses because the Germans wouldn’t spare the gasoline. There was, gasoline was available on the black market that you could buy for a high price. But some trucks were still going and some bakery shops had trucks that would still be going for wheat and return to Warsaw, and other supplies and trucks and so on. Gasoline was available. They went through Warsaw – they just kept going east, the Germans. They didn’t stop at Warsaw. They had a treaty with Russia, a non-aggression treaty. So, Russia took part of Poland and Germany took part of Poland. That’s where they met. The borders were fairly open. A lot of Jews run to the Russian side. The Russians just turned their back and the Germans didn’t care. The army was still not as antisemitically inclined as were the SS and Nazi party, but eventually everyone was, almost let’s say 90 percent, were indoctrinated that Jews, Juden verrecken, the Jews gotta go, everything else doesn’t matter for the Jews, Christians, and all people. They started dividing the nation.
By the east Poland, there was the Ukrainians mostly taken over by the Russians. The south Poland were the mountain people, but in Polish they call them Gorale. They lived in the Tatra Mountains. They had white clothes made out of white – all handwoven, and handwoven hats and scarfs and what have you, and things like this. And they were better. Because they were suffering poverty, you know, before the war.
Other parts of Poland, those with German names or German ancestry, of course, they were suffering. They were German, “We came, we came to rescue you,” that was the idea; that the Polish government didn’t treat the German people, who have German ancestors right since during the centuries the borders changed so often over there in all the wars. Poland had a lot of umber. You know what this is, don’t you?
PERRY: A what?
CHANGAR: Umber, umber, the big yellow stone…
PERRY: Oh yeah, amber we call it, yes.
CHANGAR: Yes. In Polish we call it rubin. That’s where you get the name of Rubin.
PERRY: I’ll be darned, I didn’t know that.
CHANGAR: I guess that’s where you get your name, Rubin – R U B I N. They had caravans going through Poland from the Black Sea, from the Mediterranean Sea going through Poland to the Baltic Sea because that’s where the rubin was. That’s where the amber was. That’s fortified, or whatever they call it whenever it lays, and water falls for centuries and centuries and becomes a stone.
PERRY: I don’t know the name, but I know what you mean. I know what you mean. There’s one other place in the world – I’ll tell you later. There’s only one other place.
CHANGAR: And so the borders were changing so often. Those who lived on the German borders, they speak Polish and German. And on the Lithuanian border, and what is now the capital was Polish. The Polish king married the Lithuanian queen and they became one country. At one time, it used to be from the Black Sea to the Baltic Sea. It became one country and they had no wars. Anyway, they were grabbing the Jews. There were brigades and they cleaned them up. Later on, they came up and would advertise placards on the corners, the street corners. And they organized a Jewish police.
PERRY: This was in –
CHANGAR: Warsaw.
PERRY: In Warsaw, you were still in Warsaw?
CHANGAR: Warsaw. The Jewish police and they would get extra rations. They will not get a uniform. They will get a police cap and an armband proclaming that they are the police. Of course, they didn’t want any Christians over there. So, Jewish police were received. The Jewish police were received. Some people were against them; some people were with them because some, some of the Jewish police did a lot of good, had influence. They did a lot of good for the Jews in Warsaw, and some of them took advantage of their position. So they would do harm. They got the Germans together, and said this baker has a lot of flour and so on. They didn’t confiscate the flour and, hence, they could get money from them. It was a bribe.
PERRY: That apparently was the start of the Germans making the ghetto, is that it?
CHANGAR: That’s right. The start was when we had the ghetto placards.
PERRY: Had they built the walls in there yet?
CHANGAR: No, they hadn’t built the walls. Later on, they started building walls. Now, they started building walls, but they didn’t build the walls in the middle of the street, going parallel with the streets. They built the walls on the corners, from one side of the street to the other. That means, if you could go on a roof, you can go on the other roof. So, now, one street was a thoroughfare, a big thoroughfare, going from big Sussky Park, which was a park we used. The King Suss, a Polish king, used to live there. He had his palace over there.
And there was a big bazaar and outdoor shopping center, you might say, that we had, on the southern street over here. It was a lot bigger than, for example, Union Station. And, there was a street called Chlodna West, close to my hospital where I was. And then going east went past the park, almost to the old Warsaw, on the other side of the park which starts old Warsaw, which was by the River Vistula, Visla in Polish. There was the Polish president lived, was the palace, right by the river over there. And it was a big palace. I believe it was one of the biggest palaces.
They decided they needed a thoroughfare. They built a walk across so you could go from one side of the ghetto to the other side of the ghetto. This was the big ghetto; the other side was called the small ghetto because it was a smaller part of Warsaw, a smaller area. Later on they started congesting the Jews and getting the Jews out because they said the Jews were dying.
PERRY: How did you get through it then? Your business was not – you couldn’t run a business…
CHANGAR: I was – no, there was no business, and I was – one of my uncles had a resort about 35 miles from Warsaw. Our name, his name, was Cubra, Jacob. Our name was very well known out there. We used to go, mother and I, as you see, you see my hair is curly. Of course, at one time, the hair was straight as could be. When the nurse came in the hospital and asked me if I can comb my hair. At that time, with the youths, it was the style to wear long hair. The Christian youths had straight hair, a lot of Jewish youths had curly hair; some had straight hair. Well long, down to the neck almost. You wet your hair, you combed it all the way back, that was the style and in the school they didn’t allow it. We had all kinds of gimmicks not to make it look so long and what have you.
Anyway, I was out of school. I was going to night school. That school wasn’t so strict, and this nurse, she asked me if she can comb my hair. I said, “Not with a cripple.” I said, “I’ve still got my left hand. This one is bandaged up, but I can still comb my hair.” She said, “You can’t comb your hair; let me comb it for you. What you, just relax.” And, she started combing my hair. She started pulling and pulling and pulling. I said, “You are having a hard time. What’s the matter?” She comes up with a mirror. My hair was all curly.
PERRY: It changed from straight to curly?
CHANGAR: So curly. So I let her finish. I say, “Use a little water or something.” She combed my hair. Where are we, I jumped back a few places…
We went to the town, the little village, a town, a resort town, was called Urlanka. There was a little river going through there, too. It was Urla, Urla was the name of the town, Urlanka was the name of this resort that my uncle owned. They were always, when the season started, they were always broke. Whatever they made during the summer, they would spend it in the winter. And they came to us to borrow money to get the resort started. They cleaned and dusted and got the supplies and what have you and every summer when my father was still alive, we used to go over there. And we didn’t live in it, in the resort. We normally rented a little farmhouse. Sometime the farmer rented you half the farmhouse. He lived in half and rented half out.
The farmers in Poland, the small Polish farmers were pretty poor. If they had an egg, they ate half an egg and half an egg they threw to the little chicks so they grew up faster. So we went over there. We took merchandise, nightgowns, socks, whatever we had, uh, cotton to sew on spools, sewing machines, all kinds of things, whatever we could get a hold of. A lot of industry was in the ghetto, no food, just industry, and a lot of supplies were there too.
PERRY: But you were allowed to go in and out.
PERRY: How did you get – that’s what…
CHANGAR: No, well just my mother and I. I cut my hair short.
PERRY: They thought you were Polish?
CHANGAR: I had, we had because our language, my mother’s and I, spoke very good Polish. And, besides, we had gone to a Christian school in a fairly rough neighborhood. I, I talk with a lot of Polish slang. On top of that, Christian slang, Polish slang. So, we had – and my mother had a straight nose like I have and now it’s getting a little bulbous, over here. You see my uncle; I show you a picture of my other uncles. They grow up and get to be my age and they get a bulbous nose. I had a pug nose. See, I have some pictures. If you had a camera, I could show you some documents. So I had one document with a picture on it. The document was the Polish Social Medicine. There was a social medicine, socialized medicine in Poland, like it is in England. Every time you went to the doctor, he stamped it, and he had a stamp and the name Henryk Changar which was a Polish, Polish name. Changar, the way you spelled it was retained. When my uncle came over here, during the war, First World War, he became a citizen. He retained the pronounciation but changed the spelling
PERRY: I see.
CHANGAR: So my name was a Christian fellow’s name. Those names which end with S K I, that’s “ski.” You have those names with “ski,” they were predominantly known as being Jewish names, so we had no problem that way.
PERRY: So you could go in and out.
CHANGAR: And those people knew us, which was a danger. But that’s who we went to, some of the Jewish shops, the Jewish places, and, and they had ready for us meat, fish and butter. We came back to the ghetto and sold it for a good price and we could buy new merchandise and as the streets were already, afterwards, the streets were locked. We still had some potatoes so she sold, keeps selling and buying other vegetables which were smuggled in. She opened a little store, vegetable store, so, and so for a few months, they – we couldn’t get anything – the potatoes were gone.
And then when we started smuggling – and I brought candy over there on the other side, a lot of candy. I stood outside the apartment buildings and sold the candy. We bought candy by the pound, sell it piece-by-piece. By the way, I wasn’t, I wasn’t fat anymore. I started losing my weight when I was 11 because I was – a pretty hard world, some world, and I see, seemed like I couldn’t get any place in school or any place else and nobody wanted to play with me when we had games. I started losing weight. I just, I just sold my, either gave away or sold my lunches. The lunch was worth a quarter; I sold it for a nickel, and so on. So I, I was controlling my weight, but the candy (LAUGHTER) still was some I couldn’t resist. So, if I sold three pieces, I ate one piece. I ate up part of the profits. Well, I’ll go on after.
My mother was very nervous, very shaky. After they built the walls, we went, we went through some of the bombed out buildings and went back over there. There was a train and we went to get something there, came back. There came to a time, when it was dangerous going out and my mother couldn’t do it anymore and I started walking. Twice a week, 35 miles one way, but a tough 35 miles, back over there. It was 57 kilometers, I assume, it was 35 miles. With baggage, I started going with one of my cousins whose father had the resort.
He was a very good poker player, very good poker player. His wife wouldn’t let him play poker with, with the patrons who lived in the resort. He had to go to the other resort to play for cash. She was worried because he was winning money from them, and she didn’t like the idea. My uncle over here is a very good poker player. He plays in Nusach Hari over there. After the game is over he gives back what he wins. He can afford it.
PERRY: What’s your uncle’s name?
CHANGAR: Changar. He doesn’t belong to Nusach Hari. He plays over there.
PERRY: I see, because I belong to Nusach Hari.
CHANGAR: No, he plays over there. He goes at 11 o’clock or what have you. He plays poker or pinochle or whatever they play over there. He is very good. And he was still the smallest, so small, the youngest and the smallest and he worked. He was very ambitious when he was young, very good at sports. But he used to play handball over at Forest Park, used to be champion, at JCCA too. Then he had heart trouble – three heart operations, bypasses. Several heart attacks – he had a pacemaker implanted and what have you. He is 82. Plays cards and so he gives back all the money because they won’t play with him. They keep losing all the time, and so he gives them back the money.
There was one place that I found out by accident. I started going to school on the edge of the ghetto.
PERRY: What kind of school would this be? You were about 22 now.
CHANGAR: No, it was still, 19…maybe 1940. I was born in ’22, so I was 18. So, maybe it was ’41.
PERRY: And you were going to school?
CHANGAR: It was a little school that the Jewish, Jewish, I guess, Jewish congregation established. There was schools. Some of the youngsters…
PERRY: In the ghetto, then?
CHANGAR: Yeah, and I looked out the windows and I see some people coming out from a building, from a bombed-out building, and they – they went on the other side and from the other side of the building – they were going on outside of the ghetto. I could see it through the window. The window was, was over here, and the wall was just about 20 feet over the window. So, I went through that. First time with my mother. I went once or twice with mother and she couldn’t take it so she stayed at home. And I was by myself. I forget the school, and I went by myself.
I went a couple of times, I took my Jacob’s, Uncle Jacob’s son with me, who cheated me of some of the things that we got with us. He says he lost it, sold it, forget it, they took it away from him, what have you. So, I said I’m going to go by myself. I said you do what you want to, I already knew the people, but he knew them better. He knew everybody over there. And I went back by myself. One of his cousins became a policeman so he brought food along, too. That’s on his mother’s side, and I think that, if I’m not mistaken, that Ida Kaminska, the Jewish actress from England, was a cousin of my aunt’s. She was with the Jewish theatre. She went to England. But I am bad at remembering names. So, I skip her. She got nothing to do with it. Her brothers were here. One of her brothers was a Jewish policeman so he was bringing food and so on.
And, I was smuggling in and out of the ghetto, and it came to a time where I was afraid that I would be sold out, sold out over there because I was doing business with the Christians, and the Jews. And they knew my name – they knew who I was – that I would be sold out to the Germans. I carried the lard, lard was very expensive then, on my back, and some in a sack, and, of course, I was working because you can’t carry on that thing…The Germans stopped the train no matter at some place and they confiscate everything. But they issued ration cards. What wasn’t rationed you had no business selling it. Everything had to be turned over to the Germans, and they, at the German Administration, they were rationing out to the stores. And that’s the way the system worked.
And after a while I quit going back and forth. I was just going from one side of the ghetto to the other side. After a while, my uncle that’s over here, his brother lived on the other side in the small ghetto. They all came to this ghetto. The German Jews came on the trains, with big smiles and big packages, big valises, and big trunks. They were going to be…they were going to go to a different country and they would get land in cities, and they would be relocated by the Germans. They believed; they believed that. We told them, “You fools.” They, a lot of them came…

Tape 1 - Side 2

PERRY: This is Tuesday, May the 15th, and this is the story as told by Henry Changar with the interviewer being Eli Perry. This is a continuation; it is tape two.
CHANGAR: On the last tape we talked about the German Jews coming on passenger trains to Warsaw with the hope of being resettled with new lives or something. Well, they didn’t. Some Jews came over and some other people came over and says, “You’re going to concentration camps. You’re not going to be resettled anyplace.” Of course they laughed it off. They brought them – they brought them over to the, what we call the Judische Shul (?), the Deutsche Shul (?) which was a rather reformed or traditional-reformed shul where the rabbi, Kosovitski (?), I know people used to come with the Cadillac. Anyway, that’s where they unload the German Jews, and this was just right outside the ghetto. They did get some privileges, and had very little contact with the local Jews, very little contact with the local Jews. I actually can’t tell you, can’t say what happened to them. I know one thing, that they went to the concentration camps when the Germans emptied the synagogue. And the _________ which was the biggest synagogue in Warsaw. And they used to store supplies, even horses and things like this, over there. They turned it into a stable and warehouse. What happened afterwards, as far as I’m concerned, I went back to smuggling.
As soon as the ghetto was beginning to be tighter and tighter and _________, they build just before the war a big court building where actually there still were judges and still courts were in session. And the Jews could sue the Christians, and the Christians could sue the Jews. And this – I discovered that I could get through the, uh, court building, into the Christian section. There was a – the side had a long corridor to the restroom, to reach a restroom. And with a wooden fence on both sides, and as I walked in with my armband, Mogen David armband, I walked out. I went to one of the bathrooms and took it off, and walked out of the other side unnoticed. And even though there was a guard on both sides, but the guard normally didn’t bother anybody. People went back and forth and some had passes. At that time to get in the ghetto, the Christians were still – some were still allowed, but they had to have a German pass, a person of German authority, for some reason to settle disputes, and settle estates and things like this. After this, the Germans caught on to it and whoever came in, they wanted documents. And to go out they wanted documents which of course I was in no possession of. But while I was going back and forth through an area, I noticed on my left side that once in a while a board opened from a fence. A fence board kind of opened and somebody slid through. The next day I went the other way around and found out what’s happening over there. Over there was a Jewish fellow with ____ and he had a son. They lived on a corner. I don’t know what his last name was, but they used to call him Mendel Koza. (?) And he had – he watched out for the German guard who used to walk back and forth over there guarding this wooden fence. And this was other side. He used to get some renumerations, some pay, to let some people out, for taking his risk, for his work, to let them through, and some of the people smuggled. Through the fence you see people sometimes talking to each other, and those mostly were Christians on the other side who married Jewish partners. And they met at this fence. And sometimes they brought small packages and some of the Germans even looked away ’cause they knew what happened. Of course the packages weren’t big, just maybe a loaf of bread or something like this, maybe even less because the cracks in the boards couldn’t be more than four, five inches wide.
PERRY: Sure.
CHANGAR: And I used that spot for a long time for smuggling. And I’m going to jump over some time what happens in between, but I just want to finish this story about Mendel Koza. There used to be the German S.S.D.which is _______dienst, police, in green uniforms. They used to guard this huge ghetto around. And they used to be called Frankenstein, we used to call them Golden-Tooth and Frankenstein. He had a golden tooth and his face looked like a skeleton’s face.
PERRY: These were Jewish or German?
CHANGAR: German. One day he became suspicious and called him over to the fence and shot him down in cold blood.
PERRY: Mendel?
CHANGAR: Yeah, isn’t that something? There was quite a time afterwards. His son took over, his older son; he could have been about my age, maybe 20 years old or something like that. And he continued doing this service. Later on when they closed the – the courts building, which was maybe a year later, all the ghetto, he used to drive what we used to call riksha. (?) Transportation was fairly unavailable so he had a, more or less, a car seat, or horse-driven taxis. He had a seat over there in front and two bicycle wheels, one bicycle wheel in the back, and he used to drive people around for a fee, around the ghetto in Warsaw. That’s as far as Mendel Koza goes.
What happened with me…at that time, there was still a possibility, for a bribe, to get outside the ghetto. And mother was – being a businesswoman – had her connections with merchants who still had a lot of merchandise left over from before the war. She made connection ______. I wouldn’t say necessarily Christians, but they weren’t Jewish. You had various _________ and ________ and she was an educated woman. She made connections with the Polish merchants, or Christian merchants. There was a big bazaar, like, what we used to call halla (?) or iron gate, halla which was east of the Sussky park. There were merchants who sold to the public, and there were rations of course. The Germans were constantly on the look out and constantly trying to get somebody arrested for illegally selling merchandise without cards, and of course some of them got bribes and so on. And I was going with my mother and get to know these people. So when my mother quit, I continued and sometime, I myself, I had some merchandise left over, didn’t want to sell it to anybody, I was just standing over there selling like men’s socks and stockings and nylons and things like this. My arm was still bandaged and I had my army four-cornered hat on. And I had some sympathy, of course, people around me didn’t know that I was Jewish. I noticed some, some other merchants, not merchants, but girls or fellows, mostly girls, who sold merchandise and they – I could tell some of them were Jewish. Of course we didn’t talk to each other about it. We hardly talked to each other. We just said hello and goodbye. And we maybe started slight smile that we knew who we were.
And – and this was getting to be a little dangerous altogether because some merchants noticed me that I was selling retail and I made contact with some. Some quite good friends, became quite good friends with some of them. Mostly one, name was Berg, German name Berg, but he would not admit or even suggest that he had German ancestry. He said he was 100 percent Polish and what the name came from, was from generations ago. He had boots over there, and he was sometimes quite a good help to me. In fact, my false documents, I got from some of his acquaintance. There was one, as the ghetto – it was getting smaller as they were cutting off streets and streets and streets and mostly from the smaller ghetto which was on the other side of ________. And we had to walk over a _______ to walk over there.
The Germans announced that we have to have so many people for each household, for each room. We were to take in some German Jews, some out of town Jews, some ghettos which were liquidated, and we had a family, name was Rosenthal, name hard to forget. Mr. Rosenthal had a wife who was practically an angel; he was a tyrant. And he had a toupee over half of his head, looked like he was burning the _____. One day he followed me as I was selling merchandise in that bazaar, and announced in a loud voice that I am not Christian, I am a Jew. I don’t belong over here. I should be arrested and so on. And then he run away.
PERRY: He must have been sick.
CHANGAR: Mentally sick, yes, mentally sick. Boy, his wife was, was an angel, trying to even, be able to live with a person like this. They didn’t have any children. I would say in early 40s maybe, she was maybe, uh, late 30s. So that – my standing over there I had to quit altogether. I couldn’t sell anymore retail because people still knew what happened and of course they didn’t believe him and they started running after him; that’s when he ran away. And a few days later he moved out, found another place because he couldn’t look us, look us in the eyes anymore. We did some merchandising inside the ghetto, buying food from some and selling someplace else, and…

