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English"Microhistories. The Memory of Dorohucza as a Cultural Heritage" is an activity in cultural education that recalls the memory and the history of one particular place. Historical heritage will frequently constitute the sole and the most crucial resource from the perspective of a given place`s identity; it is thus worth channelling its potential into cultural activities that will encourage the local young and old in an effort to learn the history of their hometown. The project is largely based on the memories of Dorohucza residents. Nowadays, when the formal education reserves hardly any time for cultural and local education, the relevance of the activities like ours becomes even greater, inasmuch as it enables us to embrace the potential of the places we live. What is important is that the methodology developed as part of the project will be openly published and provided for implementation in future initiatives.
The project aims to collect and bring to the spotlight the history of a small town, where, during the Second World War, a Nazi forced labour camp was located. This part of the Dorohucza`s history remains relatively unknown, and yet the witnesses of those events are still alive. It is through our project that this memory may become restored – by recording those accounts and presenting them to a wider audience. This is, however, but one of the secondary objectives of the project, whose primary goal is to demonstrate how through reaching for history we may boost cultural education activities and simultaneously engage local communities in a more active involvement in the matters of their "small homelands.” While history is an area particularly highly valued by Poles, at the same time many of its threads, particularly the local ones – on which no material traces exist, remain completely unknown. Not knowing the history of one`s own place is a serious blocker for building a sense of community or to forge a connection with a given place that would be stronger than merely through family ties. This project attempts to transform the history of people living in Dorohucza into a community-building force, which will additionally strengthen the intergenerational bonds. Under the project, we plan to collect the spoken accounts, conduct a query, and develop materials and methodology, which will be subsequently made openly accessible online for future development and reproduction. One of the project`s key target outcomes is to boost the interest of the young and the old members of the community in partaking in the process, without the involvement of whose it would be impossible to recreate their "microhistory." This is expected to raise the cultural potential of the town, whose history is its greatest asset. However, the history cannot ever be reduced to dry numbers and dates – it must be recreated from people`s memories, past sensations, thoughts and knowledge fished out from the stories from the past. Memory and culture are two key binders of identity, and as such, must be fostered, unleashing the potential of such initiatives as this.
Oral history - fragments of recorded relations
Below you will find accounts of people living in Dorohucza who shared with me their memories of the camp. Some stories are recorded – you can listen to them by selecting the audio files attached below them. Some of the interviewees have agreed to have their image published. The photos of those who did can be found in Photos. Other memories of the Dorohucza camp are in Published Stories.
The Camp in Dorohucza
The Jewish camp was here, where the crossroad is. There were those barracks here, and they built a watchtower there. This is where the Germans stayed. And this is where they were bringing all those Jews to, I don’t know where from. And they rushed them to those barracks. There were those barracks, and between them, there was that gap. The guards walked and watched. In the morning, the better ones dug peat here, they worked here, they sorted it, they did what they could do. Some were being taken away, some were being brought in. It was such a mixture, cars with trailers were coming. And they sat on these trailers. I don’t know if it’s still there but there was a German swastika in front of the bridge on one stone. I don’t know if it’s still there. A big stone and that German swastika.
What did it look like then? Behind the wires were those Jews. And those Germans had like a kind of a carriage [barrack], they had their kitchen there, they cooked there, they did everything there. And here they tortured those [Jews].
Below you will find accounts of people living in Dorohucza who shared with me their memories of the camp. Some stories are recorded ? you can listen to them by selecting the audio files attached below them. Some of the interviewees have agreed to have their image published. The photos of those who did can be found in Photos. Other memories of the Dorohucza camp are in Published Stories.
The Camp in Dorohucza
The Jewish camp was here, where the crossroad is. There were those barracks here, and they built a watchtower there. This is where the Germans stayed. And this is where they were bringing all those Jews to, I don?t know where from. And they rushed them to those barracks. There were those barracks, and between them, there was that gap. The guards walked and watched. In the morning, the better ones dug peat here, they worked here, they sorted it, they did what they could do. Some were being taken away, some were being brought in. It was such a mixture, cars with trailers were coming. And they sat on these trailers. I don?t know if it?s still there but there was a German swastika in front of the bridge on one stone. I don?t know if it?s still there. A big stone and that German swastika.
