Sophie Waldman: Passing as a Non-Jew during the Holocaust

Posted by jyuhasz

Sophie Waldman and Professor Michael Quastel, standing beside [medical] equipment
Rights - JMABC
Waldman, Sophie
Vancouver, BC
Tuesday, July 14, 1992
Digital audio recording #: 19.92-03
                Interviewer: Irene Dodek & Cyril E. Leonoff
ID:          Then the Germans came and that was it.
SW:        And that was it. And I was working in a [pharmacy] dispensary at that time and first the Gestapo came in, you know, and then the military came in and they were very nice, just the soldiers and so on not Gestapo, and they were nice people you know, Germans, nice people who had to serve and go and the front moved farther east, the Gestapo remained and then they started to introduce their own system. There were quite a large number in that city, at that time I lived in the city Brody and Brody before the First World War was a free city, it was between Austria and Russia and it was a free city, a very prosperous city and eventually it became Poland and it was a nice big city with many Jewish people and the majority of people there were merchants and tradesmen and professional people. There were three pharmacies and all three belonged to Jewish people, the majority of doctors were Jewish doctors only two Polish doctors and one Ukrainian and otherwise we had about 15, 16 doctors, Jewish doctors and they were well off and all the lawyers, the majority of lawyers were Jewish people so a lot of intelligentsia. So the Gestapo called up, there was an order that all the intelligentsia, all the professionals have to report to one of the barracks because they are going to make a Jewish community and they wanted, they didn’t call it ghetto just a separate Jewish community and [they wanted that] Jewish people would have to do their own administration and supervision and they will not be under the Polish government, they will just have to have their own rules and regulations and so on. So they had to order to come and report and naturally all the people came. I went too but my husband didn’t, my husband actually was in hiding because he was known as very pro-Soviet at that time so he didn’t show up, he just didn’t leave his room, absolutely not because he was exposed…
ID:          Wasn’t that dangerous for him though? Would anybody have reported him?
SW:        No, nobody reported him, nobody kind of specially, he was not actually, he known among the teachers but actually he didn’t have enemies, he was just a Socialist but, you know, that was enough, he was an inspector and he was a principal so that was enough to expose him if he would have been caught, so he did not go but I went. And everybody came, they told us to call the pharmacist for about two hours and we did and then everybody came, in our pharmacy there were four employees, all the pharmacists who were in charge, three of us, three pharmacists and one assistant pharmacist and so they gave us instructions that we have to meet together and everybody has to be assigned among us, that was the trick, to get us all in and we didn’t realize, nobody realized that, and that we have to have a president, a leader, and we have to have secretaries, everybody had to have a function, a position in that government, in the Jewish government. So they said, “Next week we will call you all again and you have to come and then we will know how you have to present.” Naturally if you know Jewish nature everybody wanted to have a chair, everybody wanted to do something and there was quite a bit of fighting between the community. I stayed away I never wanted to be exposed to any offices the same as I don’t want to be now in the public eye for any reasons and I was the same before so but I had to come but I didn’t have any position, I didn’t apply for anything so the pharmacists had to have a head pharmacist, a doctor in charge of the doctors, and the lawyers and everybody, you know, the merchants didn’t come just the professional people. And I went to see my parents in the country and I was late, when I came to the gate of the barracks there were some Gestapo men and I said, “I’m so sorry I’m half an hour late because my mother was sick and I had to go and see her.” So he said to me, “You are not Jewish, you don’t look Jewish and I don’t know why you wanted to go in, you just go home.” So I said, “I may be punished, we all had to report here.” He said, “Well I am telling you and you go, and you go now.” So I went home and I was very unhappy because I was sure that I would have to pay the consequences because I didn’t report, and they took them all out into the field and they shot them, every one of them. Not everyone, I’m sorry, they left three doctors, they left three pharmacists in charge of every pharmacy because they were needed and two or three more but there were about 60 of them or 70 that reported, the rest were taken and disappeared, they told us that they were sent to other cities, to work in other cities and for many, many months…
ID:          Did you believe that?
SW:        You know the people want to believe, because it was just the beginning of it, of this extermination, and this is how I got out.
ID:          Did you pass yourself as a non-Jew after that?
SW:        Yes, I did. When they formed a ghetto I was never in the ghetto and then after that they had an order on every wall, big signs that Jews have to wear a white band with a blue star of David, I had the star but I never wore it, you know. First of all I didn’t look Jewish, my great grandmother was not Jewish and I had contacts, you know, we never associated with that family never and I grew up and I didn’t know that my great grandmother was not Jewish and nobody told me, my mother told us when we were just about engaged and we were grown up and my sister had a family already. I knew that sometimes she would send some money to somebody but I never thought of it, we didn’t associate with them, it just happened two generations back, that was my mother’s grandmother. So anyway, during the war that came in handy because these people came forward and they gave me the papers, original papers, one of these distant relatives whom I never met in my life she knew of us, she found us and she came and she gave me and my sister papers and I used that name and my name was Eugenia Homich, Jenny Homich, and this is what I used.
ID:          Who was this name? Was this somebody from your great grandmother?
SW:        Great grandmother, one of the family.
ID:          And they had the papers, maybe had died a long time ago?
SW:        They had the papers and they just gave me and I was eight years younger on these papers.
ID:          So that’s how you survived.
SW:        This is how I survived but it was difficult because my sister did not survive.

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