Tape 2 - Side 1

There had to be so many people living to a square foot. After a while the small ghetto was liquidated altogether and all the Jews had to move over to the big ghetto. And I continued smuggling, trying to go with – what we called labor brigades. The Germans used to have a bunch of people, they had passes, registration cards, and they used to take them to certain jobs, menial jobs, sweeping the floors, maybe in the factories, and if they ____, sometimes I got mixed in with them and got out this way. And sometime I just bribe my way through. There was a way to go through the sewers. I think I tried it once or twice at the most. They were infested with rats, and you never know, they were hungry. And you had to have, normally took three people, four people, five people at the same time. Sometimes we got somebody out of the ghetto with us, with false documents, and just let them out there. But we never knew who was outside at the sewer base. We used to do it in the dark, early in the morning, which was actually right before the curfew ended and before the curfew started at nighttime; we went in the dark. And sometimes we got some of the Jewish people and got them out. So I didn’t take that route many times, very few, maybe once or twice.
I discovered that besides the German police guarding the ghettos, the ghetto gates, there were the Jewish policemen and the Polish Christian policemen as well. Well, I had documents from the socialized medicine with my picture on it. I usually used to put a banknote in there and hand it to the German. He slipped the banknote in his pocket and let me go through. I had bandage around me – you know, mother used to bandage me around with, with textile goods and all kinds of nylons and stockings and what have you. And I used to sell on the other side. And what different foods over there – try to get foods which were more expensive like – I’m ashamed to say it, but they looked like lard. Jews ate lard because it had a lot of calories.
PERRY: Very nourishing.
CHANGAR: Very nourishing, was strictly fat, meat and – as far as bread and things like this, mostly kids were smuggling that in. Or sometimes bakery goods, bakers themselves had more flour than they had, and paid for, allowed them to get more flour into the ghetto and sell some bread on the side. And boys, little kids used to have lining sewed on their coats and full of bread. They would run through the gate before the German got his gun out – he was out, and sometimes they had a few accomplices and they started fighting to cause a diversion close to the gate and the German and the Polish police start to separate them. And in the meantime, some of the other boys, full of, their lining full of bread. They looked like birds with their wings sticking out on both sides. They flew – they run into the ghetto. Some of them were caught. Some of them were shot. Some were just taking away the bread.
And whatever Germans did with them, I’ll get to it too, that particular gate, what they did with them. Because one time, I passed through the gate, and the German took the money and gave me back my passbook and said, “You wait right here.” I don’t know why he gave it back; he probably gave it back because he didn’t want anybody to know that he had took the banknote. Then he took me to the guardhouse and the Polish and Jewish policemen got me undressed and I was full of textiles. They got me; they unwrapped me and got a bunch of cloth, the silk, and from over there, they got me to a jail which was strictly a Jewish jail, called Pavliak (?) was from ______ to _________, I was from one block to the other.
Being over there, I recognized one of the blackmailers, of course the letter of the blackmailers, which we used to call schmalzovnik from the word schmalz, we used to get the grittiest at the top of the ______. And they were normally around ghetto guards trying to find out some Jews who run away and they used to undress them, used to take everything they had and they knew some who continuously went back and forth, like me. And around, some knew that I was Jewish, some didn’t, but they knew I was smuggling. And they wanted a bribe. I recognized one of the – one of the blackmailers. His name was Roman and he said that he was Jewish. Of course, he was in a Jewish jail. At that time I found out that my cousin was the president of the Jewish Federation. His name was Kazhomir Hirschaft (?). He was a lawyer. His uncle was Goldfeier, was years ago used to be the president of the Jewish Federation.
PERRY: Inside the ghetto.
CHANGAR: No, years ago, before the ghetto, before the ghetto. I never met the man. That was my second uncle, you might say, my father’s uncle. And his nephew lives over here, Morry Changer, too. He brought me here. Anyway, I got a letter to my cousin, to the Jewish Federation, and he sent me a package which was exactly a half a loaf of bread, an onion, a piece of garlic, and a tomato.
PERRY: Now, he was in St. Louis then?
CHANGAR: Yes – no, not in St. Louis, in Warsaw.
PERRY: Oh I see. He was at that time –
CHANGAR: President of Warsaw –
PERRY: During that time.
CHANGAR: During that time.
PERRY: I see, so you got in touch with him and he sent you a little food.
CHANGAR: That’s right. I assured that even with this Roman, with this –
PERRY: Guard.
CHANGAR: Not guard, blackmailer. And I want to jump back quite a few months to tell about how my cousin happened to be in Warsaw. His father, his name was Muzik Joseph Herschaft (?) had a children’s store, two story store on _______, a Jewish neighborhood. And he had boys and girls clothing – the boys were on the second floor and the girls were on the first floor. And his children, which was the lawyer Kazik and two sisters, Yerka and Lola (?). They were both dentists when the border was still open. They hired a truck and with the old dentist equipment, x-rays and all, and ______ and everything else, went over there; they went to Bialystok which was on the other side of the border. Well, they couldn’t get themselves established. They couldn’t find a place to live. They had money with them. They decided that after all, maybe the Germans weren’t that bad, there were no concentration camps in Poland. As we all know, there are rumors that they’re going to be established somewhere, established but they’re more or less voluntary. I’ll get to the voluntary too, in a minute. And they came back to Warsaw. I don’t know what happened to my two girl cousins. But my boy cousin, Kazik, Kazhomir, was the Federation president after a while. And the Germans gave them orders and they thought that they hanging the placards out as a – not as German orders, but as Jewish Federation orders. Well they decided not to do it because some Jews had the idea that they were doing it to save their own skin. Well, they did it under threat of life. One day they quit. They were taken on the courtyard and machine-gunned.
Goin’ back to the voluntary or so concentration camp. They had placards from the Jewish Federation, from the beginning, when the ghetto wasn’t even established, when they had the yellow, yellow banners. They came around and hung the placards out that anybody who wants to be resettled or just work in a labor camp would be well-treated and well-taken care of with sufficient food, lodging and clothing. My brother who was a year older than I, his name was Yazik, volunteered. He did not have the nerve as I did, he was a very nervous person, which I became lately. And he felt this will be a way to survive the war. So he volunteered. They took him to Majdanek –
CHANGAR: – which was a concentration camp. At that time it was voluntary yet. They didn’t necessarily shoot the people who got sick. If anybody had any _____, one way of getting them out, they did. Well, we had, through the Jewish Federation, and even though my cousin wasn’t the president yet, but he had a lot to say. He brought my brother back to Warsaw from the concentration camp. He worked on irrigation ditches. When he came, they let him off the wagon in the courtyard, and he hollered, I don’t know what he hollered, “Mother,” or something. And it was summertime, or fall. I opened the window and see him down there. I went downstairs and brought him up on piggyback. We just got up, got out of bed; the beds were not made yet. We had a daybed in our living room. Some other people lived with us; I can’t recall the name. But we had to have all other people living with us.
We set him on the bed, on the white sheet. As we set him on the white sheet, mother looked him over and asked questions and saw his legs were all full of sores, like two sticks, because he was standing to his knees in cold water, cold dirty water, and full of sores. And she seen that the lice started walking away from him on the clean sheet. So in a hurry me and him, I took my jacket off and threw it right on the sheet, started taking his clothes off in a hurry. And somebody run the tub. And I carried him to the tub and put him in the tub. Mother gave him a bath. Now, he was a young man; he wasn’t a kid anymore. He hardly walked. We took all the clothes with the sheet, bundled it up and put it, lit up the furnace. We had, as I mentioned it, a big furnace, it was big enough. We shoved all the clothes in it, even though nobody’s furnace, nobody is burning, the smoke goes nowhere. We were burning all of it up. He was shaved. Mother rubbed him some with alcohol, but some of it smelled like tar.
PERRY: Clearsol (?) maybe.
CHANGAR: Clearsol, or something like that, but it wasn’t black.
PERRY: It was a disinfectant.
CHANGAR: That was a killer, and everything where he had hair on his head, under his arm, pubic hair, anyplace else, to kill the eggs of the lice. Okay, now we’re going back to where I was, stop. (TAPE STOPS)
Before I was taken to the jail, I was locked up in a basement with several other young, Jewish people. I immediately started looking around for a way to get away from over there. Once in a while the German, a German policeman opened the basement window and threw several loaves of black bread confiscated from the Jewish kids who are smuggling it through. I was there several days and several nights and they always brought somebody back to us. Uh, there was so many in that basement room that when we went to sleep, we had to all lay on one side. If one turned over, we all turned over because there wasn’t enough room. So we kept warm and we kept this space; there was enough space so people didn’t have to stand up.
I remember that one girl confessed that she was a virgin. Of course at that time that was commonplace. And she knew that she was going to die. She was – she said that she would like to try to find out what is all the mystery about life. So of course being a young man, I understood. _________. I said, “Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you. But I can feel your body, being so close to you, you can feel my body. Now, _______ maybe you and me. You just want to find out something before you die, something that I knew already. But, I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to be the first in your life. And possibly, maybe that might not be the last, or anybody, who knows what will happen.” She said, “Well we’re all going to die. My reputation doesn’t mean anything.” I said, “You see me? I’m up all night. I sleep in the daytime mostly and eat the black bread.” In several days I could have gained about 15 pounds because all we had was black coffee, was ersatz coffee, imitation coffee, and this black bread. That’s all we had to eat. And my being bored I just ate and ate and ate. Finally, the room was full; we went all to jail. And the story continues there where I got the bread from my cousin and the whole Jewish Federation was killed.
We were taken to a depot from where we were supposed to go to Auschwitz. I had with me, which nobody knew, a hacksaw in my high boot. And we walked around freely over there. The Germans came and started shooting in the air to quiet everybody down and stop the commotion. And ask who has a card, a labor card, who was laboring in those brigades, who are working outside ghetto. And if somebody would have them, they picked his hand up in the air with the card. Somebody else could have swiped it, tore it out of his hand and run, so he saved his own life. Anyway, I see that there is no way out. And I got on the wagon and I tried to look over the wagon. There will be _____. The Germans, as you are going in the wagons, pulled me over and said, “Come on over.” Me and another fellow who we didn’t look undernourished. There were big steps, wooden steps, and they said “We have some old people who can’t make it on the wagon. So we have these steps. So you two will just go from wagon to wagon.”
PERRY: And move the steps.
CHANGAR: Things get mixed up. I don’t know if it happened this time or a different time. Anyway, I got on and we were going on our way to Auschwitz, at nighttime, we were going. I noticed the cow wagons, that’s what we went on –
PERRY: Cow wagons.
CHANGAR: Cow wagons. They had the barred windows, small windows, all barred with barbed wire. Some wagons were locked and some were just wired shut because the locks weren’t good. They just took as many – they didn’t have enough wagons. I took my hacksaw and started filing away. I looked for the wagon that wasn’t locked; it had wire on the other side. Of course you had doors on both sides. You could enter or exit one side or the other side.
What happens in those wagons, some people prayed, some cried, some urinated, some had to do anything else where it smelled bad because it took some time before we left and we were already locked. There wasn’t enough room for everybody to sit down and lay down. Some people just layed down; they didn’t care what happened. There was a young couple, I noticed, that had a – in a corner standing up – they had sexual relations, standing up. If anybody said anything, they said, “What’s the difference? We’re going to die anyway. We know where we’re going.”
The Jews who were with me, some actually physically wanted to stop me from cutting through. But I did cut through. There was another couple that I met, and the couple said they wanted to go with me. And I said, “Sorry, I’m not going with anybody. You want to go? You’re going to go through first, and I’m gonna jump.” They said, “Don’t open the door because they’re going to shoot right inside.” I says, “So what? What’s the difference? You die a little faster, hit by a bullet, or die in a gas chamber.”
Anyway, I opened the door – they were engaged, the young couple. I said, “You want to go? Here’s what you do. You stand on the edge, face forward, and then when you jump, jump backward. So when you’re going 15 miles an hour, or 30 miles an hour on a curve, if you can jump five miles an hour, if you’re going 20, then as an example from a 15 miles an hour train if you jumped back. “Well I’m afraid to do it.” I said, “Well, just turn like this over here and try. And nothing will happen. Just try to jump backwards.” “What happens to her?” I said, “Well, she’ll jump after you.” So he jumped and then she was afraid. “I’m not jumping, I’ll jump with you.” I said, “Just stand like that; don’t worry about it.” And I pushed her out. I don’t know what happened. And I jumped afterwards. Then I heard shots.
Before I jumped, the train stopped, it was at nighttime. And looks like I wasn’t the only one who had the idea. I look out the door because I opened the door slightly and looked out. The Germans came; they were on roofs too. And they ______ too. They walked around and some people who jumped – they got hurt and couldn’t run away. There were sharp rocks, what was laying on. And they just came back and they just shut them down. You could see the sparks flying and see the rest, the rest jump, or shiver of the dead man. What was it, he leaned forward. The next turn I was going. Just a few more minutes was another turn and I was going. And I jumped right because it wasn’t the first time. I used to jump from streetcars and so on. And I knew how.
And I walked around in the light. At nighttime I had seen some people walking here and there in the forest. I walked away from them. So hard to say, the more people are together, the more suspicion if anybody find us. I couldn’t help them; they couldn’t help me. By being together we could all suffer. The daytime I walked over, I heard the trains going, walked over towards the railroad station and jumped on the steps, came back to Warsaw.
And I met my friends; they actually lived outside the ghetto. And I got back in the ghetto. I found out that my mother – when the Germans came – hid, under the steps was a hiding place. She was shot with the rest of them that was over there. Well, that wasn’t my mother; my mother went to the concentration camp. It was my grandma, with two little twin girls. Their mother used to recognize them when they were little because one had, what we used to call a strawberry birthmark over here on her arm. Ask me a name; I don’t remember, last name was Englescher(?). He was a – the father was a tool and dye maker who worked for an American factory. He was a tool designer.
PERRY: In Warsaw?
CHANGAR: In Warsaw. I don’t know that I mentioned it formerly. He was a tool designer. The Germans took him away to a German ammunition factory.
PERRY: Was he American?
CHANGAR: No, but he worked for an American company.
PERRY: I see.
CHANGAR: When the war with America started, the American companies were not protected. The name was Powell brothers. They were born – the brothers were born in Poland. The name was Pavelski (?), went to America, the United States; they changed their name to Powell. They cut the name short and also discovered a “W.” They came back and opened a factory. He was a tool designer. He started as an apprentice, paying the toolmaker, the blacksmith, actually that he didn’t have to pay. He just worked for, for his board, working with them and so on. He had to sweep up in the mornings, sweep up in the nighttime. Anyway, he became a tool designer. He used to go once a year – there was an exposition. I think it was in France or in Leipzig, Germany, one of the two. He used to buy with his boss certain tools. His boss looked for the tools that would sell; he looked for the tools it would be easy to make dyes; he looked for the toys that it would be easy to make, tools, to produce these toys, these metal toys. Motorcycles, wind-up motorcycles, little wind-up cars; wind-up toys were in style at that time, mostly made from metal.
PERRY: These two little girls –
CHANGAR: These two little girls, that’s the only kids they had. They were twins. What happened to their mother? I don’t know. What happened to him? He was taken to the German factory as a tool designer. That’s –

Tape 2 - Side 2

CHANGAR: I find my brother. My brother was living and my mother was taken to a concentration camp. I had a pair – I had on me always a pair of pearl earrings which I’ll tell about later. They helped me save my life. My mother was taken to a concentration camp. My brother was living on _________, which was across from the ________, _______ park. That whole neighborhood was turned over into factories. He was in a brush factory. That’s how they got rations and they survived for the time being. That was my base of operation. I started smuggling. I met a girl over there. Her name was Lucia, a beautiful girl.
PERRY: Polish?
CHANGAR: Jewish. They came from Gdansk; they were very wealthy. She lost her parents over there. She was by herself. And I was told about her, I remember, bringing her – when I started smuggling, bringing her a bowl of soup. She would not accept it. Some of the men in the apartment building used to make eyes at her and some of the single ones, and try to take advantage sexually. She wouldn’t let, even for food. A lot of girls became prostitutes for food. And 12, 13, 14 years old…and I met this girl. This was my base of operations from over there. Outside the windows there was a wall.
PERRY: The wall.
CHANGAR: Wall – that was the time when the wall was already built right in the middle of it.
PERRY: Right in the middle of the street.
CHANGAR: That’s right, the middle of the street. I skipped a lot. I see, I’m going to have to go back if I remember, back to it. And I used to bring food and used to go through that wall, had somebody who waited for me. I found out one spot. The park had a wrought iron fence with tall, tall bars with squares, looked like squares – with a square point on top of that. They were about, at least an inch and a quarter thick, several inches in-between. And then one day I was walking around along that wall when I was on the outside, trying to put my head through. There was one spot, because they were just about as far apart as – my head almost made it through. When you get the head through then you can get the rest of the body, ’cause you can squeeze the rest of your body; you can’t squeeze your head.
There was one spot, and I know, I remember that spot pretty well. So, we used to – from the windows, watch the German guard as he ______, going back and forth. The top – the wall was topped with broken bottles, concrete and broken bottles with the points up. Well, when he was pretty far away, there was – every several hundred feet a guard walking back and forth. I used to jump over, right at that spot where I could get my head in with some packages with me and some were _____; that was my base of operation.
Now, one night, I don’t remember the date, many dates. No sound whatsoever, no marching feet, no laughter, no nothing, no brigades marching toward the gate in the morning. I thought to myself, “Uh oh, there goes. That’s we’re all going to be finished. (PAUSE) The ghetto is getting finished.” I got out and at nighttime I sneak from one house to the other, from one house to the other. One house, looks like there was a part of the ghetto where the Jews were already evacuated – congested into the rest of the ghetto. Those were homes which are – apartment buildings which were uninhabited. I found broken, torn mattresses, torn pillows, feathers and other things. People looked for treasure, for money, for diamonds, for gold, for anything that could have been hidden in mattresses and pillows and so on. I found in a corner boxes and boxes and boxes of lace. And I knew where it was. I knew the neighborhood. I hid it a little bit better, covered it up with old mattresses. In the morning, later on, I heard people marching.
PERRY: People or soldiers?
CHANGAR: People. And I got through the thing – jumped inside as the guard didn’t watch and marched with them. I put my armband on and marched with them outside the ghetto. (MAKES WHISTLING SOUND) I’m out. I met my Polish friends, my Christian friends.
PERRY: So these were really soldiers marching out of the ghetto.
CHANGAR: No, they were Jewish brigades for work.
PERRY: Oh, work brigades, I see.
CHANGAR: Work brigades. That particular brigade I guess they had rounded up some – they were supposed to take them to some factory, wherever they were going. And I got out with them. At that time, I see that the thing was finished, I got in touch – or my friend got in touch with some of his friends and they later slept – some of his friends had a _____ factory with some basement. I slept over there.
PERRY: These were your Christian friends.
CHANGAR: I slept over there at nighttime so nobody would see me over there. And this fellow’s mother got me those false documents which I showed you, in the name of Novokovski, Henrik Novokovski (?) from Tarnipol (?), a year older. And I had those papers.
After a few days I noticed – after a couple days I noticed life in the ghetto. You could hear the voices, you could hear people when you walked around, around the wall, or climbed the steps and see from some staircases, life came back to the ghetto. I don’t know what happened. They were scared or something. And so I, having anything to live on, went back to the ghetto. My brother was there. I noticed – I found him too; he was there. A lot of people were taken out of the ghetto in these few days. They just cornered off the whole streets and took them away. (OVERTALK) Took them away, yeah. Some had bunkers, or some other kinds of hiding places they took them in. I got my lace. And I brought the lace to this fellow who let me sleep in his basement shop. He used to work for Germans and for himself. He used to plate some of the toe nail clippers, all kinds of clippers, little razors and small things they used to plate over there. Of course the shop was small, just one room with the cleaning tank and the polishing brushes and things like that.
Whenever I smuggled afterwards I started living with those people over there. They took me in after I brought them all that expensive lace, some of it handmade lace and all kinds of lace. They couldn’t get them for nothing. And when I started smuggling again through the – anywhere I could – through the ______, any, under the ground, from one bombed out building to another. Through the ______, and some people would still take through the gates, and through all kinds of ways.
I used to buy sometimes valuable things, like silver, for the collars from the tallisim, silver embroidery, silver wine vessels, all kinds – silver tea sets. Gold, gold coins, all kinds of things; I used to march with these German brigades with the gold coins hidden on me someplace and some cheap coins in my pocket. They used to, used to frisk you. Well when they found those coins, those inexpensive coins, they quit frisking you. If nobody would see it, they would put it in their pocket. I guess they wanted it for their family. Their family was starving in Germany. And so I used to bring it over there, and some of the cheaper things we used to sell, and she used to hide the silver things for after the war if I survive or not. And I used to bring food to my brother at the same time and to this girl.
There were several days that I couldn’t, I couldn’t get to the ghetto – no gate, no here, no there, some stoppage. My girl got married.
PERRY: Lucia.
CHANGAR: Lucia. She had to get married because she had to eat. She married what we used to call a ________ in Yiddish. Well, he was – he drove a hearse. They made a lot of money because they used to go around, drive around, well “drive around” because it was horse driven, they got the orders from the Germans to pick up those bodies, and the Jewish cemetery was by the border of the ghetto. (UNCLEAR)
PERRY: No, it doesn’t look like…
PERRY: It’ll come back to you.
CHANGAR: And they used to pile them up over there. People used to come and pick their relatives who were shot during the night after the curfew, or some other way.
PERRY: That’s why your grandmother was shot too, is that right?
CHANGAR: Well, no, they were looking for Jews.
PERRY: Oh I see.
CHANGAR: They were looking for Jews and she was hidden with those two –
PERRY: Oh, when they were hidden they got shot.
CHANGAR: That’s right, and of course the two little girls couldn’t walk, and she wasn’t middle-aged; she was an old woman, dressed in black, with a package under her arm all the time, wrapped up in brown paper. When she got shot we found out what she had with her, called tachnichen (?).
PERRY: Oh sure, tachnichen.
CHANGAR: This was the linen, burying vestments.
PERRY: Yes, yes.
CHANGAR: So anyway she gets killed, or dead –
CHANGAR: That’s right. She would have the burying garment; she would be buried in pure linen. Of course, I don’t know what happened to it, probably sold, because she wasn’t there. The package was laying there; I recognized the package, the way she wrapped it and the way she carried it, that way was laying there. Anyway…(TAPE STOPS)
So I had a nice place to live over there. I paid them so much a week, and of course nobody recognized me as Jewish. I had two – two pairs of documents. One kind was the Polish social medicine book, and it showed my Novikovski name. Well, what was profitable at one time, it didn’t take up too much space, is guns. So I started smuggling guns into the ghetto and out of the ghetto, whatever I could, silver or sometimes diamonds and gold. And some of it didn’t take up too much space because you couldn’t get so easy through those gates anymore. You had to be skimpily dressed so they wouldn’t – the Germans caught on to it that you had things on you. And…(TAPE STOPS) That you had things on you.
I had so much accumulated of this silver and lots of silver, and a lot of valuable things, some china, antiques, ______ or what have you that one day my landlady said, “You’ve got to get out of here because my neighbors are suspicious. I don’t want you here. I’ve got young kids. And it’s gonna be Christmas. We used to sit over there and sing Christmas songs and things like this.” And I said, “Where am I going to go?” And she took a big hunk of wood and said, “If you don’t go, get out of here, I’ll break your head with this piece of, piece of wood, with this wood.” I said, “Well, I’ll get my things.” And she said, “You have no things. These are all mine.”
PERRY: Hmm, I thought she was being so nice to you.
CHANGAR: Yeah, she was being nice to me; she was getting greedy. And she maybe got scared. But she wanted these things. This could get her started; if she survived the war this would get her started afterwards. Name? Her mother’s name was Olga; she was Russian born. And when they got the documents her mother’s – her mother-in-law’s name was Olga. Last name I don’t remember.
Anyway, and back to ghetto. I stayed awhile over there and started smuggling again. But, got back the same day; I slept over in the attic of my friend’s house – apartment building. Well, one day I got caught smuggling. And what they – I said, “I am Christian.” Those – those documents were heaven. I still used my book. “There’s my Polish name, there’s my picture, and the Polish policeman over here can vouch for that, okay.” “Boy, you were smuggling. You’re going to a, to a place where we get all the smugglers and other people. I don’t know what they’re gonna do with them.” Big building, I don’t even remember the part of Warsaw where it was. Over there I had the first shower and then a doctor inspected me all over, if I had head lice on me or not. And we are going to Auschwitz from over there.
PERRY: Is that the time you were able to conceal the fact –
CHANGAR: That was before the time, yes; that’s how I learned how to do it. I just, just – I learned how to do it. That’s the second time when I’m on ________. I learned how to conceal my Jewishness. And in that – it wasn’t prison, it was an office building or some other kind of building that the Germans took over. And from over there they used it for deport – for people going to Auschwitz. One fellow used to come and go. He was a – he used to get money from so many people and says, “You pay me so much and so much, and I’ll get you out of this building.” And he made dealings with the German guards; they got these people out. Well, I didn’t have any money on me. Then when they emptied the building – once in a while the building got full. They emptied the building, got all on wagons, going to Auschwitz; and they started filling up the building again.
Well, lo and behold, he was on the trains doing exactly the same thing. He says, “Who wants to jump from the train? Say when.” Of course there’s so much and so much. I wanted to jump from the train. These happened to be not cow wagons, but regular passenger trains. We took a key and opened the door. (LAUGHTER BY PERRY) Took the key out from the door. We ______ over there. And I seen what happens with the other people who pay him off, opened the door and jumped out at nighttime when the train was over there. What I did, without money, when the door was open I jumped. And he wouldn’t let me out. He stood over there, “Hey, you didn’t pay.” I said, “I’ll see you sometime, maybe I’ll pay you. So far I’m goin’. You want these people to go out standing right over here with you.” And after I jumped they stopped the train again. I’m going towards the village. When I jumped the train, jumped on the snow, there’s a scar. There’s a scar, who knows where the scar is. There’s a scar, an old scar, from landing on the sharp rocks. I hear dogs barking from the distance. I walked towards the house, knocked on the door, they let me in. I says, “Here, I jumped from the train. And in the morning I’ll be gone. Will you let me sleep over the night? It’s cold out there.” They did. Early morning they woke me up. He said, “You’d better go, but don’t go to the railroad station because you’ve got police and Gestapo and everybody all over.” I walked a few stations, which was maybe 10 miles, got warmed up, and wanted to get on a train. They said, “Don’t get on a train. You won’t be able to jump in the nighttime. They catch you over there and you’ve got no ticket.” So I walked to Warsaw.
PERRY: You walked back to Warsaw.
CHANGAR: Back to Warsaw, back to my friends, and tell them what happened. And stayed a couple days with them back in the ghetto. My brother was gone. I found that out later that my brother was gone. I walked in that furniture in that brush factory. From house to house to house to house to that brush factory, and nothing, not a sound, not a person. I walked in that place, in the apartment where my brother used to live, where the brush factory was, nothing. I looked on the table. There’s cups of tea, bread, sausage, I touched the tea; the tea was still warm. Briefcase, of course I got all the food I could get in the briefcase, drank the tea, put it in the corner, and got on the roof to look around. I looked through the windows and nothing.
And (PAUSE) what happened is I seen from the roof, outside the ghetto, German guards. And I, foolish young man, “Where’s my _____?” He had seen me and (COUGHING WHILE SPEAKING) shot, and then I hide behind the chimney because I knew that he couldn’t possibly hit me from that far away. What I did see is about six, seven, eight German SS men running with their rifles towards this building. And as they got to the stores where they were; they didn’t know exactly which building it was, and the gates. It turned out that some of these stores were boarded up, tore the boards off this one, and every once in a while you heard a shot. Then I heard them. I went down to look through the window and I see them coming down the street and tearing the boards apart. And I hid in the attic behind a bunch of straw, mattresses, and all kinds of things. They got in the attic. They got from apartment to apartment, apartment to apartment. They got in the attic.
They found – they heard a baby cry. They tore up the partition over there in the attic with boards, was a mother and a baby, in a crib. They shot the mother. They put the baby against the wall and they said, “Do you want to get some target practice?” (PAUSE) He says, “I bet you you don’t hit the eye,” from 30 yards away, or something like that. They – they took the baby and they shot both eyes, the baby’s eyes out.
I was doing a little easier – doing a little better talking the first time. And they looked around all over. I heard their steps, and then down. Okay, down is down. Nobody is in the ghetto. I waited nighttime, got close to the gate. Brigades again, and I got out with the brigade and got out. As I got out with the brigade I separated myself from them. Then I saw that one of the blackmailers got to me, “Now, you Jew, I know you. You paid the money before. I got on the streetcar; you got on the streetcar with me.” I couldn’t get rid of him. I said, “What are you going to do?” I got with him; he frisked me, no money. I said, “Okay, well, some other time. I’m not dying yet. You’ll get your share.”
And after a few days, a couple days, they showed up again. What must have happened is the Germans came, took as many Jews as they could possibly find, and the rest of the Jews hid, and life started again. The German Wehrmacht wanted the merchandise – the Wehrmacht is the army – wanted the merchandise that the Jews were _____, and wanted the German brigades – the Jewish brigades, labor brigades, but the SS didn’t want them. They want to get them all out and in concentration camps.
I walked in the apartment building where my brother used to live – that’s when I found out that he isn’t there anymore. And a bunch of Jews, I walked up the steps, grabbed me. “That’s the guy, that’s the guy, that’s the guy, that’s the guy.” Dragging me up, back to their apartment, “That’s the guy.” I said, “What’s the guy? What’s the story? What’s what?” It took a long time ’til they started talking; I’m a spy. I brought the SS people that killed the mother, that killed the baby. I brought the SS people to their apartment. They found merchandise, found some clothes, they found some things and took it away. I took the salami and drink the tea and everything else. I said, “No, my name is Henry Changar. That’s my brother that lived one story, one floor below you,” I said. They didn’t believe me. I said, “Here’s my papers. I came over here and found nobody. And I seen the sausage. I didn’t bring the Germans. I was on the roof and they seen me.” Well, they let me go. I would have been killed over there; I would have been killed over there. They let me go. What happened – I don’t know, okay.
Another incident, I went to buy merchandise, socks and things. And all of a sudden I see my cousin, brother – his name was Bolek – his brother’s in Israel.
PERRY: Is this inside or outside the ghetto?
CHANGAR: Inside the ghetto. His brother is in Hamadar, by Tel Aviv. He works for the post office, for the telephone line. His daughter lives over here. We brought her over here ____ and then we had to let her go. That’s another story; we won’t get that far. He runs around, shoots up in the air with a gun –
PERRY: Your cousin.
CHANGAR: Yeah, little cousin. I was – it was 1942 maybe. And I was 20 years old. I said, “What are you doing, Bolek, shooting? We’re gonna need that.” It was _______; it was where the uprising started. I don’t know if he’s alive or not. And before I said goodbye, I said, “What happened to your father? To your mother?” He says, “Ignasz(?) is in Russia, you know that. Everett, my brother, my youngest brother, was born with asthma. He died. Edek got shot in the arm and Ignasz – Ignaszi – Ignasz wouldn’t take him over to Russia. It was too far. My father died of hunger; he wouldn’t accept food from anybody. My mother was washing clothes for other people. And she was taken to a concentration camp. She is no more.”
PERRY: That’s your cousin –
CHANGAR: My aunt.
PERRY: Your aunt, yes.
CHANGAR: My aunt. So he might possibly be alive somewhere. And I’m going back to smuggling. And one day (TAPE STOPS) one day I seen that the apartment where my brother used to live – I used to sleep over there too now whenever I was in ghetto, came to buy merchandise and sell some food and so on. Jews were in a hurry to build bunkers, hiding places, to get to in a hurry. They were on the sixth floor someplace without an elevator. I said, “What are you going to do? Where to?” Their apartment building built around – before 1920 – was touching the next apartment building. The walls were at least two feet wide, and the next building was at least two feet wide. And the bathroom was adjoining the other building. And I see a basket hanging on a hook, wicker basket hanging on a hook.
I knocked on the door – I knocked on the wall – some bricks somehow sound empty. Well, they used some, was hollow bricks. That was big, eight by eight, or whatever they were. Like they use cinder blocks over here, those were bricks. And some were solid in-between because they didn’t care what they looked from the outside since the next building was next to it. But the, I guess the zoning was that the walls had to be that thick. I took a ladder and started chopping the wall, and building a hole. And it was summertime.
Knock in the wall, knock in the wall, and there were – some of the bricks were falling down and someone said, “Take it outside; dump it someplace.” And I hollowed out the wall and I went into the next building wall which was a chimney too; the chimney was in the wall. The bricks were falling down the chimney. I made enough room for about six people. I took a square, about two feet long, made a frame out of wood, and wood in-between, and concreted it so it wouldn’t be too heavy, plaster on top. Painted the whole room over like the color of this piece over here, made a handle on each side – two handles so they could carry this thing. I said, “Somebody has to be always inside to close and open the door for you. Then somebody will take it from you and hang on a hook, hang the basket over.” They put the hook in lower, on the square, right on the border, on the wooden border which was painted over, put the hook. So when they closed behind them, the basket was hanging on the wall. So whenever Germans came, Germans running, we all went in there. In the meantime they fed me because I was doing some care of the bricks; they fed me. (TAPE STOPS)
It was getting close to uprising which I didn’t know about. Rumors were just about it. One day I hear shots. I get on the attic and I see mattresses – Jewish young fellows full of mattresses against those windows on the attics. There were slots actually. I see guns. “What are you guys doing?” Nobody’s saying anything, just, “Get out of here. You don’t belong here. Get out of here. Get out of here.” Well, I got out of here. Came down and talked to these people and say, “What’s happening?” They says, “Well, it looks like they are getting ready for an uprising. They want to die in an uprising, but they were just going to fight back. They’re going to die fighting.” I said, “Well, I don’t want to die fighting. I don’t want to die at all. I can’t do any good for myself or anybody else by being dead, for glory. I’m getting out of here.” “You can’t get out of here; the Germans are patrolling to see anybody on the street. Look out the window, uh oh, another person just, German patrols.”
The Germans came – SD, another block, SS, SD, German police came back and out loud, “Whoever wants to come down, we will take care of you. We will resettle you. You’re gonna have food, clothing and work. This ghetto’s gonna be liquidated. Everybody has to get out. Everybody’s gonna live with their health; we’re building towns for you where you’re going to be. You’re going to live. You’re going to work. You’re going to survive the war. All right, good bye.” A lady gave me some – like 20 zloty. It was, at that time it was worth nothing. You couldn’t buy a loaf of bread with that; they gave me some bread. I said, “I’m leaving, where I’m going I don’t know.” I took my armband on, and my cap, my army coat I had, army cap –
PERRY: It was the Polish army?
CHANGAR: Yeah. It was regular buttons, they weren’t Polish buttons with the eagle, the same thing that the captain had the eagle, because the Germans would shoot me down if they see a Polish eagle. Well, no bundles, no clothing, no nothing. Whatever I could put on me – maybe a couple of sweaters over everything. I went downstairs and said, “Okay, I’m going, I’m going, anybody else? Nobody else, okay. ” I’m coming outside and the Germans are marching with a whole bunch of people. And this old man, this old man carrying two bundles. I says, “Here, let me carry one.” I says, “You sure? You’re old.” I says, “You’re going to stand behind. They’re going to shoot you down because that’s what’s happening right now. You hear that shot? Somebody was shot down, couldn’t keep up with us.”
So he gave me the bunch which was lighter. He carried the heavier one, whatever he had in it. But I had matzoh and wine in it. And I carried it, and of course his was a little heavier but he couldn’t keep up. They shot him down. And I came over; I kept going. We went to railroad depot. Over there, I seen the girl that I was in love with that married somebody else.
PERRY: That married the other person, yeah.
CHANGAR: And I went over to her and said, “Lucia, hi.” I went over there. She was dressed nicely, a green coat and black _________, which is a Russian, uh, ______, black ____ color. And I said, “Well, we couldn’t live together.” I said, “We’re going to die together.” Well, it wasn’t that because the Germans came through and started chasing us with big whips, chasing us this way, chasing us that way towards the wagons. (PAUSE, TAPE STOPS)
No, there was another where I met her. There was a time; there was different time. But what I did was got loaded into the cow wagons and we were sitting and waiting over there. The German guard was guarding us – did I ever tell you about the, about the ghetto burning?
PERRY: No, not yet, no.
CHANGAR: Not yet? Okay. This German guard, Wehrmacht, German army marching back and forth, and a lot of boys going, running over with water and with bread and so on through wire fences and bringing over and getting diamonds and good money for it. And as the German guard turned, I ran with them. I ran outside where they were running through that hole in the fence. I ran outside and of course I took my band off. I had 20 zloty in my pocket. And I run outside the fence, I started walking. Who – one of the blackmailers got to me; we sat on a bench. He said, “Oh, you’re still kicking.” I said, “I’m still kicking.” He said, “You’ve got a lot of money on you.” I said, “You can have it all.” I said, “If you are a nice guy, you’ll give me, for –

