Interview with Moshe Krell.

Pembroke Pines, Florida, USA.

Sunday, February 10, 2008.

I, Moshe Krell, was born September 15, 1921 in Klodawa, a small town in central Poland between Warsaw and Poznan about 150 km between each city.  The big city to where the people of Klodawa used to travel on business, or to relatives, was Lodz.  The population of Klodawa in the late 1930’s was around 5000, of which counted 350 Jewish families.   They lived mostly in the center of town and had small stores of every kind and also workshops like tailors, shoe makers, butchers, bakeries, etc..




There was a big schul and a Bet Midresh.  My father was not very religious.  He belonged in the shul, and had a steady seat in the shul, went there every Friday and Saturday and holidays, and took me and my brother Motek along. 

The Shul of Klodawa. c. 1935

Before 1914 Poland was divided between Russia, Germany, and Austria.  Klodawa was in Russian territory.  When the First World War broke out my father David was mobilized to the army.  In 1915 he was injured and his unit fell to the German and they became war prisoners.  He was freed in 1918 abd came back home to Klodawa.  When he was young, he learned to be a baker, so after he came back to Klodawa he rented, or leased, a house from the Biczwinski family, and made there a bakery and also living quarters.  My mother was born in Lodz.  Her name was Dvora.  Her grandparents lived in Klodawa.  She and her sister Lea used to come in the summer to Klodawa.  That’s how my parents met, and in 1919 they were married.  My father’s brother, Shija, two years younger, fell in love with Lea and they were also married.   So, two brothers married two sisters.  Lea and Shija never had children.  As I recall, besides being brothers and sisters, they were very close—always together.

Lea (left) Moshe's mother's sister.

Dvora (right) Moshe's mother.

David Krell Moshe's father.

The bakery was a big success. I remember the crowds in the store, especially on the market days, Tuesdays and Fridays, when the farmers came to town to sell their goods and to buy things.  My father took in the bakery his nephew, Leizer, Tola’s oldest brother, as an apprentice to be a baker, and he was with us all those years.  He became the master baker, because my father was busy in the store, more about Leizer later in my writings. 

In center of our town was an old dilapidated building and in 1929 my parents bought the building.  Downstairs was the bakery, storage for flour, and the store.  Upstairs were our living quarters.  We opened the new bakery and moved in, I believe in 1932 or 1933.  Uncle Shija and Lea had a small grocery store a few streets away from us, and during the summer he made ice cream and had a stand outside our store, because it was a central location.  There was another Krell family, an older brother, they lived in Przedecz a neighbouring small town.  He was a tailor. He lived with his family in an old house.  Their kitchen doubled as the tailor shop.  They had two sons who worked with their father.  I used to see them seldom, because as boys we bicycled to Przedecz, 7 km from us.

In Klodawa also lived a widow Krasel Krell.  She had one daughter, Genia.  Her husband, my father’s brother was dead.  I never knew him.  Krasel was a good looking woman, and my cousin Genia a beautiful girl, one year older than I.

My cousin Tola’s family consisted only of brothers and sisters.  Their parents died young.  I don’t remember them, but I remember their house.  It was a cluster of wooden houses and in them lived a few families. In the back was a big lot where we used to play soccer (football).  Tola was the youngest.  She had two sisters Shaina and Gitel.  Also, two brothers, one worked as a tailor, and the oldest was Liezer who worked in our bakery.

Tola before the war was not always in Klodawa.  Like many young people, she went to the big cities looking for work and income.  Klodawa was too small for some opportunities.  She used to come home for the holidays, and during summer we all got together.  She had blonde hair and blue eyes, so during the Holocaust she looked Polish and worked for a Polish family as a nanny to their children.  That’s how she survived, but she never told me any details of that period of her life.   She was the only survivor of her immediate family.  Liezer, her oldest brother, worked in our bakery until 1939, the beginning of the war.  He had two helpers, Polish boys.  They called him “Master”. 

