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Extracts of Warsaw Boy

(From Chapter 12. Maków Loses its Jews)

We woke on Sunday, 23 August 1942 to find our alpine backcloth still bathed in its high summer sunshine and blue skies. But overnight Maków had been disfigured by a rash of printed wall posters. In German and Polish they ordered the entire Jewish population to assemble in the grounds of a sawmill near the railway station. Failure to report for Umsiedlung (resettlement) was punishable by death. A special train was being provided to take them to an undisclosed destination. Only essential personal belongings were to be taken. Anything not considered essential would be confiscated. All Jewish houses and apartments were to be left intact with their front doors open.
While our church bells tolled for High Mass, Jewish families began to move slowly towards the station. Despite the sunshine some were wearing heavy coats, for wherever they were going winter was at most only three months away. All were carrying bags or small suitcases. Several had handed vases, clocks and other treasures to astonished gentile neighbours and asked them to keep these items safe until they came back. SS men at the sawmill made no effort to venture further into town and round families up at gunpoint. There was no need. The Jews made their own way there, grim-faced and largely silent.
Impassive peasants dressed in their dark Sunday suits watched them go by. Any doubts the old and the infirm might have had about their probable fate were soon dispelled. A man known as ‘Old Weiss’, who could no longer walk, was put in a wheelbarrow and trundled down to the sawmill by his family. His arrival was duly noted by the SSawaiting them. Bystanders watched one of these black-uniformed figures saunter over to Weiss and his relatives and, after solicitous inquiries about the old man’s mobility, shoot him carefully in the head with a pistol.
In the afternoon I disobeyed my father, who was aware of the killing but had not yet told me about it, and sneaked out to see what was going on at the station. When I got there, Maków’s town crier and his assistant had removed Weiss’s body. Most of the Jews were already packed into a train made up of the wooden freight wagons often employed as cattle trucks. Along the top of each wagon ran a plank-sized horizontal gap to provide ventilation; in the summer heat parents were holding children to the gap so they could get some air. Suddenly I made out the head of a boy I knew. His surname was Mülrad  and he had come to one of my name day parties. His father was the town’s watchmaker and clock repairer. As a sergeant in the reserves, he had gone to one of the Wehrmacht’s prisoner-of-war camps when his unit surrendered. And there, like so many other Jews captured in the uniforms of Germany’s enemies, he stood a good chance of surviving the war. As far as the Wehrmacht were concerned, a soldier was a soldier  - regardless of his religion - and Jews were treated no differently from anybody else. General Bernard Mond, the Jewish commander of Poland’s 6th Infantry Division was probably the most senior example of this. But the mayor of Maków, no doubt thinking he was doing Sergeant Mülrad a favour, had successfully petitioned for his release on the grounds that he was an essential worker, necessary for the servicing of all public clocks and the punctual running of the town. Now Mülrad and his family had punctually reported to the SS.

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