Liquidating of jewish ghettos


She is in her early sixties, he is 70, and they are handsome people, kindly, self-possessed, articulate. 'Up to now, it has been almost impossible to convey the fear and terror, but I think this film did,' his sister says.

And a lot tougher than I am, of course; all I've survived is a harrowing movie. 'It seemed to me, in a way, a work of art,' she adds thoughtfully, turning her phrases, an elegant user of words. I found some things unbearable: the screaming in the showers at Auschwitz.

In the dark of the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square, watching what passed for his youth and her childhood, are Joseph Fischler and his sister, Janina Martinho.

They have come to see Schindler's List, the film that tells the story of Krakow's Jews during the Second World War, and of Oskar Schindler, the German businessman who rescued 1,100 of them.

JANINA and Joseph Fischler were born and raised in Krakow; their father played football for a local team. The Fischlers were secular, assimilated Polish Jews.

There had been Jews in Krakow for nearly six centuries. 'Even before the war, the Poles wanted to get rid of the Jews,' Joseph says. Psychologically, geographically, Poland was perfect.' Had the family considered leaving before the war, I ask.

By October, the whole Fischler family - parents, brother, grandparents, cousins, aunts, friends - were gone. Janina shared a room with 11 people, 'minds clogged with dreams of food and escape, bodies unwashed, hair teeming with vermin. The window was unbarred: was it long enough, wide enough to admit his shoulders? The commandant at Plaszow, Amon Goeth, took target practice from his balcony overlooking the camp by shooting Jews at random. She set off alone, disguised as a Christian orphan, because the alternative was the death camp at Auschwitz. 'In Poland,' she says, 'it is felt that if you look after an orphan, God will take it into account in the final analysis.' 'I survived because I had a copper-bottomed Aryan appearance.' Her assets for survival were pretty meagre, though, for a kid on her own in the middle of a war: 'Blue eyes, straight nose, and speech in which there was not the slightest hint of a Yiddish intonation,' she says. I missed it because I was a loved child,' she says.

Somehow, something snapped in Schindler: he began saving lives. In the film, Schindler, joking with some Nazis on the railway platform at Plaszow, cons them into hosing down a train headed for another concentration camp with cool water.

'We came out of our room on the morning of the 13th and went into the street holding hands and were sucked into the panic-stricken human tide,' Janina says.

'The whole of the ghetto's population seemed to be in the main thoroughfare.

How the parents were cheated of their children.' 'The mind works in such odd ways. And although they read the literature and see the movies about the war, they do not talk to their children about it.

In the film, when the train drives into Auschwitz, do you know what I thought of? 'I thought of Anna Karenina arriving at the Moscow station. 'I have never talked about it to my daughter,' Janina says.

Shooting into the crowd had already begun.' Suddenly, they found themselves in a deserted side street.

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