Book of Life Stories

Adam Lewin – A story by Ivor Lee

Adam Lewin is a survivor! Adam Lewin is a fighter for life! Adam Lewin is today a survivor of one of the most horrific and brutal periods known to the world.

Adam Lewin is a survivor????.of the Holocaust!

Born in Bedzin in Poland more than 80 years ago, to a wealthy family, his father was a successful photographer with a thriving business when war was declared on Poland. The studio was doing well and the family lived in comfort, even though the war raged around them.

Adam says he was lucky. Even though there was anti Semitism all around him, he survived, as did some of the family. There was a transit camp in the town and Adam became friendly with an SS man, who, incidentally, liked his sister.

Adam says the SS man was “good to us, and liked us”. Adam has only good memories of this SS man, so Adam is a humanist too.

Even though Adam was ‘collected’ and sent to the labour camp his friend, the SS man, allowed him to go home at night and sometimes even stay there for a while.

Eventually Adam says the Germans came one night looking for young men from the town. They were rounded up and taken to the camp where they were ‘processed’ and then sent to labour camps all over Germany.

He says “My Mother told me to hide under her bed and make no sound, but the Germans were thorough and found me. They took me to the camp and kept me there for many weeks until a General from the SS arrived to select people for the labour camps. I was young and strong and looked it, and was selected to go to Auschwitz.”

Adam says “The sick, the elderly and the disabled couldn’t work so they were sent to the gas chambers but I was strong and could work, so I survived”.

On arrival in Auschwitz Adam was tattooed with a number on his left arm. This number can still be seen to this day. It shows that he was among the first intake, the first group, the first inmates of the horror camp Auschwitz.

He says he worked hard. “not office work, hard labour, in the fields, wearing the pyjama striped uniform and wooden clogs in the wet and cold fields.”

“We worked every single day, we got little food and no protection against the weather, not even underwear”. “We worked long hours but we survived” he says.

Some 64 years later Adam finds it hard to remember the exact sequence of events. “It was very hard – he says. “we didn’t know days or weeks, we only knew to work and to survive”

Then came the other camps. There were too many to remember, but he does remember Blechhammer, Gross-Rosen, and Dachau. “There were others” he says, “but I don’t remember the names, only the work, the cold, the hunger and the hope.”

He says “We didn’t get much food, we were awoken at 5 in the morning, Winter or Summer, we did get a cup of tea or maybe substitute coffee, and a piece of bread, that had to last the whole day until the next morning. It was not enough and everyone was hungry, so we ate the bread straight away and then suffered until the evening when we would get a plate of soup and a potato, after a hard day in the fields.

“But we survived” he says. Everyone? “No, only the ones with faith and hope”

He remembers the lice too. “We couldn’t get rid of them it was something one had to live with, like the thin sacks they called uniforms, the wooden shoes, the cold, the heat, the dirt and deprivation, we had to be strong to survive”.

Adam remembers the trading of the little food that they managed to scrounge, steal or beg for. “They were without anything, no clothes, no money, no hope, no future, but they wanted to smoke!”. “They were starving, but they wanted cigarettes huh” Human nature!!!

“No one stayed in one camp for ever, you were sent wherever they needed labour”. “We had to walk from camp to camp, sometimes as much as 10 miles or more. People were so weak they were dying on the road, but they were left there. If someone fell the guards would shoot them where they lay, there were no casualties. You lived or you died.”

“At this time I had lost contact with my family. While I was in Poland, in a transit camp, I was allowed to write home and sometimes they would be allowed to write to me or get a message to me through the fences. After I was transferred I lost all contact with my Mother and Father and my sister and two brothers. But I was lucky!!!”

“In Blechhammer I met somebody from my town, he said to me that my brother was in the camp, so I went to look for him. I saw a man who I didn’t recognise. He was very thin and I didn’t know him.”

“I too was very thin and he didn’t recognise me either, my own brother Jack. But we did talk and we did agree that we were brothers and we then stayed with each other in the camp. Having my own family with me, my own brother, made it a little easier and we helped each other, The soldiers in the camp wanted to separate us but I begged them to let us stay together, we would work harder and get the others to work too.”

After much pleading and begging we were allowed to stay together and we did until 1945. We were stronger with each other and we supported each other. We were able to survive because we had faith in each other and had hope for the future. We said that G-d would help us and we would survive. We had faith that one day we would be liberated and I told myself that all the time. I told myself that G-d would help us, that was how we survived, that and hard work!.

“Of course a lot of people died, they were too weak. I had a strong will and also my brother Jack and I supported each other. We kept up hope for each other and we saw a future where we would be liberated, we had another friend with us too. We had hope.”

According to Adam he says that there were people who were kind to him and his brother. He says that even some of the camp guards were a little better to him and gave him bits of food or cigarettes to trade, he says “I don’t want retribution, I want to forgive and forget!!!”

“One day when we came back from the fields we found that the Gestapo had been in the camp the whole day, a high ranking officer was there and we were called to stand in the yard. The officer said to us that we must look at the ground in front of him, which we did, and saw that there was a man buried up to the neck with just his head above ground. The Gestapo officer said that was what would happen to us if we were found stealing. Anything, from the fields, from the village, from each other, from the camp, we would be caught and buried.”

“In front of the man’s head was a carrot, just in front of his face. The Gestapo man said that he had stolen one potato and that he would be punished. I moved nearer and saw, to my horror, that it was my cousin, I didn’t even know that he was there. In front of the whole camp the officer drew his gun out and shot him in the head, that was his punishment for stealing one potato.”

“There were many such incidents but I try to forget them. It was a war and many bad things happened, we can’t remember for ever, we are humans, we must try to forgive and live better”

“In 1945 word spread through the camps that the war was ending and there was hope at last. One day the camp awakened at the usual time of 5 o’ clock to find that there were no more guards in the camp, there was silence and in the distance the sounds of guns. We knew that the Allies were on their way and that we would be liberated. I knew then that G-d had heard my prayers and that we would be saved.”

“We were liberated by the French and my brother Jack and I tried to trace our family. My sister had vanished and we could find no trace of her, we were told that my Mother and Father had died in the concentration camp, and my brother Max had joined the underground resistance and had survived. He had joined the British army after liberation and had become an interpreter and was still in Poland. We also tried through the Red Cross to find details but they couldn’t find any reference to my Mother Anna, Father Isadore, or our other brother Nathan, and to this day we have heard no more.”

“Jack and I managed to get to Tahiti, which was a French island, and we stayed there for 5 months and eventually managed to get sent to France where we lived in Paris for about 2 years. We found that we had relations in Adelaide and we contacted them and they helped us with immigration to Australia. It took us 7 weeks on a ship to get here and we arrived with no money and could speak almost no English.”

“I could not get work as I couldn’t speak properly, so I found that I could buy ‘schmatters’ from a wholesaler in Melbourne and ‘shmoes’ them, sell them from door to door in the suburbs. I had to get to the suburbs by train every day, and they were long hours, but I managed to survive???.again. I learned a little English and sold a little more each day. After a while I found an empty shop that was in a good position and I persuaded my brother Jack to join me in the shop. So started Lewin Brothers.”

“Even though my family name was Lewinski it was a difficult name for Australians to pronounce so we changed it to Lewin and have been known as Lewin ever since.”

“Life has been good to me, I survived, my brother Jack survived, but has since passed away, and my other brother Max, the army officer, came to Australia and joined us too, so we were a family again.”

“It just goes to show that with faith, hope and hard work one can survive.”

Adam Lewin is a survivor.

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