"I spoke with my eyes closed to a voice recorder."
Anczel Cislowski, born in 1928 in Bodzentyn
In all the years Anczel, Al, Cislowski has always been very quiet about his past. However, in 2017, at the age of 88, Anczel decided it was time to tell his story so his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren can remember him as he is and 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.
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.
For the Holiday season, Anczel's father made him a new blue suit. 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. Listen to Anczel's account of the events.
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. Listen to Anczel's account of the events at the outbreak of WWII.
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. Listen to Anczel's accounts.
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. Listen to Anczel's account of the family's decision to leave Bodzentyn.
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 ammunition 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 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.
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."
- 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.