The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Marian Domanski

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Born
June 20, 1928 Otwock, Poland

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1970 Toronto, Ontario

On the run in Nazi-occupied Poland, thirteen-year-old orphan Marian Finkelman — later Domanski — was forced to grow up much too early. When he finally escaped the ghetto in his hometown, Marian’s perfect Polish and fair complexion helped him narrowly escape death as he travelled through the Polish countryside.

About Marian

Marian (Finkelman) Domanski was born in Otwock, Poland, in 1928. He joined the Polish air force after the war and worked as a photographer before moving to Denmark in 1968. He immigrated to Canada two years later and was very active in Toronto’s Polish-Jewish community until his death in 2012.

Photos and Artifacts

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    One of the gates in the Otwock ghetto, on Warszawska Street, guarded by a German soldier. Marian lived in the ghetto from 1940 to 1942. (Photo courtesy of Otwock Museum)

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    The deportation of Otwock Jews to Treblinka on August 19, 1942. The photo was taken by a passenger from a passing train. Marian departed Otwock in April, 1942. (Photo courtesy of Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw.)

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    The Kennkarte – identity card required by the German regulations during World War II – that Marian acquired to “prove” that he was not Jewish. (Photo 1 of 2)

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    The Kennkarte – identity card required by the German regulations during World War II – that Marian acquired to “prove” that he was not Jewish. (Photo 2 of 2)

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    Marian at about seventeen years old. The photo was taken while he was working in a photo studio in Dzierżoniów in 1946.

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    Marian at the swimming pool in Piotrolesie, 1947.

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    Marian at the air force technical school in Bemowo, 1950.

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    Marian's school, School No. 2, viewed from Karczewska Street. The photo was taken in 2005. (Photo courtesy of Piotr Cmiel)

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    The Świder River, which flows near Otwock. (Photo courtesy of Jan Tabencki)

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    The Villa Maria on Samorzadowa Street, Otwock. During the German occupation, it housed the headquarters of the Jewish ghetto police. (Photo courtesy of Justyna Gornowicz)

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    A house with a thatched roof, typical of those in the region where Marian spent the war. It is similar to the house outside Włodawa where he was offered lodging while he was on his way to see his family in Dubeczno in April 1942. The photo was taken by Marian in 1993.

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    Paul Siedlecki’s farm near Łuków, where Marian stayed in the summer of 1943. The photo was taken by Marian in 1993.

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    The memorial commemorating the mass murder of 2,000 Otwock Jews after the liquidation of the Otwock ghetto.

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    Krystyna Danko, from Marian's hometown of Otwock, who hid and provided for the Kokoszko family. She was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations from the Yad Vashem Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in 1999. Warsaw, 2007.

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    The Karczew cemetery, in Marian's hometown of Otwock, where most of the gravestones have been overturned or built over. At the time of the war, the cemetery was on the outskirts of Otwock. This photo was taken by Marian in 1993.

The Book

Cover of Fleeing from the Hunter
2011 Independent Publisher Silver Medal Winner

Fleeing from the Hunter

I asked myself, Am I a criminal doomed for execution? I was determined to run away… that thought never left my mind.

Explore more of Marian’s story in Re:Collection

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Fleeing from the Hunter

In the Ghetto and Beyond

I felt that my survival depended on how far away I could get from the ghetto.

I found out how to get to Dubeczno from the stationmaster in one of the villages I used to visit. A train to Chełm, in the Lublin area, passed by the station in that village and stopped there briefly every day. After getting the information, I quickly decided to put my plan into action. In April 1942, I said goodbye to my dear friends the Cytryns, who had treated me like their own. I knew so many ways of getting in and out of the ghetto that I wasn’t about to risk being captured by leaving Otwock from the railway station, or by bringing attention to myself when buying a ticket. Instead, I hiked out of town to the village station where I had gotten the information from the stationmaster, and I boarded the train there.

The journey to Dubeczno, including changing trains in Chełm and stops along the way, took twenty-four hours. The journey seemed endless and I worried because Jews were forbidden to use public transportation – I fully expected the German military police to stop the train and check the passengers’ identities. I didn’t sleep or, if I did, I could not distinguish my nightmares from my conscious fears. Luckily, no German military police checked the train. I arrived without any problems at the last station before Włodawa. Because the train had changed its schedule and wasn’t going any further, I had to continue to my destination on foot. I walked for some time with other passengers until we reached Włodawa. It was nearly evening, and through a heavy mist we could see the city as it slowly became more visible.

By the time I arrived it was dark and I was afraid to walk the streets of Włodawa looking for some of my other relatives, cousins on my mother’s side, who lived there. I decided to go directly to my uncle’s instead. I asked around for directions to the road leading to Dubeczno and finally a passerby pointed me in the right direction. Surrounded by darkness, in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of the city, I felt insecure and tired. I was aware of all the dangers that threatened a Jew at the end of April 1942. I knew that I was on the outskirts of Włodawa, but I wasn’t sure exactly where. I decided to look for a night’s lodging through the method I had used in my previous wanderings – by getting the assistance of the soltys. I must stress that whether the procedure had existed already before the war, or whether the Germans had ordered it, for me it was heaven-sent.

While searching for the soltys, I found myself on a road where there were only isolated farmhouses, each far away from one another. These houses were like shacks with thatched roofs. I entered one and bravely asked for directions to the house of the soltys, explaining that I needed a note for a night’s lodging. The occupants were friendly and seemed glad to have a guest. They laughed at the very official way I was going about trying to get lodging and said the soltys lived a long way off. It was already dark, so the farmer invited me to stay the night there. Of course, the family asked me a lot of questions over supper and, even in my exhaustion, I invented answers almost naturally. My reward for telling half-lies was a warm bed and a hot breakfast the next morning. Such hospitality and kindness from strangers! Would they have acted the same way had they known I was Jewish?