Tape 3 - Side 1

PERRY: This is the fifth month, the 30th day, 1984, and this is tape number three of the narrative by Henry Changar and his experiences during the Holocaust. The interviewer is Eli Perry.
CHANGAR: As the blackmailer met me, I was sitting on a bench, and he said, “Oh, now I am going to get some money.” And I said, “You can have all the money I have because I have none.” I said, “If you – you’re the kind of a man, you give me enough to get by, at least have a loaf of bread, because I haven’t eaten in quite a while.” Believe it or not, he took out, he gave me 10 zloty which is just about enough for a pound of bread, and he left.
And from then on, I got in contact with one of my friends, _____, and said, “I am out, out of ghetto. And I think I’m out for good. I need to find a way so I’ll be able to stay out.” Well, he said, “You can stay a few days with me and we’ll see what we can do.” I met his sister-in-law which was about my age, maybe a year or two younger, and we read newspapers and what to do. I had my false documents. Well, there was an ad in the paper for the company, carpenter based – company, builders. They look for volunteers to go east and working for – they would be working for the German engineers which is the OT, Organization Tod. That’s like our engineers. And they’re looking for volunteers. Well, going out, I thought about getting over there. Maybe there’d be a way of getting through the front, from Warsaw, at least getting to some kind of freedom.
I – the next day I registered with the company. They asked me what was my trade. I said I am a carpenter. They didn’t look for – for any documents or anything else. They just wanted my papers that I am a citizen, when I am born, my name and everything else. And of course my documents were quite handy. And they – we were going to work on _____ like some of our American companies, during the war and even now too. So they don’t care how many people they sign up or how good they are, just sign up and we go. And a few days, after a few days you went to, uh, you went to a place to a demarcation point. The further, there’s one in Poland, I just kind of sneak in.
The same night that I got out of the ghetto, the same day, I came at nighttime over there, and the ghetto was burning. That was it; the uprising was on. The Jews didn’t fight for their lives; they just want to _______. They knew they – this was it. They were going to die one way or the other, the same as I felt I’m living on borrowed time and I took undue risks, which was one of them right now. And one old lady – there was a lot of people outside the wall looking at the smoke coming out from the flames. And one lady said, “It’s a shame what the Germans are doing to the Jews but at least there won’t be any of them left over after the war.” That’s not easy to forget.
And I stayed the following few days, spent with my friends, and went to the demarcation point. From then on, I got on a train and went east. We went as far as – after a few stops there was some shooting from the woods, from Russian partisans. We arrived safely in Minsk. From then on, we went on German trucks. I don’t think it was more than 10 miles, 20 miles, to a place called ________ which means something that is very pretty.
PERRY: _________
CHANGAR: Yeah, _________, which means _____ is pretty and _____ is pretty, and nothing but a field across the woods. We went back over there and we got some kind of a uniform – what the uniform was for. (SLIGHT LAUGHTER) Actually, the uniforms were taken away from some – I had a French jacket, I think it was Polish or some other kind of military pants – so military uniforms they won, you might say, with the armies. So this is what we had, what was supplied to us, used German boots or some other foreign army boots.
And it didn’t take much time because some of the German engineers – they were quite professional. And what we started to do is finishing a railroad siding and there was one barrack, I believe, there that was put together, modules, prebuilt. So we slept overnight over there until we built some more barracks. A train came with a lot of – actually equipment for a sawmill. And then we started – our job was cutting down trees. There were two-man saws, no mechanical, two-man saws, falling down, cutting branches off. And then, from the edge of the woods, following them over as they set up the one big hall. And outside, it was summertime, cutting it into boards for outside, for siding and the roof and so on. And a lot of tar paper which covered the roof. We built barracks for the – for us, for the German workers who are the supervisors, and we build barracks for war prisoners who came later.
PERRY: Let me ask you this, Henry. They didn’t ask you for your experience, but you must have shown them your false papers. Is that what you used?
CHANGAR: Yes. And had after that – we found out that the Russian war prisoners were going to work and were fabricating charcoal, and big, big ______ oven, or whatever they are, got already round, like some of the gas tanks a lot of the times we see around St. Louis. Or they could have been something like a hundred feet across, and they walked along with long sticks and stirred the charcoal. They used the charcoal to – not the fire, but to get heated again on tanks which were attached to German trucks. And they would produce gas, and the gas – I don’t mean gasoline, I mean gas actually which burned on the heat and the trucks were going, fueled by that gas. They had some trucks that created a lot of noise; they were fueled by carbide. And they had these carbide lamps with a piece of carbide dripping slowly, a drop at a time water. That produced gas. And some of their trucks were going on that too.
Well, I was – they ask who can speak Russian and German and so on, and I volunteered. I learned German in schooling, and knew a little Yiddish that I learned from the home. And so I was a ______which is a translator. My work was a little bit easier and they didn’t – so I translated since Polish is so close to Russian and my mother spoke Russian and my stepfather spoke Russian. And all the middle-aged people spoke Russian because we used to be at one time under Russian occupation before the First World War. And they went to Russian schools and so on. But that really wasn’t much help. But it was help that the prisoners understood me and I understood them and of course I could – I could converse with the Germans.
Before long, we started getting boards and boards and boards and stuck them up high and of course I had to help with that too. And I was, well, I was nominated since I could speak with the Germans and could speak with the Russians, go to Minsk and see what I could probably accomplish since some of the German workers were over there. They had workers, they had soldiers; they were actually under the military. And there was military, as well, Russian soldiers who were guarded; they were prisoners. We weren’t under guard and once in a while we did get a pass and we can go into town, to Minsk, hitchhiked our way over there. And there was a lot of food to be bought if you had come out with blankets, shoes, or anything else. And some Germans packed foods like lard and pork and things and sent home with dry ice, packed in dry ice, and sent home. Some meat was dried too and sent home. And even clothing if they could get a hold of some good clothes, they sent them home.
I seen in Minsk some of the Jewish people with yellow stars. Where I was, Jewish people wore white armbands with a blue Star of David. They had a Star of David of the yellow, like the German Jews, and they are sweeping the streets from the horse manure and so on. And they were guarded by the German soldiers, looked like they were labor brigades like we had in Warsaw and that they had – I never did find out where the ghetto was that they lived; they didn’t live in a ghetto. And I got over to one of the fellows who was on the edge and talked to them and said, “Now listen, you are so close, the first, why don’t you get out?” He says, “You are not going to live through war.” I said, “You keep your mouth shut.” I said, “I am Jewish, working for the Germans over here. So I am on your side.” And he just looked on one side, the other side to see if he’s being watched. Of course I did exactly the same thing. And he wouldn’t answer a word. I just turned my back and started walking away slowly. He was afraid. There was my – my contact with the Russian Jews over there, one only.
I got to know some of the Russian families. There was _______, it was called. Now it’s a separate country because the Germans don’t need an extra vote in the United Nations, so they made ______ a separate country, the Ukraine another country. There never was a Ukraine – Ukraine, there never was such a country, actually. And _______ was just a region and they made a country out of it.
And I bought some things on the black market and sold some things on the black market and brought some eggs for the Germans, who, some haven’t seen an egg for weeks. (LIGHT LAUGHTER) And now, after a few days we heard shots. The Russian partisans found out about us. As they – they got more often the Germans issued rifles, long, old _____ rifles and ammunition.
PERRY: For you, for example.
CHANGAR: Yes, and we had to stand guard because there wasn’t enough of the Germans to stand guard, the German army to stand guard. So we stood guard as well. Of course you see, some – we cleared the field and about a couple hundred feet around our barracks which were – were started getting built. And they seen a rabbit and they started shooting, and all of a sudden an alarm and everybody started running. They had all seen something.
And, not the rifle – the rifles we had to give back the next morning, but ammunition was handy too, trade on the black market. The black market sells it to the partisans, the Russian guerrillas, the partisans, and we were able to get sometime – as you know, the Polish people were quite eager to drink vodka, just the same as Russians are. There was none to be gotten, but sugar was to be gotten. They cooked their own; the Russian peasants cooked moonshine, called samagonka, which was the ______ thing that anybody ever drunk, but of stale bread, whatever they could get a hold of, potato peels. It was yellow, looked like, looked like soup, petroleum, and after. And tastes not much better. The Polish people who wanted to get a kick out of the alcohol indulged and we started to building – we had enough wood – we started building barracks. The siding, the inside walls were as well made out of wooden paneling – not paneling, but boards which came by railroad cars. They are finished nicely, but outside was raw. The barracks were built on wooden stakes for foundation and the inside. And of course, the outside was rough but the inside, when I got into, we started putting those boards and cutting them to get it to match.
My carpenter skills went out the window. Of course there was none. I had the little, little experience since my grandfather was a cabinetmaker, I was looking at the cabinets but I never actually built any cabinets, just looked at it. I knew how to hold a handsaw in my hand, but I couldn’t cut straight. One time when the German _______, which is a foreman, came over and took my hat, my hat off my head, and pushed against the wall. I said, “Willy(?), what you doing?” He says, “Well you made the hole big enough, it’s gonna be a big draft; your head will come in handy. (LAUGHTER BY PERRY) The hole is in-between these boards big enough that your head would come in.”
Well, we got befriended with them; some of them were pretty nice, and one in particular. We had conversation about politics. They weren’t afraid to talk about politics but they comment on Jews, “Oh yeah, this is a war maybe wrong, but they treat the Russian war prisoners wrong. But the Jews, Juden verraken(?), they’ve got to go.” So that was it. And day in, day out we found another, another turnip to eat. There were mushrooms. The fields were full of mushrooms. The _____ themselves were afraid to go into the woods, Germans definitely. The partisans didn’t want to get close to the German barracks because they knew they were armed. And those mushrooms grew; some of them grew as much as six or eight inches across. It’s hard to drag some of these, but the worms, they didn’t start eating so we started throwing the worms out and finally not much came out of that. But while they were fresh we could build over a fire and eat it. They were good.
And I just went from day to day ’til we were supposed to get a vacation after one year. There was another fellow who – as one dog can smell the other, I was pretty sure he was Jewish, even though his language was perfect. His looks were – he was red head. And he spoke a pretty well educated Polish. And he – we kind of got close together even though we lived in different barracks and whenever there was anybody around who did not want to get to be too chummy with each other even though we felt empathy and sympathy and we felt toward each other. We felt who we were.
There was a fellow in my barrack who was from southeast Poland and if you put out a dozen Jews, any dozen Jews from the street side by side and you put him with them, and if you ask anybody who is Jewish, they’ll point a finger at him. He was a farmer’s boy, but his nose was – even for a Jew – was long and curly and he looked like he could be a Jew. Now, I made him my friend, very nice. And so he says, “When we get vacation, come and go with me and I’ll show you where I live and where and what.” Well, I wanted to go back to Warsaw and we talked it over with the other red head fellow, Jewish fellow, that vacation time is coming up for you and me. I said, “Would you take a chance?”
PERRY: To go back to Warsaw.
CHANGAR: To Warsaw. He said, “I don’t know.” He said would I take a chance. I said, “I don’t know, but I am from Warsaw.” He was from a different city. But I said, “I’m going to take a chance.” And there was another Polish fellow who the Germans wanted to guarantee that he’s gonna come back. They were going to let me go on vacation but they are afraid the other Polish fellow…And of course I said, “I can’t guarantee for anybody.” But yet they still let him go on vacation and let me go.
The border between Russia and Poland was still _____now, was still a border even though it was all German territory. But still you had to go in, have your papers to go through from what they called Poland to what they called Russia, Ukraine, or ______. And I had to go through a doctor’s inspection whether I had veneral disease and I had to take a shower with the others. Of course I was quite handy already. I knew already what to do as you heard in a previous tape –
PERRY: Now, we didn’t get that on tape. If you’d like to describe it now for me, if you don’t…You were able to conceal the fact that you were circumcised.
CHANGAR: I was able to conceal the fact that I was circumcised. I was in the shower and, and well, you can get it out of the tape if you don’t want to. When we came to inspection I had taken my penis in my hand so they could inspect me around if I had lice and so on and foreskin. And there was no veneral disease under the foreskin which wasn’t there; I just pulled it on and let it go…I went back over there. And…(TAPE STOPS)
Well, I came to Warsaw with the other fellow and, and I got quite friendly with __________ Marysha Chelnow (?). And we – you might say fell in love. It was strictly platonic because I knew that I couldn’t possibly. Nothing would come out of _____, nothing would come out of. As a matter of fact, if I don’t go back to the Germans over there, I didn’t want to risk her life and her freedom.
PERRY: She was Polish.
CHANGAR: Yeah, we fell for each other. And I spent a couple of days over there. I saved her letter from her, one that she, she wrote me when I joined the Germans and she just got a job that she couldn’t say goodbye to me. So she left me a note. I still have it. And this falling in love didn’t come just suddenly. More or less we fell in love and did a correspondence back and forth. I don’t know that I was quite sincere with her or not. I just wanted to have somebody over there, just in case. And of course, it got a little bit deeper.
And then I went, with my vacation time, I went with my friend. He lived just a short few miles from Warsaw. His brother was blind, and they were stealing, they were stealing uh, trees from the woods. Chopped a tree down and pulled it by horse, pulled in the nighttime, and cut it apart. After the war I corresponded with his parents, with his brother, who was blind actually. Now he didn’t go back to Warsaw with me. He stayed there. And I found out he joined the Polish army and he got killed. He stepped – stepped on a mine and got killed. So, that happened after the war, or just before the war ended. It’s hard to remember these things. Anyway, I spent a few days over there, spent a couple days with my friends in Warsaw. And then back to Russia.
PERRY: Did you bump into any of your, any remaining Jews around there at all?
CHANGAR: No, no I didn’t. I went to look for a fellow Jew that I knew that used to go back and they used to have an apartment. And his wife – he used to be on the outside and his wife used to bring merchandise from the ghetto and so on. He used to get merchandise, but I couldn’t find anybody. He was gone. And the wall was still there. And the guards were still standing over there. I didn’t try to get in. It was quiet; there was no noise. And as far as my friends were concerned, they didn’t think anybody was there.
Now, just lately, I read some books and found out that there were some Jews in bunkers underground living over there. At nighttime they used to scrounge for food and sometimes used to go outside the wall and some got food, uh, in some of the books that I read, so I found out that there were still some Jews over there. Some Jews survived.
PERRY: But you didn’t meet them at that time.
CHANGAR: No, I had no more contact. I didn’t think there was anybody who survived at all because there was no sound, nothing, nobody – no hint of anybody being there. And if anybody knew, they kept their mouth shut, if they were friends. If they were enemies, they’d probably bring the Germans over there and show them where they are. What I did know was that some of the Christians used to go over the wall at nighttime and steal. Look for some houses that weren’t entirely demolished or burned, to look for merchandise, to look for clothes, to look for other things they could take out over there and rob those empty places. And some Jews were living underground. They heard the footsteps and so on but I just read this in a book. I just found that out.
PERRY: So actually, you actually found noone you know, and you headed back after?
CHANGAR: Yes. I went back. I went back and the life didn’t change so great, too greatly, just that the Russian planes used to come more and more often. And they were very much afraid of the Russian – of the German flock, anti-aircraft fire. So they used to come close, open the _____ you see on the movie, that the Americans flyers did, opened the _____ and dropped, dropped the bombs and went right back; whereas the German soldiers, the bombs were scarce and the gasoline or alcohol. They had planes that used to run on alcohol, _____ they used to call it – diver, diver bomber, bomber divers or whatever. (LIGHT LAUGHTER)
PERRY: Dive bombers.
CHANGAR: Yeah, dive bombers, and they used to dive on the target, drop down bomb every time and went back up. The Germans that we were with used to put down, down buildings on sticks with, with roofs made out of branches and things to make it look like bark, to make them stay away from our bark. So the Germans (Editor: Russians?) came down and threw a bomb over there but otherwise the German soldiers were very, very scared of it. They – they heard alarm. They run down in our bunkers underground.
We used to sit outside and we used to cheer them up, cheer them on, and watch where the bombs go.
PERRY: You used to cheer the Russians…
CHANGAR: That’s right. Well, in time the shelling was getting closer and closer. Anyway, before that time, one time the Germans took us on trucks and got close to Stalingrad.
PERRY: They took you close to Stalingrad.
CHANGAR: Yes, close to Stalingrad, and they showed us trenches where a lot of Polish officers were buried. Of course the trenches were un – dug out and the Russian – the Polish officers, because you could see the ranks of stars on the epaulets, laying there with the hands tied in the back and normally one bullet hole in the back of the neck. And we thought that the Germans did that themselves because they brought the Polish workers, but some of the bodies were quite deteriorated already. So I found out afterwards that this was actually from the Russians, that actually this happened – the Russians did that to the Polish officers. They had a Polish army that they wanted to get Russian officers in the Polish army. Most of the Polish officers were Communists, or pretended to be. And they wanted to liquidate as much of the Polish intelligentsia as they could, the educated ones, doctors and lawyers and officers and what have you, leaders. And there was one way of disposing of it over there, some were machine gunned, some just one shot to the back of the head. And down in the ditch, and they just bulldoze and cover the ditches. And the Russians came to the Germans and showed them some Russians who were against the Communists, and there were a lot of them. There were a lot of them, and there still is a lot of them. And this is our most important weapon that we have over here, that whenever I see it in the paper, that in case of war, we have a lot of sympathizers over there. Even regardless of the propaganda, Russian propaganda against the United States, we still have – because you’ve got so many nationalities and they dislike each other. The actual Russians hate all the Asiatic nations, the Kurdish, the Mongols – Mongolians – from Kurdistan and Turkistan and Mongolia and all the others. And they used to just raise their hands and go right across the front, just give themselves up. And the Russians were – afterwards they worked for the Germans in camps like I was. They – they worked with the charcoal.
Anyway, the front was getting closer and closer and the Germans started getting frantic. You see German trucks on the road, German tanks passing by in disarray. You could see in the wintertime the Italian soldiers carrying each other, carrying piggyback with bandaged or wrapped-up feet in rags, frozen feet. They carried each other; they couldn’t walk. The Italian soldiers weren’t quite what the Germans thought they would be. And of course they didn’t have the same as the Germans. They were progressing so fast over there after the Russians that the supplies couldn’t follow through. The supplies had to go through the Russian forest, and they were blown up. The Germans couldn’t get with the uniforms. They lacked proper uniforms; they had to fight in the snow and below zero degree weather. And the Italians who came from a lot warmer climate, for them it was a lot harder yet. They sold the blankets, they sold the shoes, they sold the guns, every darn thing they could for wine or vodka or anything else.
And, anyway, we had seen German tanks come back from the front, shelled up, dirty, and German trucks full of personnel. Well, one day we were told we going. Now we were under this place in the war – we were – from that place we were, we went to a couple other places. And again the same story followed not too far away, that we built barracks and saw mills and then they had to saw in the woods, took back the wood to build barracks for the Germans and so on. So we were in about two or three different places where we – small, little towns or outside little towns we would build that. Well, the same thing happened over and over and over again.
There was one fellow, was 23 years old, we knew he had tuberculosis. He was coughing all the time, very skinny like some – like those fellows in the concentration camp. We used to send him out in the middle of the night and we used to laugh that he smuggled – vodka. He used to bring us moonshine in the middle of the night. He could find it – I don’t know how he found it. We used to give him a couple of blankets and everything else. He traded and found in the middle of the night. Of course, all the lights were out because the Russians – the Germans were afraid of the Russian air raids. So if they seen any kind of a light at nighttime, they shot right through the window.
PERRY: Well, this was in – sometime then in early 1945, I guess, by this time.
CHANGAR: No, no. ’44, ’43, ’44 – ’44 I would say, yeah, it was the winter of ’43, ’44. And, now, then it was getting warmer and we got orders that we’re gonna evacuate so get on to some of the trucks, and get on. And you could see at nighttime the flashes of the Russian cannons. The, the, uh, the sound with the light and Russian katyushas – those rockets which shoot 10 at a time mechanically. Well, they all goin’ and I said, “Well, there is my chance.” I got in the field and I got in where they used to store potatoes underground, crawled over straw – that’s where they kept them over the wintertime – covered with straw and with a flat door, covered with a lot of dirt and so on. Well, I got around those places, got inside, and I said, “Heck, I can always get – I got potatoes.” Get outside, and I had matches, and plenty of straw, and plenty of dry wood if I have to have it, and bake some of these potatoes and that would have been that if I have to wait a day or two because they were – they were close.
And I could hear the Russian trucks still once and while going. But the Russian planes, the Russian planes were so vicious. They just came bombing; they came and just dropped the bombs any place they go, normally on the roads where the German trucks were but anyplace. Just dumped the, dumped the, dumped the bombs and go back. There were plenty of bombs supplied by the United States so the heck with that. They want to save their own lives too and their anti-aircraft fire stayed behind to protect the evacuation.
Well, it got so hot that I was afraid, the bombs were falling, that the next one might fall right straight, straight on to me. By that time I got close to the road, and lucky enough, there was a truck – of course they wouldn’t let me – let me on it. So I jumped up on it, on the running board and fender, and hold on to this side, almost fell down several times. Well, I wasn’t just – as we got farther, you could pick up some of the rifles and grenades and ammunition. Well, I got a belt with plenty ammunition, got a couple of grenades, rifles and a gun, and the Germans didn’t worry about anything. I mean, who was going with them. We were all friends, all, it was just, “Get out of there.”
Well, with a few stops, I came to Warsaw. Of course the first thing I do is go to my friend’s. He said, “Where did you get all of this stuff?” I said, “Well, I’ve got to bring something. I’ve got to eat.” Well, he said, “Don’t worry about it. That’ll bring you plenty of money.” They took care of that. They sold it to the Polish underground and I had plenty of money. But they said to send me over here (TROUBLE WITH TAPE) with the grenades and the rifle and everything else. They said it wouldn’t be safe for them or for me to stay too long over here, not even – not even tonight. I said, “Okay, what should I do?” “Well, we actually don’t know.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll find a place.” I went on the streetcar and got off at the railroad station. (TROUBLE WITH TAPE) I got accosted by a prostitute. (TROUBLE WITH TAPE) It was an unusual manner. I said, “Yeah, I’ll go with you.” “Do you have the papers on you?” “Yeah, if there’s a raid, I have the papers on me.” “That’s fine.” So I went with her to a hotel and she wanted to have the money but I –

