LOCAL HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR TELLS ALL
A local man, Jack Sittsamer, recently visited a Catholic School in the area, telling students there of his trials and tribulations during the Holocaust. After his meeting with the students we caught up to him and asked him for a private interview. He told us that he was born and raised in Poland until he was thirteen. When he was fourteen he was taken along with his family to an airplane factory about ten miles from his home. On the march to the factory anyone who could not keep up was shot and killed. This included many elderly and unfortunately Mr. Sittsamer’s own father was among them. His father had injured his leg in the First World War and could never walk just right again. Mr. Sittsamer described this as the worst part of the entire war for him.
This was the camp known as Mielec. The next camp he was taken to was Wieliczka, which was also in Poland. He did not tell us much about this camp except that it was just as bad if not worse than the last. In retrospect he said that each camp was gradually worse that the one before it.
After that he was transfered to Flossenberg in Germany. In between two of the camps Mr. Sittsamer was taken to and held at the gates of Auschwitz for three days and nights. From Flossenberg he was taken on to Litomerzecze in Czechoslovakia. Here he,like many others, was forced to haul boulders up a hill all day long. Many died trying to complete this greuling labor. Next he was taken to Mauthausen, Austria, and finally on to Gusyn II, also in Austria. This is where he was finally liberated on May 5th, 1945.
Mr. Sittsamer weighed only 72 pounds when he was liberated and told us that he didn’t believe that he would have made it another three days to the wars end. He later found out that the American soldiers who had found the camp were not there to liberate them at all, but that they had simply stumbled upon it. They had been there only to occupy the territories. Many of the people who had made it out of the camp died from eating the rich American food.
Mr. Sittsamer and his buddy who were liberated together decided to head toward the nearest city, Linz, Austria. A woman named Mrs. Weber took them in one night at 6:00 in the evening which was curfew time. Mrs. Weber, a retired nurse, burned their lice infested clothes and told them to take a hot shower. She nursed them back to health over the next few months. They decided to go back to Poland and try to find their families. Mr. Sittsamer found that not only had his father died, but he turned out to be the only living member of his family. Because he had no living relatives, the United Jewish Federation sponsored him to come over to America. He now travels around to local schools and tells his story to young students.
Image taken by team.