For these full testimonies, and thousands more, visit the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive

Survivor Stories

Oskar K.

Oskar K. was born in Cieszyn, a little town in Poland. He was 17 years old when the war started. This is when his struggle with survival and bearing witness began. He fled to Russia, sometimes supporting himself as a weaver, a blacksmith, or welder. He also studied the Russian language and became a Russian teacher. When he came to the United States he attended medical school and became a physician.

When we interviewed him and asked if members of his family were killed during the Holocaust, he answered with one short sentence: “YES, ALL”

Excerpt from Video Testimony

Oskar tells his stories with remarkable details. In this excerpt he describes one of the most humiliating moments in his life.

Video Transcript

So I got into the car, and we drove. The car took us past the school that we attended. We didn’t say a word. We just looked at each other as the car drove on. And it stopped in front of the City Hall which had a few walk-up steps and a large glass door, bunting, and huge Nazi flags draping the entire front of the building. And I walked up those steps surrounded by Germans watching. I was on display along with other Jews that were being brought in. One of them a little boy the age of perhaps 10 or 11. One was a man of one leg on a crutch. One was still wearing his pajamas. We were all taken in and put into a single cell in the basement, 100 people, only standing room. And there we stayed all night, stood. There was no place to sit. And some not able to hold their urine or their bowel was so terribly — well, demoralized is to say it mildly. It was meant to be that way. In the morning, they opened the cell door; and they let us out. And to my great surprise, as we walked out, along each side of the door — of the walk-up steps, people stood to watch us as we walked down. We were on display like freaks. It was the most painful moment in my life. For here I thought of myself just a boy, a clown, happy-go-lucky. Yeah I was Jewish, fine. But I was a human being like everyone else. Suddenly I was on display, ridiculed, laughed at. People were pointing at me. People were pointing at someone who had big stains on the front of his pants because he couldn’t hold it any longer. It was a terribly devastating experience. And I looked — as I walked down the last step around the corner, my mother stood waiting for me.