Gone to Pitchipoi: A Boy's Desperate Fight for Survival in Wartime

Gone to Pitchipoi: A Boy's Desperate Fight for Survival in Wartime

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Rubin Katz

Series: Jews of Poland
ISBN: 9781618112347 (hardcover) / 9781618112743 (paper)
Pages: 348 pp.
Publication Date: October 2012

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This poignant memoir describes the survival of a Jewish child in the hell of Nazi occupied Poland. Rubin Katz was born in Ostrowiec Swietokrzyskie, Poland, in 1931. At the time this town, located in the picturesque countryside of central Poland 42 miles south of Radom, had a population of nearly 30,000, of whom more than a third were Jews. The persistence of traditional ways of life and the importance of the local hasidic rebbe, Yechiel-Meier (Halevi) Halsztok, as well as the introduction of such modernities as bubble gum, are clearly and effectively described here. This memoir is remarkable for the ability of its author to recall so many events in detail and for the way he is able to be fair to all those caught up in the tragic dilemmas of those years. It is a major contribution to our understanding of the fate of Jews in smaller Polish towns during the Second World War and the conditions which made it possible for some of them, like Rubin, to survive.

Rubin Katz was born in 1931 in Poland. Soon after World War II, he was brought to England at the age of fourteen by the legendary Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld with the first post-war transport of child-survivors from Warsaw. Having tried his hand at various jobs he ultimately built up a successful textile business in the historic Lace Market district of Nottingham, which flourished for over twenty-five years. Married, with three grown-up children, Rubin Katz is retired and resides in London.

Katz, who now lives in London, was just eight when his education was interrupted and he embarked on a scarcely believable flight to survive, helped by extremely brave members of his family. . . . Few children would be capable, having been catapulted from [an idyllic childhood] into a life on the run, of living on their wits as Katz did, pretending to be a Christian, disguising himself in Warsaw and hiding from the SS.
— Jenni Frazer, The Jewish Chronicle, March 7, 2014
[A] miraculous tale . . . beautifully and sensitively written, Gone to Pitchipoi is an important addition to Holocaust study. It will most definitely be highly appreciated by the layman and scholar alike.
— Dr. Diane Cypkin, Pace University, in Martyrdom & Resistance (Yad Vashem), January/February 2014
Gone to Pitchipoi is the true and extraordinary story of a Jewish boy’s experiences alone and on the run from the Nazis in wartime Poland. It’s a book of non-fiction, but it’s also a gripping and very well-told adventure story, written from the perspective of the boy, and certainly one of the most vivid accounts of holocaust survival I have read. . . . Highly recommended.
— Gary Snapper, Editor, in Teaching English (published by the National Association for The Teaching of English, United Kingdom)
This is a gripping, dramatic tale, more riveting than the most powerfully vivid novel, since it is truth and not fiction. The author has a photographic memory, and the amazing details from his youth—ages 8 to 13—are related in great pathos, anguish and eloquence. . . . Every Jew and every human being who wants to appreciate the bestiality of the Shoah must read this very important book.
— Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, JewishMediaReview
[E]ven among the most thorough accounts, this Holocaust narrative is special—for being a fine piece of writing, for its keen insight and for setting the story in its historical context. . . . Told in a vivid and engrossing style, this remarkable memoir depicts the entire range of the hidden child’s experiences in Poland.
— Rachelle Goldstein, editor, The Hidden Child Foundation newsletter
[Katz’s] story is compelling, drawing you in with each twist of fate and ingenuity as he defies detection and death time and time again. Beautifully and insightfully told, his story takes us behind the scenes. We see the normality of life for those who were not under threat and simultaneously the hostility and treachery that threatened those who were marked for death.
— Dr. Stephen D. Smith, OBE Executive Director, USC Shoah Foundation Institute

Table of Contents

Foreword by
Stephen Smith
Introduction by Antony Polonsky

A Carefree Childhood
Chapter 1:
War! War! Is Their Cry
Chapter 2:
The Nightmare Begins
Chapter 3:
The Large Ghetto
Chapter 4:
In the Hen-House
Chapter 5:
Gone to Pitchipoï
Chapter 6:
Like a Ghetto Rat
Chapter 7:
The Brickyard
Chapter 8:
A Shallow Grave
Chapter 9:
Deadly Encounter
Chapter 10:
My Guardian Angel
Chapter 11:
An “Angel” in Nazi Uniform
Chapter 12:
Jewish Pilgrim at the Black Madonna
Chapter 13:
The Warsaw Inferno
Chapter 14:
Shelter at a Police Colony
Chapter 15:
“Robinson Crusoe”
Chapter 16:
Stefek: Leader of the Gang
Chapter 17:
A Shaft of Light
Chapter 18:
Lublin Orphanage
Chapter 19:
Shattered Homecoming
Chapter 20:
Passage to Tower Bridge
Chapter 21:
Adieu Poland: Welcome to Woodberry Down