Oral History Interview with Charlotte Bing

Charlotte Bing was born in 1918 in Bielsko (Bielitz), Poland, a textile town near the German border. Charlotte describes her town and explains that most of the 8,000 Jews were financially well off. She details her schooling at a Jewish school for four years and then at a German high school. She discusses pre-war antisemitism and also the good relations between the rabbi and the Catholic priest, but that the priest would not step in to say anything about his parishioners hurting Jews unless the rabbi requested it of him.

Charlotte recounts that in 1938 Polish Jews living in Germany—who were deported back to Poland—were helped by the Jews of Bielsko. She vividly recalls the blatant antisemitism exhibited by Polish citizens when Germans took over the city and the anti-Jewish measures that began. The SS rounded up all of the Jewish men. Jews were ordered to give up their money and gold. Jewish children could not go to school and Jewish stores were not permitted to operate. Her family fled to Wadowice thinking that the Germans would not come further into Poland, but were again forced to flee after six weeks. Charlotte describes the escape of her family and her fiancée to Krakow. After a year in Krakow, the entire Jewish community was deported to the Plaszow Ghetto. Charlotte describes in detail the creation of the ghetto, conditions, forced labor, scarcity of food, and the clandestine education of children. She describes how work at menial jobs was organized by Germans, assisted by selected members of the Jewish community.
At the end of 1942 Charlotte and her husband were transferred to the Majdanek concentration camp Charlotte describes their arrival (in sealed cars, no food/water, toilet). She witnessed atrocities (including the killing of a baby) upon their arrival. She details her work as translator and laying rail lines and an injury that never healed, as well as conditions in the camp. She also details frequent visits by Adolph Eichmann.
The Soviet army liberated the camp in July – August 1944 and the first Jewish community in Europe was formed nearby. Food and clothing came from the Russians and from Jews living in Palestine. Charlotte describes the immense difficulty faced by people who came to reclaim children taken in by Polish families and children searching for their parents. She details post-war threats by Poles (liberated Polish political prisoners known as ACOFTA), who targeted her husband. She describes their flight through Krakow and Czechoslovakia to Germany and recounts their very difficult time getting visas to emigrate to the United States. In October of 1945 they secured menial work on a U.S. Military transport plane as a means of coming to the United States, where they joined family in New York.

Date: 02/11/1981
Interviewer: Fred Stamm
Interviewee: Charlotte Bing
Language: English
Subject: World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives, Jewish
Majdanek (Concentration camp)
ACOFTA, Organized Polish Nationalist Prisoners
Eichmann, Adolf, 1906-1962
Location: Bielsko-Biala, Poland
Wadowice, Poland
Plaszów Ghetto, Poland
Lublin-Majdanek concentration camp
Krakow, Poland
Permalink: https://hoha.digitalcollections.gratzcollege.edu/item/oral-history-interview-with-charlotte-bing/