In Tola’s family cluster buildings also lived my father’s only sister.  Her name was Esther. She was married to a religious man who could not make a living for the family, and my father supported them.  They had a few children.  The oldest was a few years younger than I.  Her name was Ita.  With them lived my grandmother, the Krell’s matriarch.  Her name  was Chana.  She was very religious.  Her nickname was the “frume” Chana—(pious Chana).  She used to come to the bakery very often to check if the bakers took the chala from each batch of dough and throw it in the oven to burn.  Everybody was afraid of her, and when they saw her coming, they would grab a few pieces of dough and throw it in the oven to show her that they did not forget to take chala.

My family consisted of two more brothers, Motek and Shmulek, and the last one was a girl, Jadzia, named after my mother’s mother Jochavet.  She was loved by everyone, a beautiful little girl, a princess.  My mother worked in the store.  She used to go down around 8:00 in the morning.  My father was there already since 6 a.m. to assemble the merchandise and to check if the baking goods came out nice.   We had a maid. She had a room upstairs.  She did all the household chores, because my mother was busy in the store.  I remember her being with us for many years. 

Motek Krell
Schmuel Krell

Jadzia Krell

My mother’s family, two brothers and two sisters lived in Lodz, and one sister lived in Kutno, a city 30 km from Klodawa.  My cousins from Lodz used to come to us during the summer to escape the Lodz heat and humidity.  Sometimes my mother went to Lodz to see the family. 

When I was a teenager I also helped out in the store whenever I had time and mostly in the summer when we had off from school.  I remember I liked better to go into the bake shop to watch Leizer and the boys are making things.  I was very close with my cousin Leizer.  He was to me like a brother.  Every Friday night he ate dinner with us until he married a Klodawa girl, Cheplinski in year 1936.  They had a boy in 1938.  When the war broke out he was a baby.   I remember him. He was a gorgeous looking boy.  They perished in the Holocaust.  Later in my writing about Leizer.

The school in Klodawa consisted of seven grades general education.  Whoever could afford financially sent the children to high school in a bigger city.  I and also all the Jewish boys went to Cheder starting at age 5.   After age 7, when we started the regular school, we went to cheder afternoons, after our school hours.  After I graduated from my 7 class, my parents applied for me to be admitted to a private Jewish high school in Kutno, and in 1937 I started there.  I lived with my aunt, my mother’s sister.  They had a paint store.  My uncle was already dead, and the store was managed by their son Symcha.   His age was in the mid-20’s.  I still have very good memories of that time.  Kutno was a nice city and also made good friends with my fellow students. 

Klodawa Cheder c. 1935.

Moshe's brothers: Shmuel: first boy on left standing in the second row. Motek: Last boy on the right sitting in the first row.

For the two months vacation, I went back home to Klodawa.  When the Germans attacked Poland, September 1, 1939, I was in Klodawa.  In the third day of the war, the Germans came to our town in motorized columns on their way to Warsaw.  A small group of them stationed themselves in our town and they became the bosses.  Also, in Klodawa and around the village lived many Germans.  They owned big farms and also different businesses in town.  Before the war, they were very friendly with the Jews.  My parents knew many.  I remember one rich farmer from the village Chodawa, used to come Friday afternoon.  He liked gefilte fish and mother served him a piece.  He ate this in the back of the store.  We had a room between the bake shop and the store. 

Right after the Germans occupied the town, the folks-Deutch took over the city hall and one became mayor.  The real bosses were the Gestapo and immediately started humiliating the Jews.  They went to the shul and took out all the worshippers with the talism on their shoulders and told them to clean up the streets, and also gather the horse manure with their bare hands.  It was a terrible scene to watch.  Later, also they killed a man named Henrich, because in his back yard the Poles buried a German spy.  They killed another man named Shymon Chostkowski.  He was the leader of the Bietar in our town.  They also put up posters that the Jews should give up all their gold pieces and all valuables on threat of being killed otherwise. 

In October, 1939, started circulating rumors that all young men will be taken to the French front where the Germans started there the war.  At that time my parents and I decided that I should escape to the eastern part of Poland where the Russians took over, and stay there a “few weeks until the war will end.”  Many other young men from our town did the same.  It was the end of October, and it was impossible to travel for Jews by train.  So, I and two more boys, Josef German, and Israel Kibel decided to travel on bicycles.  It was over 150 km .  Before each city the Germans had check points, so we needed a paper showing where we are going.  Luckily, my father knew the mayor and he gave us a paper (beshining) that we are looking for brothers who disappeared during the war.  It was signed and with a German stamp.  We found out later when we were stopped that this paper saved us.  They just looked at the paper and let us go.

