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Max Diamant (now Josef Burzminski)

Vienna, Austria

Max was born to a Jewish family in the Austrian capital of Vienna. When he was a small child his family moved to Przemysl, an urban center in southeastern Poland with a largely Jewish population. Max spent the remainder of his childhood there; his parents ran a small grocery and cafeteria to support their five children.

1933-39: The Germans reached Przemysl on September 14, 1939. It was a brilliant sunny day when planes suddenly appeared; we thought they were our own until they began shooting people in the street. Poland was defeated quickly, and was divided between the Germans and the Soviets. Przemysl straddled the dividing line; the western half was taken by the Germans, and the eastern half, where I lived, was seized by the Soviets.

1940-44: In 1941 the Germans took all of Przemysl. We were lined up with Germans aiming their guns at us. Then an officer ran up: "We need fat Jewish people for soap!" So instead of being shot, we were put on a train. Wanting to die, I decided to throw myself off the train. Others helped, pushing me through the window head first. But when I saw the churning wheels I couldn't do it. So I hung out of the window feet first and jumped. Skidding in the snow, I hit a post that tore a hole in my shoulder. I walked back to Przemysl.

After spending three years hiding in Przemysl, Max was liberated by the Soviet army in early 1945. Later, Max emigrated to the United States and became a dentist.


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