Mrs. Leah-Lilly Klein (Part IV)

Once the Americans announced that you were free, what did you do?

Sunday morning we were moved to the Hitler Boarding School, where it was safer. The following day we received medical care. A doctor came in, wanting to examine me. He instructed me to remove my clothing. I yelled at him: “Never again will I remove my clothes!” He immediately apologized. He told me that he, too, was a Jew. He promised not to ask any of the girls to remove their clothes.

The following week was Pesach. The Jewish soldiers made a Seder at which nobody was able to eat; we only cried.

I could have had anything I wanted to eat, but I explained to everyone that I would eat only kosher food. The entire time that I was in Auschwitz, we were given bits and pieces of pork. Yet, my sister and I never touched anything that was treif.

The Americans took care of us for two or three weeks before they left us. After liberation, the Americans told us that when they had liberated Magdeburg they found that the earth was still moving from those bodies that had not died immediately and were still suffering.

Did you have a desire to return home?

Even after having lived through Auschwitz, seeing the crematoria, smelling the smoke and watching the sky turn grey, I always thought that my family had been saved and were on their way back home. Although I knew that they had been taken away, I didn’t want to accept the reality. The entire time, I had the feeling that my mother was alive.

I spoke to my sister about it and she felt the same way. We lived as if in a fairy tale. We didn’t want to believe that our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins had all perished at the hands of the murderers.

The Amricans told us that they would help us get to the United States. They explained to us that Hungary was occupied by Russia and that our hometown was under Russian control. We decided that we still wanted to return home.

What was it like to be under Russian control?

The Russians were horrible. We were put into barracks together with the German SS who had treated us so brutally. We couldn’t take it much longer. We were screaming.

On Motzoei Shabbos of the coming week we were put onto trucks and transported to Bergen-Belsen. Bergen-Belsen was now under the control of the English. When we got off the trucks they wanted to count us, but no one would stay with the Russians; we all ran away. The only thing we saw were graves marked with wooden sticks: 1,500, 1,000, and 500. We were told that the Germans had distributed poison in the form of bread. Those that ate it, died. These graves belonged to them.

One day I was in the office when a man came in. He looked at me and said, “Are you Leah Levy?” I was shocked, but replied in the affirmative. He informed me that he was coming from the Saint Otiliam Hospital where he had been recuperating, together with my father, from typhus. He gave me the news that my father is well. I ran to the general, shaking. He thought that someone might have hurt me, but I told him that I was shaking from the news that my father was alive. He questioned me as to the whereabouts of my father; I excused myself, saying, “I will be right back.” I ushered in the man who had brought me the news. He explained it all to the general. The general checked up the location of the Saint Otiliam Hospital and offered to send me with a jeep and two drivers on the upcoming Friday to bring my father. I was so torn between leaving my sister, who was sick with pneumonia, and going to meet my father, who had recovered from typhus. I knew that I had to see my father. The general told me not to tell my sister the whole truth as to where I was going; I should tell her that I was being sent away as an interpreter. When I informed my sister, she was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself.

The Jewish soldiers shared their belongings, including a wrist watch, a Siddur, shirts and underwear.

to be continued…

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.