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Esther Morgensztern

Kaluszyn, Poland

The fourth of five children, Esther was born to Jewish parents living 35 miles east of Warsaw in the small predominantly Jewish town of Kaluszyn. Esther's mother and grandmother ran a newspaper kiosk in the town, and her father worked as a clerk at the town hall.

1933-39: Next year would have been my last year at school, but I won't be able to graduate. War has broken out between Poland and Germany, so the schools have closed. A big battle took place here in Kaluszyn. The town was heavily shelled and many houses, including our building, were destroyed. My parents have decided to move to Minsk Mazowiecki, 10 miles away, where my father has relatives. We'll have to live with them for a while.

1940-44: When we first moved in with my relatives, it wasn't so bad. But now the rooms are so crowded that my grandmother, who came with us, has decided to return to Kaluszyn to live with my Aunt Raizel. The Nazis have forced more than 5,000 Jews in Minsk Mazowiecki to live in one small area of the town. There aren't enough houses for everyone, so families are doubling up. Typhus, carried by lice, has started to spread, and my mother is always worrying that we'll come down with the fever.

In 1942, 15-year-old Esther and her family fled to Kaluszyn to escape deportation. Soon after, however, the Jews in Kaluszyn were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp.

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