Labor Camp

Bugaj, Poland

In 1943, twelve year old Sidney, his father Lieb and brother Isaac were sent to a slave labor camp in Bugaj, Poland. At the conclusion of the deportations, the Nazis hung a sign at the railroad station of Piotrkow saying, “PIOTRKOW IS CLEANSED OF JEWS.” In German, the words were, “Piotrkow Ist Judenfrei.” Seven hundred years of Jewish history was no more. They had survived deportation and there was no more Jews living in Ghettos anymore. All Jews with a work permit at this point were all living at the factories that they worked at in homes called “Little Ghettos.” Sidney still had to be very careful to not get caught since children were viewed as not valuable to the German war effort. They viewed the children as “wasteful eaters.” Luckily for Sidney, eventually factories had to take child laborers to work in the factories. This is how Sidney survived at this point of his history. They put him to work on a machine that would chop wood for German steam operated trucks. At times he watched as plywood was being made. After a while, the director, Dietrich, exempted all kids from working at the factories. Sidney spent his time exploring the factory’s basement and boilers that it had. The Polish man who was in charge of the factory was really nice to the Jews and often shared his breakfast with Sidney. Sidney would also visit his cousin Anna and her two daughters, Rita who was eight and Ellan who was five. Frequently there was a surprise inspection and at such times the children hid two avoid discovery. The Nazis allowed 17,000 Jews to remain. When they found out that the actual number was exceeded, they sent 200 workers to other camps. Bugaj was a slave labor camp created by Dietrich and Fisher and it was a hoax. Both of the owner’s main interest in the camp was to protect them from fighting in the eastern front where the causalities of war were astronomical. It was similar to Schindler’s List where Jews was housed for their safety. In 1944, life went on in the labor camp, but Sundays were special for the Sidney and the laborers at the camps. There were many talented people in Bugaj who worked to keep the laborers’ spirits up. The only news outlet that Sidney and the laborers had was from the Polish employees who worked at the camp. They were told that Germany had surrendered at the Battle of Stalingrad and that they were retreating westward. Their hopes skyrocketed when they heard an assignation attempt on Hitler’s life had unfolded but Hitler was only wounded by the attempt. Many of the Jews including Sidney and his remaining family felt that the war was nearing the end.