How long were you in the ghetto?
We remained in the ghetto for six weeks before it was liquidated. Then we were shoved into cattle wagons — wagons used for transporting animals. There were three transports; they left one after another. We were sent on the second transport. There were no windows and no place to sit. They crammed 75 or 80 people into each car with barely enough standing room; men, women and children were all squashed together. We had no water and no bathrooms. We traveled like this for three days, from Thursday through Shabbos. We were headed for Auschwitz.
What greeted you upon your arrival in Auschwitz?
We arrived in Auschwitz on Shabbos, Erev Shavuos. We had no idea where we were. We were instructed to leave all our bags and belongings right near the trains. The Polish people in charge helped us off the trains. They spoke Yiddish to us so we figured they were Jewish, and we trusted them.
Right away they sent the men to one side and the women to the other. This was the last time I ever saw my father or my two younger brothers.
We were then lined up and marched before Dr. Mengele. We stood in front of him, as he looked us up and down and made his selections. The old, the young and the children were separated from the rest of us. I was tall for my age, so my older sister Beily instructed me to say that I was two years older. I was sent to the right together with my sister. My mother, too, was sent to the right, but only remained with us for four days. When they led my mother away, her last cry of instruction to my sisters Dreizy and Beily were, “Pas oif uf Hindu, take care of Hindu.” My sister Beily, who was seven years older than I, heeded my mother’s pleas and protected me and cared for me throughout. Beily saved my life many times.
We were pushed like animals into a big room. We were forced to undress; we had to remove everything. There were German SS men standing there. We had never seen such a thing. Their goal was to destroy our morale; they wanted to take away our humanity; they wanted us to feel like wild animals.
Next they took us to the shower room where we got real showers; other arrivals to Auschwitz were sent to “showers” that were, in truth, gas. Then they shaved us completely. We were shaved while we stood there, undressed. It was something terrible. Our clothing was confiscated and we were given a dress — if it can be called that — to wear.
Can you describe the living conditions in Auschwitz?
Our living and sleeping quarters were in barracks. We slept on bunk beds which were three levels high; 12 girls to a bed. We slept like sardines, squashed together. There were six girls sleeping in one direction and six girls sleeping in the other direction; one person’s head touched the other person’s feet, with no room to turn. We were given barely anything to eat; hardly enough to get us through the day. Of course it was all non-kosher food, but we had no choice, we ate it.
Some transports received numbers on their arms, but not ours; we had a red stripe painted onto our clothing. There were girls around who did small jobs but we did not work in Auschwitz.
It made no difference if it was hot or cold; each day we stood outside for tzel appell, lined up five in a row for two-three hours — this is how they counted us twice a day. If they missed someone, they would start counting from the beginning.
One morning during tzel appell, as we were standing in line, a Nazi officer walked up and down in front of us, randomly selecting anyone he fancied, with shouts of “Heraus! Schnell! Shtei du!” (“Get out now, quickly. Stand here!”). He pulled people randomly from the line, myself included. My sister, standing alongside of me, realized that all those women and girls who were selected would then be ordered to march towards the gas chambers. She quickly pulled me back into the line and snatched the glasses off my face. My sister was in a dilemma as to what to do with them: our tattered dresses had no pockets, but dropping the glasses on the ground would be too noticeable. We had received our ration of one slice of bread that we were holding in our hands. With her desperate quick thinking, she took her bread and wrapped it around the glasses, obscuring them from anyone’s view. In a matter of minutes the victims were ordered to march to the gas chambers, never to be seen again.
We remained in Auschwitz for three months.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.