What did it look like then? Behind the wires were those Jews. And those Germans had like a kind of a carriage [barrack], they had their kitchen there, they cooked there, they did everything there. And here they tortured those [Jews]. They were like in the field, they were fenced, and here was the road to my uncle's, and there were two more buildings there. I only saw them dragging that peat, those Jews dragged that peat, and they cut it on the swamps, that?s where the peat was.
Me? I was so sorry for those two Jewboys [young Jews], young boys. They would graze geese. We grazed my uncle?s cows there, and they those geese, there, behind the camp. And a Jewess would come out, sometimes one sometimes a different one, and shouted, ?Maniek, bring the geese, Stefan bring the geese.? Those two names. Sometimes, when I can?t sleep, I think about them, maybe they are still living somewhere?
My father was a blacksmith, he worked in the camp, but not as a prisoner. The Germans probably took him there and told him to work. I don?t know how they knew he was a blacksmith. But he fell ill with typhus, he went to the hospital in Jaszczów and died. He died in October 1943.
There are some pictures of the camp preserved. Drawn by one of the prisoners and signed ? Binosz. He drew a portrait of Elżbieta, her brother and grandma. She doesn?t remember what it looked like, but he probably could?ve left the camp. He was friends with her mother and father. He sketched maps for the Germans, from what she said, and he could actually walk in and out the camp, but I don?t know how come. And he painted them with a pencil, it looks like a photo, beautiful. He was very talented. My friend?s found a letter on the Internet addressed to that name to the Netherlands. But I suppose, when the Germans began to liquidate this camp, they must?ve killed everyone.
There was also that lady who described how that transport arrived in Dorohucza. She was a prisoner who managed to escape in broad daylight. She also described the transport of the Dutch, she said that they were dressed so beautifully.
Work in the camp
Jews were driven to work, they worked in Wisiennica. They dug out peat there. We saw them when we were driving cows. The German would then take the peat. The Jewish women didn?t know how to stack that peat, and one German called me to show them how to do it. I used to work there before the Germans came and after they came I worked there too. And on Bocian (a meadow) there were machines that dug peat, and the Germans would take that peat and transport it. Before the war people would mine peat, we had those machines.
I remember Jews working on the road to Włodawa. They put those holes in the road, I mean those pits rather. They filled them because it was impossible to use that road. There were terrible holes, they also broke the rocks and filled in those pits. That?s where they worked ? on that road.
Food for Jewish prisoners of the camp
My brother would go there during the day and at night, near the camp and give them bread. Well, they usually gave him something for that, I remember once he got a spring coat, a nice one too. And they gave him a candle the other day. I remember when he brought it home and we lit it ? because it was not allowed to have the lights on, the windows were blinded and my mother lit it. And at the end of the candle, there was a ring sunk in it, a nice gold ring. He later gave it to Henia when they were getting married. And [my brother] gave it to those Jews [that food] somehow under the wires.
I remember once I was carrying dinner to my mummy in the field; my mummy was weeding the flax there. So I?m carrying the dinner and see someone flying through the field. I panicked and the Jewess says ?Don?t be afraid, what have you got there? Could you give me some bread?? I stopped and didn?t know what to do, I?m bringing my mummy bread, but she goes on asking. I say, ?I haven?t got much, but I can give you a bit.? And I gave her half the bread I was carrying. I gave her that and left the rest for mummy, I was carrying her [the food] into the field to eat.
