Silent Sun is the story of one man's quest for his heritage - a chronicle of hardships experienced in Nazi labor camps; a tribute, also, to the human spirit.
From the nights of September 1939, when caravans of Polish cavalry passed too quietly beneath his windows in Chrzanow, Poland, Solomon Gross was filled with a sense of foreboding. By 1940, his fears were realized as he found himself in Sakran, a Nazi labor camp - cutting sod in the warm weather, shoveling snow in a cold that froze his canvas-clogged feet, living on potato soup. Conditions worsened from day to day.
But if the camp at Sakran was "the most difficult physical experience" for Gross, the Graditz camp he was moved to in 1941 was difficult in its own way - "a trial of a totally different nature" . . . a place where, for a time, one hundred people lived on rations meant for forty. In the two and a half years Gross was shuttled between Graditz and another camp called Faulbruck, his survival instincts emerged with new fervor: he smuggled potatoes from the camp kitchen in his knickerbockers; he ate sugar beets - or "swine fodder" - for as long as he could stomach them. And ever and again he made his blacksmithing talents a distraction to the Germans - a cover for operations of survival.
In the second half of 1944, Gross was moved from Graditz to Sportschule, a division of the Grossrosen concentration camp. There, he had to give up his own clothes for a striped, burlap uniform, and his hair to the crude barbering instruments of his captors. And yet, in such bleak surroundings, he persevered - wrote inspiring letters to his future wife, Dorka, smuggled food to his mother, shared rations with his friend Berek.
Writes Gross, "Some, like myself, spent close to four years waiting for the great day." Indeed. Four years. Something like a college education - only with an infinitely more grueling course load, and participation in graduation an uncertainty. Fortunately for Gross, convocation came with the buzzing of Allied bombers: in the midst of death machines was deliverance.
Life during the war had not been without occasional pleasures, or even joys. Through those years in the camp, Gross had shared a sweet courtship with Dorka, after all, and experienced the kindness of sympathetic peasants and half-hearted enemies. Conversely, postwar life was not without its trials. Some of Gross's Russian liberators, for instance, proved crude in their pursuit of victory's "spoils." But Gross, like so many of the liberated Jews, was irrepressible. Like the great silent sun he longed to be warmed by, Solomon Gross was ever persistent. In its rays, he found his heritage.
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The POW Experience
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Adam Mickiewicz Altschul Appellplatz arrived asked Auschwitz autobahn became Berek Bernard blacksmith boys bread Breslau bunk called caught chance Chrzanow cigarettes concentration camp cook couple desperately despite Dorka double bunk Dutch Jews empty extra food eyes face Faulbriick fear fellow finally friends gave German foremen girls going Graditz guards Haar half hand happened hide hunger inmates Jewish Judenaltester Kapos kilometers Kiski kitchen knew Lagerfuhrer later Lehman listened Liszek lived loaded loaves looked managed Marek months morning mother move needed never night once pain passed picked Poland poles Polish potato prisoners ration Red Army road Romek Russian Sakrau Shlamek shovel SILENT SUN smiled soldiers started stood stopped stove strange supply sure survival Techniker thought tion took tried truck turned typhus Ukrainians wait walked watched weeks Wehrmacht wheel window Zehngut Zuhr