Israel Kibel
Joseph German

It took 7 days on bicycles to reach the border.  It was a small town where on one side was German, the other Russian.  Between them about 1 km wide was nobody’s land, and there were lying many yong men and they told us that the Russians say the border is closed, and to go back to where we came.  We also found out that for money, some Poles who lived nearby will smuggle us through the woods.  We got in touch with one smuggler and in the middle of the night he took us.  But, instead to take us to the border, he deposited us to a German unit and disappeared.  The soldiers took away our watches and other small things they found in our pockets.  Then they let us go and told us to go to the end of the woods, and there is a road that belongs to the Russians, and to wait until daytime in the clearing before the road, and then jump on the bicycles and go.  This was a main road from Lomze to Bialystok.  When we saw that no trucks or cars were passing by, we jumped on the bicycles and went about 7 km from there where there is a town Zarembly Kescielne. 

The town people were like in holiday mood.  The Russian soldiers wer playing and dancing together with the population.  We could not belive it!  For us it was like coming from hell to a paradise!  The Jews did business with the Russians and we sold our bicycles there.  We did not need them any more.  In the center of town was a train station and you could go by train free of charge.  The big city was Bialystok and all the refugees went there, and so we did.  The city was very crowded with thousands of people—runaways from the Germans.  We were sleeping on the floors in schools, theaters, hallways, etc..

At that time, the Russians had offices where they signed up people who want to go to work in Russia.  We decided this will be good for us, so we registered there and after a couple of days we boarded a cargo train that took us to Russia.  In some towns or cities that we passed, they unhooked one car.  We wound up in a Bella-Russian town, Puchowiczy.  We were about 150 people.  They took us to a big hall and gave us dinner and made some speeches about the glory of the Soviet Union.  Then we approached tables where some officials registered us, and asked what trade everybody has.  I said I am a baker, so I was sent to a bakery.  Also, the three of us from Klodawa received a room in a house with a family. 

The next day when I came to the bakery, I met 3 more bakers from our group.  They were older then I, and were real bakers.  They gave me a hard time, and complained that I do not know anything.  But, I learned and survived. It was a big wholesale bakery for bread and rolls, and also a small department for bagels.  Many of the refugees were disappointed, heartbroken, did not want to work, and illegally boarded trains back to Bialystok, and maybe later home. 

At this time I found out that my cousin Leizer in in Baranowich, a city in Poland under Russia.  We wrote to each other.  His heart was broken and miserable, because he missed his wife and his son.  He worked there in a bakery, and was looking for ways to go back to Klodawa. In 1941, when the Germans attacked Russia, he was in Baranowich and got killed there.

In the school in Puchowiczy, they organized evening classes to teach Russian.  I was eager to attend to be able to read newspapers and books.  It was not hard for me to learn, and after a couple of months I was literate.  The teacher was a young man, and after a few months when he saw that my Russian is pretty good, one evening he asked me if I would like to go to a regular school, because I can learn a nice profession, and not work in a bakery.  The higher learning schools that teach you a profession, provide for you all your needs like food, room and uniforms.  He spoke to the principal about me, and by the end of the summer in 1940 they admitted me to a technicum in Gomel, a big city in Bielo-Rusia on a big river.  They taught here students to become river boat captains, mechanics, and navigators.  It was a four year course.  All students lived and ate there. 

Beginning of 1941 started the summer recess, the school was closed and all the students went back home.  In Minsk, the capital of Bielo-
Rusia, lived and workd two brothers, Widman, from Klodawa.  They invited me to stay with them for the summer, and they will find a temporary job for me.  About ten days after I came to Minsk, the war started.  Germany attacked Russia the 22nd of June, 1941.  The next day, June 23rd, in the morning, a squadron of planes started to bombard the city.  One group of planes left, then another came.  It lasted a whole day.  In the evening we left.  The Widman brothers had an apartment at the outskirts of Minsk.  We decided to walk east from the city.  On the roads were also walking a lot of people.  About 60 km east of Minsk was Puchowichy, where I used to live.  So, we headed there. 