We used to go there with my dad. My mother baked bread and we sold it there, to those Jews, we gave it. My dad was grazing horses, and I took the bread to those Jews. Well, what could they give? When they had something more valuable, they would give it, and if they didn?t, they would take something off, like a blouse, and exchange it for a piece of bread or something. They always gave you something, I just gave them that [bread]. I sold bread to those Jews. And then we would go back home. There was nothing, no clothes. Nothing, like when you got a Jewish shirt there, you were happy. My mummy came and she had a hand-crank sewing machine, she sewed it in and it was great. One of my friends would go there, I don?t know what she did there. And one of the Germans [from the camp] knew me, I was so tiny, curly-haired. And they would let me in, I used to sell bread, most days. There was three cottages, and they would let me in behind one those and I went in after them. But it was a German that let me in, there were those windows there in their booths. That was where they stuck out their hands and you would give it to them. You know, two pieces no more, how much can a child carry? But everyone held out those hands in that window. There were quite a few of us, also older people from Dorohucza sold bread. Whoever was the quickest sold what they had before the Germans saw them. There used to be a river there, now it?s dried up. So in the summer through this small river. Anyone who baked took it, carried it, sold it. There was nobody who wouldn?t do it. And when they took [without giving something in return] my daddy said not to worry. ?Enjoy,? he would say. But they always gave me something. There was no way you could talk to Jews. When you went there, and you would normally walk from the fields, the guard was already there. People used to approach them from that side and give the Jews something through the windows. My dad and I always went there in the morning and didn?t come back until the evening. He would let the horses graze ? there on our meadows. And my mum would sell stuff and my dad when he saw that the German wasn?t paying attention. We would all do that.
The locals would go to the meadows and the Jews would come to them. Even my sister used to bring them food, this and that, sometimes a pat of butter, some cheese, bread, pork fat. And they gave something in return, like those scarves they had. Because it was difficult to buy. They had nice scarves, so they bartered these scarves. It was Germans on horses that chased away those Poles. And both men and girls traded with those Jews. At least they had something to eat, they were walking hungry. So when you took some pork belly, bread, cheese and eggs, this is what people would bring there, these Jews were so happy that they at least had food. [The sale of food lasted] not too long because the Germans chased them away, they rode on horses, they beat those Poles, chased them away, not to give food [to the Jews]. [My sister] said [it was so] poor that they [the Jews] were trembling for food and thanking. When she took something there, they were very thankful. I was afraid of the Germans, I didn?t go [to bring the food to the camp] I didn?t go there once, I only remember my sister going there, how others went, her friends. There was a lot of people walking, from the entire village, they brought food.
Contacts with Germans
Once I was going with my dad on a horse cart and broke my arm. And it wasn?t that you could go to the doctor like that. So one lady came here the other day and said, ?I?ll take her to get the arm x-rayed.? But the arm healed and nobody knew what to do. So this one German, the one who would always let me in [to the camp to bring food to prisoners], he said ?Well, we?ll fix her.? So, we went to Lublin. They x-rayed it, broke the bone, put it together and so it healed.
I was staying there [at home with my extended family], and there came a German soldier for milk, he sat me on his lap and said that he left a girl like me in Germany. Well, I remember it, I was not so small, but I was ashamed, he sat me on his lap. I sat there and he played with me, he was making jokes. He was laughing, he was speaking a little German. And they say, ?It's such a poor family.? And he took me there to school, he gave me that German soup. It was maybe a two-litre can, maybe bigger, maybe smaller. And he poured the soup for me, I brought it home. I remember it well. Mum said that the soup was so rich that you couldn?t see the soup through the fat, there was so much of it in it. I knew that German well too, it seems to me that today I would probably recognise him. He had that round face, he was nice, a little thicker. He was a good man too.
My mother said that the German who was the commandant was supposedly not so bad for the locals. He would come to them and watch how they lived. Once he came to my great-grandmother and great-grandfather and says ?Tomasz, tell your wife to stop bringing food for Jews.? Because the people took there anything that was in the village: cheese, cream, bread if they managed to bake one. And he said, ?Tell your wife to stop bringing this food because the Ukrainians will kill her.? And still, she didn?t, sticking her neck out. Let?s not kid ourselves, who would go there for peanuts. They always gave her something, they certainly gave her something. Life was hard for everyone. But that German, they didn?t say a bad word against him. Although there was that one family who lived near the camp and their yard was filthy, and this German went there and whipped them until they sorted it out. But there was also another German there, and one lady from here remembered him and said that every time there was supposed to be a raid he would warn them, let them know. Immediately, the inhabitants fled to the forest, and once he didn?t manage, so he dug a hole in the ground and covered her with his own body. Then one of the villagers died here and his wife was pregnant then.
