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Martin Spett

Tarnow, Poland

Known as Monek, Martin was the elder of two children raised by Jewish parents in the large town of Tarnow. His mother was an American citizen who had been raised in Poland. His father worked at the city's tax office. As a child, Martin liked to collect stamps and catch lizards. His parents wanted him to be a pharmacist, but he wanted to be an artist when he grew up.

1933-39: When the Germans occupied Tarnow in September 1939 after war began, I was 10 years old. The soldiers, in beautiful uniforms, were polite. But then they started forcing Jews to clean the streets of horse manure with their bare hands. Going to see my rabbi for a Sabbath lesson, I found Germans kicking him around in his prayer shawl. In Hebrew, he yelled to me, "Run!" Turning to escape, I heard a shot fired. Rabbi Wrubel was dead.

1940-44: In 1940 we were forced out of our apartment. After the Germans began rounding up Jews for deportation, my father and uncle dug two ditches underneath the floorboards at my uncle's lumberyard. The day before the next deportation we hid beneath the floorboards. Lying on our backs in the dark for four days, we heard shouting, shooting and dogs barking. During the roundup we heard two Poles above us trying to catch Jews. One peed on us without knowing we were there. When it was finally quiet, we emerged.

Martin was deported to the Bergen-Belsen camp and was freed from an evacuation train by American troops on April 13, 1945. He emigrated to the United States in 1947.

 

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