Loss of a Loved One

In 1943, the Nazis decided to “liquidate” the remaining population of the Krakow Ghetto. As a result, Oskar’s mother was taken from the family and sent to the notorious labor camp of Plaszow, depicted extensively in the movie Shindler’s List. Oskar did not see his mother again until after the liberation of Europe by Allied forces. Fearing the worst for the rest of his family, Oskar’s father Leopold managed to secure work for himself and the rest of the family at the SS prison of Pomorska, a barracks, detention and interrogation center for Polish political prisoners. The family all had different jobs in the center, which included: Oskar working in the boiler room, Siegmund doing plumbing and lock work, Ilse as a seamstress, and Leopold working as a furrier on coats and jackets for the SS. Work was long and hard. Disobedience at any time was punished by death.

Oskar’s time at Pomorska proved to have a profound impact on his life. On July 29, 1944, after another long day of work, the Knoblauch siblings arrived back at their quarters, but their father never returned home that night. A couple of days went by before Ilse decided to ask one of the guards were her father was. The response given to the Knoblauch children was that he could take them to their father for all eternity. It was a sad day for Oskar realizing that he would never see his father again.

The three continued their work at Pomorska before they realized that the landscape of the country was changing again. Oskar had heard from a nearby radio that the Soviet armies were getting close to their location. Fearing that the Germans were not going allow any of the Jewish workers in Pomorska to be liberated by the Soviets, the Knoblauch children decided to escape. On January 17, 1945, Oskar along with his brother and sister escaped Pomorska and hid in a cellar for the night. The next day the Soviet Union entered the city and the three of them were liberated. With the end of World War II, Oskar and his siblings returned to Krakow to see if they could reunite with any of their family. In June of 1945 Oskar was reunited with his mother, who he had not seen for the last year and a half.