During the daytime, German planes flew low and with machine guns shot the roads.  In confusion, I got separated from the brothers.  I never met or saw them again.  To this day, I do not know what happened to them.  After a couple of days of wandering, I arrived in Puchowichy.  My friends were still there, but the situation was chaotic.  We saw a few trucks lined up at government buildings with politicians running away.  We assumed that the front comes closer, so we should also go away.   We decided to walk along side railroad tracks and hoping to board a train.  Many cargo trains with open platforms evacuated some machinery to the east.  At one station, we jumped to such a platform and wherever the train was going we went, and so were many more people.

After a week and a few days, the last stop was Penza, a big city not far from the Ural Mountains.  The train was surrounded with police and NKVD, and they took out all the passengers.  After examining us, my friend Josef and I were sent to a kolkhoz [collective farm] to work, because all the men were in the army, and they were short in workers.  It was a warm summer.  We slept in an abandoned shack, and worked in the fields.  The cooked food for everybody right there in the field, and we ate together. 

Late September the work outside was done and did not need us anymore, and they gave us a few pounds of flour.  Also, got colder and in the city we found out from other refugees that everybody goes to Tashkent where it is warm.   We baked some flat bread from our flour, and joined the others to board a cargo train that goes in that direction.  After many weeks of stopovers and changing trains, we arrived in Tashkent.  The city was very crowded with refugees that arrived here before us.  Many from Siberia camps (like Michael Pizer and Jurek Francuz) where they were sent because they did not want to take a Russian passport.  The Russians released them now that some of them can joinf the new organized Polish brigade to fight the Germans.

People were laying in the parks and sleeping on the grass.  It was warm.  I and my friend decided to go to another Uzbek city, Fergana.  There was rumors that this is a nice and warm town.  We did not regret.  It was heaven for us.  Vendors were selling candies and other things and stores were open.  Also, the climate was much better.  Fergana is situated in a valley—a fertile valley.  The Uzbek farmers brought to the open bazaar all kinds of food—a lot of fruit.  The most popular fruit is called “uruk”-very tasty, similar to apricots, but sweeter.  The Fergana Valley was full of them.  Now it was time to find a job and a room.

I was interested to work in a bakery, so I went to government office that managed all bakeries in town.  There were six bakeries that baked only dark bread.  The manager was a Jewish man evacuated  from Odessa.  After I told him where I worked, he hired me, and gave me a paper to present to the manager of Bakery #6, and I started to work there. 

We rented a room in an old Uzbek house.  My friend got a job in a factory.  The work was manual, not machinery.  The workers were middle-aged Uzbeks who did not qualify as soldiers.  There were two shifts, daytime or night.  One day I saw another Jewish boy working there.  He was a few years older than I, and we got friendly.  He told me that he is married, and lives in a village 5 km outside Fergana with his wife, her parents, and two small brothers of his wife.

One day after work we went there and I was impressed with  the family.  They cooked home made dinners, like old times.  He talked me into coming to live with them, and for the bread we got after work, I can eat together with them, and be a member of the family.  The father used to sell the bread we brought, and bought other foods for cooking and eating.  It was a good arrangement for everybody, and with time, as we got more knowledgable, we brought home more bread.  In those times bread was KING!

In this village lived another refugee family, the Murachowskis.  That is where I met Frida, and, of course, the whole family.  We used to go for walks in the village, talk, and I believe [we] liked each other from the beginning.  Frida and her sister Liuba, worked in a factory for making canned food for the army.  The father was mobilized to work in a factory near Moscow.  The mother, Mara and Batia were home.

In July, 1942 I received a notice that I will have to go to the army and in September they brought me to Novosibirsk, a military camp.  It was an artillery unit for a six month course before we are shipped to the front. I remember it was very cold and snow until the windows of the barracks.  The latrine was away from the barracks and to get there and back was a rope to hold on, otherwise you would get lost.   A week or so before the end of the six months, at the morning appeal, an officer said he will call names and these people should report to the office.  We were around 100 boys, and he said since we are from Poland, they cannot take us to the Russian army, and we should join the Polish army which is now being organized.  In the meantime, we should go back from where we came, and register by the authorities, and they will let us know.  I went back to work, but the family I was with left the village, and I rented a bed in a room with a refugee couple in Fergana, of course for bread.

