Al Cislowski

"I spoke with my eyes closed to a voice recorder."

Anczel Cislowski, born in Bodzentyn 1928

In all the years, Anczel (Al) Cislowski has always been very quiet about his past. However, in 2017, at 88, Anczel decided it was time to tell his story so his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren could remember him as he was.

"I spoke with my eyes closed to a voice recorder," Anczel says. "Some writers would give more fancy words. I could only express what I remembered."

Childhood memories

Anczel's father, Dawid Cislowski, was a tailor who had moved from Krajno to Bodzentyn. In the summer, the family received additional income from picking fruit. "Three months every year, we moved to a shack at the orchards," Anczel says.

Anczel attended both regular school and cheder, a private day school that emphasised religious studies like other Jewish children.

Anczel's father made him a new blue suit for the holiday season. Being a restless child of seven or eight years old, Anczel fetched one of his friends at the Synagogue, Shul, and went to play at the castle ruins in Bodzentyn, close to the Psarka River.

Anczel: My father made me a suit for the holidays. It was a blue suit, and I was probably seven or eight years old. The holidays came, I was dressed in the new suite, and we were in Tempe (Synagogue). And the kids were playing outside, and the grown-ups were praying. I was restless and came to my friend in the Temple and asked him if he could go to the castle.

There was a castle in my town, and we used to play there all the time. But this Holiday, with the new suit, we went to the castle, it took ten minutes to get there. To get to the castle from the street, there was a big field with grass, and from the front street, it took something like five minutes to get to the end of the castle (area). There, the ground was not straight; there was a slope, and a river was running below.

Instead of walking, we lay down and rolled for five to ten minutes until we reached the river below. We did this a few times like that. Then we said: "Let us go back to the Shul." It was approximately three o'clock, and everybody finished praying and went home.

So, I went home, and my parents asked me: "Where have you been?" I said: "At the castle." And they looked at me. "Do you know what happened?" "No?" "Your suit, instead of blue, is green!" My suit got green from the grass when we rolled down. And we could not do anything about it. Probably, we had to throw it away.

The castle ruins in Bodzentyn, sometime 1918–1933.

Fate during the Holocaust

As a child—only eleven years old—Anczel overheard the adults talk about Hitler and what he intended to do with the Jews.

I heard my brothers and my parents talking about what Hitler was saying on the radio or somewhere else. They were talking about Hitler, saying that he was going to kill all the Jews. So, you can imagine that when I heard that I was eleven years old, I got scared. I had fears and did not know what to say; I had to live with this fear.

In October 1939, all Jewish children were excluded from the Polish state school system. Anczel recalls the expulsion from school, the curfew, other restrictions and how he used to sit at home by the kerosene light and listen to the adults discuss recent events. 

They closed the school for the Jews. The Jews could not go to school anymore. But the Jewish [religious] schools were somehow open still. That is how we spend our time in the city. With time, they made a curfew, and we could not leave the city. We could only move in the city, and they made a point [how far] we could walk. And we could now go out after five. We were supposed to be in the homes.

All we could do was sit at home and wait, six to eight people, in the night, by kerosene lights and candles and talk about the war and other things. I did not say much, but I listened to what happened here and there every bad thing.

In the ghetto, Anczel lived with his father, mother and siblings at Kielce Street No. 13. "I kept a stamp collection," Anczel recalls. "Before we left the ghetto, I moved it from a drawer in the house to the attic. Most probably, it was lost. No one mentioned that they had found it after the war."

The majority of the members of the Cislowski family fled to work in the munitions factory in Starachowice-Wierzbnik before the liquidation of the ghettos took place. They hoped workers would be spared the selection.

In 1942, somehow, people were talking about "that one day they are coming to take us away," and people were sad, but my father decided on another thing: My mother had a sister in Starachowice. It was a city, a ghetto. People worked at the munitions factory. They said, "Whoever is working in the ammunition factory – maybe they will be spared when they send us out from the city".

So, one day, we decided – it took one day to go to Starachowice by horse – and we took the rest of what we had, clothes and things, and we sneaked into the ghetto in Starachowice. We went first, my mother, sister and I, and the others, brothers and a sister, came after another day.

Anczel's father, Dawid, and mother, Chaya, were killed during the Holocaust, as were his brothers, Avram and Aaron.

Avram had escaped from the ghetto and the slave labour camp at the munitions factory in Wierzbnik-Starachowice and gone into hiding with Alter Grosman, Morris (Moniek) Grosman and Dawid Fish (Fisz Dawid). After the war, three journalists from Warsaw wrote about the family that hid Avram.

A Polish woman named Stanisława Dziuba, who lived together with her mother and brother in a modest isolated farmhouse, described to the journalists how the family tried to help the four Jews.

Avram, Alter, Morris and Dawid stayed in something like a bunker (a hole in the ground), and the family gave them food and hid them so that they had a chance to survive. When some Germans spotted Dawid, he was killed. In the winter of 1944, the three Jewish friends left, temporarily leaving the hideout again, ran into German soldiers, and Avram was shot to death.

