Lea is 17 years old in this picture. She is the one wearing a coat with a fur collar, at the front and to the left. The cornflower blue fabric came from her father’s shop. The photo, which was taken in 1941 in the Sosnowiec ghetto, also shows Lea’s friends of the same age.
I was there.
By order of the Germans, Lea and all the Jews were forced to move to a special part of town. If someone tried to escape they were shot by the guards.
On 12 August 1942, the Jews were given an order to assemble at a large sports field. There they were divided into different groups and the Germans selected which of them were to be deported to Auschwitz.
Lea and two siblings ended up in a new ghetto in town where they had to carry out forced labour in various workshops and factories.
In January 1944, the last Jewish forced labourers were deported from Sosnowiec and the ghetto was liquidated.
Lea Gleitman (1924), Poland
Life in the Ghetto
Lea talks about being forcibly removed to a special part of town.
1) Listen to Lea as she talks about life in the ghetto. Then answer the question.
1a. The ghetto in Sosnowiec was open and without walls and fencing, but nobody was allowed to leave the area. What happened if someone still attempted to do so?
My Mother and Younger Sister are Deported
Lea talks about the deportation of her mother Szprinca and her younger sister Balcia to Auschwitz.
2) Listen to Lea as she talks about the deportation. Then answer the questions.
2a. In April 1941, Lea's relatives were deported from Oswiecim to Sosnowiec. How does she describe the event and her feelings around it?
2b. In August 1942, all Jews were given an order to leave their homes and assemble at a large sports field in the town. What did aunt Regina mean when she said that only Lea, her siblings and cousins "had a chance of getting through it"?
Forced Labour in the Ghetto
Lea talks about forced labour in the ghetto where even her brother Wowek, sister Miriam and cousins Sabina and Rachel were sent.
3) Listen to Lea as she talks about forced labour in the ghetto. Then look at the pictures and answer the questions.
3a. Study the picture of Lea with her friends. Read the text by the photo. Discuss with a friend or write down your thoughts about what you see and how you feel about life in the ghetto.
3b. Study the picture of the letter and read the text. The family's address is on the other side of the paper. The street where Lea lives has been given a German name. Why do you think they took away the Polish name?
The letter in this picture was written by Lea’s mother Szprinca (also known as Sabina) in September 1940. In this letter she asks her brother in the USA if he could help them and take care of Lea's older brother and sister, thereby saving them from the Nazis. Lea explains: "During the first years of the German occupation, we believed that the youngsters were in greatest danger and that it wasn’t so dangerous for the younger children. My maternal uncle and aunt probably did all they could, but unfortunately, there was no way during the war for anyone to get to the USA." Lea's mother wrote down the address in Sosnowiec on the last page. The street had been given a German name and was called Weichselstrasse 10.
3c. Lea's mother Sabine wrote the letter in order to try to arrange for the older siblings to leave occupied Poland. Discuss with a friend what she might have been afraid of and why she was most worried about the older children.
The Liquidation of the Sosnowiec Ghetto
A slideshow about the liquidation of the Sosnowiec ghetto.
4) Watch the presentation explaining what happened when the ghetto in Sosnowiec was liquidated. Then answer the question.
4a. The Germans split up the family members in groups in order to send them to different places. What was the purpose of splitting them up do you think?
Historical Context Section 1: Jewish Life in Oświęcim and Sosnowiec Before 1939
Historical Context Section 3: The Liquidation of the Sosnowiec Ghetto