Frida’s father came back from his work camp and they moved to the city with another couple.  After the Gremans were defeated in Stalingrad, the Russian army started to advance and started to free the occupied citied and towns.  Fergana was a lively city.  It did not feel like a war is still going on.  In the park were every night dances, shows, and movies.  Frida and I went there very often.  I had one more sting with the army-the Polish brigade.  I was drafted and sent to central Russia where the Polish division called “Wanda Wasilewski” as organized.  However, there were too many Jewish boys, and not enough “real” Poles, so they disqualified us, and we were sent back to the places where we came from. 

It was about September, 1943 when I met two bakers, Jule and Goldberg who worked in an “artel” bakery, and asked me to join them there.  “Artel” means semi-governmental.   We received a certain amount of raw materials, and have to deliver a set finished things.  In our case, we received flour and had to deliver bread.  It was a terrific change for me.  I had plenty of everything.

Around July, 1944, Kishenew, the city Frida and family used to live, was in Russian hands, so the father decided to go back home with the family.  I spoke with Frida’s father that we will get married, and Frida will stay with me until we will be able to go back to Poland.  We were married October 15, 1944, and right after that the Murachowski family went back to Kishinew.  Their house was destroyed, and no Jews lived there, so they moved to Chernowic, where everything was like before the war—the houses, factories, stores, and market place. [At my visit in January of 2008, Frida explained all was left in tact because this town was in the Austrian part of Romania, so the Germans did not attack during the war.]

Avruhum Murachowski was always a businessman, so he put up a stall in the market, and was selling soap and other things.  Frida and I lived in Fergana, and we were good up.  In the beginning of 1945, when Poland was freed, we started to make plans to go back home.  Frida suggested to stop in Chernowic to say good-bye to her family.  I agreed, and we came to Chernowic in the spring of 1945.

There was an office for refugees to register to go back to their countries.  I got to know a Polish officer, and registered the who Marachowski family as Polish citizens, and we all came to Lodz.  The city was very crowded.  Many families lived together.  Frida was pregnant.  On April 28th David and Dvorah arrived.  They were very small and mother Sara took charge of the situation.  Also, Frida’s sisters helped a lot.  We found a nice apartment on Gdanska Street, and lived there for a few months.  The UNRA, along with the Zionist organization, and the Bricha-an organization of Palestine Jews, were establishing camps in Germany for Jewish refugees, and everybody wanted to go there.  But, with two babies would be impossible to cross the border illegally. 

We found out that if we can come to Vienna, Austria, the boys from the Bricha will wait there and transfer us to Germany.  Father Abraham and Roni Liuba’s husband went to Warsaw and obtained from the Romanian consul, a paper that we are going back to Romania.  In Vienna, the train stopped and the Bricha boys took out all the Jews as it was planned.  They put us up for one night in Rothshchild Hospital, and then on a train to Germany to different camps.  We wound up in Shlupfing about 8 km from Passau in Bayern.  The houses were barracks for soldiers.  We got one room, and so had Liba and her husband Roni, and one room for the parents with Mara and Batia.  The UNRA supplied us with some packaged food, and also used clothing.  There was a big farm not so far away, and I used to buy there milk for the children. 

In 1947, Frida’s parents moved to a big camp nearby, Waldstat, and they opened a little grocery store.  By that time, also, people started to move away to different countries, and our camp was liquidated, and we moved to Backnang, a nice city near Stuttgart.  It was a big building, and we received a nice size room.  In 1948, after the creation of the State of Israel, everybody started to think of moving there.  Also, people who had relatives in different countries lke Canada, the U.S., or Australia, went there. 


Frida’s parents signed to go to Israel, and in September 1948 they arrived there.  Abraham’s sister, Leika, her husband Motel and family lived in Givataim in a beautiful apartment, and were very good up.  I understand they helped them a little, but not too much.  So my father-in-law and family went to Jaffa, and took over a room in an Arabic building where it was a bank.   It was a very hard time.  Thousands of refugees came in every day.  There was a shortage of shelter and food.  We received letters from them with mixed emotions.  We could not remain longer in Germany, and we did not have any body in a different countries.  We signed up to go to Israel and we arrived there Purim time, 1949.

