During the final days of October 1938, the “Third Reich” implemented its first systematically organized deportation of Jewish residents from German cities in an event known as the Polenaktion. Cantor Joseph Cysner was one of 900 Hamburg Jews deported at that time. His memoirs offer a rare testimony of an event obscured by history.
Sometime following his deportation from Hamburg and during his six month detainment at the Polish border town of Zbaszyn, Cysner began writing down his memory and impressions of the events. The original German manuscript has no dates, but from the paper, the language, and the penmanship, we can deduce that he began the memoir while he was detained at Zbaszyn shortly after he arrived at the end of October 1938. He dated his memoir October 30, 1938. The memoir was written on at least three different occasions, possibly more. The typewritten English version was composed from the German memoir by Cysner after his Philippine rescue and immigration to Manila in May 1939, possibly with the aid of a translator and certainly before the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in January 1942, when the Japanese confiscated all typewriters.
The Memoirs of Cantor Joseph Cysner: Testimonials of the Polenaktion and His Zbąszyń Internment, probably written at Zbąszyń, October 30, 1938 (translated by Insa Kummer), edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:source-132.en.v1> [September 21, 2023].