For Those I Lovedby Martin Gray
Far surpassing any thriller novel, this is the amazing, true story of a man who epitomizes the indomitable human spirit. When fourteen-year-old Martin Gray finds himself and his family looting their own Warsaw factory, scrambling out of the ruins carrying sackfuls of gloves after its bombing by the Germans, his talent for quietly observing what is going on around him becomes his secret weapon. He watches, brick by brick, as his beloved neighborhood is sealed off from the rest of Warsaw, imprisoning everyone inside. He watches who wears blue; who wears white armbands, the Star of David; yellow armbands. He studies the streetcars passing through the ghetto gates to the outside. He creates a smuggling operation, hopping on and off streetcars, hiding his armband in his shirt, knowing who to bribe, creating false papers, speaking German or Polish, flirting with death, in and out, in and out, everyday. All for those he loves. This story follows Martin as he is captured with his family and taken by train to the Treblinka Concentration camp, and details his escape and heroic efforts to build a new life. This remarkable man is alive today, and his riveting story speaks to the enduring triumph of the human spirit. For Those I Loved was first published by Little, Brown & Co. in 1972, and was a New York Times bestseller as well as a bestseller in 20 languages. Including two other books in English and nine others in French, Martin Gray�s books have been read by an estimated 30 million people worldwide. He was awarded the United Nations "Dag Hammarskjöld" award.
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For Those I Loved
By Martin Gray, Anthon White
Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Martin Gray, with Max Gallo
All rights reserved.
I Was Born with the War
I was born with the war. The sirens wailed, the bombers skimmed the rooftops, their shadows glided across the road, and in the streets people were running, clutching their heads.
I was born with the war: we went downstairs to the cellar, the walls were shaking and flakes of white plaster fell on our hair. My mother was deathly pale; my eyes stung; women screamed. Then there was a momentary lull, until the fire engines sounded their horns and the women started screaming again.
September 1939: the month of my real birth. I know almost nothing of the previous fourteen years. I can't search my memories; I don't want to. Why bother to recall that pleasant time? We'd run through the streets behind the droshkas to the square in the old town, in the heart of Warsaw. My father would take me by the hand, and we'd go to the factory. The machines were from America; he'd show me, impressed in the steel, the name of the firm and the town, Manchester, Michigan. I'd walk proudly at my father's side between the machines. My father would pick up a stocking or a glove. He'd make me decipher the trademark, 7777, our trademark. We were partners in a large factory, we sold stockings and gloves all over Poland and abroad, and I had relations in the United States too, a grandmother living in New York. Sometimes we'd go along Jerusalem Avenue to Poniatowski Bridge over the Vistula. We'd cross Krasinski Gardens. Jews would be bargaining with each other. They always seemed to be wearing the same dark overcoats; they were poor. But I didn't know what poverty was. I didn't even really know that we were Jews. We observed the major holidays, but there were Catholics in our family. We were between the two religions. To me, my father—tall, straight-backed, and so firm of hand—seemed as if he were himself the origin of the world. We'd come home, I'd linger in Ogrod Saski, the last gardens before you reach Senatorska Street. Home. My father would open the door; I can still recall the sweet fragrance, my two younger brothers shouting. My mother would be there and the table was set for supper. This was before my birth, long before— an era of fine weather that ended in the summer of 1939.
Suddenly, the war. My father is in officer's uniform. He clasps me by the shoulders, and I realize that I'm almost as tall as he is. We leave my mother and my brothers at home and set off together for the station. In the streets, everything has already changed: groups of soldiers, trucks, the first lines outside the shops. We walk side by side in the road, shoulder to shoulder. He's stopped holding my hand; I'm a man. He shouts something to me from the window of the train that I can't hear; then I am alone in the street. I think this was the day we had the first raid. I watched the bombers, silver with black crosses, flying low in groups of three.