I forgot to mention the in Shlupfing and Backnang we made good friends with whom we socialized.  We were neighbors with Lena and Zalef Pinchewski [from Klodawa].  Their son Val went to school with our children David and Dvorah.  They had a brother in Australia, and after being in Israel for about eight years, they went there.  On our tour to Australia and New Zealand in the 1990’s, we stayed with them a few days, and we were writing to each other all the time.

At that time in 1949, it was very hard times in Israel.  A big influx of refugees, no work and no shelter.  In the building where Frida’s parents lived, the previous bank building, we made a wall and created a room.   We brought a refrigerator from Germany, so from the wood it was packed, we made a little kitchen next to the room.  Zalef Pinchewski’s family found a dilapidated little house in Jazur, and he told me that a group of bakers are starting there a bakery.  I went there and joined the group.  We were eight people, and after we built a big oven, we started to work and distributed the bread to the grocery stores. 

From Jaffa to Jazur is about six km, and I bicycled there and back home every day.  About two years later, the government gave land to Jazur for building houses.  We joined a group of people and hired a building company that built our houses.  We had two dunacres (?) land, and planted fruit trees and vegetables.  Also, the Pinchewskis were with us in the group, and the Miller family with whom we got friendly in the bakery.

After the work in the bakery, we had to do a lot of work in the houses, and around them, but  we were young and had a lot of friends nearby.  Those were happy times.  The children, David and Debbie were in school and had good friends.  Our baking in Jazur was not successful.  We did not have machinery.  Everything was made by hand, and competition from a big bakery in Cholon.  It was time to move on.

I got in touch with bakers in Tel Aviv and became a partner in a good bakery.  We sold the house in Jazur and moved to Tel Aviv.  Mrs. Malka Miller had two sisters and a brother in the United States, and in 1946 or 1947 they left Israel and settled in New York.  They were a family of four: Mr. and Mrs. Miller and two boys, Motek and Jehunda.

About the same time Zalel Pinchewski received papers from his brother in Australia and after a few weeks they also left and settled in Sidney.  They were Zalel, Lena, and two boys Val and Leo.  After the Millers established themselves, he wrote to us how much better they are in New York, and also urged us to leave Israel for America.  We did not know what to do.  I, at that time, was a partner in a good bakery, and we had a nice apartment.  After some soul searching and wrangling, we decided to leave Israel.  Frida’s mother Sara was in favor for us to go.  She said to Israel you can always come, but if you have a chance to go to America you should go.

We did not have any relatives in the U.S. to send us papers, so Mr. Miller went to a lawyer who made for me preference papers as a specialty baker [pumpernickel/dark bread!]  We decided that I will go by myself, and if I will establish myself, Frida and the children will follow.  Also, it was January 1959, and the children wanted to finish the school year. 

When I came to New York, the biggest baker strike started.  All big bakeries were closed and the small ones hired more baker temporarily because they were very busy.  I was sent from the union to different bakeries to work, but not everyday.  I had mixed feelings about staying here, or to go back to Israel.  I wrote letters to my family, and drove them crazy with my indecision.  Finally, I decided to stay here, and sent them papers to come.

After David and Debbie finished the school year, they made arrangements to board a ship. In the meantime, I rented a two- bedroom apartment on Amboy Street in Brooklyn. I was lucky to find a full set of furniture for the two bedrooms, new from a young woman who was supposed to get married, but at the last minute they changed their mind. 

Frida and the children came in the summer of 1959. By that time, I got a job in a big bakery in Brooklyn.  It was a daytime job, which was very rare in the bakery business.  Frida also went to an ORT school to learn to work on a marrow machine.  After she learned that, she got a job in a factory of sweaters.  We made good salaries and moved to a nice apartment on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.

In 1965 we bought a two family house in Canarcie.  In one apartment we lived, and one apartment we rented.  David and Debbie finished high school and went to college.  Debbie in Brooklyn, and David in Queens where he graduated in economics.

Time flies very fast when you get old.  We have now five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.  Thank God they are all in good health, and we love them very much.  Debbie’s husband, our son-in-law Harry, has a brokerage firm on Wall Street, and is doing well.  David is the CEO in a company that he founded and is famous in the industry.