Tape 3 - Side 2

CHANGAR: Of course I went to sleep and before I did, she went and took a shower.
PERRY: Excuse me one second. (TAPE STOPS)
CHANGAR: Of course I went to sleep and not quite right away – she took a shower. And while she took a shower I hid my money. So in case I would be robbed, that’s the only thing I had. (LAUGHTER BY BOTH) If they gave up my ammunition, grenades and my gun, my rifle, I had quite a few dollars. I just kept, what I kept was some Russian tobacco that I kept with me. And next morning I got up early and met my friends again. They said, “What are your plans? Are you staying here?” I said, “Well, I’m gonna report to the German authorities and tell them I’m back.” And so I did. I showed them my papers that I came with the evacuation truck and now I’m here. Well, they don’t know where my – where my firm was, where my troop was. But I had a choice. They need people to go wherever I want to. They put me in another place over there and they’ve got opening up in France, Belgium, some other places they’re going to build barracks; they need workers. And _______, but they need mostly electrician. And I says, “Well, I was working as a carpenter over here, but here’s my papers. I am an electrician. I work as a carpenter, but I do know about electricity.” He said, “Okay. We’re going to send you to – to Norway.” I said, “Fine.” (TAPE STOPS)
Maybe I rushed through the whole scenario too fast, but things happened while I was in Russia over there. One thing happened is that we had a drunk over there who started alluding towards me – that since my Polish was better than theirs and of course I could speak German. By that time my German was already a lot better than from the beginning. And he was alluding to me that I maybe not Polish, even though I made myself an alibi that I was the son of a Polish officer. And, but he still, still was after me, after me and after me. And I knew that one day I’m going to get in trouble. I did something which you would call underhanded, but I had no way out because he was getting closer on to me.
We had, middle of the night many times raids for the ammunition that we didn’t turn back and so on. And of course, whenever there were Russian air raids they gave us ammunition. And they had a guard – the guard, they gave the guard the barracks, the parameter. They gave us ammunition, rifles. They got the rifles back the next morning, but the ammunition was less and less and less and they didn’t have too many because – too much of the ammunition; they were Russian rifles. And there was Russian ammunition. So what I did is got some of the bullets and stuck under his mattress. And I reported to my German friends that there’s one fellow that I know is hoarding ammunition, but I didn’t want anybody else to know about it. And I didn’t tell them the name. I didn’t tell them the bed where they’ll find it, but he keeps it under the mattress. And in the nighttime they came and got everybody outside. They got under the mattress and they found the ammunition. They took him away. I don’t know what they did to him.
There’s a lot of things I could say about him before, what he did with Russian girls and things like this. I got befriended by the Russian war prisoners as well, and some of them got passes. I fixed one up with the Russian prostitute in town. (LAUGHTER) That was the biggest mistake I ever did because next time I seen her she used my _____ on the black market. And she wouldn’t talk to me; she was awfully mad. He wanted – he didn’t want intercourse with her like normal people do. He wanted like dogs do, the other way around…So of course he almost forced her to it, but she started screaming. She got out. And next day I seen him; she took his blanket. The next day – the next time I seen him, I say, “Why did you try to do that? You wouldn’t do that with your wife.” “Well, my wife’s clean. But they are dirty. They could sleep with any man and get veneral disease. See, from the back you don’t get veneral disease that easy. See, I didn’t have a woman for a long time. That would have been my first woman for a couple years.” So, that was one incident. There was many incidents. But that was – more or less – that’s the way that life went.
On the way back, we stopped to take a bath and so on in rivers, and to relieve ourselves. And at some of the rivers, before we crossed the river, those Mongolians went into the water and they shaved themselves, naked, in front of the women. The women used to went – with their brassieres on, their pants on, used to go in the water. But they went in stark naked. And they used to shave underarms, pubic hair mostly, and so on. And they said that keeps – the heads, of course they shaved. They left the moustaches, long beards down. There was a lot of other things.
PERRY: But in general, as a worker, did you have enough to eat? Did they give you medical services?
CHANGAR: I had – it wasn’t, it wasn’t the best medical services, but we could get it. And I was a pretty healthy fellow, thank God. And I didn’t know that I had ulcers already. So once in a while I got a stomachache, but that was it. And of course I didn’t even complain about that. And food was poor, but it was there. Even to this day, food isn’t that important to me. I don’t eat to – I don’t live to eat. I eat to live. So food wasn’t that important to me.
PERRY: So generally, I guess you’re really, to sum it up, you’d say that as a worker, considering it was wartime, you did pretty well.
CHANGAR: Yeah…I got – I kept myself alive. I, when I got out of the ghetto and registered to the German OT reserves they picked me out from the group. (TAPE STOPS)
PERRY: You were talking about…
CHANGAR: He picked me out from the group and says, “In case you fellows think that you’re doing us a favor by volunteering, working for the Germans and for the German cause, here is a fellow. Take a good look. Now I bet you, in a few weeks he’ll look better than that. His hair is almost shaven. His cheeks are in, cheekbones are out; he probably is about 50 pounds underweight. So you volunteered not because you want to do us a favor and work for the German cause. You volunteered probably, either you didn’t have enough bread or you’re running away from something. And this is one example, this fellow didn’t have enough bread.”
PERRY: Why don’t we mention that also – before you went back and described some of your life as a worker – that the Germans decided to transfer you to Norway.
CHANGAR: Well, I had to wait for transport, for the time to go, so outside Warsaw – I don’t know where it was – there were some German barracks. And they gave me a location where some girls in barracks, some fellows in barracks, they were all going to – to German camps or to some kind of German labor, German camps. And oddly enough, the fellow whom I befriended who looked very much like a Jew, was there. So of course I was very happy. And we started to tell each other how we got to Russia, how we got out from Russia. And so he decided before me that he’s gonna go to Norway. So the whole barrack over there was going to Norway. The reason why I decided to go to Norway instead of going anyplace else was because Norway was so close to Sweden. And I couldn’t get from Russia – from German side of Russia to Russian territory. I just thought that maybe over there since there’s no bombing, maybe somehow being so close to Sweden, they would be able to. I don’t know how long I stayed over there but I was in contact with my – I had freedom to come and go at that time as far as curfew is concerned. I was allowed to come past the curfew or leave before. And I was in contact with my girl and my friends. And I left her some money and I told her I’m going to go. And…as we were over there, we heard of an uprising in Lublin. No, no, first, we – I asked how long we have to stay in these barracks. They exactly don’t know, but I’ve got a few days pass – this fellow wanted me to meet his family in Lublin. So we went over there, and there was one girl over there who went as my sister. And we went to Lublin, or close to Lublin, they had a farm. We went over there. And of course they didn’t have enough beds. So I said, “Oh heck, we’ll sleep – since it’s warm we’ll sleep in the barn over there. You’ve got enough straw and things like that.” “No, don’t sleep in the barn.” They brought the straw into the kitchen, and we slept on the straw in the kitchen. Of course, my “sister” was over there too. (LAUGHTER) Uh, I was over there – I was over 20 years old and my blood was hot.
PERRY: Sure.
CHANGAR: I tried to get close to the girl but she had her pants on and there, that’s the way, that’s where they stayed. That’s where (LAUGHTER) they stayed. My wife and my kids cannot hear the tape. That’s where they stayed; there was nothing doing. Anyway, we stayed a few days in Lublin, came back to the barracks, and afterwards we went to Germany. We stayed in some big house in a district – was called Wannsee. I guess south sea, or whatever it was, whatever the train station is; I don’t remember anymore. And we stayed over there exactly one night and the English – American bombers came. And the Germans run like mad. They were scared to death and of course we just cheered it on without worrying if we gonna be hit or not. Mostly me – I lived in wartime, I could – I never throught I’d be sitting over here talking to you and telling you about it. I thought, sooner or later I’m a goner. It’s just wartime so I might as well have fun watching the German planes and all the sparks coming and all the flock exploding next to them. And some shot down. (PHONE RINGS; TAPE STOPS)
So after the one night, next day I said, “I’m not a forced laborer, I’m a volunteer. And here’s my deeds (?) book. And you owe me so much money.” He said, “That’s in the bank for you. I showed you the bills.” And I said, “I wanna get – I want out of here. I’m going to Norway in one way or the other. If I’m going to stay anyplace, I don’t want to stay here.”
So the next day a train was going north, went to Stuttgart, not Stuttgart am Main, Stuttgart _______, by the sea, the North Sea or Baltic Sea; whatever it was over there. And over there we was supposed to wait for a ship to take us to Norway. Well, meantime they put us to work. What we were doing is building bunkers out of concrete. You can imagine our work. (LAUGHTER) Some of the ______ were sitting firm, and some were pouring concrete. And a bomb that fell a hundred feet away probably – the bunkers were shattered, shattered to nothing.
And on our days off – I think we could have been there, two, three weeks. We were visiting over there and the poor, the rusty boats coming. (TAPE STOPS) We watched the boats coming and we all begged for cigarettes. There were sailors. There was a Turkish boat, “Cigarettes, cigarettes please.” They threw us a pack. I kissed the pack of cigarettes and the lid went up. After the lid went up and smoked for a couple minutes, I felt my hands and my feet like they somehow fall asleep, like needles and pins.
PERRY: You were doped.
CHANGAR: After my cigarettes – normal cigarettes, after them, packed and sealed, sealed pack. After the cigarettes – I guess they were quite illegal over there. And of course I wasn’t used to it. And so I gave the rest of them away to my friends. “Here, have a Turkish cigarette. Do you want a Turkish cigarette? Turkish cigarette?” And to some Germans I gave them away. “For German cigarette do you want to smoke Turkish cigarettes?” Well, we did get a ration of cigarettes; they were German cigarettes. I wasn’t a big smoker; I’d rather have food. And I had some money with me. The Polish money – German money was war money. They exchanged me for the German marks war marks too, and found out could go from place to place if I could buy some food that was – all of it was rationed.
But I found a butcher shop, the one was willing, had a Polish name on the outside. This was close to the Polish border, and the border used to change every couple hundred years from Poland to Germany, Poland, Germany, and still is changing. What Poland is now used to be Germany but still have Polish eagles on some buildings which are 3-400 years old. And she agreed to sell me some sausages and something. Of course I bought some, whatever I could, whatever she was willing to sell without ration cards. I shared it with my friend and who ever I befriended over there. And everyday I went over there and I got some.
Well, one fellow was very stubborn. And he says, “I want to buy some food. I’ve got money.” I said, “They won’t sell it to you.” He said, “Why do they sell to you?” “Maybe they like me. They wouldn’t sell it. They told me not to.” Well he wants to go, otherwise, he’s going to report me and this and this and that. So I said, “Fine, go ahead. There’s a butcher shop on this and this street, number such and such. Go over there and ask – show them that you’ve got money. Ask that you want to buy a couple of pounds of scheidefleisch. Well, for those who don’t know, including you, that means vagina meat. Of course they took a broom and chased him the heck out of there. They chased him out of the store. He came back and says, “They took a broom and chased me out, wanted to beat the heck out of me and call the police.” I said, “I told you they wouldn’t sell you any.” Of course that wasn’t the same place.
Well, they had prostitute houses over there, a separate one for the Germans, a separate one for the foreigners. I visited one of those and you had to stand in line a long time, for who was over 20 years old – the desire, the passion was big. But after you stand in line (LAUGHTER BY PERRY) for, for few hours and you wait your turn, by the time they let me in and she got the money first. There were, some guys were over there, sailors that came over there, foreign sailors with – French sailors with champagne and wine. The prostitute took away the wine and called the guard, the German guard. He chased them out. They took away the wine from them. (LAUGHTER) Well, my turn was to get in. She had a dress on. All she did was lay down on the sofa, picked her drawers up to her belly button, and she says, “Go ahead.” I laid down on top of her, nothing, nothing. She says, “Well, your time is up. Good bye.” So I – (LAUGHTER) she took my money; I had nothing out of it. Of course my friends didn’t know that.
Time comes that we – the train arrived. I said, “I want to work in my profession and it’s too long to wait for a boat.” I was afraid winter was getting close. I want to go to Norway. They say, “We’ll get you there.” So a train was going to Denmark and they got me on a train and my friend stayed behind. I bought some civilian clothes on the black market. I left him some clothes, put it in a suitcase because he didn’t even know I was going because he wasn’t there when they said, “You ready? We’ve got a train now, go.” So somebody went with me. He didn’t go with me.
We went through Denmark. Through – the train went through orchards on both sides. And it stopped; we see apples growing right, you could pick from the trees. And some of those fellows were Polish like me and some of them were – they just – whenever the train stopped or slowed down, they just from the window grabbed the apples, grabbed the whole branches and pulled them in. If the train stopped to let us go and relieve – get relieved. __________. Of course this train didn’t have – not all wagons, not all, all cars had, traincars had toilets – transport trains. And they just broke off – they didn’t have enough time to pick the apples so they just broke off the whole branches, branches with apples and pulled them in there.
We went to Aalborg; that’s a port city in Denmark, quite north. And they let us walk around until we get a boat. And odd things – I seen a prison. On top of the prison was a white flag and I asked the people, “Why is the white flag over there on top of the prison?” “This is a criminal prison, for criminals. On the other side of town there is a political prison; they’ve got 20 prisoners. There’s no white flag over there. The white flag is over here because there’s no prisoners. So whenever there’s no prisoners they put the white flag out.”
Lunchtime, I try to go in some stores; stores are empty. Doors were open; stores were empty. A bowl with some change it it was sitting over there on the counter, and some sign in Danish which I didn’t know what it was. Later on I found out. They just go to lunch and leave the door open. You go help yourself. And if you need change, you take the change. Of course they wouldn’t accept German money and they wanted Danish money and I didn’t want to buy anything. Finally the dinner was over and I went to some stores and they accepted German money at the right exchange. And I wouldn’t know what – I bought a hairbrush and some razor blades. And in fact, the hairbrush I still brought to the United States. It’s gone now; all the bristles are gone. And some odds and ends that I thought I might need, I might use if I ever get through to Norway. So I had to get some good gloves, not the season for them, so I couldn’t get them. Aalborg was a beautiful town, hilly town, up and down, up and down. And a boat finally came. (TAPE STOPS)
PERRY: Henry, you mentioned that – about being in Treblinka for six days and blowing up Russian trains. Could you give me a little more information before we go to Norway?
CHANGAR: Well, actually this is one subject I hate to talk about, so I’m going to jump pretty fast through it. I was twice going to concentration camp, and one time they finally got in, to Treblinka.
PERRY: Were you – did you go voluntarily or…?
CHANGAR: No, no, no, they got me. They got me. And they got me – I don’t know if I told you that or not. I told you on the tape – I told you I was, got in touch through the lady who got me the counterfeit papers with the Polish partisans and they got me in touch with some of their suppliers. They were a pretty close knit group over there; they didn’t want anybody from the outside who might get caught to find and talk where they were. But I got in touch with one guy and says, he asks some of the fellows who bring us ammunition, cigarettes, whatever we need. So I got with him. There was – oh, I would say about 20 miles from Warsaw – in fact, there was on the way to Orlay (?) where my uncle used to have –
PERRY: His summer place.
CHANGAR: Summer place, yeah, that I told you about. And what we did – they used to have – they had a farmhouse. We were about a half dozen of us and they had a truck. They had a truck and they had a wagon, a horse-driven wagon. Trucks can’t go every place. Moving among trees, the horse-driven wagon could get a lot more places. Well, what we did was – no, I got things mixed up. (TAPE STOPS) I got things mixed up. We were blowing up trains whenever we could. And those trains who hardly slowed down on the curves, and we got to know our chief – whoever was the man in charge – let us know that we had train over here, that we want everything out of it; we’re going to blow it.
PERRY: These were German supply trains.
CHANGAR: Yeah, so we went quite a few miles by truck out. One of us got the dynamite under the tracks and a train came; we blew it up. And if we could, if there weren’t too many soldiers, we jumped into the train and chopped open with heavy steel-cutters the seals they had. And whatever was in there, we threw it out and normally half of the nighttime, whatever we could before the German soldiers or anybody came through, drag some of the cases back in the woods. Sometime oh, cigarettes, and whiskey, and clothes and all kinds of supplies, shoes and what have you. Sometimes the train was going quite slow. And they were preceded by an empty wagon.
PERRY: To make sure there was no bomb on the tracks.
CHANGAR: In case there’s a bomb, the empty wagon’s going to get blown up. Well, we had – we could blow up, there was, some of them were blown up by dynamite. Some were blown up by remote – not wireless, but wire and you just push the handle on it and blew it up after the wagon went through. So we knew that this train carried ammunition. It paid good, carried guns and ammunition and what have you. It paid good. So as the train went on a curve, we jumped on the train and – two, three fellows on top of the roof, one held the other. One just hung down; we held him by the feet, held down, cut the seals with a crowbar or even the wirecutters – or sealcutters, forced the door open and the other fellows opened the door and we jumped in there and started throwing out cases of whatever it was.
And I – we had just about, we had just about unloaded whatever we could carry. I was, out of the two fellows with me, yeah two fellows with me. There were three on top of the roof. I was, the other fellow, and then one fellow cut the – two fellows with me. The other two fellows jumped out. I was just about to jump, was waiting for a curve to jump because to jump – you jump on the outside curve. On the inside curve they could shoot you from both sides. On the outside curve they can’t. And as I was waiting to jump, a German voice said, “Go ahead, jump.” And I see a pair of boots, and the nozzle of a rifle.
After a while, a few minutes, the train stopped because they noticed that they’d been robbed. What happened to the other fellows, I don’t know. They jumped out from the other wagons. There were another three or four. And I guess they probably, well they got the cases, they got maybe a half mile down the road, or a mile down the road on the horse wagon because that what we came with; it was a wooded area.
And they got me. They locked me up like I was in a chicken coop. There was the police station over there. And I was thinking it was a kind of prison, it was probably some kind of storage area over there. And I could probably, even with the Germans standing outside, or the Polish police over there, I could probably knock that with my boot. And I could lose, but I wouldn’t take a chance from over there. As they got me, they frisked me. They found a gun.
They got me back to Warsaw and _______; that was the headquarters of the German police. They got me over there and into an office of one of the German officers. I told you the story. He was quite nice with me. He says, “You robbed German trains,” he says, “I can shoot you down just like that.” He says, “They found a gun on you,” he says, “there’s the gun.” He said, “That’s a _________. Where did you get the gun?” I said, “The fellows that jumped down with me gave me the gun.” “Well, where are the fellows?” I said, “I don’t know. They just pick me up in Warsaw. I just came from out of town. Here is my papers.” And that was before I had my counterfeit papers. These are the papers what I had – the Polish social medicine papers with my Polish name.
PERRY: Did that indicate that you were Jewish?
CHANGAR: No, no Jewish, no Polish – but the name was Henrik Changar, a strictly Polish, Christian name. And he said, “I hate to do you harm,” he said, “but I have to find out where you got the gun. You’re telling me cock and bull story.” It was not in those words; that was Polish _____. “You’re telling me stories that isn’t true, but I have a way. I’ll get the truth out of you.” So after a lot of conversation, he tried to get it easily but he couldn’t get it easily.
And I actually didn’t know the names; we all had nicknames. I actually still don’t know to this day the real names, their real names, or where I was, where the farmhouse was. I couldn’t get out of there. I was there; that’s it. They had plenty of good food, plenty of wine, plenty of drinks, and plenty of everything. So – and plenty of good clothes and plenty of girls. So – but out, no out. You stay well. So actually I couldn’t even tell them if I wanted to. I said, “I don’t know. They picked me up over here and I’m from out of town. I’m from Warsaw, but I was out of town. My house was bombed.” Whatever excuses I could, whatever excuse I gave him, and where did I live? Where did I sleep? I said, “Well, that’s where I was. They got me in the farmhouse. I don’t know where the farmhouse is. They never let me out, and I don’t know what happened to the things that we robbed that train. They said, ‘we’ve got a job to do,’ and this was it.” They gave me the gun.
Uh uh, he didn’t believe the story. He says, “You get under that – take your shoes off; get under the chair.” He took a bamboo stick and he had a bull whip – that’s a bull…you know what that is. He said, “Get – crouch under the chair and I’m going to stand on top of the chair.” He said, “I’m going to whip you. I’m going to whip your bare feet.” He says, “But please, don’t wiggle and don’t jump around because I’m a heavy fellow and I don’t want to fall down and hurt myself. And what’s worse, this is a good chair. We don’t have too many good chairs. In fact, we don’t have too many chairs.” So he says, “Just stand there – I mean crouch there. Hold on, it’s going to hurt, hold on to one of the legs of the chair.” And he went on top and he whipped me on my bare feet. Believe me, it – it wasn’t easy.
No, I, to his – thank God, thank him, him, the German officer, that I can walk today because my feet were black and blue. My soles – I couldn’t step on them. Well, right away, they didn’t swell up right away. Anyway, he didn’t get anything out of me because, first thing, I didn’t have what to tell him. And he called the orderly, or the other German soldier, officer, policeman, SD, in green uniform, Sicherheitsdienst. He says, “Take him; lock him up in a cell.” He locked me up in a cell. I could still walk. About a few hours they changed guards. The guard comes up and calls my name. And I couldn’t stand already on my feet. He had one of those horse whips – I don’t know what you call – I don’t know what you call them, what the jockeys have, those little, short…
PERRY: Yes, yes, yes.
CHANGAR: There’s a name for it. He says, “Come over and take your shoes off.” I said, “My shoes are off. I can’t put my shoes on. My feet are swollen.” He says, “Come on over.” So I finally walk over as good as I could. He says, “Now, we’ve got a long hall. We’re going to go back around the building. The hall goes around the buildings and goes back and forth.” We started walking. I said, “I can’t walk.” He takes the whip and whips me over my back and my buttocks and he says, “Go,” and “go.” And I said, “Please don’t whip me. I didn’t do anything to you.” He says, “You’ve got to go. The officer said to keep you running.” I fainted. So he carried me back to the barracks, spilled water on me, revived me.
They came several times a day and made me run. One German guy was named Schultz (BREATHING HEAVILY) – that’s the only German name I remember. He said, “You fool,” he said, “if you don’t run, you’ll get blood clots.” He said, “You’re gonna die. They’re gonna cut you – you’re gonna get gangrene. They’re gonna cut you, cut your feet, cut your legs off, cut your feet off. You’ve got to run.” And I said, “I can’t run.” Several times a day they came over and they made me run. And the swelling started going down, and –
PERRY: So actually the running was good for you.
CHANGAR: I could walk right…
PERRY: Sure.
CHANGAR: Or whatever it was, the bruises started disappearing. They changed colors from black and blue to – to a reddish, maroon, and yellow and green and what have you. And slowly I was able to slightly walk. And I was over there, maybe 10 days, maybe more, a day or two more, or maybe less. And I was walking around. The officer called me again. ”Well, are we going to start it all over again?” I said, “Go ahead,” I said, “you’re going to kill me anyway. It doesn’t make any difference.” I said, “After what I went through over here, if I knew anything, you know that I would have told you.” He says, “By the way, your Germans is quite good.” I said, “Well, I learned some of the German – I learned in school and with the association we’ve got so many German soldiers.” I said, “We had a family friend who spoke German,” and so on. “We were quite friendly, and she taught me too. And well, if you call it good, I can converse with you, just slowly, and that’s the best I can. It’s not good German, it’s German.” He said, “Okay, I’ll wait until you’re all right and we’re going to have another conversation. I just haven’t got the time.”
Now…I’ve started mixing up…no, it’s okay. Don’t cut it off. One day they come to us. They say, “We’ve got a lot of coal that they just unloaded in our backyard. We’ve got to get the coal in the basement. We need volunteers.” Well the other fellow says, “What do we get? We’re volunteers, why work?” “Well, you’re going to get some fresh air. Maybe they’ll give you something; I don’t know. But so far I was told to ask for volunteers. You’re supposed to go and shove the coal down, down in the cellar through a window.”
There I go with the hand up. I’m going to volunteer. There were maybe two more volunteers. I don’t know – they got two more volunteers. We got out there in the yard. He took my hat for some reason, to keep my hat. I said, “Fine.” Well the coal was so high over there. This headquarters was surrounded by brick wall, actually.

