Category Archives: Survivor Stories

Survivor Stories

In the midst of the age of innocence, when the world is still fresh and clean in the eyes of a young boy, Rennert Siagfrid got to know the ultimate evil.

When he was only 14 years old, Germans came into Chernivtsi, his hometown in Romania. Despite an attempt to prevent the tender child from discovering of the hard facts of the new horrifying reality, Rennert realized very quickly, that they were heading towards a very dark path.

During the excruciating journey, as he witnesses’ sights and deaths that haunt him to this day, Rennert and his family were taken to Mogilev. In a dense train, without food or drink, without any stops they are forced to travel to an unknown destination. After finally getting off the train in Ataki, where they are waiting in uncertainty for eight days, all because of a central bridge that was blown up. The explosion made it even more complicated, forcing them to continue in rickety crowded boats all the way to the ghetto.

Just before they got to the boats, marching non-stop between the heavy rains and Exigent mud, one of Rennert’s boots sank and from that moment he continued with only one boot on his feet. It would take almost a year until he will enjoy the privilege of two shoes again. “We had no food and hardly anything to drink in the ghetto, and we were exhausted. Before we were forced to leave our home we took some clothes and luckily in the ghetto we were taken to, we were able to sell our clothes for some food. That’s how we survived.

As a young boy, Rennert describes a painful reality that he, along with the rest of his family, found very hard to believe is now their new life.

When the order came to proceed to the next destination, Rennert and his family already knew too much. “There were rumors from every direction that those who travel to the camps were actually led to death. We did not know how or what, but those rumors were enough. My parents, along with a small group of people decided to try to evade the transition. We found an abandoned house’ it was broken and clearly neglected for a long time, but it was a treasure for us. The whole family slept on the floor, and I remember especially how cold it was there. There were no blankets, there were mice and dirt everywhere. We stayed there for two years”.

Despite the indescribable difficulties, it was a significant miracle for the family, to stay in the abandoned house in those harsh years. The city was than looking for a tinsmith, and Rennert’s father, who was a tinsmith by trade, got the job. Thanks to his new job, Rennert’s dad managed to get another job for his young son. “He got me a job in construction and rehabilitation of the bridge that was blown up.”

Rennert remembered the relief he felt when his father managed to get him another boot, so he could work with a shoe on each leg. He also remembers the bravery his father showed while stealing metal from his job. “

Although it was dangerous, Dad managed to steal metal from work, and every night, we sat, he and I preparing buckets from it. The Women sold the buckets and that helped us earn some food. ”


One of those exhausting days at the work site, Rennert made small mistake, but this was a mistake he will never forget. “I made a mistake, just a little one, but the Nazi soldier who oversaw the job’ decided to punish me, pulled my hair so hard that my scalp stretched out. He tried to drown me this way. Miraculously at the last moment I managed to save myself and had to immediately continue the work. I knew that if I let it break my spirit I would soon be killed or be sent with my family to the camps”.

Shortly after the incident, Rennert, like many other Jews around, got the typhus. The child that was forced to mature before he could grow, felt, at that moment like he could not get up anymore. He did not show up for work and not much later, the Nazi soldiers knocked on the door. “I hid in in the crawlspace and did my utmost to not move and make sounds. I listened patiently to what happened when the Nazis searched the house.

“When I realized they were planning to take my sister instead of me, I knew I couldn’t let that happen. I did not care at that moment how sick I was, I jumped out of the crawlspace right on the Nazi soldier with an ax and tried to dissuade him from taking my sister”. The soldier ran away but came back very quickly with reinforcements of Nazi soldiers’ and a bloodhound looking for him everywhere until they finally gave up.

Since then, the bridge was built, the war ended and Rennert and his family went through many difficult experiences during their journey to freedom.

Rennert knows it could have been much worse and since then always chooses to see the good and move forward. Even today, decades later, he sadly recalls the daily suffering of the people dear to him and the harsh pictures that will probably never let go.

Over the years, in every stops of life, Rennert zealously kept all the work documents from those hard times, unwilling to forget the slavery endured by him and his family, and this year, after only recently compensation laws to Jewish workers for the Germans during the war had passed, he got the recognition and well deserved compensation for all the those years as a slave for the Nazis’.

In the home he built for his family, he always told his children everything he went through. “I want my story be heard and recognized. The Jewish children need to know what we’ve been through and never forget”.saba shai