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Oscar Strawczynski was born in Lodz, Poland in 1906. He was the oldest son in a large family of seven children. Three sisters and three other brothers reached maturity and most of them already had families by the time war broke out.
Strawczynski received his primary education in Lodz. He attended a Polish public school as well as a Yiddish cheder. He completed his formal education at about fourteen years of age when he started to work in his father’s tinsmith shop.
However, he was an avid and enthusiastic reader and maintained a special love of Yiddish literature throughout his life.
Strawczynski learned his trade from his father. He became a skilled and accomplished artisan who took great pride in his work and whose services were greatly sought after. His abilities as a tinsmith eventually saved his life in Treblinka and also made it possible for him to save the life of his brother Zygmunt.
Strawczynski served in the Polish Army for two years, 1927 -29. He married shortly afterwards and had two children. He was a very devoted family man who had a great love and loyalty for his wife and children, as well as for the other members of his immediate family. His bond with Zygmunt, the brother closest to him in age, was particularly strong.
The memoirs are written in a spare, bitter and ironic style which it is difficult to do justice in translation. The translation is literal, no effort has been made to edit the work. His account of life in Treblinka is direct and matter of fact – no attempt is made to embellish the events or his own participation in them.
His account of the uprising is characterised by the same sparseness and an unwillingness to glorify what occurred. Oskar Strawczynski and his brother Zygmunt were two of a tiny handful of Treblinka survivors.
After the revolt, Oscar hid in the surrounding forest area where he made contact with the partisan movement. The memoirs were written while he was in the forest, at the request of one of the partisan leaders.
Shortly after the war it was suggested that the memoirs be published. However, the Jewish Community Organisation in Lodz, Poland, was opposed to publishing the work in its entirety because of the frankness with which the Jewish collaboration was depicted. Strawczynski refused to change or edit his manuscript.
Oscar Strawczynski testified against the Nazis at the trial in Dusseldorf in 1964 -65. Strawczynski entire immediate family perished during the War – in Treblinka and in Auschwitz – with the exception of his brother Zygmunt and his younger sister.
After the war, Oscar remarried and the surviving family emigrated to Canada and settled in Montreal. In Canada he made no attempt to publish his memoirs. He died in Montreal in 1966 leaving a wife and three children
- Nadia Strawczynski Rotter
The late Oscar Strawczynski wrote these memoirs of Treblinka after he escaped from the camp and sought refuge in the forest. After some time, he was able to join a group of partisans from the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (the organisation of Jewish fighters). His comrades in this group encouraged him to put his recollections down on paper. They secured writing materials for this purpose from a nearby village in April 1944.
Mrs Hannah Fryshdorf , who was with the group made two copies of the manuscript. In fact Strawczynski began making the first copy but after a few pages Mrs Fryshdorf continued. In July 1944, she had occasion to go to Warsaw and brought one of the copies to Yankel Tzelemensky. This copy survived and was returned to Mrs Fryshdorf in Lodz when hostilities ended. The original and other copy were lost in the forest. Mrs Fryshdorf’s copy is in the possession of the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) in New York.
The document is unusual in several respects. Memoirs were written immediately following the revolt in Treblinka while memories were fresh and vivid. The account was written in isolation in the forest, free of pressure and outside influences, and while survival itself was still uncertain.
Translated from the Yiddish by Nadia Strawczynski Rotter. with the assistance of her daughter, Frederika. Nadia Strawczynski Rotter is the sister of the late Oscar Strawczynski
Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/strawczynski%20.html
The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto 2009 H.E.A.R.T