Tape 4 - Side 1

PERRY: This is tape number four, it is 5-30-84. This is the narrative by Henry Changar. The interviewer is Eli Perry.
CHANGAR: Well, there were three of us. There were three of us. I got on top of the pile and I was shoveling the coal towards the other two. They were shoveling it down the – closer to the building. One got – one got to the window. One was shoveling it towards the guy that was by the window. He was shoveling it inside the window. Well, not all these shovels of coal that I threw down went that way. Some shovels of coal, when the Germans didn’t look, went towards the wall. We made up quite a pile of coal by the wall.
And before you know it, the pile was high enough for me to get in it and jump up the wall and over the wall and out. Streetcar, run, I don’t know if there was a streetcar. The Germans started shooting but he didn’t start, was afraid to shoot at the people so he started shooting in the air. But I had pretty good experience jumping up and down trains. So I jumped up on the streetcar and the next stop I was off before he was able to, to, to get some help and get maybe a truck or car or a jeep to chase after the streetcar; I was gone.
There was one more incident that I want to say while I have you here. I remember that there was another time that I was caught by the guards, the German guards. I think I told you about it, that I was – maybe not this time. Anyway, I was caught with merchandise and I said – there was a German guard, a German ghetto guard. And I said I was Polish; I wasn’t Jewish. And so he wanted to know where I got all the material and all the merchandise and everything else. So he took me to the German police station and while he was examining me, and not interviewing, but interrogating me, the telephone rang. He didn’t know, since he found out that I speak German, he didn’t want to give me any translator. So he turned his back to me and quietly talked on the telephone. That’s all I needed; I just backed out, right out of the room and got 10 feet away into a German guard. I didn’t – I walked right toward him, took out a cigarette, and said, “Please, may I have a match or fire?” He took out a cigarette lighter and I lit my cigarette and I just passed him. And out I went. (OVERTALK – TAPE STOPS)
PERRY: Henry, you mentioned to me that you had been in Treblinka for six days and had gotten out, leaving – managed to get out without having any identification marks. And you said you’d tell me a little bit about that before you told me how you went from Aalborg to Norway.
CHANGAR: There’s a lot of things that I’ve skipped along the line. It’s hard to remember, and hard to remember the sequence. Well, I’d been going to a concentration camp three times, and when I got there – I say got there, actually I possibly could have gone, could have gotten out because I was quite low at that time. And there was after my mother was gone to Treblinka and after my brother was gone, and grandmother was gone, and I kind of was, felt like I’m giving up. And so when I was caught by the German guard over there and I had my – didn’t have – I still had my documents which are my social medicine.
And anyway, after a short stay in jail, I got unloaded with some Christians and with some Jews on wagons at the depot and we went to Treblinka. I tell you that was the time when I met my – I probably didn’t mention it, maybe I did. I had a girl; we were in love. Her name was Lucia, and it’s been a long time since I had been in ghetto. I couldn’t get in and she just didn’t have the means of support. She was from Gdansk, wealthy family background, educated family background. And she just couldn’t wait, and she married a driver. He was a – I wouldn’t call it a hearse driver – he just drove a hearse, but his was full of people. One time he just picked up bodies and dumped them in the Jewish cemetery. Remind me – I will tell you a story about the Jewish cemetery.
And a German picked me up at that time since I was still looking quite healthy and another fellow, he says, “You, go ahead and get these four steps that we have and load the wagons. Open one wagon, and pick up the steps. People will be able to walk up there instead of jumping up there, be pushed up there.” And I goin’ from wagon to wagon. And of course she stayed behind. Later on I heard the Germans calling for the girl with the green coat. That’s what she had on. She was a very pretty girl. And I don’t know whether they found her or not. But if she lived, maybe they did find her and take her to Germany, maybe she is alive today; maybe she is not.
Anyway, that time I felt that I – whatever happened happened. I had on me a pair of pearl earrings, pearl-shaped earrings that my mother gave me and I had it on me just in case. It didn’t take up too much space. I just slung it in my coat. And I’ll use it for food if I have to.
And we went – that time I got to Treblinka. We were unloaded over there at nighttime, call it nighttime, so much was going on. And as we got out I started raising hell with the German guards. There were Lithuanian guards over there. There were Ukrainian guards over there, but mostly were Lithuanians. They were wild. When I got a hold of some Germans I said, “Listen, I don’t belong; I don’t belong here. The transport over here that you have was caught by the German ghetto – by the Jewish ghetto. And some was Christians, entirely off the street. I don’t know what you did with them or not.” I said, “I had my papers. I don’t belong here.” I said, “Here are my papers. It says Henrik Changar. Ask any Christian, he’ll tell you that’s not a Jewish name. Ask any Christian to look at me, to talk to me. Any Polish Christian would tell you it isn’t so.” I said, “I have documents and you can check out the place I live and so on.” “Well, that’s not for me to say. We did find a few more Christians besides you. Anyway, you’ll find out tomorrow morning what’s happening. We’ll check.”
Well in the meantime, for the first day they just let me lay around. After the first day I was assigned to work. I was – some of the other Christians were cleaning up the bones from the crematoria. And I was loading them on wagons. Some farmers used to come over there, used to use it as a fertilizer, on trucks or on just horse-driven wagons. And sometimes when there were too many, Germans just took and drove these things to farmers who wanted the ashes, in wooden boxes. The Polish farmers who had come for these ashes, had to pass, had passes normally for two. Well, there was a German with something delivered for us and he got probably some pay on the side, a piece of ______, lard, or some meat. He was anxious. And he was quite easy to talk to so I told him the story, “I don’t belong over here. And I have something that you would like. I see you are bringing some – you’re quite fatter as you come back than when you leave. You’re probably bringing some things to your family, that you might send to Germany, like meats or things like that.” I kind of wanted him to know that I knew what’s going on. “_______, but I think I have something that you might like.”
Well, it was several days afterwards; in the meantime I had very little contact with the Jews over there. But whoever I did have the contact with, they looked kind of suspicious at us, at me as well. Maybe they just knew who I was, that I pretended not to be.
Some of these Jews over there had fortunes. They’re probably still laying in the ground because there were tailors, they were ripping the clothes and looking for buttons, looking for silver and diamonds, silver and gold coins and what have you. And some of them shared them with the Germans for better food and for better treatment. And some I know, they got them in someplace. They were hidden. What happened to them? I only know whatever you know or anybody else. I think they got them all shot or taken away or send them to different concentration camps. I don’t know; I was gone way before that time.
Anyway, I showed him the earrings. I said, “I’ve got a pair of these and these are genuine. Otherwise I wouldn’t have them on me. Your wife would look lovely in them. But I need this, I need to get out.” I said, “You’ve got a pass for two and see a way clear to get me in and get me out.” So he said he’ll see what he can do. But he can’t do it by himself. Maybe he’ll do it with one of the farmers. Well, the next day one of the farmers came by himself. He usually had help to load them up, the boxes and so on, because they didn’t want him to stay too long. And I was to give him – I said, “I’ll give you one earring. On the outside I’ll give you the other one. I won’t be there.” I said, “I’ll give it to the farmer if you think you can trust him, you can trust him. If you can’t trust him, you can’t trust me either because see, I’m trusting you.” Well, that was about five or six days I was over there. He finally came without his helper and I gave him (PAUSE)
PERRY: The earring.
CHANGAR: Yeah, I gave him the one earring over here to the German as I left, and I gave the other one to the farmer when I’m out. He told me how to get to the railroad station. He gave me a few Polish zloty to get on the – on the train, and that was at nighttime again because by the time we loaded up it was dark. And I got back to Warsaw. That’s as far as the concentration camp goes. (TAPE STOPS)
PERRY: Henry, you mentioned that you also wanted to say something about the Jewish cemetary near Warsaw.
CHANGAR: Yeah, well, at the Jewish cemetary as this fellow – I don’t know his name – he married my girl. He dumped the bodies and they were digging a ditch and dumping them all together with chloride or what have you so they won’t smell, won’t spoil, and covering them up with dirt again. And one time I found out that – as a matter of fact, I was pretty close to it. There was a, bordering the Jewish cemetary there was a Christian butcher shop, and was in the paper in fact, that the Germans caught the Christian butcher and hung him upside down. They let him hang there for a couple of days before they killed him, if he lived that long.
And what he was doing, at nighttime, he was crossing the fence over and snatching the bodies. The Germans found out about him because you could get Polish sausage, round sausage, without ration cards for people who knew him. That’s what you got, maybe some, some beef or pork was mixed in it; I don’t know. But somebody snitched on him that he was selling meat without ration cards for high price, and the Germans investigated and watched him. And they caught him at it. He was in his basement slaughtering Jewish bodies and stuffing them in sausages.
I’ll tell you about the cemetary, or the guy who was driving the hearse, driving through Warsaw. Those who’ve been there know that all kinds of characters occurred that were there. And we had all kinds of songs that came up. Some of the songs I can recognize and know these over here which I made from American – American melodies. Anyway, we had a comedian over there. He had – I guess he didn’t have anybody writing jokes for him but whenever he seen a hearse, he run after it with phrases like this, “Hey, move over.” He talked to the dead, “Move over, make room for somebody else.” And when they got rid of horses, “Hey, did you, did you forget? Did you remember to leave your ration cards? There’s people who still want to live a few days. Don’t take them with you. If you can, if you’ve got it with you, throw it outside, maybe I’ll catch them or somebody else.”
And of course I don’t have to tell you about the ghetto because you’ve interviewed some other people before and they heard that people were just sitting around with the legs, kids with the legs swollen and the bodies just skeletons. And some were just walking around holding on to each other. And those who could still walk, they – if they see you carrying some kind of a package, they run after you and grab the package with the paper and what have you, whatever was ______.
They had two ways of doing it. Some had their pants open and tore the paper as they were running away and shoved it through their pants into the crotch. Feeling that you seeing it, if it was food, that you would give up the chase and let him have it, that you would know that the place is dirty and lousy, with louse, probably wasn’t washed for months at a time.
And the second thing is to grab it and bite it right through the paper. (PERRY SAYS SOMETHING IN BACKGROUND) Yeah, sometime was soap, sometime was something else and sometime he grabbed it and just threw it away. If it was food he bit a part and stuck the rest of it under his pants. And there was no way – sometime people fought with him if he grabbed it, and brought him back. If he stole some bread or what have you, they’d pull him and pull him apart, and so on. Well, I think that’s enough about the ghetto. You’ve got enough…(TAPE STOPS)
PERRY: Henry, now we’re back to Aalborg and you’re about to catch the boat to Norway.
CHANGAR: Well, since I was going to Norway – yeah, this is getting back to it. And Aalborg is on the coast, off the northern coast of Norway –
PERRY: Denmark, you mean.
CHANGAR: Denmark, yeah, off the northern coast of Denmark. And we had to go kind of north – northeast to the Norwegian coast. There’s a place that’s called ________, a place where the North Sea poured over the Baltic Sea. So whenever there were – even without the…(TAPE STOPS) Even without the tide there was a constant moving of water ______. But we were loaded, and we found out that what we were loaded on was a ship that carried, before us carried cattle or swine or some other domestic animals, maybe lambs or what have you. Anyway, was all the bottom hold of it was all full of straw with manure and what have you, and that’s where we had to go. Some bunks over there if you were lucky and found a bunk; and we had shelves on the wall and you could lay on there. And the rest, we just had to be there.
Well on a nice day, they just took – I don’t know, a day or two – they let us on, some of us, on the top, on the board, on top of the ship. And that’s the first time I got seasickness in my life. As the boat was going up and down, I was going down, kneeling down, with the boat and raising with the other ones. I kind of gave in with the boat and that kind of helped some of the seasickness.
At one point we were in-between; there was no sight of land whatsoever and we were wondering where the heck we’re going over there. We’re going to Norway and on the map it looks like it’s just, it’s just a skip and a jump and you’re going to hit Norway. (LAUGHTER)
PERRY: (LAUGHTER) But it’s a long skip.
CHANGAR: It’s a long skip. And one day there were sirens, and were English planes we found out. “Down in the hole, everybody,” with the manure, with everything else, with the stink. Well, we – we weren’t hit. We were riding in the dark and we heard a few bombs explode, or mines explode, whatever it was. We heard no anti-aircraft fire, or the English planes couldn’t actually see us. I seen the troops send some flares down, and well, we were lucky enough that we weren’t hit.
In the morning, we wait for morning; we came to Norway. I learned that the shore that we got into, what they unloaded us, and the same night they – well, we got some food on the way, not much to talk about. We got some food, and we got packages of food as we got to the place where they unloaded us, and to the station. And we went on trucks, on trucks. We made a few stops where we relieved ourselves and we had some food on the way. We were going straight north after, of course, they got our documents straight, where each one was going. And some people are going out before and some are going out later. And we just couldn’t find out where we were going.
Before we got to Norway, things looked quite green from the boat, quite nice, and the hills weren’t too big, too tall. From this you could on a clear day, and it was clear, that the hills that were farther north were taller and not as green. But we were loaded on a truck, on trucks, and different people going different ways in different trucks. And this was going into, I guess there was already getting fall. And the farther north we were going, we started seeing snow.
And trains (?) were still going, ___________. The roads were all packed with not blacktop, but the road was mostly limestone, and it was packed. The roads were fairly well taken care of even through it was all limestone, no tile or anything, but they were taken care of properly it seems.
And we got, at nighttime we got unloaded in a place that was our last stop. The town was called Moerana.
PERRY: How do you spell it?
CHANGAR: M O, E means in, R A N A is the district. That was the Arctic Circle.
PERRY: Oh, you were way up there.
CHANGAR: Yeah, that was the Arctic Circle. Yeah, we went a few days. I don’t remember how long, how long it took. And we stopped by places with German barracks. They gave us food and so on. From then on, no more roads because I found out later they had local roads but they wouldn’t go by truck over there. So we went – our truck was roaded, and we unloaded our luggage.
And we met some Polish people over there. And they were so glad to see us and help us out of the truck, what have you. And I seemed to have everything except one small suitcase, and that’s where I had my album with pictures. I wish I had it. Of course all pictures that smelled of Judaism, like somebody with a beard, most of my family, and any pictures which on the other side described what it was or who it was had to be written in Polish. So I got rid of those other pictures a long time ago. The pictures that were on it, they couldn’t give me away. That album, __________, didn’t care much about the clothes I had, or some food I had in it, but that was one thing I missed ’til today. That was gone.
They load us on a fishing boat. From then on we were going north, close by the – was a big fishing boat – close by the shore. And slept over there at nighttime on, not bunkers, but they were like shelves, sleeping places, wide enough that if you had two skinny people you could be together. And I just got a bed like with a little old maid – it was a passenger; they took passengers on as well because they want to have a full, full load. Of course I don’t know what German paid them, if anything. But I had an old maid and she was so mad hungry that was pitiful. I won’t describe the night spending over there with her, with other people on it.
But they say in Norway that a girl often meets boys, seldom gets engaged and married never. They say – they said at that time that you had a population of seven females to one male. And it could well be true because they had – third largest at that time, third largest merchant marine in the world.
PERRY: Norway.
CHANGAR: And you had, even on today’s luxury boats and cruise boats, you’ll find a lot of Norwegian sailors. So there were sailors all over the world and these girls just stayed behind. They were in the army during the war and some fought against the Germans, mostly; they actually sold Norway out. You probably named – you probably heard the name Quisling.
PERRY: Quisling, yeah.
CHANGAR: Yeah, he sold Norway out without a shot. And so any traitor they call him a Quisling, spelled with a Q, which is odd. And, from over there, over the night, we stopped by in the high war, which was really big in the high war, and we stayed a few hours over there. Daytime was there, and over there they loaded us on a bigger boat. And we traveled in daytime, close to shore. And as we were getting farther north, the less green you see and the more white you see.
And you’re seeing from a distance, Norwegian shacks with big boulders on top. And they build on a slope of a hill. And some flat land were just – I guess it was mostly stone, mostly granite hills, mostly stone. And they did have some, mostly hay and some other vegetation growing there. What it was you couldn’t see from a distance. We seen some clothes on the line, fluttering in the wind. And as you go farther north, again, you keep seeing these shacks with the mulch growing on top and some boulders. You start seeing it tied down with ropes, steel ropes, two trees, or two bigger boulders on the ground. That’s against the wind so they won’t get – won’t fly –
PERRY: Where were they taking you?
CHANGAR: I’ll get to it.
PERRY: Oh, oh.
CHANGAR: They were taking me, I was about 20, 30 miles from ________.
PERRY: That’s the top.
CHANGAR: No, not the top, no, there was some further top, _______. Well I was in ______. They gave me a pass so I went over there one day. And the place where they took us was called (TAPE STOPS) Well, it wasn’t actually a town, it was just a few ____, shacks, and it has a name, Mercvik (?).
PERRY: Mercvik.
CHANGAR: Mercvik, I remember from the song, “Mercvik Walls,” they used to add walls to the town. Each town had its own walls. And they had the barracks built over there away from the – not town – but away from the road, which that road ran around ______. In winter you didn’t see them. And they gave us a barracks, cold – well, they say, “Go get some wood.” Now there were some trees; we weren’t that high up, and the higher you went, there were no more trees over there. There was some trees, and we build a fire, had a fire, lit the stoves.
It was hot, so at least when we weren’t outside, we were never cold because we were going to have all that fish (LAUGHTER) and all that, uh, wood we wanted. The seafish taste already like castor oil, so what we used to eat is mostly smoked fish which weren’t too bad. I don’t know what kind it was; it was all from big, big fish, sharks, or whatever they were. Even the lakes had smaller fish but they weren’t too tasty because they were actually probably seafish that were flowing up with the current unless the lake were high up someplace where the current didn’t get to it. Well, we had no way of getting over there to those things. We weren’t allowed even to leave the compound or the barracks even though we were volunteers.
Now one day I was approached by _____ lady. She had the fur boots on and fur on the outside, and asked me for a cigarette. Well, I said – it was an international name, a cigarette’s a cigarette – I said, “Sure.” I had some cigarettes. I got them in Germany. And I gave her a cigarette, and of course there wasn’t a lot because in, in a store – there still were no stores there. But after the war, when I got back to Oslo, I could get a can of – can of sardines for four cigarettes, good sardines. Anyway, sardines – cigarettes were hard to get, and I gave her a cigarette. She split the paper, got the cigarette in one little clump and stuck it behind her lower lip to suck on it.
That’s exactly how they drank coffee. They had sugar – they drank coffee from _______, very small cups, and they put sugar behing the lip, lower lip, and they drank the coffee. And some of the sugar got through the cracks in the teeth and that’s how the coffee was – all black because milk was hard to get. They had some goats. And I remember they had flocks of _____ in the mountains; they couldn’t get to them in the summertime, you know, high up. And the smooth granite hills were covered by moss. And it was treacherous; you stepped on the moss, and the moss wasn’t attached, just lift off the water and moisture from the, from one of the moss that were kept there with the moisture from rains and snow that melted from high up stayed there. And you could fall way, way, way down and that’s what happened to me one day.
PERRY: So she put this behind her –
CHANGAR: Behind her lower lip, yeah, between her teeth and lower lip. And as we started getting on the weekend passes that we can go out, we started getting acquainted with, with the Norwegians. And they were quite friendly to us. As it happened, the Polish were engaged, the Polish army used to fight the Germans over there in ____. And you still see some Polish signs, this street over here and this latrines over there, and the mess hall’s over here, Polish signs, in Polish. And used to be a German boat, Dietz (?) or some other kind of name, that was sunk by the – that nearby, the Norwegian underground which they made a big deal out of it, but there was very little of it. They just made it very, very glamorous. Norwegians aren’t fighters, mostly _______ and very nice people, very mild character.
Maybe that’s the fish, fish was three times a day; the bread had fish, so that’s why I said three times a day. The bread had dried, ground-up fish in it. And sometime you seen – now the trucks were driving on the local roads, in the snow. You see the plows, and after the snow and plows plowed it away. And Norwegians had little chairs, steel chairs, with steel rungs on them, and there were Norwegian – mostly ladies, because the men used skis or snowshoes to go up the snow. But the ladies – and mostly old ladies – used these chairs.
PERRY: They put them in the snow.
CHANGAR: The chairs had rungs like sled. There could be five, six people on them. And they stood in the back of the chair holding on to the top of the – or the back of the chair – and standing on those two…
PERRY: Runners.
CHANGAR: Runners, and steering with them as they were going down. As you were going up it, they were just waiting for the truck, because you couldn’t go up, up the hill. So you had up and down, you were waiting for trucks, and then two or three of them sail down to the trucks with one hand and –
PERRY: They got carried up.
CHANGAR: And got up, and they got down the hill they just steered with the leg. They pushed one leg out and right leg out, and the chair went to the left, to the right, and the other one went…
What were we doing over there? We were doing over there something that the Germans probably said will stay here for a thousand years.” The war would end and they would own the world. North Norway had a lot of boxide (?).
PERRY: I didn’t realize they had all those minerals.
CHANGAR: Yeah minerals, a lot of minerals – chromium, they used to ship from free lands on the boats and they used to be bombed. The roads didn’t go through; they were just local roads, no way of getting on trucks and camouflaging – they had to go by boat. And we were building tunnels through those granite mountains. By “we,” I don’t mean “I;” there were some war prisoners dynamiting little narrow railroad tracks.
PERRY: From the railroad tracks they were going to try to avoid the sea routes where the bombing was.
CHANGAR: That’s right. They were building a railroad. What we were doing is high power lines. There were a lot of lakes up high. We were building waterfalls, was all water. We built pipes and they were helping the waters sloosh, or –
PERRY: ________, that’s right.
CHANGAR: _____, and turbine unit, and the turbine would drive electricity every couple of miles. 20,000 volts, something like that. Some were smaller, some were bigger; it depends on the lake and how much water they could get over there. There was a cold stream like there is over here. And you could see a degree – from one, you went around the mountain and you might have 20 or 30 degrees of temperature difference because of the cold stream going that way around the mountains, and over here it wasn’t. Sometimes it was so cold that you spit and the spit bounced off the ground, off the ice. Well, that’s what we were doing.
We had mostly old guards. They guarded us too because we were very, very close to Sweden, about 20-25 miles. There was a railroad from _____. And from ______ to the Swedish border was exactly – or the town which was on the other side of the border – was exactly 20 kilometers, which was about 13 miles over there. From us _____ was, was about 20 miles, not farther, 25 kilometers, or something like that. And that was close to the Swedish border.
The – so we had aluminum, big rollers. We – trucks used to pass by and dump, dump the big poles, small poles and big poles; they had it marked down where to dump the big and where to dump the small. It depends where, which way we were going. And it took us about, in the wintertime the light kind of came on about one o’clock, and by three o’clock was already getting dark. So we had about two hours or three hours of work, depends on the time of the year. And of course we were not in a hurry. We had to first get the – get the poles on top of the hill. And we used to go from one hill to the other. It was a big hill. There used to be two, three, four poles, and we strung these wires, one from each generating point. Of course they were not finished yet. They were working, and farther south was warmer, they already had it going, some had going. And, uh, of course we had no dirt to bury them in. We blasted a hole, and from blasting we had a lot of small rocks. And put the pole in vertically and then we filled it up with the smaller rocks. If they were too big we just chopped them up with a sledgehammer. That was only our work. The, the, as I said, Russian war prisoners were building the tunnels. Everyday you heard somebody else was killed, if not by a German fellow, it’s by a rock, rock from the blasting. They weren’t – as we weren’t anxious to work either – they were even less. Some of them just stood over there and the Germans could holler. And he just stood over there and he held his shovel or something, rested on it, and just keeled over, just fell over, just from standing up, because you’ve got to move around in this 40 below zero and 50 below zero and 60 below zero sometimes.
We were on top of the mountains and if you crossed to the top, talk about trees. You’ve seen a tree –

