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Moses Rechnitz

Bedzin, Poland

The younger of two children, Moses was born to Jewish parents living in the southwestern Polish town of Bedzin. When he was 7, his family moved to the nearby city of Katowice where his father had a wholesale leather business. The Rechnitzes lived in a three-bedroom, upper-floor apartment on Jordana Street. Moses attended a Polish elementary school and also received religious instruction.

1933-39: In secondary school, I was one of the only Jewish pupils. I first encountered antisemitism when a teacher poked fun at me because I had the same last name as a wealthy Jewish businessman in Katowice. I wouldn't put up with the teasing, and got into fights. The school pressured my mother to have me transferred, and I began commuting to the secondary Jewish school in nearby Sosnowiec. I was 16 when the Germans attacked Poland.

1940-44: By 1941 I was a slave laborer on a German railroad construction project outside Cracow [Krakow]. One day, a locomotive accidentally caught fire. A group of Nazis arrived at the site the next morning and decided that the fire was the result of sabotage. They lined people up and, in reprisal, started pulling out those to be killed, including two children, ages 8 and 10. The children's parents became hysterical and wouldn't stop screaming, so the Nazis shot the parents as well as the children.

Over the next four years, Moses was deported to three Nazi camps. He was freed near Dachau in April 1945. After the war, he emigrated to Palestine [the Yishuv], and moved to America in 1954.


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