Local’s terrifying Nazi slave story
IT was a very touching and emotional moment when The Adviser sat down with local resident, 88-year-old Stephanie Pelos. Mustering great strength and shedding a few tears, she shared for the first time her story about at just 12 years of age being captured and made a slave in Nazi Germany; a terrifying ordeal which sadly led to the death of her father, Marko Frankowskyj.
Originally from Poland, Stephanie, her mother, father and brother, John’s lives changed forever in 1940. Marko was taken to Listermuhle/Mainerzhagen in Germany to work as a slave labourer and in 1942 Stephanie, her mother and brother were also taken to Germany, and made to work on separate farms.
One terrible day in 1944, Stephanie was walking with her father when they were stopped by two SS Officers, who began to assault Marko, and due to being so distressed, the officers sent Stephanie home to the farm she was working on; this was the last time she saw her father alive.
Stephanie said, “When we went to Germany, we were sent on a holocaust train to a concentration camp. They sorted us out and put us on another train and we were sent to farms close to the farm that my father was working on. We were only allowed to go visit my mum once a fortnight.
“I was walking with my father on a huge plantation farm one day after seeing my mum and we saw the two SS Officers come out of the trees and they started attacking my father and kicking him. I started screaming and they sent me home. That was the last time I saw my father alive!
“Early in the morning I heard the phone ring. My boss got on the phone and then came to me and said I had to go to the police station with my mother. We went to the police station and my father was dead. There was a man with a horse and cart with a box to put my father in. It was very distressing for us all.
“They took him to be buried at a Jewish cemetery in Meinerzhagen. We were Catholic.
“I have never talked about this because it is so hard to talk about.
“Many years later I did tell my niece a little about it and she got on her computer and she found out where the cemetery was and my father’s grave.
“I would love to win tattslotto and go to Germany to put a proper headstone on his grave.”
In 1949 however, Stephanie, her mother and brother were asked what part of the world they would like to go to by the English regime who was then looking after them and Australia was their home of choice.
They arrived by ship and transported to Bathurst. Along with a friend, Kathy, whom she had met on the ship, Stephanie then travelled on to St Mary’s but her mother and brother stayed behind.
Stephanie said, “A few days after our first Christmas in Australia, I got a telegram saying that my mum was in hospital and to come urgently. We had no money but after telling a friend Allen about it, he kindly gave us the money we needed. When we got to Maitland we walked to the camp my mum was staying at and it turned out she had sent me a bogus telegram…she was not unwell at all, but was very happy to see us.
“Kathy and I have spent over 60 years now as good friends. We came a long way from our homes in Poland to Australia. We’ve always had great laughs together, cried together and have grown old together.”