Tape 4 - Side 2

PERRY: This is tape four, side b, the continuation of June 11, 1984. The narrator is Henry Changar. The questioner is Eli Perry.
CHANGAR: Those few trees that we seen on top were growing – were dead; they looked like a screwdriver. They grew about three feet high and the wind just blew them apart. Turning, keep turning and turning them and you see that they were twisted. We used to pick some of these dead trees up and took with us. Now, I never climbed a pole; some were 20, 30, 40 or 60 feet high. Those smaller ones were on top, on the passes on top of the hill. They could go to the other hill. But we weren’t quite on top and the hill was steep. They had to be quite tall. And I never climbed a pole; it was quite scary. We had those pole-climbers with shoes. We had leather shoes; we had rubber shoes. And that’s against moisture and against the possible current which really wasn’t there. If there was not moisture, we just didn’t wear those rubber boots, if we had to just climb dry mountains without the moss. The moss had moisture because the moss sometimes was a foot high and and you just, and you stood and slipped. We used to have ropes and one holding on to the other. That’s how we went up.
And before even we started to work, the Germans in the compound had a contest, who climb up the post first, how far you can go, and so on, several posts. Well, you went two, three feet, four feet, and you looked down, you got dizzy and heck. And slowly, you were quite handy. You were just one, two, three, and on top of the hill. And later we got a prize and that’s how we – every couple of feet taller each time, and finally you didn’t get dizzy; you got used to the heights.
That’s how I got used to the heights when the Germans used to be in the Warsaw ghetto and we used to run away on the roof. And over there you just had catwalks. I just run wild over there and I was – once I got on the roof I wasn’t afraid of anybody. At least my janitor over there had pigeons. So I helped him with the pigeons over there. Go back to Norway.
PERRY: (LAUGHTER) You were building these tall towers.
CHANGAR: Not towers, those, those, not telephone poles, but like we have telephone poles here in the yard –
PERRY: Electric poles.
CHANGAR: Yeah. No telephones on them, maybe eventually they probably would have put telephone lines on them to communicate. But so far electric lines; they were about an inch in diameter, quite heavy. They were supposed to put 20 volts of power through them. And after some time, we were going through area where there was ___ storm going, and it was raining at nighttime, rain. And the pole was just full of ice, at least on one side. Well, the pole-climbers ate through the ice and into the wood, so we were able to climb.
And our guards were quite old, Germans who weren’t good for any other duties. Sometimes they had to go to the bathroom, behind a tree or behind a mountain to relieve themselves, and had me hold the rifle. They know we can’t go no place or do nothing so they came back. So we were quite friendly and I was being ______, a translator. I talked to my fellows, said, “Listen, we sitting here sometimes four, five, six, seven hours. In the summertime eight hours; in the wintertime three hours, four hours, see if you can make a deal.” And they were continuously harassing us. “Make it faster, mach schnell, mach schnell, mach schnell. We’ve got to go home. We’ve got to put some on,” because they were afraid to have inactivity. Because they were in trouble if they didn’t do the work, if they didn’t make us do the work. So we could have done one, one and a half, sometimes two of these poles and that was it.
Well, we made a deal. I talked to these Germans and I said, “Listen, make a deal; we’ll make a deal with you. We’ll put three a day, and you’ve got something to brag about, and we’ll try to do as fast as we can.” So, he said, “What a good deal.” It didn’t take two hours; we had three of them standing. And we went home. But some of the officers seen us on the way home, so after a few weeks they said, “It’s no deal, bad deal because we got bawled out that we let you go home early.”
PERRY: Right. In other words the deal was as soon as you put up three you could go home.
CHANGAR: Go home. It was good for them.
PERRY: Sure, sure.
CHANGAR: They had something to brag about because some other crews worked someplace else; they didn’t put up that many. So I said, “Okay.” We had to stop by some Norwegian house or someplace, get warmed up when the time comes down, when it gets darker. Then we go home. They found, on the way up don’t freeze. (LAUGHTER BY PERRY) So things went out pretty much without incident over there, incidents, just day in, day out the same work. Except one time I got up on those tall trees, tall posts, and it was slick, and we tried to do it fast. And of course as the points from the pole-climbers dug into trees and you took them out, they left big splinters. And even though we had rubber gloves and all that, your hands were moist and your clothes were moist from perspiration and from snow and so on. We were tying up after we had our area covered all with posts. We started stringing the wire, high-voltage wire. Well, we were pretty much done and there were almost – in a few days we were supposed to be transferred someplace else. And I climb a pole very fast and just checking that they are tied properly. Someone was checking on one of those lakes if the electricity was going so this was finished. Of course I didn’t get 20,000 volts because I had rubber gloves, sweaty hands inside rubber gloves, moist on the outside, and outside was the rubber glove. But everything was moist.
But I got enough current to let go and slide all the way down. Of course I didn’t slide very fast. I was sliding pretty fast because my ropes which connected the two climbers – were connected by a rope. On a dry pole they would stop – they would bind the pole. But it was icy. Of course I wasn’t on the ice side because I wasn’t frozen to it. I was on the dry side, but my rope was on the ice side and it was sliding. I got a splinter where it hurts, through the clothes. It wasn’t much but I had to go home and go to a doctor. He pulled it out.
PERRY: But did he notice you were circumcised?
CHANGAR: No, he didn’t even look. I just showed him (OVERTALK)
PERRY: Exposed –
CHANGAR: – the bottom of my, of my groin, and he pulled it up and out, and what have you.
PERRY: Well how long did this go on? Incidentally, what year was this, about, approximately?
CHANGAR: This was, I would say this was already ’45.
PERRY: And how long did you work for the Germans there?
CHANGAR: We went to Norway in the fall of ’44.
PERRY: I see.
CHANGAR: Fall of ’44. It was actually – they thought they were going to be there a long time. And so I, (PAUSE) well, I’m thinking about another event, another thing over here that happened. Okay, he pulled it out. We went to ______ or some other town. I don’t know where it was. He pulled it out and put iodine on it. And he says, “Get me some more iodine.” He says, “You put that on; you could get red or gangrene or something like that. You’ll get – we’ll bring you over and put a bandage on it.” And that was a bad place to do it, and it wasn’t that big. So I – everyday I put some iodine on it and it healed up pretty good. There’s no scar or anything from it.
And, talking about doctors, after we got transferred farther south and started with the poles again, it was a little bigger town. They had their own doctor over there. (TAPE STOPS) As we were transferred, I got hurt en route and they had their own doctor. I went over there. He gave me cigarettes. He gave me whiskey every time. He kept me coming back and finally started making advances toward me. (LAUGHTER BY PERRY) Well I had a suspicion that I had a homosexual over there on my hands. But I wanted the whiskey and I wanted the cigarettes; I kept coming to him. And finally I seen that this is going to be it. I have no way out because my – whatever it was – I don’t remember what it was, my hand or whatever it was, was all healed. He just kept me coming back and gave me cigarettes, a pack of cigarettes, and had a bottle of whiskey or something like that and I just kept coming back. _________. But later on he was getting to be more and more chummy with me. He started feeling my hands and feeling my face, and putting his hand behind my shirt and so on. And I said, “This is it.” I said, “Uh, uh, that’s the last time you see me over here. My hand is okay.” He said, “Well, you’ve got to keep coming back.” I said, “No.” “I’m going to get you in trouble,” he said.
PERRY: He told you he’s going to get you in trouble.
CHANGAR: Yeah, get me in trouble. “That you have whiskey, which was Swedish whiskey, and you had cigarettes and what have you.” I said, “No, you’re not going to get me in trouble.” I said, “If anybody’s going to get anybody in trouble,” I says, “you’re homosexual. You know what the Germans think of you, think of homosexualism. They don’t want you in the army; they don’t want you alive.” (PAUSE)
PERRY: Continue on.
CHANGAR: Well, we were transferred to a little farther south. As it happened, that most of the poles were already there, all we did was stringing the lines, electric lines from one pole to the other. And it was getting towards spring, and of course we had never used any skis or any snowshoes. The Germans were afraid that we were so close to Sweden that we gonna, any one of us. We already heard that some were going across. The weather was quieting down somewhat already. That was the winter from ’44 to ’45. And we had contact with the – with the other Germans, with them, contact with the Norwegians again.
One day one of us got a weapon and killed a _____deer. We were up in the hills. No, that was after the war; that was after the war. No – one thing about, of course, what the land looked like – I seen it in National Geographic magazine. It’s all hills and valleys and one valley could have been there. And where I lived, a lot of pine trees over there, and the next morning after the snow, you didn’t see any valley; you didn’t see any pine trees. Not only from the snow, but the drifts from the higher mountains just covered it up and if there was a lake down below that wasn’t cold enough; that was bad too. Anyway, and you could start hearing streams moving under the snow. So nature was waking up. And as the snow was melting and the sun was coming out, high up in the hills, you could find some – maybe if the snow got to it – some wild raspberries growing, that the animals didn’t get to yet. And we had (TAPE STOPS)
And you see _____. _________, you know, things which is to some people who’d never seen it, it was beautiful. I mean, the circumstances I was over there, it just gave us a little light to maybe move around at nighttime, to visit Norwegians. We could visit them and – anyway at nighttime we had less work because you could find the shacks regardless because they had, around their shacks they had, of their homes, they had a lot of fish hanging around. I guess certain fish have more phosphorus in their bones than the others because those fish were dried like all the other fish they had. They caught them in the summertime. And some of them waited until the snow wasn’t too hard on the lake, they burned a fire, and the fire eventually melted through the hole maybe five, six feet, seven feet eventually. And they threw some meat, or whatever they threw, bread, and they were catching the fish with nets, and they pulled them out.
Anyway, those fish that were hanging around, they were small fish; I would say about a foot long. They were shining in the dark.
PERRY: Phosphorescent.
CHANGAR: That’s right. You could see – you could see the row of – like lightbulbs, like you see on marquees of theatres. So you could get to it as long as the road was there and there wasn’t snow, so you didn’t get too deep in the snow or what was packed. That was fine; we got to it. Then they gave us coffee, very nice, very, very good opinion of the Poles because they used to fight over there against the Germans during the war.
PERRY: You mean from England, men from England.
CHANGAR: Yeah, from England, yes. And so they had very, very good opinion of us. They changed afterwards. But in the meantime – when the war ended, and they hear that they lost, the Poles lose, and as I said from the beginning of the narrative that some of those Poles were thieves and bums and hooligans and what have you. And they had to register – not like me who had to run away because I was Jewish – and because they just had to run away from police or from anything else.
PERRY: Sure.
CHANGAR: They couldn’t get a job. They couldn’t get the right papers so they had no profession, no trade, no nothing. So ________ after the war. So these Norwegians changed their opinions. And they started raping the Norwegian girls and so on. And so we got close to – our barracks were close to the town.
And one time, it was the day before the surrender, they were unloading fish. So they had for the Russian war prisoners and I seen the one Russian took one fish and threw it in the snow. And there was a German that seen the same thing. They guarded him with the – they guarded us just with the rifles, but they had the bayonets on top of the rifles. And the guard stuck the rifle with the bayonet right through him. That was the day before, before the war ended.
Anyway we got a ________. So foodstuffs and blankets and whatever we could have. We bought a shortwave radio from one of the lacklanders. They used to go freely back and forth.
PERRY: Was this during the war or after?
CHANGAR: During the war, during the war, and we bought a shortwave radio. And the lacklander I guess had the permission of the German because there there was nobody guarding the border. And they used to go back and forth. They brought over Swedish whiskey, _____ and got that first, and deer. They used to go in the wintertime up with the sleds to bring hay to their flocks and see the new deer were born and put the belt around its neck, and with his name on it. I seen white foxes and white geese and what have you. There were times when you didn’t see anything and then all of a sudden you see a shot and something is caught from this now. We got some of those birds. They were quail. They were quail, white quail. And what we did we just got an old fish net and strong – put them in two long poles, like a volleyball, and then we had a German go with us, and the one shot in the air, and we used to get the whiskey from the Norwegians. And we soak grain, like peas, in that whiskey. And we just threw it around on a quiet day when we didn’t expect any rain. We had radio so we heard the broadcast and what have you. ________. And then we shot one in the air and the quail – and even though we didn’t see it, we knew that the quail was there because there were tracks and droppings. It took off from the shot, away, and it got caught in the net because it couldn’t get straight up, they just couldn’t fly. Some just had enough; they just couldn’t get off the ground. So we just got them and took them home, got three, four, five at a time. And so we had that meat.
And we listened to that shortwave radio. We seen that the Russians are coming and the second front; and the French were coming from one side. The English were coming, and the French, and the Americans were coming from the south, from Italy and so on. And the Germans had to fight on all fronts. But regardless, some of us – the three of us fellows got in touch with a Norwegian ______ and as he wouldn’t quit, he was gonna go take it over to Sweden. And we got skis, snowshoes, blankets, knapsacks, all hidden, and had plenty of food now. They were all just for volunteers to work and to clean up the warehouse, a lot of smoked fish. And they had a lot of boxes and things to clean up over there. We had to put the boxes back where they belonged, and so on. And I seen that between the cracks of the boards there are just hanging fish, and some meat, smoked fish just hanging on a string, and some meat too. And I could smell – I couldn’t just see them; I could smell them. And as I already had the experience and I seen how the men will close up from the beginning, open that board and close it back again, I did it with a hammer. I loosened up one board at the bottom with the nail sticking out, got a hand between the boards, took whatever I could, closed the board back up, and work was over so we had enough smoked fish and meat and we had enough food over there. We had it – so we had food on the way. It was smoked so it lasted. We didn’t worry about spoilage, and we waited for the Norwegian to come back with the others. And it was May, it was May or April.
And one day they woke me up in the middle of the night. Oh, I didn’t tell you when I fell off the hill. I fell off the hill. And those trees were growing from the cracks, so this was almost growing horizontally from the crack. Anyway, I fell down and grabbed that tree and then hollered for help. Well by the time – the echos were all over; they didn’t know where I was hollering from. And by the time they got help to me, I couldn’t hold on, and some trees, some part gave way. And I fell down. Well, I was lucky enough there was a ledge about six, seven feet under me. If I had known that, maybe I would just go and fall on this ledge because the way that I fell, I could’ve gotten off the ledge altogether. So they came and I was sitting on the ledge already. I fell down; I was sitting on the ledge and they throwed me a rope. I tied the rope around my waist and they pulled me up over there.
Anyway, going back to the shortwave radio, they woke me up in the middle of the night. “Henry, the war is over.” I said, “Let me sleep.”
PERRY: You thought they were joking.
CHANGAR: Yeah. “Let me sleep; we’ve got to wake up in a couple hours later and go to work. Let me sleep.” “No, the war is over. Here’s the radio; listen.” Yeah, Hitler’s dead, Berlin was bombed, and Hitler is dead. And some other dignitaries committed suicide, Himmler or what it was –
PERRY: Goering…
CHANGAR: Swallowed cyanide.
PERRY: Yeah, Rosenberg did too.
CHANGAR: And the thing was over. So anybody who was in places where Allied army didn’t get to, “Just sit tight, and Germans lay down your arms.” And the Germans talked on the radio too, the Generals, talking, “Put your arms down wherever you are because the war is over; we surrendered. All it takes is to sign the surrender papers and what have you, and so on.” The next day, celebration, and we unpacked the knapsack and we had plenty of wheat and _________ as well as where I used to work.
And that was – I got volunteered for the work, I was volunteered again for the work which was because of another story. When I was in Minsk there was a professional thief. His name was Schmitinovski (?), black hair, black hair. And he says, “Henry, you want to help me? I don’t know how to get to the warehouse where they have shoes.” So at nighttime I went with him. He got open the padlock – we got to the warehouse where they have shoes – we opened the basement window and threw a few pairs out. Then we crawled out to get to the barrack. When we went to the market, we took it out of our coats and sold it. So when I volunteered to the magazine (?) I thought maybe I’ll be able to do it too. Yet, I let him go by cigarettes because I was afraid; I didn’t want to keep on stealing. I didn’t need that. He needed it for whiskey, for drinks, I didn’t need the drinks so I didn’t worry about it. As far as food, I had enough to live on. Of course that was in Russia and food over there was plentiful, in Minsk.
So when I got – when I volunteered for this work, I volunteered for the same reason. I see what I can steal over there. I knew how to get, how to get out, what to do. And I seen that in warehouses they have –
PERRY: Fish.
CHANGAR: Fish and meat drying over there, smoked meat; that was terrific. “Anyway, where did you get it?” I said, “Here, for anybody you can.” Well we’re talking about food, one time after the war we caught a fish. Now we want to get some fresh fish, lake fish, which we didn’t get. So we used to go out after the war on the – it was May – on top of the hill as high as we could go until we get the sunshine. May, the sunshine wasn’t coming down because it was covered by the mountain. We dragged some blankets or thin mattresses and we layed down in the sun. We get undressed and lay in the sun. After a couple of days came a German officer, ask for some volunteers. A German ship arrived, with a German flag, swastika and all; they want to unload it. I said, “Hell no, go unload it yourself.” I said, “What do you have on that boat?” “We bring in a lot of supplies, whatever, we don’t know what’s on the boat, all kinds of supplies, supplies for the army.” “Guys, let’s go. Over here, they haven’t got their weapons. If they got it – they haven’t got their weapons. He’s got a weapon over here. He can’t – he’s not allowed to shoot. He’s got the weapon because he didn’t surrender it. He didn’t surrender it and he won’t surrender it to us; we’re not army people.”
PERRY: Sure.
CHANGAR: “So he’s got the weapon; he isn’t going to shoot. Let’s go unload the ship.” We unloaded the ship and the basket’s full of about two feet diameter with the glass jugs full of wine, packs of cigarettes, foodstuffs, all kinds of things. Well, we unloaded some, and some went overboard. What the German didn’t watch went overboard. Then – and the other fellow stood over there, got a little fishing boat, and picked them up off the water. And the Germans screamed and hollered and they just loaded up the goodies.
And I loaded up whatever I could and got one of those instruments that you – that the surveyors had. I got some expensive instruments and some things, and I got that to my barrack and put it in my suitcases. I threw some old clothes out, throw that out with the stuff. So we had plenty of food and plenty of everything. First came – now I had, when the German took us back to the barrack I said, “Why do you carry that weapon over there? You know you can’t shoot it.” I said, “You know you’ve got to surrender it,” I said, “here.” I took the gun away. “You just surrendered your weapon,” I said, “I got it. Do you want it back?” “No, what will I do with it? I can’t shoot it. It’s no good to me.” I said, “Okay.”
Well, on the way home I stopped by the barrack. The main officer was over there, and I came with the gun. I said, “Now,” I got to his forehead and I said, “I can shoot you like a dog. Give me, give me your gun.” So he gave me the gun, his gun and said, “Okay, if you’re going to shoot me, shoot me.” I said, “I don’t want to shoot you. I just want to know where the guy – redhead German is that you had over here, that was guarding these Russian war prisoners. I want to know where he is.” “Well he’s not – he’s out. He’s not here anymore.” I said, “I don’t want to kill you. I don’t want to kill anybody. Nobody’s got a _________ as you.” And…
PERRY: Why did you want the redhead?
CHANGAR: I seen him kill that Russian –
PERRY: Oh, kill the Russian with the bayonet, yeah.
CHANGAR: Yeah, the Russian worker. And he was a son of a gun. I don’t know if I would have killed him or not. But I wanted to know where he was. So I guess he was the first one to run; he was not there. He is not there; he is gone. So, anyway, I wanted a key for the warehouse. “Well, we’ve got to surrender there.” I said, “Where are the keys?” I says, “I’m going to shoot you down.” That’s when I got these expensive instruments from the warehouse, blankets and things like this. And of course there were blankets. We got some whiskey from the lacklanders.
The first, the first delegation that came after the war was the French delegation, repatriation delegation. They came, looks like there were some in a different town, there were some French who were prisoners. They came to evacuate them. And – no – yeah, they came to evacuate them, but some of them were just over there. They had to get them all together and get their names, what have you. In the meantime, the second delegation, the Russian delegation, was there. There was another fellow that I met. I could swear he was Jewish. He wrote poems.
PERRY: Nobody up to this point now, even after the war, nobody knew that you were Jewish?
CHANGAR: No, nobody suspected it. Nobody suspected it. I had no problem over there. And so I knew he was – I felt he was Jewish. And there was a Russian war officer, Russian officer who came with the repatriation commission. I said, “Let’s go over there and talk to him.” So we went over and talked to him because I knew Russian. I spoke to him in Russian. I said, “I’m ______, _____.” _______ is Russian – is Jewish.
PERRY: Yeah.
CHANGAR: Jewish, and I said, “In fact, we are both Jewish.” This guy didn’t say anything. I said, “We want to go back to Poland. We don’t know when the Polish delegation is going to come over here.” He said, “Sure, glad to have you. Sure – I’m Jewish myself.” I looked at him. He looked like a, like a goy – like a thousand percent, goy, gentile, blond crook over here, high Russian cheekbones, probably from east Russia or wherever he was. He says, “I’m Jewish myself.” I said, “I’m surprised that you are Jewish. You say Jewish to Jewish, and to Arabs you’re going to say you’re Arab, and to Mongols you’re going to say you are Mongol.” I said, “Where can we go?” He said, “We’re probably going to leave in another day or two. We’re going to get a Russian boat for prisoners.” “And how are we going to get to Warsaw?” “Warsaw? We’re going to Leningrad. From over there you’re going to get a train to Russia – to, to Warsaw.” I said, “Do you have that we go straight through Poland then you go to Russia and over there from….Oslo over there? Just cross the boundary?” He said, “No, we’re going to go from here to Leningrad, over there. You can get a train from Russia.” I said, “I’m not going.” The other guy went. I said –
PERRY: You’d wait.
CHANGAR: I didn’t trust him.
PERRY: Yeah, right.
CHANGAR: Then one time the French delegation was over and they had a priest with him. I got two bottles of good Swedish _______, which was whiskey. I said, “Father,” he spoke German. I said, “I’m Jewish.” I said, “I want to get out of here.” I said, “Before, before the war, before the war ended, we were all friends. Now the Polish are very antisemitic and I’m afraid being over here.” And I said, “I’ve got a couple of bottles over here. Do you like that stuff?” I said, “I don’t drink it so you can have it. I’ll give it to you and you can give it to somebody.” He said, “Fine.” He said they’re going to take me as soon as they go; they’re going to take me over to Oslo, to the capital. Go on a boat, go on a truck, whichever way they go, fine.
Meantime summer was coming, and the sun was coming down to the lake and to the barracks over there. And I had plenty of ammunition and plenty of guns and grenades; I used to go fishing. Do you know how I fished? On the lakes which the sun came to, they were melting. So there was water. I hadn’t seen water for a long time. I used to use – not the top of – we used those iron – just a stick with a grenade over there. I used to pull the wire through the grenade in the water, and the neck – it had an iron sack or something like this hanging on the neck, jump in the water as you threw the grenade in the water. All of a sudden you’re seeing fish with their stomachs up, just light things floating over there. They were stung; they weren’t dead. You swam over there and you got those little fish, get them on the – a lot of red fish, big mouths, big heads. And put them in there. So I fished; the Norwegians complained to the authorities that we were using grenades, so we quit doing it.
In the mountains – we’ve got skis, and I had a pair of skis. We got in the hills and we shot a deer. We just slid the deer down the mountain. There’s like a sled because the sun shining on the hill –
PERRY: Melted the surface.
CHANGAR: Melted the snow, and the snow froze at nighttime because it was still fairly cold, and the snow was sharp, slid down. The deer was a big deer. We got him inside. We undressed him, cut him in pieces, bag him in the snow. Whatever we had we cooked and ate, dug him in the snow. And I ate one of the fish that I caught. There was one idiot over there with us. And we cut the fish open; there was a little fish about six, seven inches inside it, inside its stomach, halfway digested. I said, “Let’s go and cook that fish, fry that fish.” And I gave it to the idiot. So after he ate it, tried to eat this fish from another fish, from the stomach of another fish. Oh, he was so mad, you know rough people, acted rough.
And the next day, there goes a Norwegian with a sled and a bunch of Huskies, or whatever you call their dogs. And he let them loose around the barracks. It didn’t take 20 minutes – and we had buried five, six meats about five, six feet deep over there. And they were howling and yapping and barking and barking, and the Norwegian came over there and said, “You got a shovel? Let’s start shoveling up,” and there was the meat. (LAUGHTER) He took all the meat away. Oh I was mad. So later on we went to Oslo.
PERRY: So you were actually free. You could go anywhere you wanted to now.
CHANGAR: Yeah, I got a certificate from the German – from the Norwegian authorities that we are Jewish and we’d like to get out of here. And the French priest made it over here and he asked me what it says. I says, “Well we Jewish and we’d like to get out. Get south, and get home, and get some decent homestyle surroundings that we don’t have here because we’re under false documents.” So we went to Oslo. From Oslo we got to a displaced persons camp, a camp – I don’t want to call it a displaced persons camp because it wasn’t – all the nationalities were there. The American soldiers were already in it. They were already cross-examining some of the German officers and they gave us in the German barracks – they locked them in a couple of barracks. There was some Pollacks in the other barracks. And in there I found several Jewish boys who were exactly like I was.
PERRY: In other words, they concealed who they were and were working as –
CHANGAR: One was from Krakow, one was from Warsaw, one was from Yugoslavia – a Sephardic Jew. He was from somewhere in Yugoslavia; he was a Sephardic Jew. He talked Yiddish, but his Yiddish was Spanish.
PERRY: Ladino, it’s called.
CHANGAR: Ladino or something like that – it was Spanish.
PERRY: Yeah.
CHANGAR: So he spoke Russian, being in Yugoslavia, and he spoke Norwegian. He spoke German.
PERRY: He spoke Yugoslavian.
CHANGAR: And he spoke Yugoslavian. He spoke German from working for the Germans. He got a job as a reporter. So what job – his job was, his job was he listened to a shortwave radio and recorded all the newscasts. Then he deciphered them for the newspaper.
Well, we got a pass again because we’re Jewish, and they gave us the one barrack. And then we got a pass, and finally we got a pass, as long as you work. You have to work for it.
We got to Oslo and we got in the apartment building where the doctor used to live on one floor. Another floor, two floors were taken up by – two apartments were taken up by the Jewish, uh, the Jewish started coming from Sweden. The Jewish – that was several weeks afterwards – a Jewish orphanage which run away to Sweden. Now this Jewish people, Jewish kids, were from Austria. So they run away from Austria to Norway. When the Germans got to Norway they run to Sweden. This – this doctor gave us a big room. It probably was larger than this part of this room over here. Or let’s say a room as big as this over here. There was me, one, two, three, four – four of us lived in the same room. And each night somebody else brought another girl. We used to be – in Oslo also used – French used to come over there in boats, little French with pom-poms in their hats. And I got a job in a factory where they used to make knapsacks, a Jewish factory. Jews started coming from Sweden and they all were wealthy. Not all, except one family, because the families were all caught. Those that escaped to Sweden, that’s fine, but a lot of them didn’t escape and the Germans got a hold of them and got them to Auschwitz and some went to Theresienstadt. Theresienstadt, do you know where –
PERRY: Yes, I was there.
CHANGAR: It’s in Czechoslovakia.
PERRY: I visited there.
CHANGAR: Yeah, that was a, that was a camp where they had it for the Red Cross as a showplace. In fact one Norwegian, she thought she was a widow, her husband was a musician. After she got married he came back from Theresienstadt. He was in orchestra over there. So they inherited some (OVERTALK) from the rest of the family, whatever goods or property they had.
This one was a widow too. Her husband was taken away by the Germans. And –