Executions of Jews
Over there, some [Jews] dug a hole for themselves, and then they lay there. The earth was moving, my father said it was moving for a few days. The not yet dead were still lying there. And next, another hole. And another killing again and again. They caught them, and one group dug for another. And I don?t know why these Jews were killed there. I asked ? Dad, why are they killing Jews like that, what did they do? They are humans after all.
When they started working here somewhere in the forest, so it was a forest in Majdan Siostrzytowski, or in Nowopol, but she said that they passed a furrow, a small river and if someone ran into it to have a drink they were immediately shot to death. The prisoners died of exhaustion too, in a very short time from exhaustion they died. And towards the end of this camp, after they were liquidating it, my great-grandmother and great-grandfather told me because they lived nearby, at the back of the camp. So when the liquidation started, they shot people opposite the camp, by the road. There were huge holes dug up there. The other day, one lady mentioned that she used to jump in there when they played there as children. And my great grandmother said she remembered how they were being shot, she said it took a few days. And when the locals were passing that spot after the execution, the earth was moving.
When they were burning Jews in that hole, we did not leave the house for a week. I remember it was October. We were coming back from the rosary and they were burning Jews. There were quite a few Jews in Dorohucza. One Jew, Raisa, used to come to my mother to get milk. Then, one day, she came and said that it was probably the last time she was getting milk. Before the war, there was a Jewess here who grew cucumbers. And we would go there to pick those cucumbers and she says that soon everything will change. And it soon changed. She had tomatoes too. No one in the world saw tomatoes, and she made sandwiches for us. No, I can?t possibly remember what she was called now.
Later they started to bring Jews from Trawniki, the Germans ordered their great-grandfather to do that, but he was afraid and he asked his son, ?Son, you go, they won?t do anything to you.? And the grandfather, as he told me, he said that he had been transporting them from Trawniki for a few days and they shot them there. And he told me that there was a pile of shoes and clothes. One German tells him, ?Take something, choose some shoes for yourself.? Well, when my grandfather found the right shoe, there was no left one. He did not take anything because he was afraid too. And he says it was terrible. They buried them. This land was moving. In a few days, they began to dig and burn those bodies. The stench was literally unbearable.
Our neighbour rescued the whole [Jewish] family. He took a risk and brought them in straw to Dorohucza. He brought them to his house and hid them there. Then he took them out of the village, he succeeded.
After the war
We used to run there to dig. Grinding poverty everywhere, I took a spade and went to dig, but I was maybe eight, maybe seven. And the pits are still there today, depressions in the ground.
After they?d been wiped out, I went there, the children used to go there out of curiosity, and so did I. I didn?t even tell my parents at home that I was going. I went there and when I came back home I started telling them that it's so hot, it stinks. We didn?t come close because the smell was so bad.
The memory of the camp after the war
My grandfather was there ? the last house. On the way from home or going home, the grandfather, there was the fence of the ghetto [the camp]. I don?t know where this place is. My grandfather used to say, ?Here was the ghetto [the camp], the barracks of the Germans.? Here, they brought him and beat him. My grandfather was buried in the yard by those Ukrainian Germans [Ukrainians] as they called them. My grandmother always said that they called them Ukrainian Germans. My mother said, I don?t know if she remembered that or she was told that, it was heart-rending. Only those Ukrainians they called them so. That when an infant was born, a newborn, they smashed it against the road, killed it, and threw it into the ghetto [the camp]. Here it was, the ghetto [the camp], Germans stood here, they burned Jews here, and nobody was interested. The memory began to disappear shortly after the liberation. Trawniki, everything, Trawniki. Maybe nobody?s told the Jews about it, I don?t know.
The project is a brainchild of Magdalena Kawa, graduate of Political Science and Tourism and Recreation. She has received her doctorate in the Holocaust in public discourse. She`s a lecturer at the State School of Higher Education in Chełm, co-operating with For the Earth Association where she is responsible for intercultural education, co-founder of Digital Culture Institute Foundation where she is in charge of media education projects.
Author of the The Map of (Un)Consciousness project http://www.mapaniepamieci.pl/about-the-project
Project is realised from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage fund.
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