A Polish policeman yells in my direction from a porch where some terrified passersby are huddling. I begin to run down the empty street. I must get home; I don't have to obey anyone. I saw my father shouting something from the train. I've got to be as strong as he is. My mother pushes me down to the cellar: the plaster falls; we're suffocating; women are sobbing and wailing. After the alert, we see from the window the first fires, in the working class areas, in the direction of the Praga marketplace. I begin to read the papers: France, England, America—everyone's sure to help us. We're going to fight to the end, the Germans will never enter Warsaw. I listen to the mayor's proclamations on the radio: Warsaw will never surrender. My mother's crying; my two brothers are playing together. She and I are sitting in front of the radio. Often, I put my arm around her shoulders as we wait for the news. There's fighting all along the frontier and everything's going badly. We listen to German broadcasts: they're announcing thousands of prisoners; tomorrow Hider will be in Warsaw. "Poles," says the cheerful voice, "it's the Jews who are the cause of your troubles, the Jews who wanted the war, the Jews who are going to pay." Then the choirs, the songs. I turn the knob: Radio Warsaw is playing long pieces of mournful piano music. Then the bombers come back, at regular intervals; the cellar shakes. Incendiary bombs fall on the Jewish quarter, near us, and when we go upstairs again, the air is filled with dense smoke. "They're after the Jews," someone keeps saying.
My uncle comes to see us. He speaks to me.
"If the Germans enter Warsaw, it's the Jews they'll go for first. You know what they did in Germany. Your father doesn't trust them."
I nod as if I know. My mother is sitting near us and doesn't say a word. I nod uncomprehendingly: who are these German people whose language I know? Why are they demolishing our lives? Why do they hate the Jews? Then they begin to shell Warsaw, they're trying to hit a big insurance company building, and every day the silver bombers come back to the city. The fires are no sooner put out than they flame up again in the Muranow and Praga quarters, in the Smocza quarter, and in Stare Miasto, the old town. I'm now constandy out in the streets. I want to see, know, understand, fight, defend. The streets are full of ragged soldiers without rifles, some lying down on the pavement, others shaking their fists in the middle of silent groups. They talk about thousands of tanks, dead horses rotting on the roads, raids on Grudziadz—where the entire Polish Army is, including my father. My mother has stopped even trying to make me stay in. Every morning, I set out and stroll around the National Museum, where the wounded are arriving, look at the grubby men lying on bloodstained stretchers, the women and children crying. In some areas rubble strews the streets, clouds of white dust rise from the earth; families scrabble in the ruins.
All along Nowy Swiat (New World) Street, the shops are closed. I run along behind the red and yellow buses full of soldiers en route for Zoliborz. There, for several days, I and some others dig holes and trenches because we are going to fight to the end, and the French and English will soon be on their way. When I return, covered with dust and mud, my mother doesn't say a word. One evening when I go to wash, I notice there isn't any water.
"Ever since this morning," my mother says.
Then we run out of food. I stop going to the suburbs to dig trenches. We have to live; we have to learn to struggle like beasts to eat and drink. And the streets are full of beasts. I know men. But the species seems to have vanished. I fight to keep my place in a long line outside the local baker's. I push and shove women, like the others. I'm strong. I watch, I want my share for myself and my family, but I'm trying to understand. Maybe this struggle for yourself, for your people, is natural? Everyone seems to have stopped recognizing each other. Sometimes the soldiers hand out their rations. In one of the Warsaw parks, near where we live, are two of them with large greenish hats, who have opened their haversacks. Around them are women, children, and one of those old, bearded Jews, in a black skullcap. The women begin to shout, "Not the Jew, Poles first! Don't give the Jew anything!"
The soldiers shrug and hand the Jew a chunk of gray bread, but a woman rushes up, gives the Jew a shove, and takes his bread. She's screaming like a lunatic, "Not the Jew! Poles first!"
The Jew doesn't answer, but moves off. The soldiers go on handing out food. I grit my teeth, don't say a word. I take a chunk of bread. I don't look Jewish. The streets are full of hate, now I know. You have to be on the alert, ready to spring, to run away. I fight to keep my place by the well and bring home water. I go to the Vistula, where long lines are forming; drinking water is being handed out. Two young Poles, hardly older than I, come up and yell, "Jews to one side; Jews in another line!"
