Survivor STORY

“And I wonder, why? What have I done, being a Jew, to go through all that kind of life?”

Marty Storch was born in Ozorkow, Poland, in 1924. The Storch family lived an affluent and happy life in Poland. Marty’s father Moishe spoke six languages and was in the food industry. The family was able to employ a full-time maid in their beautiful home. After Hitler came to power in 1933, anti-Semitism grew in Ozorkow, a city of 27,000 not far from the German border. Marty’s Christian friends turned against him, and the Storch family became second-class citizens.

When the German Wehrmacht invaded Poland in September 1939, Ozorkow was instantly occupied. For the initial few weeks of Nazi occupation, life was normal for Marty. The Germans took the villagers’ food, but unlike their neighbors, the Storks were not reimbursed because they were Jews. The Germans then began to pass anti-Jewish laws. Jews were forced to wear the infamous yellow star, a 5 PM curfew was imposed, and Jews were literally banned from walking on the sidewalks. For the third of Ozorkow that was Jewish, life was miserable. The Nazis began to kill Jewish civilians. They hanged Marty’s step-uncle and other Jews that had served in the Polish army.

In February 1940, Marty was separated from his parents and siblings and sent to work on the German Autobahn. However, by the end of the year, he was allowed to return to Ozorkow and worked as an electrician. Miraculously, his family was still alive in the ghetto. Shortly after Marty’s return, the ghetto was liquidated, and the Storchs were sent to the much larger ghetto in Lodz, where they remained until 1943.

Marty was separated from his family and sent to Auschwitz in February 1943. He survived selection by the war criminals Josef Kramer and Dr. Josef Mengele. While in Auschwitz, he found two of his brothers, Jack and Will. Jack survived the war, but Will died shortly after liberation. At Auschwitz, Marty was forced to wake up every morning at 4:00 for roll call in the freezing weather. Daily rations were a piece of bread and a bowl of “soup”. After spending thirteen months in Auschwitz, Marty was sent to Goerlitz, a sub-camp of Gross-Rosen, where he worked as an electric welder.

Marty remained in Goerlitz until the April 5th, 1945, when he woke up and the Germans had vanished. The prisoners opened the gate to the camp and saw Russian tanks. Marty was treated extremely well by his Russian liberators, who fed and gave medical treatment to the survivors. After leaving Goerlitz, Marty found his brother Jack. They recuperated on an abandoned farm and earned money by selling cigarettes given to them by the Joint Committee, an aid group. Marty returned to Ozorkow and married a girl from Lodz. While in Ozorkow, Marty was detained by the Russians but freed by a sympathetic Jewish judge. He and his wife left Ozorkow and settled in Germany.

With the help of a cousin living in America, Marty, his wife, and Jack left Europe and settled in Paterson, New Jersey. Amazingly, their father had survived the war and was living there. Jack later moved to Atlanta, and Marty followed in 1949. He opened a restaurant and joined a local synagogue. He closed the restaurant in 1955 and bought a grocery store. He and his wife had three children and several grandchildren. He and his granddaughter lectured about the Holocaust together. He died in 2007.

Liberation

That’s the time I will never forget, when I was liberated. And I didn’t know where I was going, being hungry, filthy, and we felt like two-legged animals after we got out of the camp. And I said, “For a two-legged animal, believe me, I feel the same way.” Because you looked in the mirror, you didn’t recognize yourself, and the insects have eaten you alive. The hunger, you could not eat anything, because the system just didn’t work. And I still had enough understanding not to eat any heavy food, so I would have paid the consequences. And [unintelligible] recuperate in a week or so, and I was looking like a human being again. But my desperation to go back to my destination, where I came from, was just…I couldn’t get over it. Every hour was too long to see who survived. I wanted to fly home because of no communication, you know, for a period of three, three-and-a-half years. After two-and-a-half months, almost three months, I struggled. Some of the trains had moved from city to city. I had some nice Germans who took me 40, 50 miles because of…Actually they sympathized with us because they knew we were displaced persons, we wore those, you know, honorable-like medals. So finally I arrived after a long period of time, and I asked my neighbors – first of all, I went to my house, and Poles had already lived there. I looked around and asked the Poles if they’d ever seen anybody from my family. They said no, nobody was there. I’ll never forget, I stood up there in the house and I looked up to the Almighty and I said, “They can throw me in the garbage can. Nobody’s gonna miss me.” I know what happened to our whole family. It was very sad, it was very sad. But I had a Jewish fellow, we grew up together. He took over his home. He had…When he came back, the house was ready for him. Nobody was living there. And we both joined the house for a short period of time. My depression was terrible, extremely high. In walking the street where you were surrounded with love, now you were surrounded with hate. And you just reached a point where you just don’t belong here no longer.

Remembering and Legacy

And we were supposed to get a regular check, monthly, so much, whatever. To sign a letter to say I’m relieving the Nazi Party, Germany, the Nazi Party from all the atrocities I’ve been through, including my education and all the others stipulations in German. I’d thought about it before they called me, before that, because they wanted to settle with me. And I told the [German] Consul that I would not sign, never in my life, if I don’t get a penny from Germany. My kids were very disappointed, but when we got home, I told them to sit down and let me talk to you all. And I pictured one thing. There’s the first of the month, Mama’s going to the mailbox and getting out the envelope with the checks – her check, my check. Mama’s going to go out and probably buy a piece of jewelry, or buy some good steaks and grocery or whatever. And at night, when we’re going to have dinner, if Mama is going to put that plate or that beautiful steak, I probably would have dropped some tears, that I sold out my loved ones. I’d rather eat a piece of bread on a napkin without butter than to have a guilty conscience because of money.

Talking About the Holocaust

To the future generations, which I do lecture, is, as far as…I inject in them love. Let’s put it this way. To the future generations, which I do lecture, is, as far as…I inject in them love. Let’s put it this way, because there are many students who ask me always questions, such as, “Do you hate Germany?” Do I carry hate? “Definitely,” I explained to them, “this hate is a terrible thing. It’s not written on the word hate, who you hate. If you got hate, you’ll hate everything and everybody, from my experiences.” No I don’t. You cannot blame the whole world or Nazi Germany for what they’ve done to me or to millions of others. I try to inject in them love instead of, you know, the bad atrocities. And I give them for an instant, you know, my parents, how we grew up – in the free world, till the depression came, our life. And in my case, I tell them also the way I lived and when I left my parents, after this date. I don’t remember have I ever hugged my mother and my father, and given a hug and said, “Mom, I love you” and the same to my father? I live with a guilty feeling because of…I inject in them love, and I got so many letters to respond; mothers and families have written to me, which I enjoy reading those letters, I’ve got so many of them.

Marty Storch