Tape 5 - Side 1

PERRY: Today is June the 19th. This is tape number five. The narrator is Henry Changar. The interviewer is Eli Perry. (TAPE STOPS)
CHANGAR: There were five of us Jewish fellows who were – got together in this displaced persons camp which was organized by the Norwegian government in the barracks that the German army, Luftwaffe, used to live. They had some show dogs, German Shepherds, and one had a litter of five. And we picked up the smallest one because it was pushed away from the others. Anyway, we got together – we got in with the Jewish Federation of Oslo was just organized – the secretary over there was a man named Viktor. (?) Another one was Centuria (?) which probably is the same name as Dr. Centurio over here.
And the room – we had a room in the doctor’s house, where the doctor’s apartment, and one apartment below, or above, there was some of the orphans, Austrian orphans who came back from Sweden. And they were sent from Austria. And of course they had no relatives. The Jewish Federation sent them to Sweden when the Germans were threatening to come into Norway. Of course Norway was sold out by Quisling. After the war they came back. And some of the Norwegian Jews were quite wealthy because they lost – those who stayed behind didn’t have enough time to cross into Sweden or England. This Mr. Centuria went to England. He came back from over there. They inherited all the goods and some people inherited property from their husbands or wives or what have you. And as it happened, one woman was married and she inherited a lot of property from her husband’s side. And as it happened, her husband was a musician. He came back from Theresienstadt and she was married. Of course she gave him up for dead because he was gone from 1947 to 1939 or ’40, or whenever the Germans took over Norway. And they gave him up for dead and she remarried. So she had two husbands, but that’s beside the point.
One, two, three, a lot of fellows were from – the two of them besides me were born in Warsaw and one was from Krakow, very semitic – semitically looking. But he had a friend, the same as I had a friend before, who looked like his brother. And they were always a team, always buddy-buddy. So he helped him survive because otherwise how he did – I don’t know. And one was from Yugoslavia, we found afterwards, which was with us. He was a Sephardic Jew. He used a Spanish type of language – Ladino – or whatever you call it.
And we slowly – the Jewish Federation tried to get us jobs. Well, I worked in a ________ factory. There was in an apartment building actually, was several rooms in an apartment and commercial building. It was run by a widow whose husband’s business was belts and knapsacks and all kinds of ski equipment and sporting equipment. And then there was one of us who had – his name was Bienstock (?), David Bienstock and was his Polish name. And we all had counterfeit documents. His Christian name was different; I wish I could remember. (OVERTALK) I’ll probably remember some of the names but…he lived just a block away from me. It was a mixed neighborhood; I never heard about him but he worked in a – in a hat, ladies hat factory. (OVERTALK) His father had a small hotel; I don’t know which hotel it was. I don’t remember the name – which came from Waleniki (?) Street to ______ Street, and – but he was an apprentice in a ladies hat factory. He got a job as a hat maker with the Norwegians. He taught somebody, what was old already in the Polish industry was new over there, and he taught him how to have piecework. Of course he wasn’t quite liked because the Norwegians are slow. He was very, very fast and he was making more money than the Norwegian people who work on it a long time ago. He showed them how to do it three, four, five, six hats at a time, and the same – felt hats.
The Yugoslavian Jew got a job with the Norwegian – what was it U.B.S. or some other ___ agency. Now his job was to, in the daytime to monitor foreign broadcasts on – we didn’t have tapes at that time. It was put on rolls and then at nighttime he used to put it on slow motion, or sometimes go over it. And he typewrite – typewritten – whatever was on it and the next morning he went to the press. So mostly from Russia or Germany or whatever some was – he could have several radios going at the same time so whenever he caught some news broadcast which seemed new, he taped it – didn’t tape it; he put this on the dictophone machine.
PERRY: Right, right.
CHANGAR: Dictophone machine. Then of course he went to the press. So he had a fairly good job. The other one – I don’t remember what he was doing. And we looked for our relatives here and there.
PERRY: In Norway?
CHANGAR: In Norway, through Norway, through the Red Cross, through other agencies. The…in America the (TAPE STOPS) the Salvation Army was very helpful. And I found – I got a letter which I still have probably, a letter from a fellow by the same name as I had, who lived a block and a half or two blocks away from me. The same name as I had, my family name – Changar.
PERRY: He lived a block or two when you lived in Warsaw?
CHANGAR: In Warsaw, yes. But he wrote in Yiddish.
PERRY: You couldn’t understand it.
CHANGAR: I couldn’t read it, no. I knew that he was not a relative. He could have been a distant relative, because none of my immediate relatives, my uncles, cousins and so on, would have written to me a letter in Yiddish. Of course I answered the letter that I am not his relative; I am not from this Changar. I have no clue how – even now I sometimes still write my letter toward – when they look for survivors and so on – I still get his name. And I got his name over here, here someplace, the same name.
The fellow who I said that he, Siegmund, I don’t remember what he was doing. Anyway, he found his sister who had counterfeit documents; he found her in Germany. And from over there she married an American soldier, a Christian American soldier, whom she married. They went to New York and he started corresponding with her. After I’d been here a couple of years he finally – she brought him over to the United States. He wrote me for some money. I lent him some money. By the way, I never got it back; that’s beside the point. And we corresponded for awhile, and we corresponded with the other fellows in Norway. And we had very little in common anymore, and I don’t know what happened. I might be soon going for a trip to the Scandinavian countries. I might try to look some of them up.
Anyway, the post office wasn’t established as yet. And I couldn’t send a letter to some of my relatives over here. I had an uncle in New York whose name was Bernard Himmel. His name used to be Goodfreund but he ran away from the Russian army; he was a deserter, and his friend sent him a passport under a dead name, dead man’s name, Himmel. He lived in Bronx – Brooklyn, and I didn’t remember what it was, but I remember that my father’s brother, and I remember the spelling of his name which is the same spelling as mine today. And the other’s was seven, was St. Louis, MO, for Missouri. I went to the post office, when they established the post office, and we looked through the books of different cities in the United States. They had the books, and we found maybe a dozen St. Louis cities. They think that – they thought that the Jews were concentrate – the same concentrated areas in the larger cities, the same as they were in Norway in larger cities, or any place else in the world. But I want to send a letter over there without the address. They suggested that I send a telegram, that the United States post office would be interested more so in a telegram than in a letter. So I addressed a telegram, “Maury Changar, St. Louis, MO.” Nobody knew what MO was for.
CHANGAR: MO was Missouri. As it happens, it wasn’t too many days where I got a letter, an answer. They received it. They let me know in a telegram that they received my telegram and the letter would follow. Well, the letter followed with a lot of questions on who I am and who and what and whose son, and so on. And I explained to them what I was and so on, and we started corresponding. In the correspondence I found out that a cousin of mine, who is in Israel now, that he was in Russia. He found them too. So I had a cousin already found through my uncle here in St. Louis. He wanted to come to the United States; so did I. He asked for all kinds of help, and I did not. I just want to come here. Well, they could only bring one of them, and my uncle didn’t have any property besides him, but he had a lot of acquaintances and friends who did have property. Somebody signed up my Uncle David, co-vouched, co-signed with him. And they – this is how they decided to bring me over. They’d heard from him before me. They decided to concentrate on bringing me over since I’d probably, not being so demanding, would probably be a better risk of having me over here than him over here. And later on if I would decide to bring him over, fine. And I did that. In fact, I brought his daughter over here, went back; they’re in Israel now. Now, I had a cousin, whose name was Schmolosh.
PERRY: Schmolosh?
CHANGAR: Schmolosh. And they changed it to Schmoloski just by adding a few words. Schmolosh is a very Polish name again, and O S K I, changed it to an O S K I. And his little sister, who isn’t little anymore I imagine she is a lot – went to Germany as a volunteer worker, and was on a German farm. Last time I seen him, in Warsaw, they temporary opened – the Germans temporary opened the university, the Polish university, and he was going over there. But later on they closed it, as a Christian. They closed it, and I don’t know what happened to him, but I found her. And we corresponded during the whole, my whole stay in Germany – in Norway, corresponded. But after the war she went away and I didn’t know where she was stationed. To this day I can’t get a hold of her anyplace, or him. But those are two probably who are my mother’s cousin’s kids. I know that I mentioned it – her husband used to make costumes for the –
PERRY: You mentioned it, yes.
CHANGAR: I mentioned it, okay – costumes for the actresses, sequins and handpainted, and things like that. I applied to the United States Consulate for entrance visa, entrance permit to the United States. My uncle in the United States was working towards bringing me over here. Well I had my number of – quota number – the Consul ____, had one finger missing (OVERTALK) and he said I had very little chance. It would take a very long time before on the Polish quota I’d be able to get to United States, because it’s overfilled; there’s a lot of Polish refugees in Germany, and the Polish army didn’t want to go back to Poland because it’s under Russian occupation. If I would have been born in Russia, (SNAPS FINGERS) it would be just like this because there were so many Russian immigrants when they established the quota. And since they were under Communist –
PERRY: They can’t get out.
CHANGAR: They can’t get out. So the Russian quota was open. All the Russians wanted to do is get somebody to sponsor them over here and come over just quite easy to the United States. That’s why I had it easy bringing my niece, from Israel, who was born in _______, and from over there went to Poland, France, and to Israel.
Now, why I went _____ in Norway, none of us particularly liked to live there because of the memories that we had over there and none of us came over there voluntary, actually, you know, for pleasure. So even though we befriended a lot of Norwegian people and – a lovely, lovely people, very goodhearted, very nice, very polite, and they had a lot of drunkards, which we had nothing to do with. But you could see, you could see in barracks at nighttime the Norwegians sleeping on the ground, and the American sailors, all the American soldiers. The Americans made themselves a pretty good reputation after awhile. Of course there were a lot of Jewish Americans who got together with the Jewish people over there and they were very, very, very well respected, and very well liked. In fact, when I came to the United States I brought a beautiful tea set, silver tea set, from one of the American soldiers who worked in a print shop in Baltimore. They were under the impression that he was quite wealthy because of the things that he used to bring them like ketchup and canned fruit. Fruit of any kind was a luxury in Norway because it hardly grows over there; in the very southern part there’s apples and pears and things. Otherwise, the other fruits were exotic. You went to a restaurant and had a piece of canteloupe; it was a quarter-inch thick and they served it with a slice of lemon. They gave you some sugars. That was a luxury over there.
In the meantime I was in Norway, about a year in Norway, it was getting – that was before the war ended. Time was running out and I was getting impatient. I was getting nowhere. I was making very little money in this –
PERRY: Knapsack.
CHANGAR: Knapsack factory. And – because the industry wasn’t built up as yet so there was a lot of unemployment. The Norwegian people who used to collaborate with the Germans under some other documents – they couldn’t get a work permit so they worked for very little money to start with. They had jobs like the Chicanos over here or the Mexicans over here; they work for hardly anything because they can’t get work permits. And so they’re illegally over here. We were legally over there; we had work permits, but still we were paid very little. Now, I’d seen an ad in the paper where they were looking for people who spoke German – U N R A – UNRA.
PERRY: UNRA, yeah.
CHANGAR: It was a United Nations relief organization – agency. There was a camp in Shanghai, mostly of German Jews. I know one who grew up there. He lives in town. I know several over here. Among others is John Kronbach (?) and some of the others who came here after the war and they came from Shanghai. Well, I volunteered through that agency to be as an officer since I spoke German. And in fact, I was that far advanced. They checked my past and so on, my character, and I was never arrested in Norway, and there was no place else they could actually check. But I was already measured for the uniform, for the English uniform. There was the – the English were sending people over there, not the Americans, the English, as an English officer with the relief organization to go to Shanghai.
The uniform wasn’t finished yet, and the American Consul called me in and what happens. Well, they said, “Henry,” through a translator, said through his secretary who was Norwegian, “Looks like you’re going to go to the United States.” I said, “What happened? I gave up already because I already applied to go to Shanghai. I thought maybe through there I could get somehow with the refugees and get somehow to the United States, and maybe won’t.” He said, “What happened was this,” he said, “I’m being recalled back to the United States. I want to leave a clean desk.”
PERRY: (LAUGHTER) You’re lucky he was a neat man.
CHANGAR: “And the new Consul coming, I didn’t want to leave him any work or any unfinished business”
PERRY: And you’re part of my unfinished business. (LAUGHTER)
CHANGAR: And there’s several – yes. “And there’s several things which I haven’t finished and so you’re gonna get an entrance visa to the United States.” Now in the meantime what happened is this. Though I had a passport from the Polish exiled government in England, and I remember I still have it with the ______ on it. But regardless, that passport wasn’t valid anymore since the Polish government that was in London, which was in London, came to Warsaw and established their own government, and that government is recognized by the United States now, whereas the other government was recognized before. “And we’re going to get you to the United States just as soon as you get the passport from the Polish government who is establishing an embassy and consulate here in Oslo. They should be here in a few days.” In fact, I was one of the first ones who applied for a Polish passport and I got that and it wasn’t – it didn’t take too long to get the United States visa. And then I sold my watch and sold a few belongings over there that I had. I told, I wrote to my uncle that I don’t want any transportation. That all I wanted is just a visa which already I had and I will have enough money to go there. In fact, I had enough money to get a couple of articles of clothing which I knew from before the war that for travel like this we used to wear – people used to wear knickers, not kids, but adults, knickers and so on. I got myself a new hat and a coat, a very good coat. One of my friends gave it to me, lent it to me. And I booked passage on a Norwegian vessel that was – had freight for 12 second class passengers. That’s all it was, second class and 12 passengers. We went to Christianson (?) which is next to a Christianson fjord. By the way the – Norway used to be called Christiana (?) at one time.
PERRY: I didn’t know that.
CHANGAR: They were under the Danish occupation. The Norwegian king, when I was there, was Haakon VII; he was Danish born. His son is Olaf, who is still ruling. But he is already Norwegian born. You could pass by the palace over there, by the king’s palace, and there is no guard outside. You just walk on the sidewalk. The prime minister had an office over there in an office building. And he was – the prime minister is like a president over here. He was voted out; somebody else was brought in. He took the office, several rooms over there, very, very democratic country. And I don’t think he had to ______ afterwards either. (LAUGHTER)
So we went to Christianson to meet the boat over there. My bad luck, or good luck, I don’t know, the fjord was frozen. That was part of the sea. It was frozen. I had to wait, I think, nine days or more, longer, maybe it was two weeks; I don’t recall. But anyway, the food that I had seen over there, even in Oslo you could never see it because everything was rationed, and over there was – as you’ve heard, the smorgasboard. That’s what they had in the hotels. When you pay for your hotel you pay for food. I call that an American plan, or European plan, or whatever plan they called. But anyway, hams and all kinds of exotic meats, and things like this that I, cheeses that I normally couldn’t buy, but I hadn’t seen it for – with ration cards you couldn’t buy it. I was lucky that I had a Norwegian girlfriend and she worked in a dairy store and I got a half-gallon of milk a day.
CHANGAR: And with some of the packages we used to get from the Red Cross; I got some packages from the United States too, from Red Cross. Mostly the Argentinian – Colombian hash, which was more _______ than hash, used to eat that with a lot of macaroni, fried it, fry it with frying pan, and the dog ate some and we had, we ate some; we were all pushed together. And milk, we had all the milk we wanted from that girl who used to sell it to us, sell it to us without card, without the ration cards. Anyway, went back over there. And finally they brought an ice breaker from Sweden, and they broke the ice. And after the ice was broken the ship came in. They loaded up whatever they loaded up and then finally loaded us 12 passengers there, 12 cabins. The – going by plane was too expensive. It didn’t cost me as much. It was 150 dollars to get to the United States, and by plane it would have cost something like 250, or 200 dollars. Well, I was on a limited budget and I didn’t want any help from my uncle over here, financial help.
So finally we loaded and after a few days we were able to get out underway to the United States.
PERRY: So you were now on your way to the United States.
CHANGAR: I’m on the way to the United States.
PERRY: Let me ask you just a quick question here, two questions if I can before you go across the sea. Apparently you heard from no close relatives that were after the war in Europe. You didn’t locate any.
CHANGAR: No, just the two stepbrothers; I’ll call them stepbrothers. They were sons of my stepfather’s – sons of my stepfather. One was in England; one was in France. I don’t know whether I mentionned it, if I mentionned that before or not.
PERRY: You mentioned that your stepfather lived in France.
CHANGAR: Yeah, but I didn’t mention them. Well, the one in London, when I got in touch with him – the one in France was easy to find because all I had to do was send a letter over there and the post office found him. They have a – I understand the same system as we had in Warsaw. When you come – when you had to move from one house, one apartment, to another you had to get a sticker from the police department. And when you moved to another apartment building they registered you over there, and they registered you with the police that you’re moving over here and so on. So the police department has not only the telephone books that you could find people, but even those that don’t have telephones, go to any – go to either the city hall or the headquarters of the police and they have you exactly – they know exactly where you live, where you moved from and where you live. And so it was quite easy to find him and he of course said that he had heard from his brother here and there. And so I got a package from London. The situation in France was still pretty poor. Now he was, as I understand, he stayed in London over there. We corresponded for awhile when I was over there in Norway. He was so much older than I was. He married a, when he was still in France he married a – he was a convert.
PERRY: Yeah, you mentioned that he was a –
CHANGAR: He was a convert, yeah, he was Christian. From Eisenberg his name became Zelizovski (?) which is Eisen is (OVERTALK) And my stepbrother in France became a French citizen. It is quite hard to become a French citizen. The one in England was still a Polish citizen, but the one in France became a French citizen. What happened is he run to southern France which was occupied by the Vichy government. It was a puppet government by Marshal Pétain, the Vichy government. And when Germany decided to move south and move to Africa from over there, he run to Spain. And he was arrested on the border and even though Spain was collaborating with the Germans, he thought that they would send the division, ________ or whatever they called it, they called it during the war. They used to fight on the side of the Germans, the Fascists. And they left him, whoever they found – he was with a couple of other Jews and a lot of non-Jews. Of course there were a lot of Communists over there in France before the war, as of now as well. And the party, the Communist party is allowed over there. They were locked up, interned – that’s not the word. He was interned in Spain in a camp. From over there he run away one night to Gibralter.
PERRY: That’s British.
CHANGAR: British. And from over there he joined the French army.
PERRY: Free French.
CHANGAR: That’s right, under De Gaulle, and he was sent to Africa to fight the Germans because they were moving around over there. I don’t exactly what year he came back, all in one piece and as a French citizen. He was going to school over there before the war and that’s when he got stuck. And going to college, they used to throw away – throw the Jews, Jewish students out of college windows after the war – before the war. The German propaganda before the war was very intense in Poland. In fact we just talked at the table that the Poles, the Jewish kashrut, or the slaughter of cattle in Switzerland as you mentioned, was forbidden. In Poland all cattle were slaughtered by the Jewish rabbis, by the Jewish –
PERRY: Shochets.
CHANGAR: Shochets. So all meat was kosher, and the four quarters were sold to Jewish butchers, but the Christians ate –
PERRY: The whole thing, the rest of it.
CHANGAR: The rest of it. And they ate the four quarters too, because there were only 10 percent Jews about three million, and there were over 30 million Christians over there, about 80 percent Catholic. There were a few Protestants and a few Gypsies, and a few – you’d be surprised – we had some Chinese and some Tartars – Mongolians who stayed from the 14th and 15th centuries.
PERRY: That’s when they invaded.
CHANGAR: That’s right. We used to have butcher shops with horses’ heads on the sign above the door. They sold horsemeat.
PERRY: So anyhow, your stepbrother then became a French citizen.
CHANGAR: French citizen. And one went to England when Hitler came to Germany. He run a Polish travel bureau in Paris, and after the war he run the same travel bureau in London, in England. He sent me a pair of slacks and some other things over here to where –
PERRY: In Oslo.
CHANGAR: In Oslo, yeah. So I had some clothes from him.
PERRY: But these are the only two –
CHANGAR: Well, I found one ____ who was in Israel. Well, at that time he was in Poland when he wrote a letter to my uncle over here in the United States.
CHANGAR: So he gave me the address and we corresponded from over there. He was a principal of a grammar school in Poznan, which is in western Poland. There’s very few – well, the Germans and the Russians tried to exterminate not only the Jews, but as many educated –
PERRY: People as possible.
CHANGAR: People as possible, as many as possible. And not only educated, but those who were physically impaired, mentally impaired; they were just gassed up or shot down. They didn’t want to even – the Germans themselves they didn’t even want to have around. They wanted to have a pure race.
PERRY: Well now, so these are the close family you got in touch with.
CHANGAR: Yeah, I couldn’t – the one I found in Warsaw wasn’t a relative at all, so since this one is in Israel now, went from Germany – from Poland to Germany, and from Germany to France, to Paris where he found some relatives on his mother’s side. They used to have a hat factory, and feather factory, and what have you. They used to have artificial flowers, big artificial flowers. They inherited some money, some property from the rest of the relatives who lived in Paris over there.
PERRY: Then my second question before you go to the United States, I think you almost answered this second question already. But, after the war, the Norwegians got along all right with the Jews? There wasn’t any great problem?
CHANGAR: No, no problem at all. They – in fact, in general they were very sympathetic. Before the – Swedish, Swedish people too, before the war and after the war even more so.
PERRY: I see.
CHANGAR: And there weren’t that many that – there was no problem as such. The Norwegians just didn’t have an inclination – the Norwegians didn’t have an inclination for business or commerce and what have you. They were actually grateful they had somebody who to run it because all they wanted to do was be sailors or fishermen and what have you. So at least that’s what most of the Norwegian population, males is. That’s why there is so few males to so many – seven to one after the war. (OVERTALK)
PERRY: Okay, that answers my two questions. So now we’re back on the boat.
CHANGAR: On the boat, okay. The other 11 passengers were Norwegian sailors who were traveling to the United States. And the boat had a lot of coal on it. It picked up coal in Germany I believe, somewhere along Germany, and they were transporting it to – I know that there was some merchandise in Norway, but I don’t know what it was. Probably vegetables and fruit and things like that which was – they didn’t grow, and meat didn’t grow in Norway, except for a little in southern Norway. And the cattle, very, very little cattle – they used to walk around the hills like goats, very small, very adept at it. I guess they were just _________. They got this inbred in them. They didn’t have fat legs or, to looking after grass or hay, they had to just climb the hills. And they were very little, very muscular, so the beef was very, very muscular, very poor. There was no corn – no cornfed beef and so on. Well, no bread to spare because there wasn’t enough wheat or rye to, any kind of grain wasn’t available, not available but it wasn’t in surplus as to give it to cattle like we do over here to fatten them up, and get their muscles and fatten up.
PERRY: In a beef farm.
CHANGAR: That’s right, in stalls. They had to keep on the move continuously, used their muscles to climb, to climb, then the cattle was very poor to start with. So in the good restaurants when you had any kind of a meat, mostly imported. And it was rationed too, so they probably – to this day probably good cattle, good beef, is imported from someplace else because over there they just don’t grow enough.
PERRY: So these were your traveling companions, the sailors.
CHANGAR: Sailors, two, one shipping line brought a surplus ship in United States. They were traveling with me in order to…occupy the ship.
PERRY: Man the ship.
CHANGAR: Man the ship and bring it back to Norway. They tried to build up back – the Germans liquidated and destroyed a lot of the merchant marine which was the third biggest nation. I think after English – the English and Japanese, I think the third one was Norway. (OVERTALK) No, not the United States, but Norway, yes. And besides that, a lot of Norwegian sailors on foreign ships, they were sailors and they were fishermen on big fishing boats and fish factories like the whale factories and so on.
Because over there the shortwave radio like mostly in Europe what you get is a shortwave radio since the countries are so close together you just didn’t have enough spaces. So if you wanted to have any music so you either listen to France or listen to Germany or listen to England. And most of the radios sold in Poland before the war were shortwave radios, and of course they were big and expensive and seven, eight tune radios. And since the other countries were all congested so close together within 500 miles –
PERRY: So you had that many stations…
CHANGAR: Shortwave radio, mostly listen, so we knew all – the war was coming, and what was happening more or less. Except that the Germans were, before the war, they were jamming a lot of stations. They didn’t want the Polish to get the true story of them. (TAPE STOPS) And what – as we got closer to the United States the radio was blasting mostly two songs, it was the _______ song and the ________ serenade, continuously.
CHANGAR: Continuously. And just about every third one was either this or that. And so you heard as you got closer and closer you – to the United States, the other stations were getting weaker and weaker and the United States not so you got over here mostly. Well, we came to Baltimore in the middle of the night and we stayed about three miles offshore.
PERRY: That was your first place you docked in the United States? Baltimore?
CHANGAR: Yes, Baltimore, Maryland. The ship I came on was Margarette Backer.
PERRY: Backer – B A C K E R?
CHANGAR: Backer – B A C K E R, Margarette, two “t’s” with the “e” at the end. And the…United States Customs came aboard and asking whether I had, we had anything to declare. Well, I had a few dollars whiskey, very, very inexpensive because the ship didn’t have to pay any duty to buy either Norwegian whiskey or English whiskey or – they had picked up the English whiskey or the United States whiskey. Well, I had a bottle. Of course I said, “No, I have nothing to declare.” And the – I had a silver set, beautiful silver set.

