BUILDING OF A NEW BUNKER
by Alexander Kimel-Holocaust Survivor
The pregnancy of our neighbor made the use of the old bunker dangerous. Our small community decided to build a new bunker, and hired Shmulek Barron, an excellent bunker builder, to manage the construction of a new bunker. After carefully surveying the alley he suggested to build the new bunker under the shed attached to our house. This was the same shed where my parents hid during the March 20 action.
The floor of the shed was excavated to a depth of about seven feet, and from than a six-foot wide bunker, was dug under the house. The excavated earth was spread evenly in the garden. All the work was done at night; each pail with the earth had to pass through a human chain, before being deposited. Supreme precaution had to be maintained, the work had to hidden from the German and from the neighbors.
The soil under the house was heavy clay, easy to excavate, and not requiring shoring up. Long benches sculptured in clay were created on each side. After the second bunker was finished, a false floor was built in the shed. The entrance to the bunker was constructed from the cellar, under the house. The cellar had an outside door entrance, easily accessible to all alley dwellers.
The new bunker complex was well masked. The masking door was located under an old "banbettel" or a wooden sleeping sofa. Upon opening of the trap door one entered a short tunnel leading toward the first bunker, used for hiding clothing, supplies and valuables. Under a pile of dirty clothing there was another masking door leading toward the main bunker.
Before the bunkers were finished, the problem of ventilation has arisen. "We need fresh air otherwise we will suffocate here. It will become a grave not a bunker," complained my father.
"I thought about this. Don't worry. We will drill a hole close to the wall and install a ventilation shaft alongside the wall masked as a storm leader," answered Shmulek the Builder.
To say "Don't worry " to my father was a signal that something is wrong. He strongly believed in the Peter's Principle, and worry he did.
Shmulek fashioned a special drilling tool from a hoe. The hoe was bent into a shape of a propeller. At the end of the pole he attached a long handle.
When we started to drill the ventilation shaft, the drilling went smoothly for some time, until we hit stones. The flimsy tool started to churn, and broke. A small hole remained, but my father found it inadequate. " We will suffocate here. It will be painful way to go. It is better to be shot than to suffocate. We need better ventilation."
"Don't worry," said Shmulek again. "I think we hit the foundation wall. We have to drill at a larger angle. We are going to make sufficient provisions for ventilation."
We started to drill again, and this time the full length of the pole disappeared without penetrating the surface. "What happened now?" Worried my father.
"Leon, don't break my neck. I am ready to quit. Don't worry I will find a solution," pleaded Shmulek.
He extended the drilling pole by attaching a second pole, and the drilling started again. After days of drilling, we reached the surface. It turned out that ventilation opening was about 5 feet from the wall.
"We will not be able to mask the ventilation pipe," complained my father.
"Don't worry," Shmulek gave his standard answer. "We will mask it with a bush."
"We have to make another attempt and drill through the foundation wall," suggested Father.
"We don't have the tool to drill through the stones. Either we stay with a smaller hole or with the larger hole 5 feet away from the wall."
My father insisted that another attempt is made, but he was overruled by the majority. My father was known in the ghetto as the "Schwarzeher" the Pessimist and people avoided him as. He used to tell the Jewish Policemen, pointing at his police hat "Throw away this funny hat and find a place to hide. This "tshako" won't save you."
Unfortunately, nobody listened to his advice. Nobody wanted to see the danger of faulty ventilation system. We paid the price later, when water penetrating trough the ventilation shaft caused the collapse of the bunker.