Martin Biggs (previous name: Biegeleisen)

MOTL 2007

Born in Krakow-Poland on 3rd January, 1922 Education: At and age of 3 attended Cheder- an institution for toddlers to learn Aleph Beit and reading from the siddur. From age of 6 graduated to a Yeshiva where apart from Jewish Studies if Chumash, Mishnah and Talmud was also included a Primary School for secular subjects. After my Bar Mitzvah my parents enrolled me to a Tarbut type Zionist Coeducational High School, which I finished in May 1939.

1939-45 The Nazis invaded Poland in September 1939 and from November 1939 various discriminatory measures were announced: all Jews to register, Jewish school to close, all Jews to wear armbands with the Star of David. Many arrests and a lot of Jews disappeared. In August 1940 out of 50 000 only 10 000 were allowed to remain in Krakow. In March 1941 a Jewish Ghetto was created in Krakow with high walls and watch towers and all Jews had to move to a very small area.

In January1942-just after the Wahnsee Conference- the lull in the Ghetto stopped and the “Aktions” began.

In June 1942- 300 Jews murdered in the Ghetto and 7000 deported to Belzec extermination camp.

In October 1942- 600 Jews murdered including all hospital patients and 8 000 deported to Belzec including my parents and my 14 year old sister who managed to escape from the transport and came back to the Ghetto the following day. My Grandmother being and old lady was shot and I found her laying dead with the patients in the hospital yard. My Father after witnessing the murderous acts in the assembly Square realized what is in store told my sister to run away and pushed her out of the line. It is difficult to describe my feelings, when after the “Aktion” has finished and I returned home I found that instead of finding my parents my sister and my grandmother I am left alone.

In March 1943- the Ghetto in Krakow was liquidated and my sister and I with all the surviving Jews were transferred to the Concentration Camp in Plaszow. The life in Plaszow Camp was unbearable: continuous beating, wild shooting, very hard work and very little food, making us weak particularly when raining, snowing, windy freezing cold.

In June 1943- My young sister and I were fortunate to be allocated for work out of Plaszow Camp: my sister to a Ghetto in Tarnow and I to a small camp (branch camp of Plaszow) in nearby Zablocie. This camp was erected- thanks to Schindler- to house inmates working for 2 factories i.e. Emalienfabrik (Schindler) and NKF. Myself being registered as a metal worker- Schlosser - worked in NKF repairing aircraft radiators.

In August 1944- due to the Russian front coming closer the small Schindler camp was closed and all inmates transferred back to Plaszow Camp. Around middle of August we were deported in cattle cars via Auschwitz to Mauthausen Concentration Camp. The Transport took five days with no food or water and 75 to 100 in a cattle car. In Mauthausen we had to work in a quarry which had 186 steps called “Todesstiege” i.e. Death Stairs. Around mid September- After experiencing real hell in the quarry when ready to give it up, I was informed to report to the front gate to be transferred to a Branch Camp near Linz called Linz 3, where I worked in the nearby Steel Works called Hermann Goering Werke. The life in this camp compared to previous experience in Plaszow and Mauthausen was relatively bearable. Although the work was very hard, very little food, we were always very hungry, loosing weight rapidly and constantly talking only about food.

On 5th May 1945- we were liberated by the US Army. My weight when examined by a doctor was 41 kg.