Tape 5 - Side 2

PERRY: This is Tape Five, Side B. (TAPE STOPS)
CHANGAR: The silver set was duty paid by the people who were sending it through an American Consulate. It already was paid and stamped. And the bottle of whiskey that I had, I put this in (LAUGHTER) in a toilet water tank. Of course it was sealed, because they wanted to sell it cheap. They didn’t want to take it back to Norway or any place else, so they practically sold it at cost and I brought that and put this in a tank. Afterwards, when we got to shore, after the inspection was all finished, we got to shore and the shore became black; I thought I was in Africa. There were a lot of Negroes, or as we call them Blacks now, and this was 8th, 10th of March or 8th of March; I don’t remember, the 8th of March, and the 10th of March I was in St. Louis. I came 10th of March to Baltimore.
PERRY: That was 1947?
CHANGAR: 1947. And was still the heart of winter when I left Norway, over here. And I finally came to St. Louis. It happened to snow, and the snow was gone, but I seen the piles, the snow piled up on sidewalks, and the sidewalks were strange. Each occupant, or the janitor, or whoever of the apartment building had to scrape the snow and put it on the pile and trucks were picking it up at that time and dumping it in manholes I assume. That’s what we used to do in Warsaw.
Anyway, I had never seen so many black people in one time. They came to unload the coal, and on top of that, not only they were black, but their faces were black from coal and the hands were black from coal. And the last time I had seen so many black people was when I was still in Minsk, and they weren’t black but Turkistan, and their faces were black from charcoal. They unloaded the coal, and the next morning they let us ashore.
Well, a very nice lady waited for me. I guess my uncle arranged it or what – the Jewish Federation arranged it from Norway from one of Jewish HIAS or whatever organization; I believe it was HIAS. And I said what I want to do and we talked – kind of bad English, but she knew a few words of Yiddish. So I showed her the package and I want to deliver this. Am I thirsty, am I hungry? I said, “No, I just ate.” So right away we took a cab and I showed her the address and she said, “You’re going to go on a train to St. Louis. It’s going to take some time before we get a train to St. Louis. So we can do several things over here.” So we went over there to a part of Baltimore, very old, old part of Baltimore full of brick buildings and brick exposures. Brick which was to me that was strange because most of parts of Europe that I came, the brick buildings were covered by stucco, except some factory buildings. Well, this was a printing shop and living quarters above. I don’t know whether this was his printing shop or next door he was working in it. He came down in a black face again, all hands full of ink and so on from printing. And I told him – he understood a little Norwegian because he was stationed in Norway – that I’ve got a silver set from these and these people. And there’s a letter I had over here too, and he was so grateful. And he wanted to treat us to supper but in the middle of the day he couldn’t leave. I said, “No.” She said, “We don’t want anything.” This was being sent from these people over here he knew from the war, so he was very grateful. He said, “Actually I don’t deserve it because all I did was they were very hospitable to me. I just brought a bottle of ketchup they didn’t have, soy sauce, and all kinds of things like those condiments which were easily accessible.” The PX over there – but the Norwegians after the war couldn’t get it. It was allowed, but they just couldn’t get it.
Then she went to dinner and she ordered steak for me. And the steaks in Poland – not only the size – the one I got over in the restaurant just hung over on the plate. It was rare. In Poland we had steaks and they were pan-fried, smothered in onions. Now you have cube steaks over here but not a cube steak – they weren’t cubed. They were Polish-type steaks. This was American-type steak and it was rare. And I cut into it and blood was dripping from it on the dish, and I just nibbled around it where it was more well-done than the center. I just couldn’t look – I couldn’t eat. _________ I wouldn’t eat nothing but medium. I still don’t like them rare. I only like them medium; they’re more tender.
And, as much as we could converse with each other, well – she knew a little Yiddish, and I knew a few words of Yiddish that I learned in the ghetto, and a few words from home, yet that I picked up. And finally she said that I can go right now. There’s a train very soon leaving for Chicago with a holdover several hours in Chicago. And, the holdover – change trains in Chicago and go to St. Louis. So I have to wait a few hours in Baltimore to get a direct train to St. Louis. I said, “Well, I’ll be there before that, if I get the train to Chicago and change the trains in Chicago and go to St. Louis over there.” Well, I decided on a train to Chicago, and she, I guess, paid for the train. And changed train – she gave me directions – changed train in Chicago and went to St. Louis. And on the train I found a very, very nice gentleman, executive, who spoke a little German. And I still have his card; he was very helpful and we ordered food and so on, on the train.
We came to Union Station. I assumed that someone would expect me at the station. Nobody did. It was afternoon already and nobody was there. Well, how to get to him? Easy – had one of those red caps get my valise or, or luggage – whatever I had – outside the station into a cab. And I gave him a tip. To the cab I showed him the letter from my uncle – 730 Higgin (?) and I had enough, enough American money left. So he drove me over to him and I paid him for the…And he looked at the – there was six apartments, three stories, six apartments, and Morris Changar over there on the first floor, right side. And he rang the bell. I went over there and there I stood with my suitcase in my hand, knapsack, knickers, black hat with a feather over here, narrow-rimmed hat, which was not in style as yet over here. Later on they became in style. They used to wear wide-rimmed hats. And a bunch of girls, sitting all over the place, on the floor, sitting upside down on the sofa, hanging loose from chairs, sitting upside down, and it was so strange to me. Sitting on the floor, even though it was carpet, I never seen anybody sitting on the floor, much less when they entertain. Well, my cousin – girl, Esther – run over and said, “Henry.” I said, “Yes?” “Where are my parents? Are you by yourself?” And she looked behind me.
PERRY: What language did she speak?
CHANGAR: She speak English, but I could understand one word here and there. She looked behind me – where is, where is, what…I said nothing. She took my knapsack off and said, “Go and get washed up.” She showed me to the bathroom. Later I found out my uncle and aunt were still in the station waiting for the direct train from Baltimore that was supposed to be later. Well, they couldn’t imagine I was all smart (LAUGHTER BY BOTH) to come over here by myself.
And I’m going to jump back a little bit ago; I’m going back to the – there’s not interest as much over here about my coming to the city of St. Louis as what happened during the war and before the war. You mentioned Switzerland and the Jewish slaughter was forbidden. And Polish – everything was slaughtered except the pigs (OVERTALK) who were just hit with like a baseball bat or with a hammer, sledgehammer over the head; that’s the way they killed the pigs. The Jews, shochets killed the cattle and this way they recovered a lot of blood which was sold to the Polish people for soups and they used to make Polish –
PERRY: Sausage?
CHANGAR: Not Polish sausage, was a black – you get it over here too, made out of bread with pieces of lard in it, sausage made out of bread, bread sausage. It was very, very popular in Poland.
PERRY: Is that called kilbasa?
CHANGAR: No, not that. Kilbasa was Polish sausage and, and kilbasa was a bologna. Any sausage, any kind of a sausage was called kilbasa in Poland. And there was a name before; there was always two names. The common sausage was what we call Polish sausage, narrow. And Krakow kilbasa was bologna, and so on.
Propaganda, before the war, the Germans before they invaded Poland made big program of propaganda against the Jews. They wanted to get the Poles’ attention from them and what’s going on over there on the Polish border. They massed – amassing of armies and getting the Jews, and of course there were a lot of Polish organizations who were receiving money from the Propaganda Ministry of Germany. And Polish newspapers were all of a sudden bringing up anti – what they largely had was against Jews. Well, before you know it, they had forbidden any kind of a slaughter of Jewish slaughter in Polish Christian slaughterhouse – a regular slaughterhouse. They were either electrocuting them or shooting them in the head by a gun. So, of course, there was one or two of Jewish slaughterhouses where they were still slaughtering the cattle, even though it was forbidden to slaughter. It was inhumane.
PERRY: Yeah, that was the excuse that the Swiss gave, yeah.
CHANGAR: Inhumane, inhumane to slaughter them that way, to let the blood run, because there were – the cattle were still alive, hanging upside down. And the chicken was still alive in the cages, dripping the blood, and the blood run off. The Poles – the Polish, all they did was put the chicken on the butcher block and chop their head off, chop their head off. Or the farmers used to just break the neck off; that’s for their own consumption. The Jews used to bring (OVERTALK) from the countryside, they used to bring the chicken to a shochet. And they used to kosher slaughter them, just cut the jugular vein and just let them run loose for some blood, whatever, run freely into a pan which was sold and given to the Christians who stood there in line for the blood.
And, there was propaganda against Jewish education, and any kind of education, higher education; why educate the Jews? They are going to take over the country. So they had some organization start getting organized in Polish universities, in Warsaw and Cracow universities, Polish university – big university, just for an example, just like, like Washington University over here. But campus – the campus was even bigger than that. And they used to chase the Jews and beat them and even throw them during a class, threw them out of the window. They used to sit back in the class. All of a sudden, and some of them just pushed – during the summertime – out of the third, fourth, fifth floor, story window. And so slowly they were leaving the Polish university – ________ – that we had over there.
And all kinds of propaganda. Propaganda, they even had Hitlerjugend propaganda over there, organizations that put guards in front of Jewish stores. And whoever went in there, they took pictures of them, and the pictures were publicized in some of their newspapers, that those people are patronizing Jewish merchants. And of course all was pro-Germany, that’s our friends and so on.
Then came the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Poles. I guess –
PERRY: Was it Poles or Germans?
CHANGAR: By the Poles.
PERRY: Poles – the eastern part, yeah.
CHANGAR: And more or less, of the northern part of Czechoslovakia, right on the other side of the _______ Mountains. The Germans, or the German supported newspapers over here said, “This part used to be Poland during the First World War. Then they made Czechoslovakia out of it, put on the buildings, up a lot of buildings over there still had the Polish eagle on it because there was no Czechoslovakia before the First World War.” ________ was the Czechoslovakian President who actually – League of Nations – they actually-
PERRY: Made.
CHANGAR: Made Czechoslovakia over there out of part of the Sudetengal (?), Sudetenland, and part of Carpathia, part of Hungary and what have you, and that was Czechoslovakia. But part of it used to be Poland.
PERRY: When did the Polish army invade?
CHANGAR: I think it was ’38, or maybe the beginning of ’39; I don’t remember.
PERRY: Was it when the Germans and Poles started to fight?
CHANGAR: Not yet, before that.
PERRY: Oh, I see. I didn’t realize – I forgot that part of history.
CHANGAR: You had placards on the corners of the Polish Marshal. Of course the Marshal, who actually…got the Polish army to being was Marshal Pielsudski (?). (OVERTALK) He was pretty much – he wasn’t against the Jews. When we say somebody wasn’t against the Jews, then we assume he was pro-Jews. But he didn’t bother the Jews. And one time or another – see, we had government of two, of two heads. There was the Polish Marshall who was running – he was more or less the…
PERRY: Administrator?
CHANGAR: No, not the administrator. He was running the Polish army. He was like the executive part. And the legislation part was run by the President. He wasn’t running it. He was just the head, titular head of Poland. President ______, he discovered the ozone, how to get the ozone from the Earth, whatever got it out. He was a scientist, or physicist, and he was just a figurehead, like you have in France a figurehead, or a figurehead in Russia. Russian Premier is the one that runs the, runs it – like a premier in England, and the king is a figurehead. So he was the figurehead. And what was the new marshal’s name? I don’t remember, but you see his placards on the corner here, on a horse, with a sword in his hand, “Let’s go south.”
PERRY: Reclaim Czechoslovakia.
CHANGAR: Reclaim the Poles’ – the Polish territory, and what have you. And this was all financed by the Germans. So just to take Polish mind, of course the Polish give them a few, few bottles of whiskey, and they go. And then Polish – the newspapers were practically sold for nothing and the Poles were encouraged to listen, to read them, and they were thrown on the doorstep for free and so on. And the Polish – and the Jewish businesses were boycotted. There was a Jewish – there was a joke which maybe you’d be interested in, and maybe the tape would be interested in. In the Christian neighborhood – well, we had the Jewish neighborhood. We had the commercial, wholesale, section of the, some retail too. Some sell retail and wholesale. And there was a section which was, the rest of the wholesale section was Marshall ______ Street and the fine stores were over there.
Well, there was a Jewish man who had a store over there with a Christian name across the door. He did not have a – somebody watching his store. They didn’t know it was Jewish owned, the German agents, or the Poles who got paid indirectly by the Germans that a man – there was an ad in the paper for a salesperson. A man walked in there with black hair and so on, and said, “I came because of the ad I read in the paper that you need a salesperson.” He says, “Yes, I do. Do you have experience in textiles,” or whatever he was selling. And he says, “Yes.” He says, “What is your name,” and so on. So he mentioned, like Pappas, or some other kind of nickname. He said, “This doesn’t sound like a Polish name.” “Well,” he said, “this is Greek, Greek name.” He says, “I see here that you talk with a slight accent. You are Greek?” “Yes.” “Isn’t that coincident? I have another Greek salesman I just hired. He is down in my stockroom and he is segregating some of my stocks, some of my goods. I’d like for you to meet him.” So he went down into the stockroom and says, “Mr. Habaches (?), meet Mr. Pappas.” They shook hands and they had to say something as a greeting. So he says, “____________.” (LAUGHTER BY PERRY) And the other fellow says, “ _______.” And then the owner says, “__________.”
PERRY: (LAUGHTER) Yes, yes, that’s a funny story. (TAPE STOPS)
CHANGAR: And that was one of the jokes circulating. There were some other jokes circulating. Anyway, the propaganda, German propaganda through the Poles was very intense, and we knew what was coming. The Jews knew what was coming, that the Germans were coming. This was all forming – German newspapers, which were available to those who spoke German, in the hotels and the railroad stations. And they had kiosks on the corner where the telephone companies had their telephone connection in the middle of the street on the corner, there was a kiosk, and they’re selling newspapers and magazines – international, German and English and American newspapers and so on. So German newspapers were available. And that was always – you could read, as my parents did, they could read that the Germans – Germany, during the First World War, was divided. There was East Prussia and Germany. There was a corridor –
PERRY: Polish corridor, yes.
CHANGAR: Corridor, yes, which was a narrow strip of land reaching from at one time used to be the Kingdom of Poland through the Baltic Sea. The Polish port was Gdansk, which we had what – a reading about Mr. Balesai (?) who has the solidarity. And there was Gdansk which was a free city, run at first was Gdia (?). In other words, Gdansk was called Danzig in German.
PERRY: Yes, that was part of Germany.
CHANGAR: Yes, it was a free city run by Poles and the Germans as well. Well the German propaganda, the German articles, they want to _____ in the corridor. A lot of Germans lived there. They had to free them because the Poles are not treating them right. And unless the Poles are going to give them extra rights, and extra this and extra this, they don’t know what they’re gonna do because those Germans, the Germans were cut. And they want (OVERTALK) to free those Germans, and be one united country, not East Prussia and Germany over there. Well there was 1939 and before we knew it, Germany started marching. The Jewish populations were kind of skeptical about Jews being persecuted by the Germans. They remembered the First World War. The, the German occupation was quite friendly towards Jews.
PERRY: The First in compared to Russia.
CHANGAR: First World War, yeah. The German population was quite friendly – the German army and the occupation was quite friendly towards Jews. And a lot of Jews assumed that here was going to suffer maybe the Christian population but the Jews will get by like they got by in the First World War. The United States was not in war yet. And a lot of Jews used to – they left by the thousands to visit the World’s Fair in New York. Some of the Jews are still here.
We had a letter from my uncle in New York, Bernard Himmel, whose name actually was Goodfreund, that – he was a self-taught music teacher. He always wasn’t a teacher over there, but he self-taught music and he taught music to the lower classes in public schools. That he would bring my mother or one of us boys, sons, over to United States – of course he cannot afford to bring all of us, on the pretext – because they knew what was happening. We are in a war, or going to be in a war, with Germany. To be able to maybe before the United States gets in the war, if it gets in the war, we’d be able to – one would be able to bring the other over. Well, my mother was an ______. She got a lot of, lot of worry in the First World War. She would not, by any means, go by water, or by air, to United States or any place.
PERRY: That’s the only way you can go, one of the two.
CHANGAR: She would not. She suggested to my brother, since he was the oldest, and I was the – more or less the brave one, or the stupid one; I don’t know – he was smarter at school and so on, that he will go. And I was more or less the good-hearted. I took after my father that I could be more help to them, and he’s more of the nervous kind, that he won’t be able to survive a German occupation over here. So they would get him to the United States. Well, he said no. If I go with him he will go. He will not go by himself. That was it for any of us going to United States.
Going back to my uncle in the United States, I wanted to say a few words. He was in trouble with the Russian army several times; I just want to describe it –
PERRY: Yeah, your Uncle Morrie.
CHANGAR: Yeah, there was two different things. They don’t know each other, or of each other, or each other.
PERRY: Right.
CHANGAR: And he was arrested by the Russians several times. He was – he was drafted to the army.
PERRY: This was about 1919 –
CHANGAR: No, 1915, 1916.
PERRY: Right, right.
CHANGAR: He was the youngest, and my mother was the oldest.
PERRY: Oh, I see.
CHANGAR: There was one, two, three, four of them. There was two boys and two girls; my mother was the oldest. He was the youngest. The other boy had a sweatshop – he had a boy’s clothing factory. He went, adopted a son. He had asthma; he went to Paris. He went to first open a restaurant in a resort town in Poland. Then he went from there, sold it out in the Depression, sold the machines out, and went to Paris. The other sister’s husband was – I don’t know whether I put it on tape or not – he was a tool designer.
PERRY: No, you didn’t tell me.
CHANGAR: He was a tool designer whom the German – they had twins, twin daughters.
PERRY: Oh yeah, you did tell me the – he worked for the Germans.
CHANGAR: That’s right, the Germans took him.
PERRY: Yeah, right.
CHANGAR: And the twins, little bitty daughters was shot with my grandmother.
PERRY: With your grandmother, you told me.
CHANGAR: That’s right. They were shot in there because they wouldn’t take the little babies to the concentration camp. They just left them over there. And they did my grandmother as well, and she was just dumped on the, what – we found out she had a tachlichim (?), the brown paper. (TAPE STOPS)
My grandfather on my mother’s side, my mother’s father, was – as wise as he was, he had quite a mean streak in him. He would not, he would not let his son, youngest son, sleep in the factory to hide away from the Germans, from the Russians.
PERRY: This was in 1915.
CHANGAR: Yes, it was during the First World War, yes.
PERRY: Yes, right, because there’s two different wars we’re talking about.
CHANGAR: Yeah, First World War. So, he wouldn’t let him. He used to go and sleep on some of those streets. Of course the parks were, there was during the summertime was nice grass and he slept over there outside and got arrested. Before that, he went to college. And he would entertain his friends and it was getting late. His father, which was my grandfather, used to come in and…lately it seems he didn’t sleep with his wife. For some reason, maybe she was too religious to do it; he wasn’t. So he came and got undressed while the friends were there. He sleeped in the living room, in a daybed. And sat down over there and the climate was dry at that time. He was scratching his legs and legs and legs and finally the friends left. These are some of the things that I heard, repeated.
PERRY: Right.
CHANGAR: He was studying at nighttime. You know, when you start studying and you get on something, you want to keep on going because you, you –
PERRY: You don’t want to be interrupted, right.
CHANGAR: You found a train of thought.
PERRY: Right.
CHANGAR: He used to come and turn the light off.
PERRY: Your grandfather.
CHANGAR: That’s right. He used to go by candlelight, but then some of the days he hid all the candles. So that was the kind – with us, two boys, he loved us. He played with us continuously on his knees, and what have you.
PERRY: So he treated his son a lot –
CHANGAR: Worse –
PERRY: – differently than he treated his grandsons.
CHANGAR: That’s right. We are – we are grandchildren. Of course, by that time he was already in United States.
PERRY: Right.
CHANGAR: And, now, he was arrested – my uncle – he was arrested by the, by the Russians, and got to the army. They put him in jail. My mother had to get him out of jail. They kept him in the army over there. Once, walking on the street, he – passing an officer – didn’t salute. Of course he was arrested, stopped and arrested. How come he didn’t salute? He said, “I don’t know you. I don’t think I’ve ever met you.” He says, “You don’t salute me or greet me. You salute my stars that I have on my shoulders, my uniform.” He says, “I don’t bow to brass or to gods.” That was it, took lawyers and a court martial to get him out. Well, after a lot of strings and so on that mother pulled, my uncle had – Goldfeier (?) was a big, always a big figure in Jewish affairs in Warsaw – he got him out, out of jail and put him in a hospital.
In the hospital he was fine. He was quite happy ’til once a month, or once every two weeks he had to go and train with the rifle. He would not shoot. His target was empty of bullets. “Why? Why don’t you shoot?” He says, “I don’t want to learn how to kill people.” Of course with all that sharpshooting…
PERRY: This was your Uncle Himmel in the First World War.
CHANGAR: Yeah, that’s right. He says, “I don’t want to learn how to, how to kill people.” Court martial again. Well, they got him out of jail with a lot of pulling, pull, got him out of jail. And put him on the Japanese front, going east. Well, he left the rifle on the train and came back to Warsaw. Of course his father wouldn’t let him sleep in the factory or sleep at home. He slept on the street dressed as a woman. Arrested again over there for loitering. And they found out he was a woman.
PERRY: A man you mean.
CHANGAR: That’s right. He was dressed as a woman, because they already had his picture in the post office and so on as a deserter. And finally he got a, a passport from a friend of his, United States, had a dead man’s name, whose name was Bernard Himmel.
CHANGAR: That’s how his name was Himmel.
PERRY: Yes, I see.
CHANGAR: Not Bernard Goodfreund, but Bernard Himmel.
PERRY: I see.
CHANGAR: And, now, I read some of the New York newspapers, and there were so many Himmels. And I had some friend of mine call some Himmels over there in New York, and he would have been – my mother was the oldest. She was married when she was 27. After two years I was born, and then he’s – you’ve got to add to my age –
PERRY: Another 20 years…
CHANGAR: 29 years. And now I’m 61.
PERRY: So he would be 90.
CHANGAR: I would be 90; let’s say he would be 80 now.
PERRY: Well, he’d be between 80 and 90, yeah.
CHANGAR: No, he wouldn’t be 90 because now my mother would have been 90. (OVERTALK)
PERRY: Right, so he would be 80.
CHANGAR: He would be 80. And, so…maybe someday I’ll be in New York, I won’t be able to find out – I don’t believe he has survived, but maybe he has survivors.
PERRY: That’s another part of the family.
CHANGAR: That’s another part of the family.

Tape 6 - Side 1

PERRY: This is Tape number six. The date is 7/25/84. This is Side A. The narrator is Henry Changar and the interviewer is Eli Perry.
Henry, you mentioned that you were served a work permit in Oslo. And also, of course, you left the D.P. camp. Could you give us a little more detail of how this came about? How long it took?
CHANGAR: Well, it didn’t – as far as length of time – it didn’t take too long because by that time the Jewish Federation has been established. And you remember a man named Victor over there, I don’t remember his middle name, Centuria, who immigrated originally from England. And meanwhile, quite a big help in securing the release of this displaced person camp. One thing is, again the same story that we had up north, and that is their being able to –not wanting to – get along with the Christian management, mostly Polish management of the camp. And we had enough of camp life, and we knew there was a chance that, because we were Jewish, that we, that’s me – and I found out about a few other versions that I mentioned before.
PERRY: Right.
CHANGAR: And I don’t know whether we applied directly. We applied directly to the Commandant of the – it was a Norwegian Commandant – of the camp. And then we got in touch with the Jewish Federation. They secured our release from the camp. They found a location for us to live, which was one bedroom in a doctor’s apartment. And they secured for us – they were helpful and secured for us a work permit. They were helpful in finding us jobs, as well. So, this is, I think, all the insight I can give you.
PERRY: Henry, another question arose as a result of reading the book that you let me use, and that is, did you have any contact with or opinion about the role of the Bund before and during the war?
CHANGAR: Now, during the war I had no, no contact with them or before the war I had no contact with them. But they were subject, many, many times subjects of the news. They did have their own newspaper, a Jewish newspaper, I don’t remember the name. What Bund was, basically, is a Jewish labor party with a socialist leaning, actually Socialists. They were a socialist labor party. And they had all the Jewish unions, labor unions, were belonging to the Bund, like AFL and CIO, and so on. Of course they have no political leanings as such over here. They do have it in France; you have Socialists and Communists, and they are always at each other’s throat. So let’s not confuse the Communists with the Socialists over here because over there they are entirely different; they are at each other’s throat.
PERRY: I see.
CHANGAR: See, the…Communists take their orders from Moscow. Socialists are different type of political – close – but political –
PERRY: You had relatively little contact with them yourself.
PERRY: All right, let me ask you –
CHANGAR: Actually, none.
PERRY: None. Let’s talk a little bit about the Jewish police in the ghetto. How were they selected? What type of person did they attract? And how did the people feel about them?
CHANGAR: This is – this was a voluntary force. They applied for the jobs. Uh, most people who applied for the jobs, applied – they seemed they could be of help to their families as far as ration cards, food, clothing, place to live, jobs, and so on.
PERRY: That’s why they were attracted to the job.
CHANGAR: That’s, that’s right. You know, later on some had – you have just like in the American police, you have good and bad, and some – some took, grabbed, some grabbed and some actually helped the Jewish…Jewish –
PERRY: Community.
CHANGAR: Community. And even Jewish underground, and so you had all – and some had it two ways. Some worked two ways, like police chase after the, the criminals. At the same time they take graft or bribes from others. So they could secure some favors and they felt that the favors – some of the favors they secured for the Jewish people, some of the Jews were becoming quite wealthy. Like underground bakeries, they secured their permission of running flour through the gate, through the ghetto gates, and so on and so on. So some helped some Jews escape from the ghetto. And so you had, you had –
PERRY: A wide variety of types.
CHANGAR: That’s right, you have all kinds of people there. And some played the game both ways, for themselves as well as for the others. And if they seen a way to do good for themselves, they did. They were – as far as the Jewish population of the ghetto, again – should I mention some name over here of the American police? My wife’s girlfriend, when she was single, was a girl named Greenspan. Her father was Lieutenant Greenspan, as you may recall, the Greenspans’ ransom money. Greenleys (?) ransom money.
PERRY: I wasn’t here then.
CHANGAR: Oh. Anyway, there was a kidnap, and some money was paid off and he was in on it. He was a lieutenant, and the money disappeared, and he was suspected, but never proven. From then on he retired, he went to Florida, and so on. So, he did over here in St. Louis a lot of favors for the Jews, for the small Jewish-American city, and so on and so on and so on. So you had the same –
PERRY: It was a mixed bag…
CHANGAR: That’s right. He was a nice fellow but knew also knew that the guy stole to his family, and the same thing over there, and again, nice to somebody. And if you could, he could help his family by getting some bribes and so on, from people who could well afford it, they did. And some people who had bad experiences with them hated them, and some who had some of them in the family actually thought –
PERRY: Well now, the community as a whole, did they try to discourage Jews from volunteering? Or they just didn’t care, just that whoever wanted to volunteer, volunteered.
CHANGAR: Well, the Jewish community wasn’t organized as far as I know, except some of the underground organizations which I had no contact whatsoever with. And they – as being enemies of the Germans – necessarily so – they discouraged if they could any kind of a collaboration with the Germans, whether it was the Judenrat, or it was the Jewish police, or anybody else. Definitely they felt that they are being traitors, and one way or the other. So, but there was no choice. Either we get the Jewish police or we get the Polish police, or we get the German police over there. The police were necessary; otherwise there was a lot of criminal element over there. So, just, just, just imagine hunger.
PERRY: Sure.
CHANGAR: It turned a lot of people into criminals, themselves.
PERRY: Okay, and a final question I had that was raised by this book, and that is the role of the Judenrat in the ghetto, and how the people felt about them. Once again, of course, they were forced to form a Judenrat, but how did people feel about it? Did they hate them? Did they just ignore them? What did they do?
CHANGAR: Well, when they had certain orders on placards shown around town that the Jews had to do so much, or contribute so much, or that the Jews had to submit all the fur clothes, or metal utensils, all kinds of things which the Germans needed for the war effort. And that they had each apartment – had to have so many, since so many people came from other small towns, from Germany and from out of town, from out of the country – mostly from Germany. I don’t recall anybody else coming from any other countries over there, not in Warsaw. And so each one had – from Lodz a lot of them, and from other bigger towns. Anyway, we had to have so many people per square foot, or square –
PERRY: Meter.
CHANGAR: Meter, or whatever you have, or for so many people to a room. Of course, those who – they didn’t like, people didn’t like the idea, but there was no way. And of course the orders were given by the Germans to the Judenrat, and they, what they were, they just organized the printing of the placards and the going among the walls, and so on.
PERRY: So I guess if they didn’t obey they would be killed themselves immediately.
CHANGAR: Eventually they were –
PERRY: They were all killed.
CHANGAR: They were all just cut down by machine guns and taken down there because eventually they refused – they refused the order and they were taken in the courtyard and just machine-gunned down to the ground. I don’t know whether my cousin was among them or not, if he was still alive then or – I don’t know; that’s my family, cousin named Hirschoff(?), whether he was in it or not. Anyway, I lost contact with him. It was hard to keep any contact. And so I know he was – but they were shot, shot all down.
PERRY: Okay. (TAPE STOPS) Henry, you also mentioned that it might be worth recording about the man who committed suicide after he was released from the D.P. camp. Would you tell us about that?
CHANGAR: Yes. I left the D.P. camp and he was already dead. So he was one of the other – several – Jewish boys who got the declaration. I was in fact the last one to be – to go up in that room, if there was room. Now, what happened was this. All of us looked forward – by us, I don’t mean all of us in Norway, but those who are in the concentration camps and so on, as a one goal, if anybody had any hope to survive the war. Now when the war ended, then all of a sudden, the end for us came.
PERRY: Sure.
CHANGAR: Now what now? Now we got – the war is over.
PERRY: You’re under this tremendous pressure.
CHANGAR: Now where do I go? What do I do? Where am I? Where is my family? Where are my roots? I – about this fellow, one day he was left home by himself, and some of the other fellows came home and smelled the gas in the kitchen. There he was, passed out by the gas stove. I don’t know – from being on without the flame. So he tried to commit suicide, of course, they revived him. They called the ambulance, respiration, and what have you, oxygen, they revived him. He lost a wife and I don’t know whether he had any children or not, but supposedly not very much alive and love, and he just felt that the war ended now, he had not much to look forward to. Just like somebody climbs a hill, a mountain, gets to the pinnacle, and what now? Can’t go any higher, that was the goal. And he achieved the goal, but so there’s nothing on top of the mountain, just bare roots and nothing.
PERRY: Was this a Jewish fellow?
CHANGAR: Yeah, Jewish fellow, yes, from Warsaw. And one day they came home and there he was hanging from the chandelier with his tongue hanging out.
PERRY: Of course, there weren’t that many Jewish people in your D.P. camp because most of them were Polish.
CHANGAR: No. Yes, there was just about, those that I know except the one from Norway, went to Pol – he knew Polish very well – he went with the Russians, Russian war prisoners, he went supposedly back to Poland via Leningrad, which I didn’t want to go. So the others I all met in, in Oslo, or close to already this D.P. camp was.
PERRY: Were there many other post-war suicides like that? Or was this man very unique?
CHANGAR: Yes, yes.
PERRY: It was a common thing.
CHANGAR: Yes, it was, it was, it was as I understand it from newspapers and so on. In Germany, those who came out from (OVERTALK) from displaced persons camps, but concentration camps, they seen no way, no future. There was nothing worth fighting for. They still were in camps, one camp for another. They had food, but no place to go. They – the United States didn’t want to let them in. No country wanted them.
PERRY: Yes, I remember that.
CHANGAR: They read the newspapers too, that they had a boat that was going from one country to the other. And there was no way of getting them, of getting out…In Germany, slowly, they got into – of course I wasn’t there, but as I understood – some got into black market and some, which was quite, quite –
PERRY: Well at least they were occupied. It beat –
CHANGAR: Some made some good money. Some people who are in St. Louis over here were in the black market, and so on. I don’t want to mention any names.
PERRY: Sure, don’t do that.
CHANGAR: And as far as any other thing, I could help you with…Of course, I tried to find some of my family in Poland through the Red Cross, through Salvation Army and so on. And I hope that these tapes, if anything will be published in a place, that my name will be –
PERRY: Yeah, your name will be on it.
CHANGAR: My name will be spelled the way it is spelled in Polish. Anyway, it was spelled during the war like Nowakowski (?). My name is now –
PERRY: That was your assumed name.
CHANGAR: That’s right. My name now, of course, somebody might read it and possibly might –
PERRY: Locate some of your family.
CHANGAR: Locate some of my family.
PERRY: Well, just for the record Henry, let’s spell your name the way it is spelled in Polish. Henry – H E N R Y.
CHANGAR: Yes – Henryk.
PERRY: Henryk – H E N, what?
CHANGAR: H E N R Y – R Y K, Henryk.
PERRY: Right, and Changar?
CHANGAR: Changar was spelled C I E, but the E was actually called ______, with a phonetic mark, and then Z, with a phonetic mark which was like “zrrr,” A R, which was pronounced Ceizar.
PERRY: Well now it’s on the tape and people listening will know that.
CHANGAR: Okay. During the war I forged documents on Henry – Henryk Nowakowski. Now my name is Henry Changar, I’m recognized.
PERRY: Sure.
CHANGAR: Spelled Henry, and then C I E Z A R, which is, G A R which is almost pronounced like –
PERRY: Wait, let’s spell that again. Changar – C H A N G A R.
PERRY: Right, you forgot you’re spelling in Polish (OVERTALK) Anyhow, for the record, it’s on the tape so anybody listening will know the original name and this.
CHANGAR: There is a possibility of my little cousin, Bolek – who was last seen at my cousin – that he is alive possibly; he could have survived. He was in the uprising. Anyway, I seen him shooting up his gun. There’s two on my mother’s side, two second cousins, and one was Helenka Smolesz, (?) who changed her name to Smolarska. And Ignaszi (?), Ignasz (?), Smolarski, uh Smolarsk was his name, later Smolarski. He was still alive during the war and I was corresponding with her in Germany. She worked for a farmer as a Catholic girl. (OVERTALK) Yes, but we corresponded with her until the end of the war. Then, all of a sudden there’s no post office, no nothing, when I wrote the next letter it came back – address unknown. She probably went back to Poland to try to find her brother. (PAUSE)
I suppose the – my adventures, you might say, (LAUGHTER) I was caught several times and every time I managed to escape. I was beaten up several times. I escaped. I was quite handy at running over from roof to roof because my janitor used to have pigeons over there. That’s one thing I didn’t mention – and I helped him with the pigeons during the war and before the war. And…running all the catwalks over there. And he had the pigeons in the attic with the opening window, and he used to run the pigeons; there was quite a sport. Some people had 50 or 100 pigeons, and white pigeons. They used to fly them around. And of course they used some of them for food as well, but mostly for the sport of it.
And so, whenever the Germans came to my house, the first thing I did is run on the roof (OVERTALK) and then I could jump from one small roof to the other. I seen girls, (LAUGHTER) sunbathing on the balcony. (OVERTALK) They didn’t suppose anybody would see them from up there. So that was my way of escape. I jumped from a train a couple of times on the way to concentration camps. Uh, I was never part of any labor brigade. The Germans forced to work – one Saturday I was able to get away from the brigade. There was quite a secure way, quite a feature of surviving the war by being in those labor brigades.
There is one thing I would like to find out – what happened with the Jews in Treblinka, the concentration camp, who are the more or less, steady – except when somebody’s health failed and he was burned up with the others, gassed up –
PERRY: You mean they were healthy in the camp –
CHANGAR: They were healthy in the camp, mostly tailors, they are ripping the clothes apart. Some are sewing them together, patching them up. And some of them sent back in good condition, sent back to Germany, and some possibly worked – I had very clear contact with them because I kind of disassociated myself with them, saying that I am not Jewish, I have got nothing to do with them. I just want to get out of here.
PERRY: Of course they were in Treblinka.
CHANGAR: That’s right. But as I understand, from the Germans themselves, they used to get a lot of many gold, diamonds from those jewelers, that they used to find them in the clothes of those who were gassed and burned – in buttons, sewn in the collar, sewn in the lining. And they used to bury and hide them. I don’t know what happened to them after the war. I think some of them who were left over were machine-gunned and some of them could have been taken away to a different concentration camp, evacuated together with the Lithuanians, who were wild, and the Ukranians, who were wild. And they were even worse than the Germans. I would like to know what happened to that handful of Jews who stayed behind. Some – one of these days I’ll go across a book that tells us about it. Maybe somebody survived and described it. (TAPE STOPS)
PERRY: Well Henry, I guess this concludes our discussion. You certainly – it’s certainly interesting; it’s a fascinating story. I think it’s unique as far as the ones I’ve heard so far. And we thank you very much for telling it to us. This will become part of the archives. This ends tape number six, and the interview.

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