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by Rachmiel Frydland

It was on the 28th of August 1939 that I came to know the possibility of war. I decided to stay in Warsaw. Supplies soon ran low and from September lst there was nothing to buy. Other young Hebrew Christians and myself lived on what little we had for ten days. Then we were called up to help defend Warsaw.

Three of us went and were accepted. As I did not want to shoot, I asked for physical work and received it. They were hard days. Though we were near the front and were being bombarded day and night, we all survived. One of us was seriously injured, but recovered after a few weeks in the hospital.

The Germans Arrive

The Germans entered Warsaw toward the end of September, and soon there was famine in the city. One of the Hebrew Christians stood in the line to receive some hot soup which the German Army was distributing to the hungry Polish population in Warsaw, but he was recognized to be Jewish, was beaten up and thrown out of the line hungry. I decided to leave for a village near Plock, which meant 75 miles on foot. Jews were not permitted to use any public conveyances. As I was leaving Warsaw the Germans stopped me. One looked me straight in the face and said with a rough voice: "Are you a Jew?" I did not answer him. Upon this he hit me and pushed me to the other side of the road, where I was handed a spade and had to work with all my strength, though I had nothing to eat all day.

Toward the evening they took us to a camp where I sat down and wept. I do not really know why. Some Jews tried to comfort me, so I wiped my tears away and told them of my faith. A little later I felt moved to leave the camp and in the sight of all I did so. No one challenged me.

I went on my way and slept in the open. The next day I found something to buy; great was my joy when I went into a shop and found that there was bread on sale there. How fresh and appetizing it was! After three days I reached Plock and was received by the brethren with open arms.

Triumphant Faith

In the summer of 1940 I was going from our village to Chelm. On the way some drunken German soldiers fell on me and beat me with a stick until I fell senseless. They left me, and with my last powers I dragged myself, bleeding, to Chelm. The doctor said he did not know whether I would recover, as my wounds were probably infected and I might die of blood-poisoning. To his great surprise I recovered after a week, though I suffered a lot and could not eat for some time, for when I did, I vomited blood.

I earned my living by working from time to time for farmers. At first I had not much work, but soon I became known as an honest worker. Then, except on Sundays, I was kept working hard at every kind of farm work from sunrise to sunset and had no time for spiritual things. Oh! if I could only have foreseen what would happen, surely I would not have eaten or worked, but would have done something to help those that were to pass through such misery.

God Stronger Than Man

In the winter of 1941-42 there was not much work on the farms. The bigger cities had Ghettoes where a certain slum district in the town was given up to the Jews and surrounded by a wall and barbed wire. We in the villages were forbidden to leave the village on pain of death. However, many times I risked my life for my parents to go to the nearby town and bring home the necessities for our lives. Being so faithful to them, my mother first got interested and began to read my Yiddish New Testament secretly. The Jews in the surrounding villages respected my faith and witness.

The Gas Chambers

It was the time when train load after train load of Jews were being taken to the gas chambers and crematoria only about twelve miles from our village. We knew what awaited us. In danger of death I went from time to time on Sundays to Chelm to have communion with the brethren there. I spent a few months in a slave labor camp working hard, but this gave me a chance to witness to Jews there.

On August 30th, 1942, I received the order to go to the gas chambers. I did not go, but stayed at home and awaited the mercy of the Lord. On September 24th the village mayor came and told me, while I was at work (helping one of the peasants cutting wood), that he had received orders to hand me over to the Gestapo. He gave me permission to say good-bye to my parents who were in tears, especially my mother. The man who led me had pity on me and hinted that I should escape. I did so and fled to the woods. My sister was in hiding in the village, but my parents went when they were called to go.

At this time two Jewesses joined us; they had escaped from the train that was taking them to a death camp. Then three young Jews joined us in the woods. They shared with us in the reading of the Bible, in song and praise.

Snow and Death

On November 24th our fortunes changed. My sister, who was in the village, was killed. We hid ourselves in the high grass that grew in the wood. They discovered and took away all our food, but our lives were spared. That night heavy snow fell some three feet deep. We had to go and get some food. Alas! when we reached the road leading to the village, the police were there. What were we to do? There were shouts of "Stop! stop!" and shots. For quite a time I did not know what I was doing and where I was running, nor what was happening. I did not think; I just ran and ran as shots whistled over my head and around my ears.

At last there was silence; no one was pursuing me any longer. I flopped on to a tree trunk; I could neither speak or pray. My sweat chilled me. I gathered some sticks, made a fire and gradually recovered my senses. No one was near to comfort me; only the flame of my little fire broke the darkness around. My whole being seemed to cry aloud, "Why are we so persecuted?" The coming of morning brought no news, but I was convinced that my companions lived no more. What was there left for me? I would have sought the police that they might kill me too, but I had not yet recovered enough strength to go and find them.

But there still remained the Lord, the same yesterday and today. He began to speak to me with His soft voice. "You have enough of My grace. Had not job enough; had not Paul enough?" I became silent to hear what the Lord had to say to me, and He said much. For a time I continued to weep, but then the victory! I stayed where I was and decided to live as long as the Lord would allow me to live and work for Him. I said, "If I am not necessary to God, surely He would have taken me away; but if God wants me to live for Him, should I not bow to His almighty will?" I bowed my knees and was cured. There I was, alone in this cruel world, alone in those woods with the wild goats and swine. I could no longer stay there. but there or elsewhere I was not alone, for He had promised to be with me always; how true this became to me, especially in those days when it seemed that no one remained.

Life Spared

I started on my way to Warsaw but was caught. I was not killed but put into a camp where there were some 5,000 Jews. I was there eight days but not in vain. Some believed my testimony and I soon had a circle of sympathizers. At the end of the eight days the camp was surrounded by black uniformed S.S. guards armed with machine guns, but God led me out, for I jumped over the well from which both the peasants and the Camp drew water.

Once again I tried to go to Warsaw. This time I got to Chelm safely; here brethren helped me to get a railway ticket for Warsaw. I arrived there on December 20th, 1942. I returned to Chelm for Christmas, but was caught again on Christmas Day as I was going from our village to Chelm. Approaching the town, I stopped and told my captor that I was not going to move until I prayed. His protests and threats had no effect on me as I knew that only a few hundred yards further were the Gestapo quarters. I knelt and prayed, yielding my life to God. When I arose my captor began to talk to me softly and finally let me go free. I returned to Warsaw, where I stayed awaiting the Grace of God.

The Warsaw Ghetto

From time to time I went around the walls of the ghetto thinking of the possibility of getting inside. One of the places where I was permitted to spend a night or two in hiding was in the shop of a Christian undertaker. With another Jewish Christian boy we put chips in one of the unfinished coffins and thus spent the night. (Alas, this boy, too, was later caught and killed). Here in the spring of 1943 1 became acquainted with Jews who worked outside the Ghetto for a German firm adjacent to this Christian undertaker. As they had a special permit for ten to leave and enter the Ghetto, one Friday they took me in wit