Then some Jews shuffle away and stand in line; sometimes fifty people are served, and only five Jews get water. I wait in line patiendy, not moving, gritting my teeth. Yet neighbors become wild beasts. They die fighdng each other.
On the way back from the Vistula with a bucket of water, I hear the bombers coming from the north, making for Zoliborz. Their noise makes the earth vibrate, immediately there are explosions, smoke filling the sky, people screaming. A facade ahead of me, at the end of the street, collapses all at once; there are flames. I plunge my head in my bucket of water, then run. The bombers have passed over. A droshka is on fire, and the horse is just a lump. King on its side. The driver is alongside it—his body huge, swollen, an animal too. I run to another street; men are digging in the dust. I dig with them, and hands are stretching up from deep down under the rubble. Then I leave. In other streets, groups are looting shops with gutted fronts. Women are filling their aprons with canned foods, clasping their huge bellies and running away. Near Senatorska Street, I meet a neighbor's son. Tadek's older than I; we've never gone out together, but today, without even a word, we begin to walk along side by side. We roam j the streets. I'm hungry and I sense that I'm the leader. Tadek follows me. We search.
In Stawki Street, a group of people are waving their arms wildly. We go closer: it's a pickle canning factory; the door has been smashed in. On die ground, on shelves all along the walls, are hundreds of cans. I don't hang back, I'm one of the first. I make a bag out of my shirt. I move swiftly, silently. Now and again, I glance to left and right. I've noticed a window. By now, I know that you always have to work out an exit. Tadek follows suit. We leave hurriedly. In the factory women have started fighung, and we run to Senatorska Street. That night all of us eat our fill: large salt pickles, which we crunch between our teeth, which sting our gums. But we're not hungry anymore, so my mother doesn't ask any questions. She eats the pickles too. We're all ill and vomit that night, but we're not hungry anymore. That's how life is now.
The next day, I set out again with Tadek. In the streets, among the retreating soldiers, heavy peasant carts are rumbling along. Refugees are sitting on the pavement with their canvas bags and blankets. I pass by, ignoring them. We have to eat, have to live. But the shops are empty, the counters bare. Some people come running by: "The station, there's a trainload of flour!" We begin to run too. On the platform they're unloading in silence. We're like ants, but it's each man for himself. I knock a sack off onto the track and grab it. It weighs about two hundred pounds. It's not flour but pumpkin seeds. We split them up and go off with a hundred pounds each on our backs. They're waiting for me at home now. I'm the breadwinner. When I come in with the bag on my back, my mother kisses me; my brothers are joyous and start dipping into the whitish seeds. You have to live. I sit down, I'm worn out, my hair's sticky with sweat, I've even stopped feeling hungry, but I'm at peace, feeding my family.
I carry on, day after day. Then suddenly, one afternoon, the streets empty out. Smoke from the fires still hangs over the city. I'm on the far side of the Vistula. I feel alone, I run. From time to time, I pass others who are running too. I call out to one of them: "What is it?"
"The Germans, the Germans! We've surrendered!"
They'd won. They were coming.CHAPTER 2
The Strength That a Man Has In Him
I saw them. They were everywhere. They were marching in serried ranks along Jerusalem Avenue and the Third of May Avenue. They marched slowly, their heels ringing on the cobbles of the narrow streets. I was walking along the pavement, behind the rows of curious bystanders; I wanted to see them, to understand. They seemed tall, fair, and invincible. Some had their helmets slung from their belts, as if they knew that they had nothing to fear, that we couldn't do anything now. Since the siege of Warsaw began, I had got used to suffering, to unshaven and defeated Polish soldiers; but now here was this powerful army with its endless procession of trucks and tanks. Their planes were skimming the rooftops above Jerusalem Avenue. Patrols moved along the pavement; they didn't seem to notice the people. Everyone drew aside. For a moment, I followed three soldiers in ankle boots with long black bayonets. Yes, we were going to suffer. I remembered my father. We hadn't had any news of him for weeks.
But I hadn't time to think. You had to survive; you had to fight. At the street corner, a large covered truck had halted, and some Poles were waiting around it, their hands out. Two soldiers were standing there, surrounded by large round loaves; they were laughing and tossing the loaves. From an open car parked near the truck an officer was taking photos, and another officer held a movie camera. But you had to eat. I forced my way into the group, quickly collected my two round loaves, and ran off clutching them.
