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Traveling with Polish Soldiers

Thomas Buergenthal, Holocaust Survivor

And there was with me in the hospital a Pole, who -- he and I got up and we decided to try to move, to go, leave the camp. And we got out in Oranienburg, the town where Sachsenhausen was, and there the houses were empty: the Germans had left their homes, left food almost on the table, and had left.

And we sort of moved from one place to another, from one of these homes to another, until we came upon a group of -- a Polish division under Russian command, the First Division Kościuszko, and by then they accumulated a group of people, about five or six people all from Poland. The Polish soldiers saw me, assumed I was Polish -- I spoke Polish, and didn't dare to speak German at the time, of course -- and asked me whether I was from Poland and I said yes, and then they said, well, they'll take me to Poland.

And so what they did was take me along in with their group, and their -- this particular group was the scout company of the First Polish Division, and I became the mascot of the division. I was given a horse and a little cart. As a matter of fact, I had -- they had captured a German circus, and this was a small pony. I had my pony and moved with the troops. And actually, I always say I helped capture Berlin with my troops, because we actually moved on Berlin and I was in Berlin before Berlin fell, 'cause the troops came in -- the Russians had already advanced, Russian troops had already moved in, but I was in Berlin before Berlin fell, on the outskirts of Berlin, actually in Berlin with Polish troops. It's never mentioned that Polish troops were in Berlin among the conquerors, and it is true we were there.

We actually -- until Germany surrendered, I was -- we were still following German troops beyond Berlin. After the fall of Germany, the Polish troops were being moved back to Poland, and I was moving back with them. And we initially moved to a military garrison in Poland called Siedlce; it's a town in Poland where I spent some time, until a Jewish Polish soldier in my company took me out one day and took me to a Jewish orphanage in Otwock and left me there. And there were a lot of Jewish children in the orphanage. For the first time, I sort of began to live something of a normal life.