Mrs. Leah-Lilly Klein (Part II)

Can you describe ghetto life?

The ghetto was situated in the town of Borpatak, near Satmar. Life was very sad. Many Jewish men were beaten for no reason at all. B’chasdei Hashem, my father was not beaten. The Hungarian army was always on top of us. My mother had brought along food, but my parents couldn’t eat, so in turn we children had no appetite either.

How long did you remain in the ghetto?

I don’t recall exactly. Selections were made and we were loaded onto cattle wagons — 150 people all locked up in a wagon. We had no bathroom, and the smell was unbearable. We traveled two, three days before arriving in Auschwitz.

What greeted you upon your arrival?

When we arrived in Auschwitz, the doors of the cattle cars were thrown open and we were shoved out of the wagons. The women were pushed to one side while the men were pushed to the other side, never to be seen again. I can’t forget the screaming and yelling!

Five uniformed men were directing everyone where to go. They instructed my mother to let go of my little brother, but there was no way that she was going to obey.

We marched in front of Mengele. I clearly remember him holding his cigar in his hand, pointing with his finger to each person as they stood before him, directing them to go left or right. My mother and my brother, whom she was holding, and two of my aunts with their children were sent to the left. My sister and I were sent to the right.

I didn’t want to be separated so I ran back to be with my mother. Mengele sent a soldier after me; he threw me to the floor and began beating and kicking me. I still have the picture in my mind of my mother and my little brother crying so hard. Even prisoners have a right to say goodbye to their loved ones, but since I am a Jew, I was deprived of that, too.

Next, we were taken to the washroom, where they took away all our good clothing and shaved us completely of all our hair. I was given some shmattas to wear instead. My shoes were confiscated, too, and in their place I was given wooden clogs. Today my toes are all crooked from the way I had to wear those clogs to make them stay on my feet.

I was taken to Lager C Block 18. I was given the number 3996 and my sister was given 3995. My sister and I look so different that I don’t think they suspected we were sisters.

One day Mengele came to make selections. He chose my sister and me to be sent to the crematoria. I was standing next in line to be cremated. At that moment I put my hands together and prayed to Hashem. I begged Hashem to please save us. Hashem was always with us, and a miracle occurred. At that moment something broke in the equipment of the crematoria. We were saved.

Each day Mengele would arrive in the barracks. We were instructed to take off our clothes, lift up our right hand and march in front of him completely undressed. Each day he chose more people to be sent to the crematorium.

One day Mengele chose my sister Blima’la and a sister of another girl named Hadi Lovi. We knew the Lovis from our city. They were sent to another block. I wanted to switch places with this friend’s sister, Babi Lovi, so that each of us could be together with our own sister, since our only identity was a number. However, Hadi insisted that she would switch instead. When the chance arose, she snuck out and switched places with my sister Blima’la so that my sister was able to return, to be together with me.

Two weeks later we were standing out on the platform for appell. A group of girls were taken out to entertain the troops. Among them were the Lovi girls. From afar I could see that they had hives. After they had finished entertaining the troops, they were brought back and they were all shot in front of our eyes.

Did you know when it was Shabbos and Yom Tov?

Somehow we knew when it was Shabbos. We knew that it was Yom Kippur, too, but so did the Germans. They purposely gave us food long after the time of Kol Nidrei. We didn’t eat any of it. The next morning at eight o’clock they gave food, but of course we didn’t eat. We weren’t given food for 48 hours. I learned that a person doesn’t need food to survive, only the Eibershter.

to be continued

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.