Martin Baranek was born in 1930 in Wierzbnik, Poland. He lived a happy life until Germany invaded Poland in 1939. At that time, Martin and other Jewish children were no longer permitted to attend school. Soon, all Jews were forced to turn in their valuables, wear yellow armbands, and move to a crowded ghetto, whose conditions worsened over time.
In 1942, the Germans prepared to liquidate the Wierzbnik ghetto. Martin and his parents had work permits for the local factories; however, a German officer confiscated Martin’s permit and sent him to the line bound for the trains to Treblinka. At the last moment, Martin escaped. His younger brother, Yechskel, most of his extended family, and the majority of Jews in the area were transported to Treblinka, where they were murdered.
Martin sneaked into the woodworking camp, where he found his mother, and worked as a slave laborer until July 1944. He and his father were then transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he narrowly escaped the gas chambers twice, once by hiding in an oven and the second time because his uncle bribed a supervisor with a gold coin. Tragically, Martin’s father was not so fortunate.