Anczel managed to survive. On 30 July 1944, he and the other inmates of the slave labour camp in Starachowice-Wierzbnik were deported to Auschwitz. On 28 October 1944, Anczel was taken to Stutthof and in November 1944 to Hailfingen, Dautmergen in mid-February 1945, and finally to Dachau-Allach on 12 April 1945. From there, Anczel and others were brought by trucks to Landsberg am Lech, where at last the inmates were freed when American soldiers liberated the camp.


Anczel's brother Meyer Cislowski (moved to New York after the liberation and end of the war).

Anczel's brother Avram Cislowski (killed).

Anczel's sister Ruzhka nee Cislowski (moved to Tel Aviv after the liberation and end of the war).

Anczel's brother Aaron Cislowski (killed).

Anczel's sister Natka (Nata) nee Cislowski (moved to Paris after the liberation and end of the war).

Anczel (Al) Cislowski (Anczel lived in California for many years).


Anczel's story in his own words was then published in the book The Survival Story of Anczel Cislowski. In January 2019, Anczel also gave an interview at the USC Shoah Foundation.

Read The Survival Story of Anczel Cislowski online

Cousin of Dawid Rubinowicz

In March 1942, Anczel's cousin Dawid Rubinowicz moved in at Kielce Street 13 with his father, mother, and siblings. Like many of Anczel's relatives, the Rubinowicz family came from Krajno, a small close-by village.

Anczel's cousin, Dawid Rubinowicz, began writing a diary on 21 March 1940 in Krajno. The five copybooks were discovered in 1957. On one of the covers, the name A Cislowski appears.

Before the war, Anczel would sometimes go with his father to Krajno. While his father attended customers, Anczel visited his cousins. "Dawid had a brother and a sister. He was the oldest," Anczel says. "Dawid was working with his father. He used to go to the farms and pick up some milk and his father made butter. This is how they made a living."

When the Cislowski family left Bodzentyn and fled to Starachowice sometime in May to July 1942, the Rubinowicz family remained in Bodzentyn. "They stayed in Bodzentyn," Anczel recalls. "Since then, I didn’t have contact with them. They went with the group that got killed. Sometimes they picked up stronger people to go to work in Skarżysko. I don’t know if Dawid survived or not. I didn’t hear from him."

Anczel explains why it may have been difficult for the Rubinowicz family to consider an escape to Starachowice: "Rubinowicz uncle’s wife she had a mother too. They didn’t want to leave the mother."

Useful information

  • Anczel Cislowski passed away on September 22, 2021.
  • Interview code of the USC Shoah Foundation recording: 57188.
  • A short interview with Anczel's sister, Ruchla Roza Cisłowska Zilberberg, was published in “Telefon”, in Reszta nie jest milczeniem by Janicki J., Wiernik B. (1960).
  • The situation in Starachowice-Wierzbnik can be studied in more detail in Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp by Christopher R. Browning (2010). Pamięć przetrwania Nazistowski obóz pracy oczami więźniów (2012).The book draws on the testimony of survivors of the Holocaust-era Starachowice-Wierzbnik (close to Bodzentyn) slave-labour camps to examine the Jewish prisoners' fight for survival through a succession of brutal Nazi camp regimes​. Read an introduction to the book ​​ | View a lecture by C. R. Browning on the slave-labour camp on YouTube   | Find the book in English | Find the book in Polish
  • Read about Stanisława Dziuba
  • In the article "Wyjście z Bodzentyna" (1960), Avram Cislowski's name is written as Abraham Scislowski.
  • In the article "Wyjście z Bodzentyna" (1960), Boleslaw Wzorek testifies that the Grossman brothers visited him before they left Bodzentyn in 1945. They told him about the promise they had made to each other, that the ones who survived would give the ones that were killed a proper burial. Thus they located where they had buried Avram Cislowski in the winter of 1944, and brought the body to the Jewish cemetery and buried their friend there. Source: Mularczyk A., Rywanowicz R, Kąkolewsk K. (1960). Wyjście z Bodzentyna [Coming out from Bodzentyn]. Nowa Kultura, Nr 19 (528), p. 9.


  • Editor's interview with Anczel, Al, Cislowski, April 2018.
  • 1929 Polish Business Directory Project, JRI Poland in cooperation with JewishGen: “Krawcy (tailleurs): Cislowski D. Wojewodztwo Kieleckie, Krajno,” p. 235 (an electronically-posted copy is available at Jewish Gen
  • Mularczyk A., Rywanowicz R, Kąkolewsk K. (1960). Wyjście z Bodzentyna [Coming out from Bodzentyn]. Nowa Kultura, Nr 19 (528), p 3, 9.

Editor's note: This page— including the transcript of the interview and use of audio files—has been approved by Al Cislowski, with his two sons, David Cislowski and Joe Cislowski. June 2018, February 2020 and August 2021.