Ttestimony part 2 — uprooted in Krakow

Ttestimony part 2 — uprooted in Krakow

In Part 2 of the Margot Dränger interview, she describes her experiences as a new Polish immigrant in 1939 and 1940.


In November, the family was visited at their home by the SS to execute a revision, or seizure of personal goods on the pretext of taxation. The men wore black, leather coats. Margot's parents in their well-spoken German tried to reason with them. But Leiser's prized collection of camera equipment was confiscated, along with foodstuffs and a typewriter.

The Krakow apartment had a third bedroom that was unused. A German policeman was assigned to sleep there and live with the family. This SS man behaved properly and even provided the family with extra food ration cards.

Also living in the building were several Polish refugees from the newly Germanized Posen province. Margot remembers a Polish doctor and a tram director originally from the town of Krosno who helped by holding money and items for the family. They both returned the valuables later. 

Another of the Posen Poles was a farmer who bred rabbits on the terrace. Soon the Lieblich family was ordered to vacate the apartment entirely. 

At that point, Margot went with her uncle and cousin to a safe home in Tarnow, where her parents rented yet another apartment, in the heavily-Jewish Kazimierz district. There, they made acquaintance with a circle of Jewish journalists and historians, including the well-known Juzek Wulf.  

Margot returned to Krakow in early 1940. By now, it was required to wear armbands. She had to endure a racial inspection, in which body measurements were taken and she was given a gynecological exam. Jewish doctors gave the exam while German administrators stood by and took notes. 

As an able bodied young woman, Margot was assigned to manual labor. It was winter and she shoveled snow. She was not well-suited to it. 


Everybody knew Jews were to be expelled from Krakow, or else confined to a ghetto. Before then, Jews could accept a voluntary expulsion, and that is what happened to Margot, her uncle and cousin. 

Expecting to be safely sent by transport to Warsaw, they arrived with their one suitcase and found themselves stuffed into cattle cars, without food, water or air. 

In Warsaw, where typhus was out of control in the ghetto, the train was diverted toward the Russian border at Biala Podlaska. There, the train doors were thrown open and the people were told to run into the fields. 

Margot and others arrived at a nearby town, where poor local Jews sheltered them for several weeks. Margot was able to reach her parents by post. They had by now relocated to the town of Wisnicz Nowy near to Bochnia. After several weeks, Margot, her uncle and cousin were able to join them there. 

Wisnicz was traditionally a center of Jewish life, and it was one of the places that Jews could still go after they were evicted in Krakow. Margot says there were a lot of young people there, and it is where she got to know her future husband Jerzy Dränger, who was also living with his family members who had located from Krakow. 


One of Jerzy's brothers, Shimon Draenger, had been active in the Jewish youth movement Akiba in Krakow, and had lived at an early kibbutz located at Kopalina near Wisnicz. By 1939, he was publishing a dissident newspaper and with his friend Dolek Liebeskind was a leader of an emerging Jewish resistance movement in Krakow. Shimon's wife Gusta Davidson was another participant. 

Shimon and Gusta had already been sent to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, but the Dränger father had managed to use his influence to get them released. Now by the middle of 1940, they were organizing young people to resist the Nazis. They were called the Zydowksa Organizacja Bojowa, or Jewish Fighting Organization.

"They had the goal not to submit but to fight against the Germans. They stole guns and revolvers, they stole uniforms. They attacked nightclubs. They bonded with other partisan groups in Warsaw and across Poland."

Several of their operations in Krakow targeted locations frequented by off-duty Nazi officials and military officers. In December 1942, a raid led by Liebeskind killed seven German officers at the Cyganeria Cafe. 


As Margot's relationship with Jerzy grew, she found herself increasingly entangled with the network of people supporting the resistance. 

Margot lived with her parents in a room rented from a Polish prison guard. They were acquainted with a number of people in the foothill town of the Carpathian Mountains. There was a Christian doctor Fordensky who helped the family, and also the notary they were friends with. 

They had to wear the armband but were otherwise free to move about. For a time their existence was tolerable. Then one day the Germans came in and rounded up all the young men, including Jerzy Dränger, and sent them to the work camp Plaszow, near to Krakow. 

Jerzy was confined to a prison barrack and worked hard labor at a Siemens rail yard. Over a period of weeks or months, he began to grow weak. Margot convinced her father to pay substantial bribes to win Jerzy's release, but he returned to Wisnicz sick with typhus. 

Dr. Fordensky and another Jewish doctor nursed him back to health. As did Margot, who was devoted to him even though they were not yet married. By now it was late in 1941.