David Bayer was 16 when Nazi Germany invaded his hometown of Kozienice, Poland. During the bombardment, the Bayers fled to safety in the forest. When they returned to town, they discovered that the Germans had ransacked nearly all of their possessions—including breaking David’s mother’s unique Passover dishes. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum shared his story recently.
Before the war, David spent most of his time attending school, playing sports, and working in his father’s factory. Under the Nazi German occupation, life changed drastically. The Nazis plastered a Star of David sign outside the Bayer home, seized the family’s factory, and established a strict curfew for Jews.
David was humiliated by German occupiers when they forced him to remove a car battery from a German truck. The acid spilt out and burned David’s clothes and skin. “I was crying; I was yelling and crying. And they were taking pictures and laughing. I wish I could have died there and would have been happier.” He added.
Eventually, German authorities forced David and his family into the Kozienice ghetto. One day, David returned to the ghetto from his forced labour detail to find nearly everyone from his hometown—including his family—gone. They had been taken away in freight cars.
David was sent to the Pionki labour camp and, from there, to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was tattooed with prisoner number “B74.”
Over the next few years, he would survive working in coal mines in an Auschwitz subcamp and a harrowing death march. David eventually escaped into the forest and was liberated by Soviet soldiers. He weighed just 70 pounds.
After the war, David learned that his parents and siblings had been deported to the Treblinka killing centre, where they were murdered. Their loss stayed with him. “The pain never goes away.”
David eventually immigrated to the United States, where he volunteered at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “That’s all you have to do is remember what happened to him could happen again and again and again,” David reminded visitors. “one should not allow it to happen to anybody.”