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Yosel Coller

Lodz, Poland

One of six children, Yosel was raised in a religious Jewish family in Lodz, an industrial city in western Poland. His father was a businessman. At the age of 6, Yosel began attending a Jewish day school. His two older sisters attended public school in the morning and religious school in the afternoon. Yosel spent much of his free time playing soccer with his brothers.

1933-39: We lived in a modest house in the northern section of Lodz. I went to a Jewish day school and had many friends there. September 1, 1939, Germany attacked Poland. Seven days later, I was kicking my soccer ball around the backyard when I suddenly saw German soldiers marching through the streets, some of them riding horses. Later, I heard a single gunshot. The Germans occupied Lodz, and annexed it to the Reich on November 9, 1939.

1940-44: My sister and I waited in line all night at the bakery for bread, only to be kicked out in the morning when a Pole recognized us, shouting "Jews!" On the way to another bakery, we saw three Jews who had been hung in the street. We ran home. In late 1943 I was deported from the ghetto to the Fuerstengrube labor camp in Poland. I worked in the mines, gathering loose coal and putting it into wagons. I did well because I was short and could fit in the small tunnels. I was fed only bread in the morning and soup at night.

In January 1945 Yosel was one of many prisoners force-marched towards northern Germany. Liberated by the British on May 5, he eventually emigrated to America in 1947.

 

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