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Daily Life for Poles Under German Occupation

Jacob Igra

We were…survivors of a period in which every able-bodied person aged 14 and up had to work ten hours a day, six days a week. Otherwise, we would be shipped to Germany, to forced labor camps, or to work in factories of the German war machine. We were given rations of food so most of us went—often—hungry. We were decimated by disease—typhus and typhoid fever were prevalent. . . . We were terrorized by continuous dragnets—lapanka we called it in Polish. You walk on a street from your house to your aunt’s house and suddenly the street is closed by the gendarmes on both sides and all the people are surrounded and asked to show their papers. ‘Are you working somewhere? Who are you? What’s your occupation? What are you doing now?’ Whoever appeared not employed in a meaningful way that involved supporting the German war effort was being singled out, put on a truck, and shipped to the railroad station and put on a train and shipped to Germany. There were hardly any families that did not feel the tragedy of war.