Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Madcap Race to Find Out Where Holocaust Survivor David Tuck is Speaking
Learned about Dave Tuck speaking at Our Lord's New Church on FB.
But where was the church? Drove to the Bryn Athyn Cathedral, pounded on the locked door, and a kindly man answered.
He told me where to go.... Pennypack Trust was the key. It's two minutes away. I'm very familiar with the place. When I used to drive the old ladies from The Orangeman's Home on Byberry Road to view the changing seasons, we'd drive down the stately driveway, flanked by apple trees.
I'd get outa the car and collect the apples. The Home would cook em for my friends Agnes and the others.
I was not late b/c people of all ages were enjoying breakfast.
Heidi King, who posted the event on her page, did not recognize me when I walked in as I was wrapped up like a mummy to keep warm and outa the rain.
I sat next to Dave and felt like I knew the man.
"What's your real name?" I asked.
"Tuck is my real name," he said. Oftentimes, short Jewish names have been changed from longer ones.
"Dyou mind if I ask you what year you were born in?"
"I forget," he said.
An article in the Inquirer said he's 91, so I spose he's born in 1923.
A Polish Jew, his family lived near the border of Germany. His mom had died six months after his birth (thank God) so he lived with his Orthodox Jewish g'parents.
On September 1, 1939, David was getting ready for school. He was 10 years old. The radio was on and instead of the usual Polish news, the station began to play broadcasts in German.
The little town where the Tucks lived had only 12 Jewish families, 125 people who got along well with the non-Jews.
"You have 48 hours to gather your belongings and leave," said the Nazis.
They were going to a ghetto. Lodz Ghetto. "No one believed it."
Poland had a population of 34 million people. Ten percent were Jews.
"We didn't know what was waiting."
For the duration of the war, David was shuffled from one prison camp to another.
First, when he was ten, "They put us in a stadium filled with bunks. There were 1100 people, all Jews."
They were awakened at 4 am, took showers, and were given a slice of bread, soup and coffee. They ate either two or three meals a day. "You were lucky if you got potatoes in your soup."
David always found people who helped him survive.
"Tell them you are 15 years old and a mechanic," one man said. "That way you'll be of use to them and they won't throw you to the wolves."
He lived in the stadium for five and a half years, aware of how thin he was getting.
He worked at the Autobahn, chopping stones and digging to expand the highway. Terribly hard work.
He went up to a guard, who he perceived to be a nice guy, and asked if he, David, could work for him, polishing his boots and bringing him breakfast.
He became the guard's personal servant and no longer worked on the highway. In addition, he could steal very small amounts of the guard's food, tucking the bread under his shirt.
Every day there was roll call. Three boys asked for more bread and they were hanged.
He learned that most prisoners were out for themselves. They didn't share with one another and tattled on others to get in the good graces of the guards.
"How can one person have such a twisted mind?" he said about the man who hung the hungry boys.
Typhoid fever was rampant in the barracks and many died. David got it but worked anyway. What was the alternative? Losing his life.
He and others were sent to dig up graves of buried Jews to get out their silver teeth. The war effort must go on and needed as many supplies as possible to building munitions.
He and other hospital mechanics traveled by regular train to Auschwitz.
Tattoos were only given at Auschwitz and one other camp.
Prisoners were further dehumanized by being called by their numbers - 141851.
Bands were playing when they were marched into Auschwitz. The famous sign reads
Wiki - "work makes (you) free". The slogan is known for having been placed over the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps during World War II, including most infamously Auschwitz I, where it was made by prisoners with metalwork skills and erected by order of the Nazis in June 1940.
When he was checked in, a guard asked him, "Are you against Hitler?"
"Nein," said David.
He reported to the office where he was given a tattoo.
"I looked at the little bubbles on the surface and wiped them off." He was given a striped uniform, a cup and a plate.
He gained a modicum of power by trading cigarettes.
Every nationality was in Auschwitz, every occupation.
They made antiaircraft guns.
Again, the irony of using Jewish slave labor to fight against their despised captors.
"All the photos," he said, "were taken by the Nazis."
There were, however, some wedding photos of he and wife Marie who died nine years ago, and of his daughter and grandchildren.
"I had chutzpah," he said to the audience.
He knocked on the glass door of a high-ranking guard and said in German, "I am a mechanic. You need guns for The Fatherland and I would like to help."
The official agreed.
"Danke," said Tuck.
He got more food.
"From that moment on," he said, "I knew I was predestined to live."
It was not easy.
He was stuffed into a cattle car, with no toilets, and no water. He devised a way of scraping snow from one of the little "breathing" slits that were used to keep the cattle from smothering to death.
Next stop: Munchausen-Gosen concentration camp.
Wiki - Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp was a large group of German concentration camps that was built around the villages of Mauthausen and Gusen in Upper Austria, roughly 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of the city of Linz. Its history ran from the time of the Anschluss in 1938 to the beginning of May 1945.
"It was a godforsaken place," he said. "We're walking around, we're all skin and bones already."
Sent to Gusen, there was no food. He ate grass and leaves. Someone suggested they eat charcoal from the wood that was burned.
When Roll Call was taken, more and more people had perished from starvation. Machine guns were all over.
American liberators finally arrived on May 5, 1945.
Now there was plenty of food. Tuck weighed 75 pounds. "But if you eat too much, you die."
"Nobody was going to steal from me," he reminded the audience.
Neither could they leave. There was a quota system.
"They kept us for months. But where could I go? I didn't want to go back to Poland."
He signed up to go to America. But it would be five years until he could move there.
First, Italy, for seven months, and then on to Paris, where he met his future wife, Marie, also a survivor. The two of them worked in a clothing factory. They were married for 54 years.
Finally, they emigrated to New York and Pennsylvania, where Tuck began his business Dave's French Interior Decorating.
Some day, said Ike, people are going to deny there was a Holocaust.
Most of Tuck's relatives survived.
David Tuck is not interested in returning to Poland or Germany, nor is he interested in reading about the history he lived through.
He did see Schindler's List and had briefly seen Schindler during the war.
"I don't live with hate," said Tuck. "If you do, it will destroy you."
When he gives his talks - and young students are his favorite groups - he frequently encounters antisemitism, which he says is mere brainwashing.
He confronts young people who don't like Jews and speaks to them in an attempt to tell them the truth about the Jews. Many shift their views and learn that human beings come in many skins and many religions, but we're all human beings underneath.