Krulik's story
Hugo's story
Rose K's story
Abraham's story
Salek's story
Rose D's story
Roman's story
Pinchas' story

Krulik's story

When the Second World War began in September 1939, Krulik was 9 years old. Bombs began falling on his home town in Poland almost at once, and the family hid in the cellar. 'It was horrendous. People were sobbing, praying, calling out...' Schools were closed, and in October the town's Jewish families (24,000 people) were ordered to live, isolated from the rest of the Poles, in a 'ghetto' marked off for them.

Life was hard in the ghetto. For a time Krulik's father had no job. Being small, Krulik learned how to get in and out of the ghetto without being noticed. With some other boys, he smuggled in tobacco and cigarettes and sold them in the streets to make money. Once he was caught by six Gestapo men, who 'kicked me around like a football'.

Every Jew over the age of 12 had to wear an armband with the star of David on it. Krulik's father earned some money by making these armbands. Then in 1941 he was given a job in the local glass factory. This meant he was of use to the Germans as a worker, so when the Jews were rounded up in 1942 to be sent to concentration camps, he was let alone. But Krulik's mother and sister were not; they were taken to the camp at Treblinka to be killed. Now there were only 2,000 Jews left in Krulik's town.

Krulik began to work with his father at the glass factory. At the beginning and end of each shift, everyone had to pass a checkpoint between the factory and the ghetto. One day, the Germans selected 25 of the smallest boys, including Krulik, and shut them up in the synagogue. The boys found 500 Jews already imprisoned there: they were people who'd so far managed to avoid being sent to the camps. Krulik's father went to an official and asked him to get the Gestapo to release the boys: 'They're skilled workers: they need them,' he said. The official was kind, and the boys were released after three days.

After working at the glass factory for over a year, Krulik and his father were moved to another factory, this time making weapons. But it seemed they couldn't avoid the camps for ever. On Christmas Day 1944, just after Krulik's 16th birthday, he and his father arrived at Buchenwald concentration camp. 'We were stripped completely naked, in the freezing cold,' Krulik remembers, 'and herded into a large shower room. We were afraid that it was a gas chamber, and lots of people were screaming and crying. But it really was a shower room.' The heads of all the prisoners were shaved. After that they were taken to a disinfecting room, and at last given some clothes: a pair of striped trousers and a jacket each.

Krulik now had a strange experience. 'On that first day I became completely paralysed, simply from fear. I couldn't move my arms or legs for 24 hours. I was lucky my father was with me and could look after me.'

He recovered quickly, and got a job in the kitchens - which meant he was able to smuggle food out to his father. But after a few weeks his father was sent to a different camp; Krulik missed him badly. A couple of months later, Krulik noticed a dreadfully thin man lying exhausted on the ground in the prison's main square. 'He looks a bit like Dad,' Krulik thought - and then realised with horror that it was indeed his father, starving and ill. Now it was Krulik who took care of his father, instead of the other way round.

Towards the end of the war, when American soldiers were already getting near to the camp, the prisoners were hurriedly marched out so that they wouldn't be discovered. Krulik took hold of his father's hand to make sure they would march together, but the guards wouldn't let the sick man leave: he could hardly stand. Krulik has never forgotten how he felt, unable in the end to save his father, who died soon afterwards. 'I was so very helpless, and utterly lost. To this day I can't get over it. He came so close to freedom! - but it wasn't his fate to survive.'

Krulik was marched to the nearest city and put on a train going south and full of prisoners like himself. They were finally rescued by Russian troops. Just in time: Krulik was ill with typhoid fever, and was taken to hospital straight away.

Then he was offered accommodation in Britain. His first stay was in the Lake District. 'I was given a room to myself with a single bed, and blankets, and other things we'd been deprived of for so long. I went to the cinema a lot, and walked, and rowed boats on Lake Windermere. It was heaven. Never in my life had I known such luxuries.'

Krulik stayed in Britain and became a watchmaker. He has three sons, of whom he is very proud, and grandchildren too. Fifty years after the Holocaust he made the enormous effort that was needed to tell his story. 'My children always wanted to know, and I always found it very difficult to tell them. But now I feel the time is right to try to tell them what happened to me and my family and the Jewish people.'

The enforced isolation of groups of people of the same nationality, race or religion is one of the many steps that can lead to genocide and war. How easily can it happen?



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