The next day, loudspeaker vans announced that the Germans would be organizing the distribution of bread, so I went from center to center. The soldiers moved into a Jewish shop that had been cleared, near Sienna Street. There was already a long line of people there from every area, talking in whispers, muttering that the Germans were handing out soup as well. Suddenly, a tall soldier appeared in the entrance. He was bareheaded, the sleeves of his jacket were rolled up, I can still see him, hands on hips, yelling, "Juden, 'raus!" Everyone in the line cowered, no one left the ranks. "Juden, 'raus!" he yelled again.
Two women hurried off. One was a little old lady, with a black shawl over her head. The soldier walked up and down the line. He was scrutinizing us. Then, at the end of the line, a man in a hat went over to him, and pointing to someone, called out, "Jude." Everyone turned around, and there was a small dark man, with a short curly beard, standing alone as everybody backed away from him. The soldier gestured and the man walked slowly forward. The man who'd denounced him smiled confidendy. The soldier gripped the Jew's beard and began to jerk his head. Then he kicked him, and the man ran off. The whole line began to laugh with the soldier. And I laughed too, out of fear and anger.
I had my bread, and I had my soup, so I went off to line up elsewhere. Everywhere, men were denouncing each other. I looked. I tried to burn into my brain the faces of these men and women who josded men and women like themselves out of line, calling them Juden. But there were too many such faces, too many soldiers tugging at the hair and beards of old Jews. As I returned to Senatorska Street, a few minutes before curfew, I saw two soldiers shoving a man who was walking along very straight-backed. I thought: my father. I dashed over, but it was just another Jew. They made him take off his shoes, and then kicked him and made him jump along, like a frog, on the road, for what seemed ages, and they laughed and passersby in the street laughed with them. The soldiers flung the Jew's shoes to a Pole who said thanks and took them, and they went off. At the end of the street stood the barefoot man who could have been my father.
My mother was waiting for me; the door was already open. She was afraid for me now, and she often cried. In the daytime, we went from office to office asking if anyone knew where my father was. Everywhere we went they threw us out. That evening, my uncle was waiting for me too. He'd been to the factory. A bomb had destroyed part of the outside and the stairs, but he'd managed to make his way up to the workrooms. The machines and hundreds of pairs of gloves were still there; no one had touched them. The looters and the Germans had assumed that the whole building had been gutted. The next day, very early, we set to work.
It was cold, from time to time snow fell, and a damp wind was blowing from across the Vistula. We all went to it: my uncle, my brothers, and my mother. One of us kept watch, as we scrambled out of the ruins, carrying sackfuls of gloves. Having goods to sell might help keep us alive for a while. I made a final trip to the factory; all that remained were two sewing machines. I used to wander around there with my father, such a long time ago. I hoisted one of the machines onto my shoulder and set off. It was already curfew. There was a German truck at the corner of the street: I heard orders, guttural voices echoing in the deserted street, so I hid in a doorway. Soldiers came running, chasing stragglers and forcing them onto the truck. One of the stragglers tried to run away; there was a shot, a white and yellow flash close by me, and a single cry. Then the truck drove off with its lights on, leaving the man lying still in the middle of the road. I hoisted the machine and set off again. That's how it was—you just had to clench your teeth. I dashed across Senatorska Street. On the stairs I could breathe at last. I went up slowly, but the door wasn't ajar, as it usually was when my mother was waiting for me. I knocked, two raps. My mother was smiling. She kissed me; she was still smiling, as before. I put the machine down in the hall, and she pushed me into the bedroom. On the bed, fully dressed, was my father, asleep, but he immediately opened his eyes and clasped me to him.
"It's all right, Martin, all right," he said.
He hugged me very tight. He made me sit down by him.
"I escaped," he began. "I'm leaving tomorrow morning."
I was all ears and eyes.
Excerpted from For Those I Loved by Martin Gray, Anthon White. Copyright © 2006 Martin Gray, with Max Gallo. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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